Laurens County Shriners Present $92,000 Check

$92,000 Check Presented

 

Members from the Laurens County Shrine Club and sponsors of the annual Laurens County Shrine Race were on hand in Greenville yesterday to present a $92,000 check to Shriner’s Hospitals. The check for precisely $92,011.06 came from the annual fundraiser of the club that raises money for Shriners Hospitals. This year’s President of the Laurens County Shrine Club, B. R. Smith, said “Even with everything that has happened this year, the people stepped up and gave graciously to make this year’s donation to Shriners Hospitals and their work to help burned and crippled children the biggest in our club history.” Smith said, “We are so thankful for each and every one who contributed and are grateful to the Hurley Family who operate the Laurens County Speedway for hosting the Shrine Race.” He added, “The Hurleys’ go above and beyond to always make this event successful.”

This was the 39th Annual Laurens County Shrine Race. “Now. we are looking forward to our 40th Annual Shrine Race and have already started preparations,” Smith said, adding “It will be our goal to exceed this year’s record and with the people’s support we will. The reward to hear of a child whose life has been changed by Shriners Hospitals makes everything we do worth it.”

Shriners Hospitals for Children is a network of 22 non-profit medical facilities across North America. Children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients’ ability to pay.

Big Growth Spurt for Laurens County Housing

A significant growth spurt in housing inside Laurens County is coming. The Laurens County Advertiser this week reported that in addition to the 130-lot residential subdivision recently announced in the City of Laurens, the County Planning Commission has signed off on plans for what will be the county’s largest housing development. The Advertiser reports this as a 108-acre project near Fountain Inn that is to have 900 single family home lots and 200 townhomes. The paper reports another 429-lot residential development in planned for the Gray Court area off Interstate 385 and a 201-lot development is planned near Gray Court-Owings School. A smaller 19-lot development in the Fountain Inn area is also in the works.

The Advertiser reports that County Administrator Jon Caime said when developers began to consider large investments in Laurens County, the planning commission had to act quickly for local regulations to accommodate the growth.  Prices for the homes is expected to be in the $180,000 to $250,000 range, with some to $300,000. The administrator said that in addition to the overflow demand from Greenville, “Laurens County’s willingness to invest in itself has brought the county to the forefront as a great place to live.”

More details on this story from Editor John Clayton is available in a front-page story in this week’s Advertiser.

New Building & Scholarship Named for Retiring PC President

Bob and Phyllis Staton

 

A building on the Presbyterian College campus is being named for Retiring PC President Bob Staton. A recently completed central building of the new residential complex on campus is being named Staton Hall. PC Board of Trustees chairman E. G. Lassiter made the announcement during a farewell reception honoring both Bob and First Lady Phyllis Staton on Alumni Green November 13th.   Because of the pandemic, attendance at the event was limited to board members.

Lassiter said, “It is not hard to look around campus and see all that has been accomplished over the past five years under Bob’s leadership. There are new and renovated spaces for our students to live and learn, a larger and more diverse student body, more academic and athletic offerings, and an engaged board, just to name a few. He noted Bob and Phyllis Staton were most proud of the relationships they have built with students during their tenure. Lassiter mentioned how the Statons participated on campus, including helping students move in and attending events during Welcome Week and attending capstone presentations, athletic competitions, and cultural events.

In addition to announcing Staton Hall, the Board of Trustees announced the establishment of the Robert E. and Phyllis Staton Endowed Scholarship. They endorsed a fundraising effort to raise $1.5 million in scholarship support in the Statons’ honor before their scheduled retirement on December 31st.

Emaciated Animal Cited in Arrest

An alleged discovery of an animal in poor condition some seven weeks ago was alleged with a warrant served by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday. 50-year-old William Earl Gillian II of Stomp Springs Road, Clinton was charged with 1st offense, Ill Treatment of Animals.

He is accused of failing to provide proper food for a dog in his care, causing the dog to become emaciated to the point that the dogs ribs, hips, and spine were showing. He is further accused of allowing the dog to become infested with intestinal parasites. The animal was reportedly found in these conditions on Stomp Springs Road October 14th.

William Earl Gillian II was released from the Johnson Detention Center yesterday on a $4,000 personal recognizance bond.

