WMBF Investigates: Defeo responds to In the Classroom, Out of Pocket

WMBF Investigates: Defeo responds to In the Classroom, Out of Pocket

HORRY COUNTY (WMBF) - Horry County School Board Chairman Joe Defeo has never been a teacher. Never having been in the role, he says he's not sure the $275 from the state of South Carolina is enough for their expenses.

"If they need to spend more than $275, they have some justification to ask for the money," he said in an interview before Monday's school board meeting.

He doesn't like the idea of giving every teacher in the district more cash to spend, but he does think there should be a way to help teachers out.

"I'd actually like to see them put in an actual requisition for supplies, and a requisition for money to replace the money they spent on supplies and do it more on a one on one basis," he said. "I do believe that if they feel that the money isn't enough, then they should perhaps have a system to put in for that. Which they can ask their board members. We do have a small educational fund that might be able to supply some of these individual needs."

When asked if teachers should feel like they need to buy food for their hungry students, Defeo said they shouldn't. He said he didn't know it was happening.

"A teacher has never come to me and said I'm feeding them snacks, and I'm paying for them," he said. "I don't know where it starts and I don't know where it ends. As board chairman, I have no problem, we're doing a budget right now where they're asking for more instructional days, maybe I'd rather see some of that money to toward something like this."

Several teachers who responded to our survey said they are afraid to voice their concerns. Defeo said they should be.

"They're not going to get in trouble for contacting us, the superintendent, or at least going through the chain of command saying, 'I'd like to see this put on an agenda one day,'" he said. "They can come and speak before the board like other teachers have done."

Defeo told us no teacher, to his knowledge, has been fired for voicing concerns.

"To say that there's an environment like that, they shouldn't have that thought process," he said. "If somebody came to me and said if I speak out and speak out a lot, I might be overlooked for a promotion in the future. I could see the possibility of that even though it's not an organized situation."

Defeo said he feels the current superintendent, Dr. Rick Maxey, has been open to new ideas in his experience. When asked if that was the case with former superintendent Cindy Elsberry, Defeo simply said, "no comment."

WMBF News did get in touch with Dr. Elsberry by phone, she is working as a consultant for several organizations including Digital Promise and Achieve 3000. Elsberry said a fear of voicing concerns is something she heard in all of her 12 years as a superintendent, but she didn't think it was a major issue in her time at Horry County Schools.

"Generally, I didn't see that," she said. "I did not hear that. I was in classrooms. I had a sense of the pulse of the teachers."

Back in January, Defeo told WMBF News the board had $27 million at its disposal.

"That money, that $27 million dollars that we built up, at a finance meeting [we heard], three years from now, is going to be gone if something doesn't change," he said when asked if that money could go directly to the teachers.

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