Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bill Lewis Pontificates on Abolishing CCSD's Constituent Boards

People move to Charleston and its surrounding area every day. In fact, so many arrive that it's getting a bit crowded on our roads (that was understatement, for those of you who don't commute during the rush hours). Presumably, they move here because they like the way it is, so why are so many determined to change it to reflect the places they left?

In the last week or so, we've been treated to an Ohioan who wants his property taxes (and everyone else's) to rise to give more money to operating expenses of the Charleston County School District, never mind that operating expenses are supposed to be financed by the sales tax. Now we have a Letter to the Editor from one of the local rag's favorite people, Bill Lewis, who financed his three-story mansion on the marsh in Mt. Pleasant with his post-retirement jobs for CCSD. [I will never understand why people think being on the marsh is so great, but that's another story.]

Lewis puts himself forward as a thinker who sees that the elections of CCSD's Board of Trustees and now CCSD's constituent boards are obstacles to Lewis-style progress. He's from San Francisco. He wants the mayors of Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, and North Charleston to appoint the members of the CCSD School Board.  He believes these political appointments will improve the district over democratic elections, political appointees being so knowledgeable and all. I kid you not.

This is the same character who brought us a crazy timetable of seismic revolution in school buildings. After all, why would anyone start rebuilding with the ones most at risk? 

Lewis complains that constituent boards represent the needs of their constituents! A novel concept, I agree, especially in San Francisco. Actually, he just wants to quell any rumors that students no longer at Lincoln High in McClellanville will be worse off at Wando. 

Did he suggest that the mayor of Awendaw appoint a school board member along with the big three? Of course not. Lewis seems to still view Charleston County as one tidy whole with no outliers. Maybe someone should introduce him to the part of Edisto Island that lies in Charleston County.

For sure, Lewis thinks that Lincoln's closing will have negligible impact on its rural community. Those of us who actually know something about community know he's wrong.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Staggering Statistics on CCSD's Literacy Failures Under McGinley

Remember Nancy McGinley? She who gripped reins of power in the Charleston County School District for the longest tenure ever as Superintendent, also in charge as Academic Officer prior to that? Yes, that McGinley.

Just thought I'd remind you because present Board members such as Cindy Bohn Coats and the local media have forgotten her name. It's marvelous to see a long op-ed from Coats regarding the last decade's literacy failures without mentioning she-whose-name-cannot-be-linked-with-failures. Vitriol aimed at the Board of Trusteesunderstandably annoys Coats when she knows that the Board merely carried out McGinley's wishes. 

What a dilemma: how to defend cuts to McGinley's failed pet literacy programs without mentioning who's responsible. Clearly the Board should have made cuts before now, given the inefficacy of the efforts. The $18 million budget shortfall has given the Board the perfect excuse to save face. 

Under attack for curtailing literacy efforts, Coats reveals several shocking statistics, the kind of numbers unheard when she-who-cannot-be-named was around. Her points?

  • At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, only 15 percent of the African American students in our third grade classes could read on or above grade level. 
  • Only 59 percent of Caucasian students in our third grade classes could read on grade level.
  • After three consecutive years of First Grade Academy, Primary Grades Academy and a host of one-to-one literacy interventions, I do not believe these results are indicative of a program that works.
  • At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, 400 Charleston County School District graduates entered Trident Tech; 68 of those students were college ready. 
  • Three hundred and thirty-two Charleston County School District graduates enrolled in Trident Tech had to complete at least one remedial development course prior to enrolling in college credit bearing courses.
  • The literacy programs that have been in place in CCSD for the past decade have not ensured all our elementary students are proficient readers, have not ensured all students entering high school are able to read and comprehend high school level courses, and have not prepared all of our students to graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to move onto college or careers. 
  • This is the outrage.

Fifteen percent of black public school third-graders can read on grade level; for a third grader that means he or she is able to read. 

Don't you wonder if this is greater or less than five years ago? If we had had a control group of like students not attending school at all, how much lower would the percentage be? 

Mind boggling.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

CCSD's Martin, Not SOA's Cook, Has Some 'Splaining to Do

In the Charleston County School District, is communication so poor that the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing? We seem to have that question answered.

Despite the district's denials of cover up regarding its knowledge of any shenanigans by an infamous School of the Arts algebra teacher, Principal Cook is in the clear. Put the blame squarely on Lou Martin, one of ex-Superintendent McGinley's favorites. See education-officials-charleston-county-school-of-arts-principal-did-alert-bosses-about-teacher-student-relationship .

No doubt Principal Cook is thanking her lucky stars for the permanence of emails; otherwise, she might be out of a job. While the district can claim it received no telephone call, it can't explain away her missive to Martin. Those pesky emails again!
[CCSD] Officials backtracked . . . , saying [CCSD attorney] Emerson didn’t know at the time that an email existed showing that Cook contacted her then-boss, former Associate Superintendent Louis Martin, about the matter in April 2015. Cook also reported the allegations to Martin by phone the previous fall, but the district had no record of the call, district spokeswoman Erica Taylor said.
So Lou Martin dropped the proverbial ball. Don't you wonder what else he ignored? 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Nearly 600 Students to Fill CCSD's Old McClellanville Middle School

The Charleston County School District shuttered McClellanville's Lincoln High/Middle School at the end of the school year because its low enrollment made per-student costs too high to justify its continuation under the current budget crisis. Yet a statewide public charter school will begin classes in McClellanville only three months later with a plethora of students. 

Kinda like Alice in Wonderland, isn't it?

