September 29, 2006

Political Forum, Day 1: School Board Candidates

September 26, 2006: We kicked off our political series by hosting five impressive school board candidates. Larry Tarleton introduced our five school board candidates: Arthur Ravenel, Gregg Myers, Susan Simons, and, Robin Beard, all from the East Cooper area, and Ray Toler, from the North Charleston area.

Each candidate spoke individually, giving us a glimpse at their campaign, views, and background. The mediator then asked all of the candidates five questions, and we heard the diverse responses from the candidates. The questions varied from how the candidates felt about charter schools, to their reaction to the recent district court case involving a middle school teacher from a Charleston county school.

Arthur Ravenel related that he has been concerned about the county schools and drop-out rate, and decided to stand up and take action. He discussed educating students from their earliest levels through high school. He brought up the interesting point that technical trades may be learned at the high school level and provide for career skills.

Ray Toler, the sole North Charleston representative at the meeting, also spoke about bringing back vocational schools. Mr. Toler raised three children of his own, and has moved around a considerable amount due to his former naval career. He has been seen many different school systems, and feels his experience can benefit our community

Gregg Myers has served on the school board since 1996, and has enjoyed his position. Myers spoke of having continuity in the top positions in the school system. Myers feels a commitment to meeting goals, and is optimistic.

Susan Simons also has three children, and feels committed to the goal of educating each and every child in the Charleston county school system. She mentioned that our county has been making great strides.

Robin Beard spoke about the need for accountability to each student, regardless of income level. He mentioned that the budget could be reviewed in more detail, and that some spending could be redistributed. Beard related his passion for seeing that all children have education, and also recess time.

Submitted by Jackie Gottfried

September 23, 2006

"Your University located in Orangeburg, SC"

September 19, 2006: Andy Brack introduced Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr. as a gentleman from Green Pond SC...a town with more homes than people. He also made sure every person in the audience understood the fourth year President of South Carolina State University (SCSU) is an extremely accomplished professional who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from SCSU and a PhD from Michigan State University. Before assuming his current position, he also was SCSU Teacher of the Year.

Dr. Hugine's theme for his address to our Club was obvious: First, SCSU has come a long way since it's first President, Thomas E. Miller described SCSU as "a faculty of 13, eight small buildings, nine degree programs, 10 milk cows, 25 hogs, and a few chickens." Second, SCSU has a lot to brag about today and third, it has distilled a clear vision for a bright future.

Today the comprehensive 1890 Land Grant University has:
- 220 faculty members, 57 academic programs, 107 buildings (physical plant)
- 4500 undergrad/graduate students (378 from Charleston/Dorchester counties)
- 93 percent of its programs that can be accredited are accredited

More notably, SCSU has a pedigree of programs unique to the University. It's the nation's only undergraduate environmental sciences field station in the nation. Additionally, it's SC's only:

- undergraduate degree program in nuclear engineering
- master of science degree in transportation
- MBA degree with a concentration in agribusiness
- Doctor of Education degree in the state focusing on education administration; ranked third in the nation in graduating minorities with the Doctor of Education degree

Dr. Hugine was very proud in stating that eighty percent of the Faculty hold doctoral degrees and are fourth highest in the state in generating external research grants and contracts totaling over 41 million dollars. The areas are impressive including: neuroscience and brain computer interface (artificial intelligence) with implications for combating Alzheimer's and clean energy research with emphasis on using hydrogen as an alternative fuel. SCSU has the most diverse Faculty in the state. In describing the student body, Dr. Hugine referred to SCSU as a statewide resource with 80 percent of the students being native South Carolinians. He emphasized it's important not to have "brain loss" outside of the state after graduation and stated that of the 26 thousand living alumni, 18 thousand or 69 percent live in South Carolina. He cited some alumni notables: Rickie Green, a lead construction engineer on the recently completed Cooper River Bridge Project: Harry Carson, a NFL Hall off Fame inductee; six college presidents; nine members of the current SC General Assembly; and the first and only female Athletic Director in SC's public institutions. Additionally, SCSU ROTC commissioned more minority officers than any other institution in the nation.

Other highlights of Dr. Hugine's presentation centered around the University as an "economic engine," having a total economic impact statewide of 181.5 million dollars, supporting 1335 jobs, and generating 4.9 million dollars in state-level taxes. In doing so, SCSU never looses it's focus of "making a difference in the lives of our young people." It's a student centered institution that was ranked number nine in the nation by The Washington Monthly with particular emphasis on Social Mobility, moving low income individuals into the middle class, where SCSU was ranked number one in the US.

Dr. Hugine concluded his talk by explaining SCSU's vision on how they will "continue to make a difference:"

- Be one of the top 25 public universities, among peer institutions, as measured by recognized independent ratings
- Enrollment Goal: 8000 by 2014
- Create additional programs to meet projected societal needs and support economic development particularly along the I-95 Corridor.

