I am writing in response to the recent article covering the meeting hosted by the Manning & Clarendon County chapters of the NAACP. As you are aware this meeting was held to discuss the proposed district lines for the Clarendon County School District Board of Trustees.
It's imperative to address several misrepresentations within the article. Firstly, the statement regarding Senator Johnson presenting a map at the meeting is incorrect. Senator Johnson did not bring a map to the gathering, which significantly impacted the discussion and to me it either shows his lack of enthusiasm or that he was not taking this meeting seriously. His agenda was clear.
I was also shocked to see that the writer of this article insinuated that racial demographics are related to political party affiliation. I think if we learned anything from Rep. Pedalino’s election in 2022 it would be that party affiliation doesn't equate to racial demographics. Representative Pedalino's victory garnered support across racial and political lines, demonstrating the unity among constituents.
Additionally, it's concerning that Mr. Ruoff seemingly only had access to Senator Johnson's map for study before the meeting, not Representative Pedalino's. I reached out to Rep. Pedalino to see if they requested her map prior to this meeting. She informed me that they did not. This lack of access to crucial information could have significantly impacted Mr. Ruoff's ability to provide fair and unbiased advice. It raises serious doubts about the fairness of his counsel, as one cannot advise impartially without a complete understanding of all proposals on the table. This unequal access to information casts a shadow on the fairness and equity of the entire advisory process, creating an environment where informed decision-making becomes challenging. All parties involved in advising or facilitating discussions should have equal access to all pertinent data to ensure fairness and transparency in the decision-making process.
Regarding the inclusion of prison populations in the maps, it's essential to clarify that both Senator Johnson's and Representative Pedalino's maps in which they run on, along with the previous Clarendon School District 3 maps, included these numbers. This inclusion not only aligns with past practices but also serves as a means to secure additional funding through government grants for the school district.
The article's claim that the Senator and Representative are unable to move past electoral disputes is inaccurate. Representative Pedalino has consistently shown a willingness to collaborate. Conversely, Senator Johnson's public statements indicate a reluctance to come together, evident in his prior social media posts. In September 27, 2023, I was actually present at an event during which the Senator & Representative were discussing mediation regarding the maps. He asked who would pay for it. Rep. Pedalino stated that she would.
During the meeting's Q&A segment, it was Representative Pedalino who expressed openness to finding common ground on the School Board Maps. Unfortunately, Senator Johnson's reluctance to engage until the meeting's end hindered progress.
Most disappointing was Senator Johnson's behavior at the meeting's conclusion. His vocal inquiry, repeatedly asking attendees if they had voted for him, was deeply concerning. It suggested a divisive mindset, implying a lack of representation for those who didn't support him, which is an unsettling notion for a public official. He verbally attacked a citizen during the meeting who will be one of his constituents in the coming year due to Senate lines changing. He stated that she didn’t vote for him therefore her opinion was not important to him. How could he know she didn’t vote for him? She & her husband came to this meeting from Orangeburg County for the purpose of meeting their future Senator. Two votes lost, Senator!
As a community, our focus should be on the well-being of our children and the betterment of Clarendon County. Cooperation and collaboration between elected officials are essentials for progress. It's my hope that future discussions prioritize unity, constructive dialogue, and the best interests of our community.
(Mrs.) Terrey M. Streath