More than $300K paid for CCSD special project

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A Live 5 investigation has uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on a Charleston County School District special project.

While some said the money could have been used for other things, district officials said the project was necessary to move the district forward.

The project included 30 local peoples elected to be a part of the Shared Future Project team.

The team met during three workshops over several months last year. The goal? Reimagine what CCSD will look like in 2035.

“We got the opportunity to spend that quality time together,” Vanessa Brown, the Principal at Baptist Hill Middle High School, said.

The first workshop took place on Folly Beach at The Tides Hotel. That cost just under $24,000.

“We had to create a cocoon – a safe environment,” Brown said. “Sitting in a board room or anywhere that may have been free of charge wouldn’t work.”

John Steinberger, another member of the team, disagreed.

“I didn’t see the need for us to stay at hotels.” Steinberger said.

Brown explained the first few days, at The Tides, were all about getting to know the other team members. Steinberger added they were walked through things like how to collaborate together and how to talk about diverse opinions.

“It was more about the process than actually diving into the issues with the Charleston County School District,” Steinberger said.

The next two workshops took place at Charles Towne Landing and were not overnight. That cost about $2,000.

“We dove directly into the issues facing the school district and the data,” Steinberger said. “The third month was all about developing the scenarios and building a team to present those scenarios.

“The big thing we came away with is that it’s not the people, it’s the system,” Brown added. “Until we change the system, we’re going to continue to get the same results.”

The big cost came from hiring an organization called REOS Partners to lead that Shared Future group.

“REOS has the deep expertise around the world in trying to figure out what are those system changes that are needed to move complex organizations forward,” Donald Kennedy, CCSD’s Chief Financial Administrative Officer, said.

The contract between CCSD and REOS was about $370,000. It was not something that was voted on by the school board.

“Oh my lord. That’s something that needs board approval,” Kevin Hollinshead, a board member with CCSD, said.

While you may think this is something that needs board approval, Kennedy said it didn’t.

The district uses something called a procurement card or p-card. It’s like a credit card and, like any other school cost, they pay that bill with tax dollars. The more money they spend, the higher the rebate. They used two to three years’ worth of rebates, according to Kennedy.

I was told there is no limitation as to what the rebates are spent on. In this case, CCSD chose to use the rebates to pay for phase one with REOS.

“It’s had a big impact on educating a core heart of people across the county so that they can expand throughout the county, again, to figure out where are those impediments so there are preventatives that they can have an impact on many, many students – not just one student,” Kennedy said.

At this point in time – Kennedy stated they are not considering a future phase with REOS at this time.

Those with the Shared Future Project team said they are working to figure out how to engage the community. If you would like to voice your opinion on how the district and schools can improve, you can email Don Kennedy

To read the full report by the Shared Future Project team –go here.

Copyright 2019 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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