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News from last night’s School Board Meeting

I was shocke to hear the news from last night’s meeting. Dr. Melton’s departure means our district will have our 7th Superintendent in the past 16 years.

From The State

Just weeks after she was named South Carolina superintendent of the year , Christina Melton has resigned as superintendent of Lexington-Richland 5.

An emotional Melton made the announcement at the end of Monday’s school board meeting, after board members met in an executive session and one member resigned mid-meeting.

Melton said her last day as superintendent will be June 30.

“This is a bittersweet message,” said Melton who called Lexington-Richland 5 her home and the staff and faculty there her family. “It truly is a privilege to lead District 5. … We’ve been tested, but we are resilient and student-centered.”

Vice chairman Ken Loveless, presiding over the meeting, accepted Melton’s resignation and said the board will hold a special meeting in the future to replace her by July 1. He said the district wishes Melton well.
Melton had been with Lexington-Richland 5 for more than a decade, starting as an elementary school principal. She won principal of the year in 2012 and district-level administrator of the year in 2016 from the S.C. Association of School Administrators. Just last month she was named S.C. superintendent of the year.

School board member Ed White announced during the meeting that he was resigning from the school board because of his disagreements with the school district’s handling of Melton’s resignation. White then got up and left the room.

After the meeting, Melton quickly left the room with other staff members for an adjoining room where crying could be heard.


Despite her accomplishments, Melton was criticized by some parents for her cautious response to the COVID-19 pandemic. School board members were criticized for deferring to Melton on when and how students could return to in-person classes at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

After the school board elections in November shook up the board majority, Lexington-Richland 5 starting moving more quickly to return to normal operations. When the board decided to move forward with a reopening timetable against Melton’s advice, it led to student protests and a walk-out of teachers at three district high schools that caused the schools to close.

For more from The State, click here.

For Dr. Melton’s statement, click here .

Meet your Dutch Fork Silver Foxes (Football): July 31st

SAVE THE DATE: Meet your Dutch Fork Silver Foxes on July 31st. More details to come! #Shoot4Six

Meet Ashley Miller – Richland County Recreation Commissioner

Ashley was born in Columbia, SC and she and her husband Brandon have three children, Ava, Eason and Nora. She attended Irmo high school and has been a native to the Columbia area her entire life.

Brandon and Ashley own a small investment company in Columbia as well as own and operate German Autowerks in West Columbia.

Irmo Little League and Friarsgate Park are near and dear to her family and Ashley and her husband have both volunteered for several years at the park. In addition, all of their children have played at Friarsgate Park and they are very familiar with the facilities and many of the families currently using the park.

Ashley told me “A large portion of our time is spent watching our children grow, play, make lasting friendships and become better athletes at this park. I am deeply passionate and a strong advocate for safety and positive change for all children and families entering our parks and recreation throughout Richland County. I look forward to using my voice for good and I am excited to serve!”

If you have ideas, suggestions or advice for how to improve our parks (Friarsgate Park and Ballentine Park) please let her know by calling 803-955-6110.

We’ve been very fortunate to have been served through the years on the commission by John Ecton, Todd Latiff, Cynthia Shepard and now Ashley. You may have noticed many rennovations recently and in years past as part of funding I secured for Friarsgate as well as improvements at Ballentine Park. Those monies come from state allocated funds to each county delegation. Serving on a large delegation of 15 Democrats and only 2 Republicans makes it challenging to secure the funds we need out here in the northwest corner of the county; but building relationships and advocating for our community – along with having a community member on the commission – helps tremendously.

Thank you Ashley for your willingness to serve!

Meet Mike Swindell – newly appointed Richland County Transportation Committee

Late last year, I put out a request to gauge interest in the community about serving on the local county transportation committee.

I had a few inquiries and some asked to be considered. Thank you to those that did. I’m pleased to share that as of today, our local representative on that committee is Mike Swindell. I met Mike years ago on the campaign trail and know that his demeanor and skills will be needed to help Northwest Richland County with our ever growing needs.

To be clear – he’s not your pothole guy. You can come to me for those or our local county councilman, Bill Malinowksi. But Mike will get a vote on the committee for some smaller funding projects in the county.

Mike’s bio from his paying job is below…

Michael S. Swindell focuses on Workers’ Compensation and Social Security cases. He is licensed to practice law in the state of South Carolina.

