Gov. Nikki Haley denies request to exempt Stall High School from making up missed time in class
BY DIETTE COURRÉGÉ
The governor has refused to exempt Stall High School students from making up a couple of days of classes, but it shouldn’t create any major problems for the North Charleston school.
Gov. Nikki Haley’s actions did, however, create a small political stir, with one local lawmaker saying this could be a retaliatory move for his and other lawmakers’ criticisms of her. Haley’s spokesman denied that accusation.
Haley vetoed a bill earlier this week that would have made it OK for Stall High students to have missed two days of school in January because of an unanticipated gas leak. Students missed a few hours of school Jan. 3 and the entire day Jan. 4.
State officials said students won’t have to make up any missed days, but the missed days would show up as a deficiency in the school’s state accreditation report. Every school must be accredited by the state.
Deficiencies are reported to the state Board of Education, and multiple, unresolved deficiencies over time could lead the board to eventually revoke a school’s ability to award diplomas, said Jay W. Ragley, deputy superintendent for legislative and public affairs for the state Department of Education.
In a letter explaining her veto, Haley said the district didn’t take advantage of a potential June 4 make-up day that could have helped recoup some lost time. She wrote that “it is inappropriate for school district administrators to ignore the law’s 180-day standard and essentially gamble that they will receive a waiver from the General Assembly before the session concludes.”
John Emerson, attorney for Charleston County schools, said it’s complicated logistically to open one school for a day because of transportation and staffing issues. Local leaders also didn’t expect the waiver request to be an issue, he said.
Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, who introduced the legislation requesting the exemption, said school officials asked him prior to May 23 to help, but “it fell through the cracks.” It’s customary to grant this kind of waiver when districts ask, he said.
He said he wasn’t convinced Haley’s stated reasons were why she actually vetoed the bill. He said Haley’s action might have been her way of getting back at him and House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, for criticizing her on other issues.
“To drag school children into the middle of political fights is just petty and unnecessary,” he said.
Rob Godfrey, Haley’s spokesman, cited a similar veto for Fountain Inn Elementary in Greenville County. The school missed a day in February because of a bat infestation, and Haley refused an exemption for similar reasons.
“That’s silly,” Godfrey said. “Vetoes are about policy, not personality. We vetoed the same bill in Fountain Inn, Rep. Mark Willis’ district — and he’s a legislator the governor actually likes a great deal.”
Stavrinakis said he would try to get the General Assembly to override the veto if Charleston school leaders said that were necessary.
Reach Diette Courrégé at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.