Q. I’ve seen people cutting trees at the corner of Cultra Road and Oak Street across from the Sunhouse. Can you tell me what is going on there?

A. Horry County public information officer Kelly Moore says developers are clearing that land to build single-family homes. The current proposal includes 13 single-family lots along the roadway with 113 acres remainding. Under the current zoning, the lots are required to be 20,000-square-feet. Jessica Hucks, Conway’s new planning director, says, at some point, the property will be annexed into the City of Conway.

Q. What is the level of education of each Horry County School Board member?

A. Horry County School District spokesperson Lisa Bourcier referred us to the Horry County School District’s website for board biographies.

She sent along this link, https://www.horrycountyschools.net/Page/12156.

However, we did some of the work for you.

School Board Chairman Ken Richardson graduated from Conway High School and earned an associate’s degree in business from Horry-Georgetown Technical College.

John Poston graduated from Francis Marion University and Clemson University; Ray Winters earned undergraduate degrees in history and political science as well as a master’s degree in public administration from South Alabama and a juris doctor degree from Loyola University in New Orleans; David Cox earned a journalism degree from the University of South Carolina; Janice Morreale earned an associate’s degree from Horry-Georgetown Technical College in public service technology; and Helen Smith graduated from Socastee High School.

Janet Graham earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Coastal Carolina College and a master’s degree in business administration from Winthrop University; Chris Hardwick graduated from the University of South Carolina with degrees in English and business management and from Gupton-Jones with a degree in mortuary science; Neil James graduated from Clemson University with bachelor’s degrees in agricultural engineering and electrical engineering and from Webster University with a master’s degree in business administration.

Biographies of Shanda Allen and Sherrie Todd do not address education and efforts by the Horry Independent to get them were unsuccessful.

Q. What are they paid for being on the board?

A. Horry County Board of Education members are compensated $15,966 a year, and the chairman receives $19,159 a year.

Q. What is the starting pay for a teacher?

The ranges for teacher salaries at Horry County Schools are as follows: Bachelor’s, $36,371-$62,083; Bachelor’s +18 hrs., $38,054-$64,954; Master’s,  $41,878-$71,481; Master’s +30 hrs., $42,788-$73,033; and Doctorate, $46,041-$79,790.

Q. What are the school district’s reasons for changing the AAST and Scholars Academy?

A. The Horry Independent’s school beat reporter Katie Powell offered these explanations.

School district officials presented data during their last board meeting regarding the pros and cons of making the Academy of Art, Science and Technology available only to juniors and seniors, instead of beginning at the freshman level.

The data from the district said that because the district will be implementing even more STEM classes at each of the base schools, rising freshmen interested in STEM will be served at their base schools. The district said in its summary about AAST that by not admitting freshmen and sophomores, the school will have room for more juniors and seniors to specialize in their majors, and will be able to offer more specialized majors to fill industry needs.  

They said that having more STEM offerings at the base high schools means the district won’t have to continue turning away 400 to 500 rising freshmen who apply to AAST and are not accepted, as only approximately 100 were accepted from around 600 applicants.  

“It eliminates the annual exclusion of approximately 400-500 rising freshmen from AAST, as they will have the opportunity to pursue their STEM interests at base high schools,” officials said in their data presentation.

Board members who did not agree with the change said they thought it would be “taking away one of the more successful programs we have in Horry County,” and that it would be hard to get juniors to leave their established classes and friends to begin at a new school.

The vote to restrict the school to eleventh and twelfth grades passed 7-3, with the three "no" votes coming from Vice Chair John Poston, District 3 Board Member Ray Winters and District 9 Board Member Chris Hardwick.

As for the Scholars Academy becoming a standalone school, proponents for the change said that since SA students are ranked alongside their base school classmates for scholarship opportunities, the SA students are “displacing” the base school students.

Data presented by Superintendent Rick Maxey claims that with SA staying as it was, there was $16.2 million in scholarship money awarded last year. With SA as a standalone school, their data said, $16.7 million would have been awarded. The data took into account class rank and data from the Class of 2019.

“A $536,800 difference. There’s more scholarship money for Horry County School students as a standalone school,” Maxey said.

Sherrie Todd, chairman of the Curriculum Committee, said she had to look at making it fair and giving the same scholarship opportunities to the base school students as well.

Those parents supporting the change also said that when SA students received valedictorian or salutatorian honors, it was because the SA students take more high-ranking classes and have higher GPAs that “beat out” the base school students “who have worked just as hard.”

SA parents worry that SA’s collaborative environment might change when students begin to be ranked against each other, and argued that the district was making its decision too hastily with too little data.

The board voted 8-2 to make SA its own school, with amendments ensuring current students will be allowed to continue the program until graduation, and that the SA students will not be ranked against each other. Vice Chair John Poston and District 3 member Ray Winters voted against the change.

If you want to know more, you can view the Oct. 21st Board Meeting and the 47-page presentation on the proposed changes to AAST and the Scholars Academy at https://www.horrycountyschools.net/Page/10116.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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