It’s official. Now that former City Councilman Larry “Kwadjo” Campbell is out of the picture, Marvin Stewart has become the City Paper‘s favorite person to write about in the East Side.
For the past three weeks, Stewart, the head of the Dist. 20 Constituent Board, has earned a spot in our news section for his ongoing battles with Buist Academy and the Charleston County School Board.
Two weeks ago this paper reported that three 12-year-old girls were arrested after Stewart called the police, asking them to investigate a “slam book” the girls shared that included details of how they wanted to hurt a teacher and a fellow student, as well as detailing their crushes on certain boys and what Black Eyed Peas songs were dominating their thoughts.
Stewart admitted that this was the first time he’s ever called the police to investigate any student.
Last week, a Stewart-led constituent board hired a lawyer to see if the board could “gain access” to the process by which the same three girls were reinstated in school without coming before the board. The attorney, Larry Kobrovsky, has had success suing the school district, having forced it to drop racial enrollment quotas at Buist, a hard-to-get-into downtown academic magnet.
And now this week, on top of approaching the local Legislative Delegation about deconsolidating the county’s public school district, Stewart pressed charges against a James Island man who called him at his house to yell at him about his actions as they related to one of the three Buist students.
According to police records, John Holenko, a local musician and music teacher, called Stewart’s Elizabeth Street home seven times in a little over an hour and 45 minutes on Sunday, Nov. 27.
One of the last times Holenko called, a police officer was speaking with Stewart, who put the call on speakerphone.
“While the speaker did not use vulgarities, he spoke with great volume and a hostile tone,” wrote the officer taking down the report.
The officer reported that Holenko called back one more time, and when the officer intervened, asking him why he was calling Stewart’s home repeatedly, Holenko allegedly replied, “Mr. Stewart is in the phone book!”
According to the police report, Stewart felt “scared, intimidated, and threatened” by Holenko’s verbal assault, adding that Holenko may have been “upset about a school board decision.”
As scary as Holenko may seem on the phone, he seemed equally benign Friday morning as he turned himself in at the downtown police station.
Dressed mostly in black, the smallish Holenko, who teaches guitar as well as mandolin when he’s not performing in bars or in elementary schools, looked less like a Ring-wraith and more like a greying hobbit as he pulled the laces out of his low-top Chuck Taylor canvas basketball shoes and surrendered his Jerry Garcia tie to his wife of 19 years.
A few hours later, Holenko, who has declined to comment for this article, walked into a bond hearing, the only person in custody with a smile on his face. The judge released Holenko on a personal recognizance bond and scheduled his trial to begin Tuesday morning.
Initially charged with “misuse of a telephone,” his charges were increased to harassing a public official.
Guy Vitetta, the lawyer representing Holenko, as well as one of the Buist 3, says his client is innocent and will be exonerated.
As for himself, Stewart offers no apologies for having approached the local Legislative Delegation this week to see if the school district could be taken apart piece by piece so his board could run the downtown Dist. 20.
Stewart says the time to “sit idly by and watch the disintegration” of the downtown constituent school district is over. While he admits he doesn’t “know where all of this is going,” Stewart is clear that something has to be done to save Dist. 20.
“The School Board has had, what, 40 years, and what do we have downtown?” asks Stewart, whose daughters have both gone onto college and graduate work from peninsular schools. “Nothing but a bunch of failing schools.”
Politics will likely decide the school district’s fate, says Stewart after hearing that members of the local delegation believe deconsolidation has little chance of being discussed in the Statehouse come January, when the next session of the General Assembly will begin.
“They’re probably just testing the political waters,” says Stewart.
But whatever happens with peninsular schools, Stewart knows what kind of battle it will be.
“Uphill? Heck, yeah.”