Drug Tests of Mom and Newborn Cited

Positive drug tests for a woman and her newborn child earlier this year were alleged with charges served this week from the South Carolina Department of Pardon, Probation and Parole. 29-year-old Desiree Lee “Dezi” Gorman of Swallow Drive, Fountain Inn was charged with Violation of Probation.

She is accused of failing to attend inpatient treatment at Serenity Place, as instructed and failing to refrain from the use of controlled substances. A warrant alleges she tested positive for cocaine, opiates and methadone June 11th and that her newborn child tested positive for opiates and methadone. The Violation of Probation warrant, issued June 18th, further accuses her of being behind in payment of fees and of failure to follow the advice and instruction of her supervisory agent. Desiree “Dezi” Gorman remained in Laurens County’s Johnson Detention Center this morning, awaiting a bond hearing.

Grand Larceny-Auto

Zachary Thomas Taylor

A Vehicle theft over three months ago was alleged following a Laurens County Sheriff’s Office arrest Wednesday. 24-year-old Zachary Thomas “Zac” Taylor of Browning Road, Enoree was charged with Grand Larceny. He’s accused of talking a 1999 Chevrolet Silverado Z-71 on September 14th. “Zac” Taylor remained in the Johnson Detention Center earlier today, awaiting a bond hearing.

Resisting Arrest Added to Initial Charges

Markis Isaiah Jose Chenet

Running away from a deputy last month was alleged with a Laurens County Sheriff’s Office arrest this week. 24-year-old Markis Isaiah Jose Chenet of Country Gardens Drive, Fountain Inn was booked Wednesday. He has been charged with Resisting Arrest on November 18th. He had reportedly been stopped for charges of Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road that date and a Simple Possession of Marijuana charge was added, alleging he was in possession of 0.02 gram of marijuana. The Resisting Arrest warrant states that on November 18th he ran away when told he was under arrest. Markis Chenet remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning, awaiting a bond hearing.

Meth Possession Alleged

A drug charge has been served following a Wednesday arrest by Investigator Veal of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office. 50-year-old Roger Brian Willis of Palmetto Street, Clinton was charged with Possession of Methamphetamine. He’s accused of having less than one gram of meth in his possession December 2nd. Mr. Willis remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning, awaiting a bond hearing.

Libraries Now Open

The Laurens County Library has expanded services and is now welcoming patrons to browse and choose books from the shelves.  The library has been offering computer use and curbside pickup since May and now that new carpeting has been completed in the Laurens library, almost all areas of the library are open.  The Clinton Library is also open for browsing.   Everyone is asked to wear a mask, practice social distancing and to limit time in the library to no more than one hour per day.

Curbside service will continue for those who request it and the popular “Big 10  Bags” for children are still available.  Library System Director Ann Szypulski said, “We want patrons to have plenty of choices and we try to make the library easy and convenient to use.” She added,  “Checked out items will now automatically renew unless someone else has requested them and we will soon offer text notices when you have a book to be picked up.”

In addition to these services, e-books, videos, music, audiobooks, learning programs and virtual children’s’ programs can be found on the Library’s webpage, www.lcpl.org.  The library also has a limited number of mobile internet hotspots to check out. For more information or to register for a library card, call the Laurens library at 864-681-7323 or the Clinton library at 864-833-1853.

Correction on School Board Vote

We have a correction on yesterday’s report on the Laurens County District 55 School Board called meeting Monday evening. We reported the School Board voted to approve a one-year extension of the contract for Superintendent Ameca Thomas with a vote of 3 – 2. We have learned this was, in fact, a 4-2 vote. The motion to extend the contract was made by Trustee Susan Calhoun-Ware and seconded by Terri Martin. Also voting in favor were Barbara Beeks and Vice-Chair Anthony Carpenter. As we reported, voting no were District 55 Trustees Cathy Little and Mike Hughes.

After the meeting, Dr. Thomas said, “I am grateful that the board continues to show confidence in both my ability to do the work and my commitment to the students, staff, and community in LCSD 55.” Superintendent Ameca Thomas added, “We have a tremendous opportunity, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, to utilize everything we have learned to serve our students more effectively and efficiently. We will continue to grow beyond this pandemic.” Dr. Thomas said she is excited by the future of School District 55.

End of Course Exams to “Weigh” Less in Semester Grade

At last week’s November meeting the of District 56 School Board, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brenda Schrantz informed board members of a change regarding end of course exams.

