Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sad Start to Prestige Prep: No Discipline, No Security, No Learning


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A school for at-risk boys from kindergarten through fourth grade can work, can save boys from disadvantages over which they have no control. So it's sad to see that Prestige Prep Academy got off to such a rocky start this school year. The most important question, however, is, "What were they thinking about discipline?"

To some, discipline ranks almost as a dirty word, dredging up visions of paddling, in-school and out-of-school suspension, and stultifying robot-like behavior. To dedicated teachers, however, discipline does not envision negative environments. Consistently applied, rules to follow cause children to feel secure, both physically and mentally. They stop worrying about being poked (or worse) behind the teacher's back or stop remaining silent in fear of ridicule. The classroom becomes a place where they can relax, knowing what's coming next will be positive.

Much angst occurs over the limited vocabularies that at-risk children bring to their schooling, but just as important, maybe more so, is their lack of knowledge that rules help them learn. Physical safety is paramount; comfort comes next (food, clothing, classroom), and predictability of reward or punishment comes third. These factors must be present for any group of children, at-risk or not, to achieve. 

Our hearts go out to those teachers who are trying every day to make a difference in these boys' lives. Let's pray that this much-needed school figures out the proper way forward.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Note to SC Legislature: Pay Up for Sales-Tax Shortfall to School Districts?

Is he correct? Has the South Carolina legislature failed to follow its own laws?
I see yet another article in The Post and Courier blaming the financial problems of the school district on Act 388. Section 11-11-156 of the State Code was amended by Act 388. The pertinent subsection is: (A)(6) “To the extent revenues in the Homestead Exemption Fund are insufficient to pay all reimbursements to a school district required by subsection (A) and subsection (B) the difference must be paid from the state general fund.” 
Since the state has a surplus of about $1 billion this year the funds should be available to make up for any shortfall in the sales tax as required by the act. A more thorough discussion of the issue by a legal scholar is required to fully explain the total impact of Act 388, but it appears that the act makes allowances in the reimbursement to the school districts for the number of students in poverty, and for increases in school districts’ population and the consumer price index.

David C. Cannon
Point Street

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Another Cost of CCSD's Segregated Schools: "Top Talent" Pay Bump for Teachers

The list of schools that the Charleston County School District is considering for "Top Talent" teacher pay reads as a list of CCSD's most segregated middle and elementary schools. 

"The Top Talent schools would be Sanders-Clyde Elementary, Chicora Elementary, Burns Elementary, Mary Ford Elementary, North Charleston Elementary, St. James-Santee Elementary, Northwoods Middle, Morningside Middle, West Ashley Middle, Baptist Hill Middle/High, St. John's High and Garrett Academy of Technology. Those schools would also receive additional support and professional development from the district office."

Interestingly, the cost of what used to be jokingly called (in Newark, NJ) "combat pay" will be covered by "an existing $2.3-million annual stream of federal Title II grant money." Nowhere does the reporter say how that money has been spent in the past. 

Maybe higher pay will attract the best teachers; maybe not. It's one more sign that serious changes must occur for the county's schools to be as integrated as those in the rest of the state.

See http://www.postandcourier.com/news/charleston-county-could-pay-extra-for-top-teachers-in-struggling/

Monday, January 09, 2017

CCSD's Status as Most Segregated in SC Produces Desperate Measures

Don't get me wrong: WINGS for Kids is a great organization that has positive effects on the Charleston County School District. 

Nevertheless, its latest program expansion emphasizes what's wrong in the district while attempting a cure around the edges. In order for children who attend North Charleston Elementary, Chicora Elementary, and (soon) Burns Elementary to know white children, WINGS for Kids has a special program introducing them to each other.

Sorry, you can't make this stuff up.

You've got to ask yourself, though, why these three elementary schools in North Charleston have no white students. It's not as though the North Area, as it was previously known, has no white residents or white residents with elementary-age children. In fact, the city is majority white at this point, as it has been in the past. Further, the area around North Charleston Elementary includes Park Circle, where older small houses and newer large ones are being snapped up by yuppies. It's much more complicated than merely dismissing people as racists.

So why aren't these schools integrated? Why aren't the all-black schools on the peninsula integrated?

When will we realize that the present system must be relegated to the junk heap of history?

See http://www.postandcourier.com/news/wings-for-kids-combats-racism-by-fostering-friendships/

Friday, January 06, 2017

SC's Ongoing School Bus Scandal


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Some activists believe that all school buses should be retrofitted with seat belts at the cost of millions.  On the other hand, South Carolina's legislature believes it's ok to send public school buses out every morning knowing that they are older than the students who ride them.

Now the US Environmental Protection Agency has stepped up to the plate to do what state legislators promised almost a decade ago--replace the oldest and worst of SC's buses. 

How embarrassing is that? "Under state law, the Department of Education is required to replace about a 15th of the state’s bus fleet each year with new school buses with money from the Legislature. But laWwmakers have only fulfilled this mandate twice since the law was passed in 2007." WHY?

We're Number 1: the worst polluting school bus fleet in the nation.

SC: take a bow!

About $1.1 million will replace 57 of our oldest and worst polluting buses. 

See http://www.postandcourier.com/news/south-carolina-recieves-million-from-epa-for-cleaner-school-buses

[BTW, headline writers still refuse to use spell check. "I before e except after c"?]

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

CCSD Now Hates Violins?


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Charleston County School Superintendent Gerrida Postlewait has some 'splaining to do.

Local headlines scream, "Charleston County schools eliminate elementary strings programs."

What's up with that? School Board member Chris Staubes claims the Board didn't vote on that policy. Maybe it handed over the right to do that as it strengthened the superintendent's powers?

Maybe administration decided that if all elementary schools in the district couldn't have strings programs, none would. That's about the only reason that makes sense.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Make 2017 the Year of Radical Change in Education


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This journey through the Charleston County School District, its triumphs and foibles, began almost a decade ago as I learned to my chagrin that the district I believed to have been long ago integrated was still de facto segregated for the poorest and least advantaged among us. Despite the best efforts of many in district administration, three superintendents, and numerous elected school board members, no meaningful change has occurred. Too many students are still stuck in failing schools.

If you are reading this blog, you probably are not among those whose children face that disaster every year. The disadvantaged lack the power and perhaps even the will or hope to see a better future. The system not only doesn't work for them yesterday and today; this system won't work for them tomorrow either. 

It is time for change, change that doesn't merely nibble around the edges of the problem. Fred Hiatt's op-ed reminds us that radical change is necessary. (See http://www.postandcourier.com/opinion/commentary/trump-has-chance-to-promote-right-kind-of-school-choice/ )

The situation in a nutshell, or paragraph as it were: "Millions of parents choose to send their children to parochial or other private schools. Millions more decide where to rent or buy a home based on the quality of the local public schools. The only people who do not enjoy this right are those who are too poor to move out of neighborhoods where public schools are failing. A disproportionate number of these are people of color."

If we adopted the system now used in the Netherlands and other countries, money for schools would be tied to the student, not the district. That means poor students (in both senses) would bring more money to the school to meet their needs. For example, a child of well-off parents with no disabilities might bring $5000, while one of a single-parent household on welfare might bring $15,000 or more. 

That difference shifts power to the poor. Isn't that what is needed to effect true change? Further, regardless of the school selected, the district would provide transportation to meet that need as well. 

Think change doesn't need to be radical? You don't have a child in a failing school.

Have a better idea to bring about radical change? Let's hear it.