Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gushing Editorial on Charter Schools Ignores McGinley's Biased Role

Ask anyone about former superintendent Nancy McGinley's support for charter schools, and you should get a tirade. Though the community wholeheartedly supported the Charter School for Math and Science, Superintendent McGinley and her NAACP lackeys were determined to crush it from the beginning. 
Today's editorial welcoming the Allegro School on the peninsula makes the point in the most mealy-mouthed way possible: "Charter schools weren't initially welcome in Charleston County. Educators in traditional schools saw them as a threat to their funding and attendance." Educators? Read "Saint McGinley."
Despite McGinley's doing everything in her power to stomp on it, CSMS enjoys the success predicted when it began as a grass-roots effort. No worries about diversity there. How about the rest of the district?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

P & C Ignores Inequities of EdFirstSC Salary Expose

Teachers get less money under the new salary system; educrats get more. P & C, cheerleader for "Bring McGinley Back," chooses to ignore reality that CCSD did not follow recommendations of its expensive salary study.

See the following:

Losing Ground

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CCSD's Magnet Parents Sue Over Defamation--Perpetrated by McGinley & Co

The daily dribble of McGinley apologists finds space on the editorial page of the paper almost every day. You would think that the former superintendent of Charleston County Schools walks on water. Even though her upcoming evaluation from the School Board would have shown just how poorly the district was meeting her goals, the paper (not the public at large) continues to whitewash Nancy McGinley's failures.

One such failure highlights the former superintendent's total lack of understanding of race relations in the district, that of the watermelon. Even that last sentence seems ridiculous. However, the students hurt by the racist behavior of CCSD's employees don't find it so funny. Some of them are suing.

Of course, anyone can sue over just about anything if he or she can pay a lawyer. However, this lawsuit may have some teeth:
The parents of three Academic Magnet High School football players have filed a defamation lawsuit claiming characterizations of the team's controversial postgame watermelon ritual damaged their sons' reputations.. . .  
"The students' lawsuit is the result of the students being falsely branded as racists by the defendants," said attorney John Parker, of Hampton County, representing the parents of the three football players.
. . .
At the heart of the lawsuit is the school district's investigation last month into the Academic Magnet High School football team's postgame victory ritual of chanting and smashing watermelons with caricature faces drawn on them. . . . 
The lawsuit lays out a series of events beginning on Oct. 16 when Clayton, a diversity consultant for the school district, and Associate Superintendent Lou Martin, who is not named as a defendant, questioned the members of the football team about the watermelon ritual. 
"Even though they found no evidence of any racial reason for the team's watermelon celebration after a win, and even though all concerned told them there was no racial reason for the celebrations, they falsely published to others that the football team made animal sounds and drew a monkey face on the watermelon during these celebrations," the lawsuit said.
Following the interview of the team, Martin, according to the lawsuit, described the team's watermelon ritual as one where it would "draw a monkey face on a watermelon and after a victory, would smash the fruit and make animal noises." McGinley, according to the lawsuit, later described the team as making noises that sounded like "ooh, ooh, ooh," which she further characterized as "monkey sounds."
Those characterizations, according to the lawsuit, falsely accused the team of drawing monkey faces and making monkey sounds, "which if true would have been racially derogatory actions intended to equate black members of opposing football teams with monkeys." . . . 
Martin's and McGinley's descriptions of the team's ritual, according to the lawsuit, were then published to others and to print and television media, which led to the football team being "falsely depicted" as racists. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

P & C Continues Campaign to Cow Charleston County School Board

Just in case you mistakenly believe that the local paper routinely prints a representative sample of opinion from its readers, please be warned.

Thursday's editorial page does not represent a sample of what Charleston County taxpayers believe. The two letters concerning the Charleston County School District, one telling us how great Nancy McGinley was as superintendent and another supporting Bill Lewis's authoritarian solution to those democratically-elected board members he perceives deficient in understanding, are merely the latest salvos from the Chamber of Commerce.

Hey, editors, what qualifies the Chamber of Commerce to control Charleston County's schools?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Analysis of CCSD's Rating Shows How Statistics Can Lie

I haven't always agreed with Jon Butzon, but his analysis of the statistics being touted by the Charleston County School District should be read by all.