A memo received from the South Carolina Department of Education serves to waive their requirement that end of course exams provide 20% of a student’s final grade in English 2, Algebra 1, Biology 1 and US History.  Due to the COVID19 environment, districts are given more flexibility in determining the proper weighting of the final exam in a course.

Dr. Schrantz said district administration has decided to take advantage of this flexibility and will count final exams in these courses as 10% of the final grade.  As of now, this change is effective for the 2020/2021 school year only.

Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields pointed out that the majority of school districts in the Western Piedmont Education Consortium have adopted this change having the final exams carry 10% of the final grade.  In fact, 10 of the 12 districts involved have adopted this with the other two removing any set percentage and having the final exam count as any other major test grade.

This was accepted as information with no action by the board considered needed for the change.

Trespassing, 1st Degree Burglary and….

Seth Ryan Laakkomen

 

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office has charged a man with a break-in at one residence this past Sunday along with trespassing at multiple locations that day.

40-year-old Seth Ryan Laakkonen of Wham Lawn Road, Gray Court, between Fairview and Green Pond Roads, was charged with 1st Degree Burglary, Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature and Petit Larceny along with Harassment, two counts of Trespassing and Malicious Damage to Personal Property.

He is accused of entering onto one victim’s property Sunday after being asked to leave, with a trespass notice. He is further accused of trespassing at multiple other locations Sunday. At one site he allegedly entered a residence by breaking the kitchen window and struck the victim there with a garden hoe during that process. He then reportedly carried away mail from that property Sunday.

Seth Ryan Laakkonen remained in Laurens County’s Johnson Detention Center earlier today, awaiting a bond hearing on all seven charges.

Arrest Alleges Chain Reaction  

A man was arrested by Laurens Police following an alleged chain-reaction collision in town Monday. 38-year-old Jeremiah Michael Wyatt of Mitchell Street, Laurens was charged with Malicious Damage to Personal Property. He is accused of driving a pickup truck into another person’s truck at a location on East Main Street, causing the victim’s truck to be pushed into the corner of a building. Mr. Wyatt was released yesterday on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond.

Rocks Flying from Collision

A Spartanburg County man was booked yesterday on traffic charges from an alleged incident in Laurens County this past summer. 41-year-old Lesile Dean Lawrence of Sloan Lake Road, Woodruff was charged with Striking Fixtures on or Adjacent to a Highway, with Driving under Suspension and Driving an Uninsured Vehicle. He is accused of driving an uninsured vehicle July 25th while his driver’s license was suspended and of running off the left side of the road, striking a rock embankment. This reportedly caused large rocks from that collision to be thrown from the point of impact and to cause damage to a chain-link fence. Mr. Dean remained in Laurens County’s Johnson Detention Center overnight, awaiting a bond hearing on his charges.

Grand Larceny – Camper

Gregory Chandler Metz

Theft of a camper here in Laurens County last month was alleged with a Sheriff’s Office arrest yesterday. 25-year-old Gregory Chandler Metz of Seyle Street, Greenville was charged with Grand Larceny. A warrant accuses him of taking a Skyline camper valued at $3,000 from a Laurens County location on November 18th. With a cash or surety bond on the Grand Larceny charge set at $5,000, Gregory Chandler Metz remained in the Johnson Detention Center earlier today.

Ill Treatment of Dog

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office yesterday charged a woman with Ill Treatment of Animals, based on the condition a dog was reportedly found in at her Laurens residence on Caines Street Monday. 22-year-old Haleigh Madison Sexton also had an Prosperity address noted on Macedonia Church Road.

She is accused of allowing a dog in her care in Laurens to become emaciated by starvation, to the point that the ribs, hip and spine were showing. The canine was allegedly living in deplorable conditions on Caines Street with a large buildup of feces and urine throughout the house Monday. Ms. Sexton remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning, awaiting a bond hearing.

Failure to Pay Support

The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office made an arrest yesterday on behalf of Laurens County Family Court. 32-year-old Randevis Lamar Gary of the 5,000-address range on Highway 92, Gray Court was charged with Contempt of Family Court. A warrant issued last year on December 30th states he had failed to make support payments since February 26th of 2018. Mr. Gary remained in the Johnson Detention Center this morning, awaiting his next appearance before a Family Court Judge.