Michael is a native South Carolinian from Bamberg, S.C. Michael completed his undergraduate work and earned his J.D. at the University of South Carolina. Michael was a member of the South Carolina Army National Guard from 1981 to 1991 and reached the rank of Captain.

He is a current member of the South Carolina Bar, the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association, and the Association of South Carolina Claimant Attorneys for Workers’ Compensation.

He serves on a number of boards for his profession and community. He is the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the South Carolina Worker’s Compensation Education Association. He is also a board member for the Mizpah Foundation and the Chapin High School Booster Club. He serves on the Board of Directors at Kid’s Chance of South Carolina.

Michael is married and has three boys: Scott, Chad and Ben. Michael’s hobbies center around sports, including football, wrestling and fishing. He is currently a member of Chapin United Methodist Church and enjoys singing in the church choir.

Meet Amy Carter: SC Teacher of the Year 2022

School District Five teacher named 2022 South Carolina Teacher of the Year

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced tonight at the annual South Carolina Teacher of the Year Gala that Amy Carter, an English teacher at Chapin High School in School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties, is the 2022 South Carolina Teacher of the Year.

“Amy’s leadership in and outside her classroom, and dedication to her students have uniquely qualified her for this prestigious honor,” said Superintendent Spearman. “I look forward to seeing her represent South Carolina’s over 55,000 teachers as she advocates for the profession over the next year.”

In her 21st year of teaching English to high school students, Amy has always sought to combine language and writing of authors and students with the powerful collaboration tools that technology offers. Amy’s teaching philosophy comes from Marianne Williamson’s urging to, “Let your light shine so that others may be granted permission to do the same.”

She uses literature as a basis for genuine connection with students of all ability levels ranging from grades 9-12 and uses that rapport to help them become readers, writers, and storytellers in their own right. With her most recent professional investment in the school’s Teacher Cadet program, Amy hopes to make an even greater impact as an advocate for public education by inspiring hopeful future educators that may one day become our colleagues.

“We are proud to have Mrs. Carter named the South Carolina Teacher of the Year and know that she represents the many exceptional teachers we have in our district and throughout the state,” Superintendent Dr. Christina Melton said. “With teaching experiences in several communities, she has used her relational approach to education to make lasting impacts and has demonstrated true leadership inside her classrooms and beyond. Congratulations, Mrs. Carter!”

As part of the state Teacher of the Year awards program, Amy will receive $25,000 and a brand new BMW for one year.

Considered one of the country’s strongest, the South Carolina Teacher of the Year program celebrates excellence and strengthens the teaching force by honoring and recognizing exceptional teachers on a district, state, and national level. These awards not only assist in retention efforts but serve as a powerful recruitment tool.

The South Carolina Teacher of the Year serves for one school year as a roving ambassador providing mentoring, attending speaking engagements, working with teacher cadets and teaching fellows, leading the State Teacher Forum, and serving as the state spokesperson for over 55,000 educators. Learn more about the Teacher of the Year program.

Chapin Chamber In-Person Meeting! March 18th

We are so excited to be back meeting in person! Please be sure to wear a facemask while not eating or drinking. Social Distancing guidelines will be enforced.

Join us on March 18th at 12pm at The Cotton Press in Little Mountain. We’ll hear from Scott Hanners of Scott Hanners – State Farm and Kari Pepper McKeone of The Justin Pepper Foundation. Lunch will be provided by Sheila Veach of Small Packages, LLC. *Facemasks will be required while not eating or drinking.

The Cotton Press
199 W. Church Street
Little Mountain, SC 29075

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

For more info contact:

Paul Sadler
The Greater Chapin Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center

Click here to register

Irmo Chamber of Commerce Monthly Meeting: Feb 10th

February Chamber Luncheon
Wednesday, February 10th
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
6952 St. Andrews Rd., Columbia, SC 29212

This month we will welcome our friend, Cynthia Giles with Cut Throat Marketing to our podium to discuss the ins and outs of using social media to promote your business in this competitive marketplace for 2021. .

THANK YOU to our Diamond partner at Lexington Medical Center for presenting this event. Cut Throat Marketing will be providing our AV and the live stream will be facilitated by Raynet Technologies!