Job One: Find the right superintendent
Nov 19 2014 12:01
An old Navy friend of mine is fond of saying, "Experience is the best teacher. Considering what it costs, it ought to be." Now that there is a big "Help Wanted" sign out at 75 Calhoun Street, I thought it might be useful for the new school board to consider how our most recent experience could inform the search for the next superintendent.

Some great slogans have come out of CCSD. My personal favorites are "All Means All," "The Victory is in the Classroom," and the lesser known "A Tale of Two Districts."

Let's start with "All Means All." Even just a cursory review of student achievement data suggests it's really more like "All Means Some." Here are a few examples.

On the 2014 ACT (unlike school ratings, this is an actual measure of students' college readiness) the five lowest performing high schools in all of South Carolina are in Charleston County. The bottom five in our state!

They are Lincoln (the state's lowest at 12.7), Burke (13.1), North Charleston (13.4), St. Johns (14.0) and Garrett (14.1). The vast majority of students in these schools are economically disadvantaged and minority.

Let's be clear - these embarrassingly low ACT scores aren't the students' fault. They are the result of a systemic achievement gap that still defines CCSD, despite a ton of spending, new ideas and interventions. The ACT folks determine a 21 and above to be "college ready." Last year, the 1,099 white seniors who took the ACT earned an impressive 22.8, compared to the 692 black students whose average score was only 14.9, and the 127 Hispanic students who scored 18.7. Seniors at CCSD's suburban and competitive magnet schools far exceeded national averages. These are the same exact trends we were seeing 10 years ago.

So, we need a superintendent who can accomplish more than great slogans. We need a superintendent who can not only close, but can eliminate the achievement gap.

Let's look at another popular saying: "The Victory is in the Classroom." Unfortunately, over the last six years, this victory has been defined by race and income. The black/white achievement gap on the PASS tests has widened over the last six years in English language arts in grades 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8, and in math in grades 4, 5, 6 and 7. The gap for low-income children as measured by comparing free lunch children with full-pay children has also widened in both English language arts and math in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. The widening gap means the district has lost ground for these, our most vulnerable children.

If the victory is in the classroom, we need a superintendent who can do more than just claim victory. We need a superintendent who will reject the status quo and truly win on behalf of every child.

Which leads us to "A Tale of Two Districts." White middle class and affluent students in Charleston County outperform their white peers across the state. The opposite is true for their black peers. On many measures, black students do better in other S.C. districts. Remember those ACT scores. "The Tale of Two Districts" - the same sad tale told 10 years ago, five years ago, and still today - means that in Charleston County we manage to teach white children better than white children in the rest of S.C., but for some reason we continue to teach black children worse. That sounds closer to the state of education we'd expect to see in 1860 than in 2014.

Over the last 10 years, Charleston County has changed significantly. People are flocking here from all around the country. While the white and comparatively affluent population in CCSD has grown, the black population has shrunk. Improvements hailed by CCSD - for example, the percentage of students attending "excellent" schools - reflect demographic trends and enrollment shifts as much as any improvement to the quality of education. Now there may be fewer buildings labeled "at risk" - easily accomplished by simply turning out the lights and locking the door - but just look at actual measures of learning, and the quality of education has not improved for our children.

Taking all of this into account, we need a superintendent who can do more than add chapters to Charleston's historical inequities and "A Tale of Two Districts." We need someone who can provide real solutions, make excellence a reality for every child, and close this shameful book altogether.

I may be in the minority, but my hat is off to the school board for making a difficult change. The story may be unpopular, but the truth is, progress hasn't been made. We may have new shiny buildings and catchy slogans, but we're failing the same students we have always failed.

To the school board: Take a hard look at the data yourself.

Make this not about watermelons, but about the enduring tragedy of youngsters like Ridge Smith and the thousands of Ridge Smiths remaining in our system. [Editor's note: Ridge Smith, featured in a 2009 Post and Courier series on low literacy rates in the district, was shot to death in North Charleston on Oct. 31.]

Make it about the continued erasing of whole generations of children from the economic map, and the irreducible fact that after ten years of bold promises and new visions, race and income still define the quality of education in CCSD.

I trust you'll see that CCSD needs a leader who will bring a new set of skills and a true sense of urgency and humility to this work. At the end of the day, the buck stops with you, and this is the most important task you will undertake.

Get it right!

