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District One braces for more cuts

In what has become a familiar occurrence over the last few years, Bamberg School District One like most of the other school districts in South Carolina is facing another year of budget cuts as another school year begins this week.

District One Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Schwarting stated recently the district has already been informed that it will receive a 3.5 percent cut this coming school year. To make matters even worse, the district hasn’t received any money or been given any guidelines on the much talked about American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Funds, better known as stimulus money that the district was told would be coming in back in June.

Schwarting said district officials were told by the South Carolina State Department of Education to base their 2009-10 budget on a base student cost of $2,234 this year. District One officials having been given unreliable figures in the past during critical budget times, decided to build its budget instead on a base student cost of $2,034 or $200 less than what was recommended by the state. It appears the district’s decision was a wise one, with the 3.5 percent cut the district’s base student cost is now down to $2,200.

“We’re glad we erred on the side of caution. Given the economic projections, we are going to experience a year probably just as bad as last year or worse. We're doing everything we can do to save money,” Schwarting said.

The district has taken a number of steps to reduce cost including; eliminating some positions which will be reflected in the classroom in the number of students. However, with the reductions, the district was able to keep class sizes in the primary school to approximately 20 students per class. Class sizes in the 4th and 5th grades will be around 22 or 23, and within the same range in the middle and high school. “We choose to not go to the extreme and overburden all the classrooms,” the Superintendent said.

Schwarting went on to say, “retirees’ pay from the district was cut 20 percent across the board and many districts have eliminated all retirees. We have some great retirees that have a lot to give. Everyone seems to be more than willing to take their share of whatever it took to keep the district afloat.”

The district also purchased a computer program that cuts off the districts 1,000 computers when left on which will save the district $75.00 per computer each year. The district will also buy all printing products at a mass price instead of each school ordering individual products.

Superintendent Schwarting noted that the budget situation will not deter the district from its mission of educating children.

“We’re just going to take it one day at a time, and do the best we can. The district didn’t have any plans to furlough teachers, aides or administrators at this time. However that is an option that we would rather not have to enact because everyone needs every dime they work for. Things are what they are. We’re just going to keep on playing with whatever hand is dealt to us,” she said.

Dr. Jake Sello...
‘Student achievement, number one on District Two agenda’

Jerry E. Halmon, Staff Writer

Calling student achievement “the number one item on my agenda” along with the improvement of student performance on test, Dr. Jake Sello, a veteran educator was named Superintendent of Bamberg School District Two Schools.

Sello replaced Dr. Secaida Howell, who chose last November not to have his contract renewed, as superintendent of the district of approximately 1,000 students in June of this year.

“This is one thing that is on my agenda,” Sello said. “That is why I came to the Bamberg School District Two (Denmark-Olar Schools). I’m very, very excited about it. I know this district can move up as far as student performance and this is the number one item on my agenda to improve student achievement,” adding, “we’re going to make sure that all our children have the opportunity to be successful and achieve in life.”

Sello comes to Bamberg School District Two from Palm Beach County Florida, where he worked his way up through the education ranks. In South Florida, Sello served as an English teacher, counselor, assistant principal, associate area superintendent and area superintendent (Boca Raton Florida) and served as head of a magnet school as superintendent. He also served as area superintendent for Richland School District One from 2000-2005.

The new superintendent addressed the question that many may have. Could he relate to a small rural school system after working in a wealthy school district like Palm Beach County in Florida.

“That doesn’t mean anything to me. I came here because I believe I can be of help in educating our minority children. We know that education is the key for putting you in a position to make a decent living for yourself and family,” Sello stated.

When asked what he will do to try to offset the effects of the state budget cuts Sello answered, “I believe in going out looking for grants. Grant money can be used to augment from Title One and the state and other places. I don’t mind going out and asking for help.”

Sello is married and the father of two sons. The oldest has a PHD from Harvard College in Biophysics and is a research scientist and professor at Brown University. The youngest completed his studies at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and is a dentist. Sello said the attitude of the personnel he has met in the district has been wonderful.

He assured them that he will know them personally, because he intends to be personally involved.

Superintendent Sello stated that high expectations will be a hallmark of his administration. “If we as parents and teachers don’t expect our kids to do well they won’t do well. If we expect them and support them they will succeed. We need to avoid ‘pigeon hole’ kids. We are going to make sure we do our job. We can’t make sure parents do their job, we can only encourage.”

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