On Monday, Oct. 23, Senator Kevin Johnson, Clarendon County School District (CCSD) Chairman Arthur Moyd, Vice- Chairmen Alex Craven, CCSD Board Secretary Dr. Felicia Miller and CCSD Superintendent Dr.Shawn Johnson held a press conference to address questions and concerns over the results.
The investigation was opened on Apr. 10 of 2023 at the request of Governor Henry McMaster stemming from a request from House of Representative District 64 Fawn Pedalino. The findings of the investigation were made public on Oct. 20, 2023.
After the findings were made public, Representative Pedalino called for the resignation of all current CCSD Board members along with CCSD Superintendent Dr. Johnson citing “instances of wrongful financial dealings and mismanagement within the board and the Superintendant’s office.”
Dr. Johnson spoke first. He said, “The initial reason for the investigation was for potential financial irregularities, the inspector general has said to the delegation, to board, to myself that there is no mismanagement of funds, no fraud, no financial irregularities.”
CCSD Chairman Moyd then spoke calling on Representative Pedalino “I would like to say to Fawn Pedalino, if she is listening or watching today, that she owes our Senator, our superintendent, and this board a public apology for what she is trying to display in her tactics.” After calling for a public apology he also called for Pedalino to “step down if she can’t handle the position.”
Moyd was followed by Senator Johnson who spoke next stating that Representative Pedalino never brought her concerns to him or the school district with concerns before going to the Governor. “He (the Governor) found what we already knew that Clarendon County school district is doing an outstanding job of educating our students as evidence by the recent report card, he also found no fraud, no misapplication of funds, none of the stuff that was alleged and I agree that I think that Representative Pedalino owes our community an apology because this put a lot of disparagement, a lot of embarrassment to our entire community, the allegations were unfounded.”
Vice chairman Craven then spoke. “The amount of tax dollars that were spent on this investigation, tens if not hundreds of thousands, and what did it produce?” Craven also urged everyone to come together and move forward. “In my opinion, this investigation was completely unwarranted and completely unnecessary and I hope we can move forward together as a community for the betterment of our students and our educational system.”
Craven was also mentioned in the findings as one of several board members who received compensation for school board meetings unattended. When questioned about the compensation, Craven paid the $600 back at the end of the press conference. Dr. Johnson assured that all monies owed for missed meetings will be paid back by board members and also explained that board members have many duties outside of regular monthly meetings and receive no compensation for those other duties such as mileage.
Senator Kevin Johnson released the following statement about the situation:
The long-awaited report from the State Inspector General (IG) is out. It should not be a surprise to anyone that the Clarendon County School District (CCSD) is serving students well and not abusing public funds. I encourage you to read the IG report for yourself.
In April of this year, Representative Fawn Pedalino met with Governor McMaster with what has been reported, a couple of binders filled with information alleging financial wrongdoings in the CCSD. Please note that at that time, she had been a state legislator for about 5 or 6 months and our new consolidated school district was less than one year old. Anyway, the Governor requested an investigation by the IG. That was the correct thing for the Governor to do.
The IG finished his lengthy and thorough investigation and made his final report public this past Friday evening. As stated by the IG in his report, “the purpose of this report is to provide a road map for the District’s leadership to improve in its delivery of quality education to its students in a unified effort.” Representative
Pedalino may not like it but that is his stated purpose, in his own words. I encourage everyone who is interested to read the report for themselves. The IG sent a copy of the report to Representative Pedalino and me along with a cover letter.
In that letter, the IG says this, “Overall I believe the District is in good shape on internal controls over its finances, which was the scope of this review. Along the way, my team identified areas for improvement, particularly in the area of athletic stipend oversight. We did not identify fraud or misapplication of funds. I found the Board and Dr. Johnson to be responsive to my concerns and decisive in addressing these concerns.” (emphasis added). In her letter to me discussed below, Representative Pedalino wants to force out a successful Superintendent and Board. It is troubling to me that an official elected by the citizens of Clarendon County would seek to cause this level of turmoil into the educational system of our children for no reason. The report stated improvements that were received and acted upon by the Superintendent and Board. There was no evidence of fraud, theft, or misapplication of funds.
In another part of the letter, he mentioned two concerns and provided recommendations to address one of them. That concern involved student absenteeism and truancy and the IG clearly stated that that is an issue of not just CCSD but with almost every school district in the state. As to the other concern, he clearly stated that the resolution is beyond the district’s control, it is a legislative matter.
