Berkeley inquiry called ‘political’ What they said

Berkeley County School District officials broke their silence Tuesday about an investigation into the district’s use of taxpayers’ time and money.

Here are excerpts of what area residents said, in order of appearance:

“I think the most important thing we can teach our children is to live within the rules, and how you can enforce rules when you don’t live by rules is a mystery to me. … I think it’s in your interest to see (Whitley’s) presentation and see the depth and breadth of the time that was spent by this district and by employees of this district on the referendum … . What was done by this district was wrong.”

“Under (Thompson’s) leadership, I have seen great improvements that have been made. ... The school board has exercised a great deal of caring for the children in Berkeley County School District ... I really appreciate what you are doing and continue pressing forward to be No. 1.”

“The laws pertaining to employees of the school district participating in political campaigns is very, very simple to understand ... If people are working their job as employees of this school district, and they’re engaging in behavior that is contrary to the law, that’s not doing your job in good faith. ... Do we want to teach our children that the end justifies the means? I don’t want my children and grandchildren taught that. Everyone was screaming that the bond referendum was ‘for the children, for the children, for the children.’ That’s not teaching the children honesty and integrity and character, and to me, that is the biggest scandal of all.”

“I want to make something clear. When the board voted to pay for legal counsel with taxpayers’ money for anybody that might be charged in this SLED investigation, they were absolutely right in making that decision with the information that they had. There was no reason for them to believe anybody did anything other than in good faith, and I understand that. Since then, because of the opinion of the state Attorney General’s office that taxpayer money should not be used to pay for defense of criminal offenses, I have been asking you ... to reconsider this decision. I was told it wouldn’t be discussed because, to date, there’s no charges been filed. Well, there were no charges filed when you voted to do it in the first place so that logic doesn’t apply.”

“I have had the pleasure for the last two years to work very closely with the superintendent, the administration and the district, and during that time, I’ve definitely learned a lot from that board and I think the line ‘what is best for the children’ has led to all of our work getting done today.... I want to applaud the Berkeley County School district because it’s grown by leaps and bounds ... They have really set the precedent.”

“I’ve just got to tell you, as CEO for the last 15 years, how impressed I have been with the Berkeley County School District staff, particularly Rodney Thompson and his leadership. ... The business community is so confident in the leadership here because we know the work of the staff here ... there is an absolute passion about the staff leadership of this school district.”

“My co-chairs and I never asked the district for anything other than factual data to better inform voters. (Staff) made very clear to us as co-chairs that the district’s participation had to be limited to presentation of facts. ... There are people here tonight who have chosen to take this issue far beyond accepted bonds of reasonableness. We would like to commend the board and the citizens of Berkeley County for their wisdom and sacrifice in putting children’s needs first by proposing and passing the recent referendum ... I urge everyone in our community to continue to focus your efforts, your time, your talents and your energy on supporting our schools. Investing in our students is a good idea 100 percent of the time. Let’s move ahead in the spirit of unity and cooperation for our children.”

Anita Zucker, representing The Education Foundation of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Tricounty Cradle to Career collaboration, presented a letter from the board “to express our strong support for Dr. Rodney Thompson and the district leadership team he has put together to educate Berkeley County students ... We applaud Superintendent Thompson and his leadership staff for recognizing that education can and must keep pace with a rapidly changing world. ... We thank Dr. Rodney Thompson for his vision and leadership and we will do all that we can to engage the support of the business community in making that vision a reality.”