Have some faith in the Fort Mill School District

March 10, 2014 

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on when it comes to the Fort Mill School District’s implementation of Common Core standards, it’s that we all want what’s best for students.

Unfortunately, there’s been some polarization among parents since the district adapted the standards to all grades just prior to the school year. Common Core standards were already in place for Fort Mill classrooms from kindergarten to second grade since 2012, but this year, some local parents organized to lobby against it. Last month, some of them spoke at a school board meeting that became confrontational when the board insisted on enforcing time limits.

The board, which has the right to limit the duration of individuals’ public comments, typically invokes the rule when a long line of speakers have showed up – and that’s fair. Keeping speakers to the time limit gives everyone a chance to speak.

A story we published about Common Core last week elicited a couple of dozen angry comments on our website and Facebook page and we received several letters to the editor denouncing Common Core. There were also some positive comments about the standards, but the vast majority want Common Core repealed.

Right now, we suggest everyone step back and take a deep breath.

Let’s examine some facts about Common Core, a set of standards intended to create educational unity across the country: South Carolina adopted the standards in July 2010 as school districts nationwide searched for a replacement for the much reviled No Child Left Behind standards; It is not a federal initiative, though 45 states have adopted the standards; The standards are backed by leaders in the college and university and corporate sectors.

Here’s what we don’t know: Will Common Core work? The only way to find out is to give it time. This is the first year the standards are being applied in all Fort Mill classrooms. Local educators are aware some students will be quicker to adjust than others and as always, have been prepared to provide extra help as needed.

Residents have a tradition of putting a lot of trust in their local educators and supporting school district initiatives. Why stop now? If Common Core is not getting the job done in helping prepare students to succeed in the 21st century, Fort Mill’s school officials will find something that does.

In the meantime, we hope parents who are ready to scrap the program just as it’s getting off the ground can have more faith in the Fort Mill School District. It hasn’t failed us yet and there’s no reason to believe it’s going to start now.

Planning ahead for growth is wise

You can almost hear the collective sighing and groaning. It happens every time we publish a story about a new subdivision coming into the pipeline.

Local officials hear it, too.

Recently, York County Council, prompted by Councilman Michael Johnson, voted down a rezoning request that would have allowed for 102 town homes on 14 acres at Villages at Palmetto, off already congested Hwy. 160 west. Instead, only 31 units will be allowed.

“I have met with homeowners of adjacent property, and I have received upwards of 40 to 50 emails on this exact subject over the past weekend,” Johnson told Council. “It, to me, does not make sense to move this land 31 units to 102.”

Johnson, a Tega Cay resident who represents District 1, which includes most of Fort Mill Township, might be more sensitive to growth issues than other officials. Before running for County Council, he served several terms on the Fort Mill School Board and saw first-hand the impact rapid growth has on limited resources.

That’s not the only leadership on growth issues he’s shown lately. Last week, he asked county staff and Council to consider a preservation ordinance that could help map future roadways and allow developers to plan around them.

Also, recently, the town of Fort Mill publicly discussed growth and the future. At the current pace of annexations and new development, it’s estimated the town’s population could swell from just under 11,000 to around 30,000 during the next two decades. That’s staggering.

Joe Cronin, the town’s assistant town manager and planning director, pointed out that he’s part of a planning “staff” of one. Clearly, that won’t do if the town intends to effectively manage growth.

Next week, top school officials are planning to make a presentation to the town on staying ahead of an expanding populationwhile it still can. They plan on similar presentations to the Tega Cay and York County councils as well.

It’s good to see local officials making the need to manage growth a priority. What would be better is agreeing to a unified plan that allows for common sense growth while preserving what’s left of the small town nature of these communities.

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