After the IG sent his report, Representative Pedalino sent a letter addressed to me via email that I was not even aware of until several people contacted me who saw that the personal letter that was addressed to me was also posted on her Facebook page by her. After all of her allegations were mostly deemed to be unfounded by the IG, her letter to me is asking me to join her in asking the Superintendent and all of the board members to resign. Again, it is troubling that she would seek their removal for no reason which would cause turmoil in the education of our students.
Maybe that was her goal all along, but the IG didn’t even hint at such a drastic and absurd course of action. As I stated, he made complimentary remarks about our district leadership. It is important to note that just because the school district does not say or do things as she would does not make what they say or do wrong.
School boards govern the school districts, not state legislators.
The senate district that I represent covers all or parts of four counties. As a result, I am a member of four county legislative delegations. Prior to my election to the
General Assembly in 2011, I always kept up with state government but especially with the actions of the Senators and members of the House. Never has there been even one legislator who puts so much time and energy and effort in giving their school district and others a hard time and so much grief. Many of us have worked for decades to appeal to others who are looking for places to bring jobs and other quality of life amenities to help improve the quality of life for our citizens. They especially check out our school district and I am sure that it is an eye-opening experience for them to find that the local state legislator has made many attempts to give our school district and our community a bad look. Actions like hers could easily cause these companies and individuals to look elsewhere.
Let me just admit that a lot of great things are going on in our school district. Many of our past and current students are highly successful and are doing awesome things locally and nationwide. Regardless of what anyone else does or says, I will always support our school district and other parts of our county and I will continue to brag and boast about the good things while working with others to bring about improvement where it may be needed. We should not let people move to our county and seek to tear down overnight what took many of us years and decades to build. We must continue to work together to highlight all of the good things that Clarendon County has to offer, especially as it relates to our school district.
Representative Pedalino made her allegations, they were thoroughly and professionally investigated, and the results of the investigation did not concur with her charges. Just last week, CCSD received a good report when the school report cards were released. Maybe we should emphasize that and the other great things that are going on with our newly consolidated school district.
The following is Representative Fawn Pedalino’s letter to Senator Kevin Johnson concerning the school district, referred to in Senator Johnson’s repsonse.
I hope this letter finds you well. I am reaching out with an urgent and deeply concerning matter that pertains to the current state of the Clarendon County School Board. As you may be aware, recent investigations have uncovered instances of wrongful financial dealings and mismanagement within the board and the Superintendent’s office. This revelation has left our community in shock and disappointment.
It is disheartening to witness such actions, especially when we have entrusted experienced individuals, some of whom are attorneys, show such negligence. Considering these developments, I am compelled to act for the sake of our community and, most importantly, our students.
I understand that the decision to force the entire school board and Superintendent to resign may be difficult for you, given your involvement in their appointment and the fact that your wife and two daughters are employed by the school district. However, I urge you to consider the greater good and the long-term well-being of our education system. It is essential that we restore trust, transparency, and accountability within our schools. I feel that Dr. Inabinette is more than qualified to step in as our Superintendent for the time being. She has been the face of Dr. Johnson at most events anyway, as he always seems to be absent from the district. While I know that the decision to remove the Superintendent is up to the school board, they have proven time and time again that they don’t have the best interest for Clarendon County School District’s staff and students.
I kindly request your support in this endeavor. I believe that we can work together to ensure a smooth transition, uphold the values we hold dear, and put the interests of our community and students first. Your voice and influence in this matter is crucial, and your commitment to the betterment of our educational system will not go unnoticed.
Please let me know your thoughts and if you would be willing to join me in this pursuit for the greater good of Clarendon County’s education.
The following is Representative Fawn Pedalino’s response to the findings of the Inspector General’s investigation and the press conference.
In the IG’s report, there is a headline that says: “potential financial irregularities identified by the SIG.” Underneath that headline, there is discussion about truancy issues and funds to be repaid that should’ve never been given to the district, issues within the athletic department with funds being moved and coaches being uncertified that could have cost the district anywhere from $20,000 to $32,000 per fine (not to mention putting our kids who play sports at risk), as well as our board members and superintendent having to repay funds for violating the law.
Should I apologize for doing my legislative duties to make sure healthy checks and balances are in place? It seems so in the opinion of our Senator, who has put us where we are today by continuously appointing members in the community who were on previous boards under fiscal emergency as well as a board member who was being investigated by SLED for receiving possible kickbacks. He could have let the people have a voice by allowing them to elect the board. His board has taken $289,116 of Clarendon County taxpayers’ dollars due to leaving students in the roster that employees said they knew had left. I would ask who the public thinks should apologize.