KINGSTREE, S.C. – S.C. Sen. Ronnie A. Sabb said he and state Representatives Cezar E. McKnight and Carl L. Anderson find it unacceptable that they do not know whether children in Williamsburg County will be given an opportunity to finish their education this year.
The three men are part of the Williamsburg County delegation and hosted a press conference Wednesday morning in response to a lawsuit that was filed last week against the Williamsburg County School District, the district's board of trustees and Superintendent Carrie C. Brock. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of D. P. Cooper Charter School by Thomas P. Gressette Jr. and G. Trenholm Walker of Walker Gressette Freeman Linton LLC.
D.P. Cooper Charter School is in Salters.
The lawsuit says:
>> The Williamsburg County School District intentionally failed to follow a mandatory funding formula established in the Charter Schools Act and did not provide funding to D.P. Cooper Charter School within 30 days following receipt from the South Carolina Department of Education.
>> Without authorization, the school district took over D.P. Cooper Charter School’s funding and converted the funds to its own uses.
>> The Williamsburg County School District manufactured and provided D.P. Cooper Charter School with false funding receipts in fiscal years 2016, 2017 and 2018. The receipts falsely state each one was provided by the South Carolina department of Education Office of Finance. The district intended to deceive the school into thinking it was being properly funded in a way that was approved by the South Carolina Department of Education. District Superintendent Carrie C. Brock said the district felt funding was fair and appropriate in light of the board of trustee’s obligation to ensure all students in the district were appropriately served.
>> D .P. Cooper Charter School is entitled to, and the district should provide, $476,784.82 plus interest to the school for unpaid funding in 2016 and 2017 and $1,149,286 for unpaid funding in 2018.
>> The district should be enjoined to provide the full and proper funding due to the school for fiscal year 2018 and should provide funding in compliance with state law for 2019 and all years thereafter.
Sabb said he and other members of the delegation began to receive calls on March 26 from county residents who raised questions about whether the doors of schools in Williamsburg County School District would remain open for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“The lawsuit asserts allegations, quite frankly, that if true could very well rise to the level of criminal conduct going on in our educational system,” Sabb said. “In addition to that, they’re allegations associated with whether or not there’s adequate funds to fund our schools for the balance of the fiscal year.”
Sabb said that if the allegations are true, the legislative delegation is prepared to make certain that Williamsburg County Schools continue to be open so that children will be educated.
“Yes, we’ve always been a poor county,” McKnight said. “But one of the things that we could always say – and it’s a testament by his [Sabb's] life, mine and countless others – that you were able to get a quality education here in Williamsburg County.”
McKnight said he wants that to be true for every student, regardless of where they live.
Anderson said the delegation is concerned for the children, teachers, parents and everybody in Williamsburg County. He said they want to get to the bottom of the situation in a hurry so that the students can receive the education they need and that is provided by the state.
The Williamsburg County delegation has asked the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to investigate and determine whether criminal activity is occurring in the school district.
South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman has been asked to immediately evaluate the district and the charter school to determine whether the district is financially able to pay the necessary expenditures for the remainder of the fiscal year, Sabb said.