Jon Butzon is the former executive director of the Charleston Education Network.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bill Lewis Reveals He's the Jonathan Gruber of CCSD

Those stupid Charleston County voters! We shouldn't allow them to elect school board members! That is the basic underpinning of retired CCSD operating officer Bill Lewis's proposal in Sunday's op-ed.

Of all horrors, democratically-elected board members don't always toe the line thrown out by the Chamber of Commerce. They're too stupid. Imagine having "community activists" or "disgruntled former teachers" on the board! It's a nightmare! Only such "highly-qualified" candidates as Chris Fraser, Brian Moody, and Gregg Meyers will fulfill that mission.

Lewis apparently believes that the school district should be run as a private-sector organization. Those private-sector boards he praises for not micromanaging their CEOs really did a good job preventing the excesses that caused the last recession, right?

We wonder why Lewis could not name any of the cities where mayors have made the difference in improving schools, since he seems to believe that mayoral control is the solution to CCSD's problems. His solution would give Charleston three seats, Mt. Pleasant three seats, and North Charleston five seats, since Mayor Summey will control the County Council's choices through Teddie Pryor, a North Charleston employee, and his son Elliott.

Politicians selecting school board members instead of voters? Gee, that sounds great.

There are two major ways in which the school board elections can be improved, neither of which is on Lewis's radar screen, or, should I say, the radar screen of the Chamber of Commerce member who vetted Lewis's op-ed.

It's an open secret that these supposedly non-partisan seats are as partisan as they can be, just flying under the radar. Our local paper chooses to ignore that slates are regularly supported by the county's Democrat and Republican organizations. These seats are non-partisan for the same reason that the mayoralty of Charleston is nonpartisan: so that white Democrats can fool Republicans into voting for them. Mayor Riley not a Democrat? Please.

If races were designated partisan, political parties would vet the candidates and voters would have a better idea for whom to vote in the primary. Voters would rapidly discover that the school board generally has been the hiding place for Democrats to be elected to office in the county. Check for yourself: how many of the present school board members are registered Democrats?

Some will try to make the case that Democrats and Republicans share the same ideas about education. Really? When was that last the case? Probably in the 1950s.

The second aspect that would strongly improve the election is single-member districts. These single members would be voted upon by their own district, not by the county at large. That would make members responsible to their districts. Who can forget Toya Green's (yes, vetted as "highly-qualfied" by Bill Lewis) response to her District 20 constituency: "I don't represent you!"

It's time to stop pretending that the population of the county is so small that voters in Mt. Pleasant know who is the best person to represent North Charleston. The system as it is allows the Chamber of Commerce and its lackeys to control outcomes in many areas. What just happened in North Charleston, where Mt. Pleasant supporters (and the Chamber) put Cindy Bohn Coats over the top North Charleston vote-getter Shante Ellis, is a case in point.

Part of the solution is better communication within the county about what the candidates stand for. Evidently, we can't depend upon our local newspaper or television outlets for full information. Perhaps its lack of interest (or collusion) in local races is part of the reason that the Post and Courier has become a dinosaur.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Time for Change in CCSD School Board Elections: True Representatives

The organization of Charleston County's school board elections sets up what amounts to fraud. Individuals must reside in and declare for seats in different parts of the county (West Ashley, Downtown, etc.). They should owe their election to those they purport to represent.

As it is now, while a board member supposedly represents a particular area, that area did not necessarily want him or her!

Case in point:

Three individuals ran for the seat currently held by Cindy Bohn Coats, who lives in Park Circle in North Charleston. She was declared the winner with the majority of the votes district-wide for that seat. That means that Mt. Pleasant, West Ashley, and Downtown contributed to her total.

Are their interests the same as those in North Charleston? Not hardly. Take a good look at how North Charleston's schools (and I'm not talking about district-wide magnets built in North Charleston) have fared under this system. Mayor Summey should be ashamed of himself for supporting what has transpired under McGinley's tenure. North Charleston's revenues provide megabucks to the district--and it gets what in return? But then, magically, his grandson attends Buist Academy. Hmm.

Anyone besides yours truly remember to idiotic attempt to combine Stall and North Charleston high schools? That was so that McGinley could claim one less failing school.

Who won in the North Charleston districts in this election?

Shante Ellis had 2547 votes to Cindy Bohn Coats's 2290!

Where is the justice?

The district is so out of date that it refers to North Charleston as the "North Area," as though the city doesn't exist.

Time for change.