PLEASE NOTE: We have a limited number of tickets available for this event so that we can maintain social distancing guidelines inside the fellowship hall. Masks are required for entry into the event and will be required at all times except when eating or drinking. Additionally, Oxi-Thyme Sanitation Service, one of our newest Marketing partners, will sanitize and disinfect the room prior to the event using EPA registered Hydrogen Peroxide.

Tickets are $10 and all tickets to the event MUST be purchased in ADVANCE with a credit/debit card. If you are a Marketing, Emerald or Diamond Partner, Law Enforcement or First Responder OR a Lunch Card Holder, please email Kerry to reserve your lunch.

No cash or walk ups will be accepted.

We apologize for the inconvenience and abundance of rules but we’re just trying to be responsible while continuing to grow this amazing and supportive Irmo Business Community!!

Meet Sarah Gams : 2021 South Carolina Teacher of the Year

From District Five’s website:

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, Lexington-Richland School District Five superintendent Dr. Christina Melton, and others surprised Sarah Gams at her home today with news that she was selected as the 2021 South Carolina Teacher of the Year.

“The role of speaking on behalf of all South Carolina teachers and helping them navigate through the upcoming school year will require tremendous leadership,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “Sarah has shown throughout her career her ability to rise to the occasion and meet the needs of students wherever they are. She is most deserving of this honor and the attributes she possesses will be invaluable assets as she helps to lead our state and the teaching profession forward.”

Sarah Gams says a love for teaching and learning was probably embedded in her DNA from her parents who are both retired educators. With school as a second home, teaching was always her dream career. An avid reader and writer, Sarah majored in English at the Honors College of the University of South Carolina and earned her Master of Arts in Teaching. Sarah studied abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she discovered a passion for travel and the global classroom. Believing that multicultural experiences create global citizens, she partnered with Education First (EF) Tours in 2006 and has led nine student tours to Europe and other countries. She was a keynote speaker for EF in Paris, France. To share her love of reading and promote parental involvement, Sarah created Community Book Club to discuss books each month. Sarah earned National Board certification in 2007 and re-certified in 2017. Sarah currently serves as a cooperating teacher for student teachers. As an adjunct professor, Sarah teaches Young Adult Literature, English Methods in Education, and APEC Module 3, a graduate program for teacher certification. After sixteen years in the classroom, teaching middle school, high school, and graduate courses, Sarah still loves the teaching profession. She believes her greatest accomplishment is providing a strong foundation in literacy for her students to pursue personal and career goals. Through her active support of the next generation of teachers, Sarah makes a positive and long-lasting impact on the future of the education profession.

“We are beyond excited for Mrs. Gams and the entire School District Five community,” said Lexington-Richland School District Five Superintendent Dr. Christina Melton. “At a time when education has been challenged and changed, Mrs. Gams represents the best of what teaching is in South Carolina. In Mrs. Gams, her students and peers have a champion and advocate who leads with passion and by example. Throughout her career, she has shown that the impact educators have on their students go beyond the school walls, and I know she will be an excellent ambassador for our field of public education. Congratulations, Mrs. Gams.”

As part of the state Teacher of the Year awards program, Sarah receives a total of $25,000 and is provided with a brand new BMW to use while serving for one year as a roving ambassador providing mentoring, attending speaking engagements, working with teacher cadets and teaching fellows, leading the State Teacher Forum, and serving as the state spokesperson for over 50,000 educators.

Sarah and the four finalists, or Honor Roll teachers, will be celebrated at the South Carolina Teacher of the Year Gala, which has been postponed and will be rescheduled for later this year.

Considered one of the country’s strongest, the South Carolina Teacher of the Year program celebrates excellence and strengthens the teaching force by honoring and recognizing exceptional teachers on a district, state, and national level. These awards not only assist in retention efforts but serve as a powerful recruitment tool.

Meet Matthew Calhoun – Chief of SC Bureau of Protective Services

Matthew P. Calhoun, a 21-year veteran of the Bureau of Protective Services (BPS), was chosen to succeed Chief John Hancock, who retires July 1 after 28 years of service to the state.

“The sign of a good leader is preparing those in the wings to succeed,” said S.C. Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) Acting Director Robert Woods. “It has been my privilege to work alongside both these men through the years. They have shown exemplary leadership during some difficult times in our state and have been instrumental in keeping the employees and visitors at our State House Complex, Governor’s Mansion and other state buildings safe.”

