McCormick County parents protest school leaders, say district not giving parents answers

MCCORMICK COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) - On Monday, some upset McCormick County parents hitting the streets to protest school board members.

Several parents tell WJBF NewsChannel 6 School leaders aren't listening to their grievances and they just can't sit back and keep quiet any longer.

These parents say it all started at the end of last year, when the principal of the McCormick Elementary School was demoted.

One parent says she felt the decision had no basis.

While the South Carolina Board of Education says there's no wrong-doings at the district level, this community feels the school board doesn't have the student's best intentions in mind.

‘I've got 99 problems and the B.O.E. is all of them' is how a group of concerned McCormick County parents feel about their Board of Education.

Maria Bennett, a parent, says since the principal of the elementary school was demoted her grandchildren don't want to go to school anymore, because it's not a fun environment to learn in.

However, Bennett says it's not just the unreasonable demotion that's she's concerned about.

"They're not doing the will of the community," Bennett said. "They are not answering question and another is their per diem. They voted themselves a $100 dollars per diem, but the state budget and control board states per diem as $35 dollars."

According to the South Carolina Board of Education's Travel Policy a "per diem" is exclusively for non-state employee board members and special committees, at a rate of $35 dollars per day.

The lack of financial transparency is another big issue these parents are protesting.

"Our budget, as far as we have heard, by the end of this year we will be negative $1 million dollars." McCormick County parent Sally Gable said.

Sally Gable also says she's troubled by the actions of McCormick Middle School Director of Technology William James.

In an incident report obtained by WJBF NewsChannel 6, in January of 2017 McCormick County deputies responded to the middle school for a disturbance. James revealed to investigators that he had installed cameras inside the school complex that weren't school property and was monitoring them from his own personal phone.

The report goes on to say when investigators notified McCormick County Superintendent Don Doggett he didn't know about the cameras at the school.

"He's on administrative leave, which okay I understand that, but he was hiding camera or cameras." Gable said. "We're not really sure they still won't answer us if there were anymore."

In an effort to get answers for these parents, on Monday WJBF NewsChannel 6 stopped by the superintendent's office. The front desk receptionist told our crew he was not there and she didn't know when he would be back. She did provide WJBF NewsChannel 6 with his office phone number and said we could leave a message, and that he'll get back to us as soon as he can.

With a long list of concerns, these parents say they're protesting in hopes of gaining the attention of their school board members, so together they can work to make the school district better.

"I hope that they'll sit up and listen to us at least try to work with us," Bennett said. "That's all we ask."

At this time, WJBF NewsChannel 6 has yet to hear from Superintendent Doggett.

The District Communication Consultant sent WJBF NewsChannel 6 a statement about the demotion of the McCormick Elementary School principal:

The McCormick County School District Board of Trustees and Superintendent acknowledge public concern regarding personnel matters which may also require investigation. Personnel matters are always sensitive; thus, the District's comments on these matters must be kept to a minimum. Without going into detail, the District has taken appropriate action to preserve the legal rights of all individuals involved. With regard to requests for information, the District has responded and will continue to respond to all requests for records in a timely manner, as required by the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act. As to requests for comment, the District will allow the pending proceedings to run their course without further comment at this time.

There is a Board of Education meeting on Monday night.

It starts at 7 p.m.

Our crew will be there working to getting answers from both the superintendent and board of education members.

Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 to bring you the latest on this developing story.

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