Monday, December 11, 2017

What's "Conservative" About Berkeley County's School Board?


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Does our local paper call the Charleston County School Board or any other "liberal"? 

In your dreams.

So why does it persist in calling the school board of the Berkeley County School District "conservative"?

Puzzling, isn't it, since what the board has accomplished over the last year or so should be called "competent." Maybe competent school boards are conservative? Food for thought.

"Conservative Berkeley school board faced, overcame many challenges in 2017" reads the headline.

Now that the indictments against its former chief financial officer "for fraud, embezzlement and money laundering" are public, its "conservative" ways have been vindicated?

“'This board was faced with issue after issue and in each case did the right thing for the school district and the students,' said Terry Hardesty, a former board member who has been critical of past boards. 'Their swift action of terminating an employee under criminal investigation was proper and a stark reminder of the waste the previous board heaped upon the taxpayers. I am sleeping much better at night.'”

“'We took swift and decisive action as a board in a time of crisis and saw each one of those situations corrected,' [board member] Michael Ramsey said. 'That has made this feel like it’s really been worthwhile. I think it’s getting to a point where we can finally start focusing on moving the district forward as a leader, setting the pace and example for the state.'”

If this is what a "conservative" board does, let's have more of them! 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

SC Public Charter School Oversight All About Money


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"South Carolina's virtual schools have cost taxpayers more than $350 million since 2007 and have produced poor academic results, including some of the highest dropout rates in the state."

Shall we contemplate why a student would enroll in a virtual school? Some are aspiring professionals in athletics or the arts whose schedules require flexibility. Others are ill or avoiding bullying. Still others have done poorly in classrooms and hope to gain diplomas on line. Why wouldn't there be a high drop out rate? How can such a diverse group be held to the same standards as those enrolled in classroom instruction?

The S.C. Public Charter School District Board of Trustees in its wisdom thinks they should be. That was the rationale put forth for refusing oversight of three virtual schools to transfer to Erskine College. The question remains whether the state board itself provides the support these schools need.

"Representatives from several of the schools said they would like to use Erskine's school of education for professional development. 'The opportunity for student teachers, professional development and continuing the promise to parents are the main reasons we’re highlighting,' a representative from Oceanside said."

"Most of the Public Charter School District's decisions Thursday were unanimous or near-unanimous. One board member, Beth Purcell, voted to let all nine schools leave for Erskine. 'All of our virtual schools serve a virtual tough demographic. I appreciate and applaud your passion for serving these students who would otherwise not be served,' Purcell said during a hearing for Odyssey Online."

"Purcell is the newest member of the board, appointed in the fall by S.C. Senate Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman. She previously worked as president of publicschooloptions.org, a Washington D.C.-based organization that advocates for the expansion of charter schools, including virtual schools."

Pointing out her background alone is somewhat disingenuous. What bias do other board members bring? 

What are their backgrounds, and why were they appointed to the Board? The governor makes most of these appointments. 

Interesting questions.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

CCSD First-Year Teacher Pay Bump Should Crown Successful First Year


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Here's the puzzling question regarding teacher recruitment in South Carolina: why doesn't South Carolina produce enough first-year teachers to fill all vacancies at the state's schools? Evidently, we don't, since CCSD Superintendent Postlewait thinks it essential to recruit graduates from other states. Or is it that graduates from South Carolina's Schools of Education aren't desirable as hires?

Inquiring minds want to know.

What we do know is that the Charleston County School District has for many years discriminated against hiring experienced teachers from other states. And the state does not observe reciprocity with teacher certification gained in other states. Makes you wonder.

Far be it from me to suggest that teachers are paid enough, but what is "enough" as long as teachers are not treated as the professionals they are, discipline falters, and parents (and sometimes administrators) blame teachers for all students' problems. 

The descriptions of the suggested first-year $4,000 pay bump's effect on the entire pay scale are murky as presented by our favorite fish wrapper. The pay scale for those who enjoy the first-year bump will necessarily reflect that amount's addition continuing to the end of their careers. What about those faithful teachers who've hung in there so far without the bump? The year after the first-year raise has gone into effect, will teachers who are second-year teachers be making $4,000 more per year than third-year teachers who didn't get the pay bump the first year they taught? One lower scale for experienced teachers and one higher scale for those lucky few?

