Superintendent timeline set; bus cameras still a possibility for Beaufort County

Pat Higgins, a retired teacher who lives in Bluffton, speaks of her desire to help at St. Helena Elementary.
Pat Higgins, a retired teacher who lives in Bluffton, speaks of her desire to help at St. Helena Elementary. Rachel Heaton, The Island Packet

Residents can tell the Beaufort County Board of Education as soon as next month what they want in a new school superintendent according to a search timeline approved Tuesday night.

The school board also gave district administration the go-ahead to plan the installation of cameras on school buses and heard a plan for changes for the struggling St. Helena Elementary School. The board held the Tuesday meeting in the school's cafeteria.

According to the search timeline, an online survey will be available this week on the district's website that allows residents to weigh-in on the next superintendent, who will replace the Valerie Truesdale. Results from that survey, along with information from community meetings over the next month, will be used to draft a profile of the new schools' chief.

The timeline also calls for interviews with semi-finalists in early February, after new board members elected in November are sworn in.

The board unanimously passed the timeline with little discussion. Board members Steven Morello, Wayne Carbiener and Herbert Burnes were absent.


Cameras could be coming to Beaufort County buses, but the school board wants to see a implementation plan -- complete with costs -- first.

Some board members expressed concerns about current bus camera proposals. At the Sept. 18 board meeting, district staff proposed installing three cameras on each bus. The cost to rent and operate three cameras per bus would be about $96,000 a year for the whole fleet.

Board member Ron Speaks said he wasn't sure three cameras were necessary.

"If we put one in the middle, that should take care of it," he said, pointing out there were only two cameras installed to keep an eye on St. Helena Elementary's cafeteria, a much larger space.

Beaufort parent Christina Chandler asked the board to install cameras in late August. She said her three children, students at Beaufort Elementary School, have been bullied on the bus this school year. She gathered more than 500 signatures on a petition to have the cameras installed.

Chandler filed a lawsuit against the district last week seeking immediate changes to ensure her children would not be bullied on the bus.

District staff are expected to bring a timeline for installing the cameras, specific cost estimates and other information to the board at its Oct. 16 meeting. The board could then vote on installing the cameras.


St. Helena Elementery's recent rating of "F" on federal accountability standards can largely be explained by students' math scores on standardized tests, district instructional services chief Dereck Rhoads told the school board and community members Tuesday.

Scores on English, science and social studies tests weren't as far behind the set targets as math scores, he said.

Since that "F" rating was released in early August, the district and the School Improvement Council have developed a plan to boost student achievement. The 14-point plan includes reducing class size to 20 students, reducing discipline referrals and adding community outreach meetings and steps to boost parental involvement. It also includes possibly moving fifth-graders to Lady's Island Middle School next year.

Several community members asked that the school's progress and the implementation of the plan be closely watched.

"I want us not to wait until the end of this school year to report progress," St. Helena resident York Glover said. "Have a similar meeting here to show us what has happened in the last month or so. Have several meetings just to report where the progress has been made."

Board chairman Fred Washington Jr. said the board will closely monitor the plan and more meetings could be held in the future.

Related content

  1. Beaufort County School Board selects superintendent search firm; Sept. 4, 2012
  2. Beaufort County School District could vote to install cameras on buses; Sept. 18, 2012
  3. Mom who wants bus cameras sues Beaufort County School District, bus company; Sept. 17, 2012
  4. Change needed at St. Helena Elementary, community members say; Sept. 19, 2012
  5. Meetings planned to discuss St. Helena Elementary concerns; Sept. 14, 2012
  6. St. Helena community rallies for change at elementary school; Sept. 9, 2012