District 55 Approves Contract Extension, 3 to 2

The Laurens County District 55 School Board extended the contract of Superintendent Ameca Thomas last night with a three to two vote. The one-year extension is at a salary of $142,000 plus benefits. This came in a called meeting last night, prior to the newly elected school board members taking office in the January meeting of the District 55 trustees.

Casting the “no” votes in last night’s called meeting ere Trustees Cathy Little and Mike Hughes. Mrs. Little said, “Dr. Thomas you clearly stepped into this role quite possibility at the worse time ever for public education, and fortunately, as of today, all of  our students are back to face to face instruction, and I really appreciate it, and I feel certain that the community feels the same. That being said, however, I feel that the granting of a one year contract at such an early stage is irresponsible and reflects a lack of true concern for our students, staff, and community.” Little said, “Our current board chair Robby Bell, who unfortunately could not be here tonight, never actually called the meeting needed with Dr. Thomas and the board to discuss the goals and expectations, and without such a discussion, I can’t agree with a clear conscious to extend this contract for another year after such a short time in the role.” Cathy Little added, “I do not take this contract lightly, for two reasons, one is that it is for $142,000 plus benefits, and is the highest paid salary in the district, and secondly it is critical to leadership which we simply have not had the time or the measurables in place to make this decision.  I feel this extension needs to wait until we have had time to evaluate how this season has impacted the education of our district.”

Board member Susan Calhoun-Ware supported the contract extension and the salary, saying, “I wish we could have offered her even more.”

Consider Wild Animal Rescue for “Giving Tuesday”

We’ve now had this year’s Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and yesterday’s Cyber Monday, all featuring different ways to shop. Today, however, is “Giving Tuesday,” where people are encouraged to support deserving charities.

On the WLBG Morning News this morning, we introduced “Mac” of the  PAWS Animal Sanctuary here in Laurens County. She explained that the sanctuary rescues abandoned fawns, baby raccoons, injured eagles and owls, possums, beaver and even skunks – any wild animal in trouble has friends in Waterloo at PAWS.

Mac and the volunteers at PAWS take in animals in need from all over the upcountry of South Carolina and beyond.  All of that requires funding, which they’re running short of this year. COVID-19 forced cancellation of all their fundraising events. They’ve managed to stay open, but now they need help.

Mac explained the easiest way to help is through Facebook. Enter PAWS Animal Wildlife Sanctuary into the Facebook search box, then look for the “Donate” button near the top of the page.

If you prefer the more traditional method of sending a check, mail it to Paws Animal Wildlife Sanctuary, PO Box 157, Waterloo, SC 29384.

Anyone with questions or wanting to help rescue anything from a chipmunk or baby racoon or a bald eagle can call (864) 715-2171.

In-School Attendance Going Up in District 56

Work is underway in preparation of the upcoming Spring semester in Laurens County School District 56. Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Curriculum, Dr. Brenda Schrantz, recently updated the School Board, saying that preparations for second semester feel like preparing for a brand new school year. She said students and their parents can change educational platforms after the first semester.  Some students who have been attending face-to- face classes may now opt for the Laurens County Virtual Academy while some who have been attending the online academy may now opt for in-school instruction.

District 56 Families wanting to change platforms have been asked to complete a change form.  Dr. Schrantz provided the results compiled from those change forms as a snapshot preview of what the next semester may look like. She said that currently elementary schools have 918 students in face to face instruction and 252 students online. That places 78% of the students in a traditional classroom format.  The results from the change request forms indicate that the second semester will see 85% of elementary students in the traditional classroom format and only 15% online with the Laurens County Virtual Academy.

Clinton Middle School has 452 students attending traditional classrooms now. That’s 71% of the students. Dr. Schrantz said that is increasing to 80% in class for the upcoming second semester.

Clinton High School currently has 558 students in traditional classroom instruction, which is 63%. Schrantz said that for the second semester, 68% of Clinton High students are electing in-school instruction.

Dr. Schrantz informed the District 56 Trustees last week that these changes in the ratio of classroom instruction versus virtual instruction will require District 56 to have some teachers reassigned from strictly virtual learning back to teaching in the classroom.

School District 56 is to let parents know as soon as possible of changes regarding teacher assignments and what to expect beginning in February because of the shift to more students taking in-classroom instruction.