For Calhoun, currently a major and the Assistant Chief at BPS, being selected as the next commander of BPS was “a lifelong dream that came to fruition.”

“I’d aspired to serve the department in whatever capacity that I was assigned to, but it was always a dream to serve in this position and be able to provide leadership for the officers at BPS and work closely with our sister divisions within SCDPS – the Highway Patrol and State Transport Police,” said Calhoun, a 1994 graduate of Barnwell High School.

When he officially takes over as Chief of BPS on July 2, Calhoun will be responsible for overseeing 72 officers who are responsible for ensuring the safety of citizens, employees, elected representatives and those attending events or visiting or conducting business on the grounds of the S.C. State Capitol Complex and other designated state facilities.

“I want to build young officers to be the next leaders in law enforcement and the state of South Carolina,” said Calhoun, who wants to ensure his officers have the equipment and training they need to do their jobs effectively.

Calhoun joined SCDPS in 1999 after earning a criminal justice degree from the University of South Carolina. Before serving as Assistant Chief of BPS, Calhoun was the field commander for the agency’s State House and Judicial divisions, a training officer, and he oversaw field operations for the Governor’s Mansion, State Agency Support Division and Special Operations. His career has allowed him to meet many dignitaries, including presidential candidates, and witness history, such as when the Confederate flag was removed from the state Capitol grounds.

In 2017 Calhoun joined a prestigious group comprised of less than 1 percent of the country’s law enforcement officers when he completed the FBI National Academy. The FBI National Academy allowed Calhoun the opportunity to “find the best practices” by learning from the experiences of other law enforcement officers, which will assist him in better protecting citizens, legislators, the governor and other leaders.

He is the son of Phillip and Jeanne Calhoun of Irmo, formerly of Barnwell. Calhoun is married to Lori Weeks Calhoun, also a Barnwell County native, and they have two children, Olivia and Andrew, both 18.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety includes the Highway Patrol, State Transport Police, Bureau of Protective Services, Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs, Immigration Enforcement Unit and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame. Their mission is to ensure public safety by protecting and serving the people of South Carolina and its visitors.

Meet Laura Boccanfuso and ABii – Shark Tank 5/6 at 10pm

It’s been awhile since I added a “Meet Your Neighbor” post, but now’s the time for y’all to meet Laura Boccanfuso who lives right here in our community with her husband Tony, their 2 daughters and 1 son.

You can learn more about her and her work by watching Shark Tank, next week, May 6th at 10pm!


Teachers and parents are always going to be the most important people responsible for helping children learn. Laura Boccanfuso, founder and CEO of Van Robotics , knows this very well, but is convinced that most teachers (and many parents) could use some help. Children have different learning styles, and need differing amounts of time and attention to achieve their educational goals, but most schools require a standardized curriculum. Teachers often struggle to meet the needs of more than 20 students in a classroom of varied style-learners.

Because of this, many school districts have already incorporated technology into their classrooms to enhance their students’ learning experience. But most standard technology and the accompanying software is not sophisticated enough to gather information necessary to adapt to the individual student’s learning preferences. Meet ABii, a small robot teacher’s aide, who delivers grades 2-5 core subject instruction by engaging students with fun, social interactions designed to improve individual academic achievement.

Before establishing Van Robotics, Boccanfuso earned an MS in computer science from Bowling Green State University and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of South Carolina. Her focus was on artificial intelligence and human-computer interactions, and she was specifically interested in how to engage students with new materials. Working as a researcher for Yale University, she learned that the most effective methods involved continual monitoring and adapting to individual stress levels, and that this is especially important for children on the autism spectrum, or who have ADHD or other developmental issues.

After establishing Van Robotics in 2016, Boccanfuso developed eight prototype robots with 22 math lessons. In early 2018 they launched the first pilot program in schools in Alabama, Kansas, New York and South Carolina. Seed money was provided through Tech Stars Austin, South Carolina Research Authority, and Right Side Capital Management, totaling $1 million during the period January 2018 through June 2019. On January 27, 2018, Van Robotics was chosen as one of ten companies for the Techstars Austin 2018 accelerator, and The Tech Tribune named it as one of the very best tech startups in South Carolina in 2020.

Read more here.