The use of CCSD's building is a stop-gap measure while the Oceanside Collegiate Academy builds its own facility in Carolina Park, two miles northwest of Wando, where CCSD plans to bus former Lincoln students. This charter school, accredited through the statewide district, is not affiliated with CCSD. Is it any wonder that many Lincoln parents might jump to a school with 600 students versus overcrowded Wando's 4000?

Where did these 600 students appear from? The number suggests some live outside Charleston County, pointing out the artificiality of school district boundaries. The programs offered show the flexibility that CCSD cannot offer in a traditional school:
As a dual-enrollment high school, students at Oceanside will have the opportunity to earn up to two years’ worth of college credits. Oceanside will use a split schedule, meaning students can choose to take classes in the morning (between 8 a.m.-noon) or afternoon (12:30-4:30 p.m.), in addition to two hours of online electives each day.
This model allows students to take advantage of Oceanside’s complimentary tutoring, to go to work, do internships or community service and to participate in sports. The school plans to field teams in football, baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, tennis, lacrosse, cross country, swimming, competitive cheer, girls volleyball and softball. For some sports, practice already has begun.
As a statewide public charter school, Oceanside can accept students from any county in South Carolina and is funded through a combination of state and federal dollars instead of local taxes. Public charter schools also have greater autonomy and more flexibility compared with traditional public schools in making staffing, budget and curricula decisions.
“We get to do our own thing — whatever’s is best for the kids, we get to do that. When it comes to red tape, I don’t have any red tape. It’s just a beautiful thing,” said Corely, a former administrator at Wando. “I’ve never been given that kind of empowerment and freedom.”
So far, Oceanside has accepted 582 students from 16 cities in the tri-county region, including several from McClellanville and Awendaw in the wake of Lincoln Middle-High School’s recent closure.
Carolyn Simmons, president of the Lincoln Middle-High School PTSA, said she plans to send her 16-year-old twins to Oceanside next fall instead of Wando. Her sons played basketball and football at Lincoln, and Simmons hopes they’ll go to college on athletic scholarships. “Wando is such a big school... I’m just afraid they won’t get that playing time and stuff,” Simmons said. “I know a bunch of people who play sports there and in 11th grade, I wouldn’t want them sitting on the benches.”
 Do you have the same feeling that CCSD has been doing something all wrong?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Why Not a Community Effort to Guarantee Parents' Reading to Babies?

The Letter to the Editor about the importance of reading to babies to ensure their readiness for school points out how parents should read to their children practically from birth.

See  letter-begin-with-books .

Begin With Books, the organization behind the letter, looks for donations from those who read Letters to the Editor. While this work is commendable, the urgency of the situation demands a more comprehensive approach to have a major impact on the Charleston County School District. Certainly, the parents who do not read to their children do not read Letters to the Editor!

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library performs a great service for parents who sign up. Yet, the parents whose children need books the most are unlikely to do so. Imagine what could be done if Charleston County's myriad organizations worked together to reach those at-risk children from birth.

Charleston County hospitals clearly can play a major role in reaching these parents. Surely they could develop protocols to identify newborns for this purpose.

With such a list, the Charleston County Public Library could enter the picture. Community organizations that work with families in need could reinforce the idea of obtaining and reading books to children. Community volunteers could provide transportation of loaned books to and from those who need them. Bring back the bookmobile! Local media could promote reading to children to the entire community. Churches could get into the act.

No one can force a parent to read to a child. A parent whose own parents never read to him or her may not think it important. However, a widespread, coordinated campaign could change minds.

No doubt many layers of bureaucracy and red tape lie in the way of coordinating such an effort, but what are politicians for?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

P&C Again Provides Space for NAACP's Darby's Racist Views

"How long, oh Lord, how long?"

The Reverend Joseph Darby, who uses his pastoral position to pursue politics, has an open slot any time he wishes to post his racist vitriol on the Op Ed page of our local paper. His world view is quite simple: all white people are racists, every decision a white person makes is racist, and every organization not controlled by the NAACP is racist. These views took their root in events of sixty or seventy years ago. Darby doesn't understand that the world has changed since the 1960s.

The success of the quite diverse Charter School for Math and Science grates on Darby's nerves every day. How could both black and white parents and teachers organize a successful school without Darby's authorization? There must be a racist plot somewhere, if he could just find it. Now he feels the need to uncover racist plots against teachers let go by CSMS's principal.

His attitude reminds me of the jingle used by John Birchers against the use of fluoride in our drinking water decades ago: 

"It's all a Commie plot, you see, / To get us internally." 

Envision little old ladies in tennis shoes finding a "Red under every bed."

Sour grapes.

Friday, June 17, 2016

P&C Allows Saenger Embarrassment Over Letter

The P&C Letters to the Editor hit a new low Friday morning. 

The editors allowed one of their favorite letter writers to embarrass himself. In his latest missive, Fritz Saenger of Mt. Pleasant, whom the editors awarded the Golden Pen Award last year for his advocacy of light-rail development (one of their hobby horses), shared his horror over how little he pays in property taxes since he moved here from Ohio. That's nothing to be embarrassed about, of course, although it might be an unpopular stance.

No, what's embarrassing is the mistake the editors allowed in print: Saenger points out that senior citizens are exempt from paying property taxes to the school district for operating expenses.

Duh. Where has he been for the last few years? Oh, wait. That would be Ohio.

No home owner in South Carolina pays taxes for operating expenses of schools because the sales tax supposedly raises enough to cover them. School taxes go strictly to capital expenses. The editors know that perfectly well.

Remember? You would if paying attention to some of the dumber moves of the state legislature in the last few years. Only businesses get soaked double for operating expenses, as the Charleston County School District knows to its sorrow.

Saenger also assumes the CCSD literacy program was working well, but that's another story.