CEO donates furniture to school

COLUMBIA --- Students at a rural South Carolina middle school whose shoddy condition was highlighted in a speech by President Obama will arrive today to find their tattered furniture replaced by new desks and chairs.

The ergonomic classroom, band and cafeteria furniture was donated by a Chicago-based furniture supplier whose CEO called J.V. Martin Junior High a day after eighth-grader Ty'Sheoma Bethea appeared beside the first lady during Mr. Obama's address to Congress in January.

The 14-year-old's plea for help for the school -- whose oldest building dates to 1896 -- prompted a response.

"It's the poster child of what's wrong with education," said Darryl Rosser, the president and CEO of Sagus International.

Mr. Rosser had hoped to outfit a new school, until he learned it was still years away from being built. He considered supplying a couple of classrooms until he toured the campus and saw the uncomfortable furniture.

Principal Amanda Burnette noted most of the furniture is four decades old.

Four weeks after Mr. Rosser's visit, students will find nearly 2,000 pieces of furniture. The shipping and a mural in the cafeteria were donated by Sagus partners. In all, it's worth about $250,000, Mr. Rosser said.

He and the school officials know it won't solve everything, but they hope it will buoy spirits.

"If you're sitting in a chair that's the wrong size for you or it's broken, it makes for a long day," Ms. Burnette said. "If it's a pleasing place, and you're comfortable while you're there, there will be better performance day-to-day."