In this file photo, Beaufort County School District Superintendent Valerie Truesdale, left, speaks with Norma Stewart, wife of county councilman Jerry Stewart, and Tom Leitzel, president of Technical College of the Lowcountry, during a reception for the outgoing superintendent at Hilton Head Island High School. Stewart said she had come to thank Truesdale for what she had done during her tenure with the district. "It's a shame that she's leaving," Stewart said. Truesdale accepted a job as chief information officer in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.(Photo: Jay Karr, Staff photo)
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It's been a year of change for the Beaufort County School District.
First, former superintendent Valerie Truesdale announced in July she would retire soon. A week later, she announced she was taking a job with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina. She left for that position in late October.
The district's head of human resources, Jackie Rosswurm, was named interim superintendent. Rosswurm has said she will not seek the position permanently. The Board of Education hopes to name Truesdale's successor in the spring.
The school board faces its own round of changes. In November, seven new members were elected to the 11-member board, leaving only four incumbents.
The turnover was due in part to redistricting based on the 2010 Census. Shifting boundary lines in several cases put two board members in the same district. Some declined to run against their fellow board members, and a few chose not to run to have more personal time. Redistricting also shifted a seat from northern Beaufort County to southern Beaufort County.
Chairman Fred Washington Jr., who has served on the board since 2006, lost his re-election bid to fellow board member Michael Rivers. A new chairman is expected to be elected when the board is sworn in Wednesday.
In other top news stories of 2012:
HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL RESIGNS
Beaufort High School principal Dan Durbin resigned in late February after admitting to changing grades for 33 students. His abrupt departure prompted an outpouring of support from students and the community. No charges were filed against Durbin following an S.C. Law Enforcement Division investigation; 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said he could not prove criminal intent.
RIBAUT, BOUNDARY PLANS ADVANCE
Plans to add medians, bike paths, sidewalks and narrow roads moved forward this year on two major Beaufort arteries, despite some citizens' concerns.
The Boundary Street redevelopment project, which will be partly paid for with federal stimulus funds, will realign the Boundary Street and Robert Smalls Parkway intersection, narrow Boundary, and add medians, bike paths and sidewalks. City officials have said the changes will make the road safer, but business owners worried they might see a decline in business.
Changes to Ribaut Road have begun. Plans include improved crosswalks, tree-lined medians, narrower lanes and more signs to hinder speeding.
CUTS TO LOCAL MILITARY FEARED
Beaufort area officials and residents urged federal lawmakers to avoid sequestration -- a cut of about $1 trillion in federal spending set to occur in January should Congress fail to reach a debt-reduction deal. The $600 billion cut in military spending over 10 years could be dire for Marine Corps Recruit Deport Parris Island, Naval Hospital Beaufort and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the local leaders warned.
Beaufort residents traveled to Washington, D.C., in the summer to meet with congressmen on the issue. Local municipalities and Beaufort County Council approved resolutions opposing the cuts, and the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's Military Enhancement Committee worked with a Washington-based consultant to follow congressional negotiations and plan a response if military cuts were part of a bargain.
DAY DOCK APPROVED
Plans to add a day dock and water sports center to the Downtown Beaufort Marina were approved in October. The 250-foot-long day dock will be along the west end of the seawall in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Construction will be funded by grants the city received, and engineering plans are expected to be presented in 2013. Residents expressed concerns about preserving the waterfront, but some spoke in support of the dock, which would improve access to the water. The water sports center would be paid for and developed by a private business.
FIRST MILE OF RAIL TRAIL OPENS
In November, the first mile of the Spanish Moss Trail opened in Beaufort. Construction of the concrete bike and walking trail, which stretches between Allison and Depot roads, began in September after years of planning. The long-term goal is for the path to stretch from Port Royal to the Whale Branch River along the path of an old railway line. Plans for a commercial center at the former Beaufort Depot along the trail are on hold indefinitely.
ELECTION PROTESTS DISMISSED
Despite questions about their residency, Cynthia Bensch won a seat on Beaufort County Council, and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, D-Ridgeland, was re-elected to the state Senate. A county board and the S.C. Election Commission both dismissed protests by their challengers, saying they had failed to prove they didn't live in their districts on Election Day.
CODES DIRECTOR HIRE QUESTIONED
Beaufort County hired Chuck Atkinson last December as the building codes director, but county officials did not know Atkinson's work had been questioned. A structural failure in a building he had inspected in Port Royal caused a balcony at an apartment complex to collapse, injuring a 72-year-old man. But Atkinson left his tenure in Port Royal off his resume. The county stood by the decision to hire him, saying he was found to be not at fault in the Port Royal incident.
EMAIL CRITICAL OF SUPERINTENDENT CONCEALED
The Beaufort County School District withheld an email critical of former superintendent Valerie Truesdale from a records request, but the Packet and Gazette already had obtained two copies of the email from other sources. The message, sent May 11 from Hilton Head Island High School's former athletics director, Mark Karen, to principal Amanda O'Nan accused Truesdale of dishonesty and concealing information.
VOTERS OK LAND BOND
Beaufort County voters approved issuing $25 million in bonds to raise money for Rural and Critical Lands program, but rejected a proposal for a new form of county government in Election Day referendums.
- Beaufort County school superintendent Truesdale to retire; July 20, 2012
- Truesdale accepts NC job, will leave district this fall; July 24, 2012
- Seven school board members bid farewell to board at last meeting: Dec. 11, 2012
- SLED closes case; former Beaufort principal Durbin won't be charged; July 17, 2012
- Board sides with Bensch, dismisses election challenge; Nov. 19, 2012
- Beaufort County building-codes director won't be punished for misrepresentation; June 6, 2012
- District concealed email critical of superintendent; Aug. 4, 2012
- Voters OK land bond, reject government change; Nov. 7, 2012