And what about the first-year teacher who fails at teaching that first year? Paid an extra $4000 for what?

It's a puzzle.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Partisan Bickering overr Ending Education Funding Lawsuit


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Everyone has talking points. That's why no one listens any more. That's the state of affairs on both the national and state level. Wouldn't it be stupendous if all sides could imagine something new?

According to supporters of SC Supreme Court oversight of the funding issue, the SC General Assembly has done nothing right during the decades of court oversight and will continue to do nothing right now that the oversight is gone.

Those who are glad oversight has been lifted claim that everything possible has been done and that continued oversight "would be a gross overreach of judicial power and separation of powers." Hundreds of millions of dollars have been thrown at the problem of rural schools' facilities and programs. 

The SC Supreme Court really wants the state to abandon its "over-complicated, piecemeal system" of funding education, "what justices [have] called the state's antiquated, fractured funding 'scheme.'" 

Right. No doubt local school districts all over the state will be happy to give power over funding to the general assembly. In fact, they are all begging to be relieved of this chore. Why don't our elected state representatives respond to their pressure?

By the way, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

Monday, December 04, 2017

SC's Comical High School Graduation Rates Exposed


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In the "Might as Well Laugh" department, the following Letter to the Editor:

"I read The Post and Courier in the morning over breakfast. I always read the comic section first because there is usually more common sense and even wisdom there than anywhere else in the paper.

"Here’s what I found in the Nov. 16 “Grand Avenue” comic. A “teacher” who is grading his students’ papers comments that he will need “more coffee” to get them all done.

"A student, hearing this, suggests that he could just give everyone an “A” and be done with it. The teacher replies he could also just give everyone an “F” and be done with it. The student grasps the point of the lesson and brings the teacher a cup of coffee.

"After reading the comics, I went to the front page of The Post and Courier and was a little surprised to find another joke about schools. This joke goes like this.

"Last year the S.C. Department of Education (SCDE) lowered the minimum passing grade for high school graduation from 70 to 60. The punch line — the SCDE is now congratulating itself on the highest ever high-school graduation rate.

"Yeah, I don’t think it’s funny either. I only wish it was a joke, and I hope every parent in South Carolina who cares about the future of their kids is letting legislators and local school board members know just how desperately unfunny it is.

Terry W. Ryan
Captiva Row
Charleston

Friday, December 01, 2017

Zais Better Represents SC Than Haley


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What is this liberal groaning over the nomination of former SC education chief Mick Zais to the number two job at the US Department of Education under Betsy DeVos? What, she should work with liberals?

At least our local rag recognizes that Nikki Haley's being passed over for Secretary of State is a blessing. For us, dopes, not her!

"The former Newberry College president regularly feuded with teacher groups and members of the state Board of Education. He spent extensive time grappling with federal bureaucracy. Supporters and critics alike say Zais was never able to fulfill some of his biggest ambitions for the job."

"Now, the 70-year-old ex-Army general is coming out of retirement for a chance to ascend to the second-ranking role at the U.S. Department of Education. This time he'll get to link arms with like-minded proponents of smaller government in an effort to pursue the changes he always wanted. In keeping with a trend across the Trump administration, Zais would serve as another high-ranking official inside a Cabinet agency who has battled with that same agency in the past, lambasting what he views as federal overreach."

More power to him!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

CCSD's Collins Misunderstands Rules of the Game


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Captain Renault: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" – From the classic Casablanca. 

See, everybody's participating in the gambling, but no one will admit it exists. 

Sort of like the Charleston County School District and how its friends and children of school board members magically enter its magnet schools.

Today's expose on school board member Chris Collins's misbehavior is a case in point. First of all, you must read well past the front page to learn that Collins was trying to get his son into the School of the Arts from the waiting list. Second, we'll give the reporter the benefit of the doubt. He probably is ignorant of the background to Collins's request, namely the years of scamming the Buist lottery that saw the children of the chosen winning 100 percent of the time. 

Of course, he also knows that Mayor Summey's grandson won the lottery into Buist not long ago.

And does anyone believe that strings aren't pulled at the Academic Magnet to lure professional hires from off with promises of a great free high school education? What turnip truck did they fall from?

No, Collins's problem isn't that he wanted preference on the waiting list; it's that he didn't have the right friends who could pull the strings sub rosa. And then his enemies attacked.