Three state senators recently made a visit to the campus of John de la Howe School, which serves at-risk children from across South Carolina.
Sen. Wes Hayes (R-York), Sen. Shane Massey (R-Edgefield/Aiken/Saluda/McCormick/Lexington) and Sen. Billy O’Dell (R-Anderson/Abbeville/Greenwood) spent several hours touring the 217-year-old institution, inspecting facilities and speaking with students, staff and trustees. Grant Gibson, a member of the Senate Finance Committee staff, also participated in the tour.
The visit gave the senators the opportunity to speak with several students from both the residential and wilderness programs at John de la Howe, some of whom were from the senators’ districts.
Dr. Danny Webb, who has served as the school’s president since June, joined John de la Howe board members Barbara Devinney and Tom Love, along with John de la Howe Foundation Board member Jennings McAbee, in showing the senators around the campus.
“It was good to have our senators on the John de la Howe School campus, and we appreciate them taking time out of their busy schedules to visit,” Dr. Webb said. “I believe they left with a better understanding of how this school is impacting the lives of children and families from all across South Carolina. The visit also exposed them to the regulatory requirements and physical plant needs we are facing.”
“I thought the visit was very informative,” said Sen. O’Dell. “The state has got to realize we have an institution in place that can help with some of the Department of Social Services (DSS) problems we have. There is a safe environment where these young kids can be placed. Schools like John de la Howe and Connie Maxwell—we are not using them.”
Sen. O’Dell said he plans to speak to this as the DSS discussion unfolds in the coming legislative session, noting John de la Howe School offers a means for the state to save money and also offer a controlled environment where children who have been abused can get help.
“People need to look at what we’ve got,” Sen. O’Dell said. “I wish we had had more senators and representatives there. It was an eye opener.”
The senators spent a portion of their visit inspecting some of the school’s residential cottages, the administration building, cafeteria and a campsite in the school’s wilderness program. They also shared lunch with students participating in the wilderness program.
“John de la Howe School serves an important and necessary role in educating South Carolina’s children,” Sen. Massey said. “I enjoyed the opportunity to visit with students and staff and to see the campus.”
Sen. Hayes also called it a productive visit.
“I just appreciate the good work that is being done at John de la Howe School, and I think they have made remarkable progress recently,” he said. “There still have some improvements to be made, but I think they have a plan to get there. I was glad to have the opportunity to observe the services being provided to the students first hand.”