Submitted by Bill Crowe, Keyway Committee

September 17, 2006

Digital Technology, Innovation, The Future is Here!

September 12, 2006: Phil Noble, Internet Technology Specialist and originator of the Palmetto Project, enthusiastically gave us a picture of past and present technology and challenged us to utilize it to make a better future. He quoted Bill Gates, who opined: "The internet is radically different and will change the world with equal intensity as did the printing press and the coming of the industrial age."

In the past year, more computers were sold than TV's; more laptops sold than desktops; more cell phones than landline phones. We all have a global world in our pockets. In technology the power of the hardware and software doubles every two years and the price is cut in half, and still the sales boom.

A U.S. company is currently manufacturing a laptop in China which will be sold to school children for $100, but the sales are going to Chile, Brazil, Nigeria, Egypt and Burma, the developing world. We can only imagine the impact this will have on the need for every American child to be literate, competitive, and educated for the new world, as Tom Freedman says in his new book, "The World is Flat"!

South Carolina, however, is in a quiet crisis, sort of like termites eating the house, which are a lot less noticeable than if the house is on fire. The state was on top in the Agricultural Age and in the Industrial Age, but today in the Digital Age the state is still in a time of slippage, which began after the Civil War. We badly need to improve in Education, Technology, and Innovation. Today we have the highest school dropout rate in the nation. We are 50th in state test scores, and 48% of the 19 to 24 year age group is unskilled to do the most basic of jobs. 60% of adults feel that their children will not do as well in their lifetime as they did. To solve the problems, Phil Noble suggests:

ACTION: We must believe that we can do it. Give every child a laptop and teach him/her how to use it; guarantee college for all; teach all to be good citizens.

TECHNOLOGY: With it we can provide more, and save money doing it.

Reported by Fred Sales, Keyway Committee

September 8, 2006

Half Cent Tax Plan ready for November Vote

September 5, 2006: Leon Stavrinakis, Chairman of the Charleston County Council, brought the Rotary Club up to date on the plans and progress of the 2004 half cent tax increase. While it seems like a long time ago the tax underwent 3 different votes and the money did not start to come in until August of 2005. The board initially had many small projects in mind but the ever increasing costs of doing public works projects caused a change in thinking.

First, it must be noted that a major payment for the Cooper River bridge is made each year. Recognizing that inflation would make it impossible to implement all needs, the board plans to do all major projects over a ten year period and will borrow money against the projected tax income so as to maximize that which can be completed.

The board is dedicated to careful planning and accountability and has created a master plan that improves roads, stabilizes CARTA and sets aside green spaces. This plan will go before the voters in the November election, not to seek new tax money, but to approve the plan itself. All of the area mayors and Chambers of Commerce have joined in support of the plan.

In response to a question, Chairman Stavrinakis noted concern that the recent Post and Courier letter by Mayors Summey and Hallman was in error. While contractors who bid on projects must include On The Job Training for local workers in their bid, no money from the tax increase has been diverted for this purpose.

For the future he believes the State Legislature must mandate that local communities work together in regional planning.

Finally, Leon thanked the Rotary and all members of the community for the great support he feels that he received during his years on the county council. His term is ending and he feels proud of his opportunity to serve the community.

Reported by Fred Sales, Keyway Committee

September 2, 2006

Reducing Healthcare Costs in Charleston

August 29, 2006: Last Tuesday, John Miall dosed us with his wit, intelligence, and Southern charm, as he explained how there is hope for reducing pharmacy related costs in cities like Charleston, S.C.

Mr. Miall, an honorary member of the American Pharmacy Association, has dedicated his efforts to creating and exploring "The Asheville Program". The program began in Ashevillle, N.C., about ten (10) years ago, as an experiment of sorts. The object was to find out if healthcare costs for chronically ill individuals in the workforce could be reduced. The project was partially funded by Glaxo Smith-Kline. Miall and his team gathered diabetic individuals as trial subjects for their program. The individuals agreed to participate in monthly monitoring visits with their pharmacists.

The monitoring pharmacists did not practice medicine, but checked the diabetic subjects vital signs, and kept tabs on their health. The idea was to report to treating physicians the first sign of a problem before it could become severe. Problems such as loss of limbs, organ failure, and heart disease are preventable if caught and treated early. In exchange for participation in these visits, the diabetic individuals were given access to free insulin, blood sugar monitors, other health supplies and prescription medication. This system controlled costs by reducing the number of major hospital stays and missed days from work.

Mr. Miall explained how "The Asheville Program" picked Charleston as one of the ten cities in which to continue testing out its hypothesizes. The project is going on now in our city, with participants from some local businesses . Ideally, the lessons learned from Miall and his colleagues will translate into lower healthcare costs for employers and more cost efficient care for everyone.

Submitted by Jackie Gottfried, Keyway Committee