Thursday, December 28, 2006

Updating the Old as the New Year Approaches, Part 1

What ever happened to. . . LaRon Dendy?

[See June 7, 2006: "Forward to Pickens" for previous details about this Clemson recruit.]

After some confusion about his credits and whether he would attend another diploma mill this school year, LaRon is back at Greer High School, where he started. He's also taking another year to graduate. He may not think it so, but this is probably the best outcome available!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Tree in a School! What Will They Think of Next?

It turns out that Goose Creek, or should I say, Boulder Bluff Elementary School, is so far behind the times that it has a Christmas tree! At least that is the reaction of a new fifth-grade teacher Jessica Monroe, fresh from Michigan (Ann Arbor, probably, not some little farming town) reported in the Newsless Courier this morning. Furthermore, she hears many people, staff and students, one presumes, frequently saying "Merry Christmas." Bill O'Riley should get notice of this one! This article, headlined, "Holiday Lessons Teach Kids about Cultures and Traditions," should be renamed "THE WAR AGAINST CHRISTMAS HAS YET TO REACH GOOSE CREEK!"

Don't get me wrong. Her idea to expose 10 year olds to other holidays is an excellent one, although celebration of Las Posadas seems to have confused Jamie McGee, the reporter. Mexican-Americans certainly celebrate Christmas the same way as everyone else, as anyone who has driven at night around Corpus Christi, Texas, the week before Christmas can attest. Many do, however, wait until January 6th for presents.

"If you teach one holiday, you should teach them all" is the statement that is somewhat questionable. Is having a Christmas tree in a school "teaching"? Are Christmas, Hanukkah, Las Posadas, and Kwanzaa ALL the holidays? Aren't the Dutch going to say, What happened to St. Nicholas' Day? What happened to the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe? What about Boxing Day?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Traffic Report: Mark Clark "Speed" Zone

Today--no halt on the Don Holt at 7:35 am, but the causeway was bopping along at 35 miles per hour--that's in a 65 mph zone. Don't expect to see the Mt. Pleasant police complaining about speeding there!

Same reason--HEAVY TRAFFIC, no accidents or rubber-necking delays. Surely someone besides yours truly thinks 526 has hit the saturation point.

I suppose it will (sigh) take the pols another 20 years to notice. Meanwhile, they build another interstate (I-73) to Myrtle Beach through the hinterlands.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Traffic Report--Don Halt Bridge

On a sunny day, no accidents, at 7:35 a.m., headed east towards Mt. Pleasant--today we stopped again at the top of the Don Holt Bridge. No reason. EXCEPT HEAVY TRAFFIC. It should be called the Don Halt Bridge.

When will the local pols & media get wise to the idea that another highway is needed? Or are they still lamenting the opening of the last one?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Believe It or Not, Newsless-Courier Style

Which is funnier, I wonder
--my hunt in Wednesday's AP artcle for the name of a new GOP leader mentioned in a headline as planning to require U.S. senators to spend more time deliberating--and the answer I found in the article---Harry Reid?

I think that would be the GODP, perhaps?

OR Kramer's being Jewish because he "feels Jewish"?

I have to vote for the first. At least the Newsless Courier didn't put those words in Kramer's mouth!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Plan B": No "Safety Net" for the Fetus!

What a cheerful introduction to abortion we have by Holly Auer in Monday's Newsless Courier. The article, "The Safety Net," which practically gushes over the advantages of making Plan B available in South Carolina, manages to cite all the great advantages to this controversial drug while making the reader wonder why anyone has ever considered it controversial!

All it does is work "by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus." Golly, what was all the fuss about? Why were anti-abortionists upset?

Give up? Since a "fertilized egg" does not require "implantation . . . in the uterus" in order to become a full-blown baby, Plan B makes everything okay by allowing the user to be blissfully unaware of whether or not she has terminated a life. Why would that bother anyone? Apparently it doesn't bother any one of the proponents interviewed by the reporter.

I wonder : did Holly Auer contemplate interviewing opponents of this new method of abortion when she gathered the information for her article. Or did she assume that there was only one side of the issue? I see quotes from the New Morning Foundation, Advocates for Youth, Plan B's makers (who will make $$ from sales), the Charleston County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Council, and a "health educator" at the College of Charleston who blithely recounts prescribing the drug for students under 18 without needing to notify parents. The College of Charleston has also provided a $1000 "seed grant" for a brochure encouraging its use. In fact, this health educator suggests stocking up on the drug and providing it to friends. Wow.

I wonder why "some [major drugstore] chains will allow each store to make their [sic] own decision about whether to stock [the drug]."

Mysterious, isn't it?

And the Newsless Courier claims merely to present the facts.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Here on "a Darkling Plain": CPT (Cheap Political Tricks)

Perhaps you remember from high school or college English Matthew Arnold's poem, "Dover Beach," written in 1851. Arnold was very concerned that during his lifetime civilization as he knew it was disintegrating; thus the following lines:

And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

When the vote was extended in England, Arnold, the son of a famous educator, dedicated himself to educational progress, hoping that would enable those now enfranchised to vote guided by informed thinking. Alas, forlorn hope! Here we are, more than 150 years later, and not even the Newsless Courier operates on informed thinking! [See "Engelman stirs up a storm below.]

Now, I lived in the South practically my entire life, most of it in Charleston, until I married someone from New Jersey, and then I experienced other parts of the United States--northeast, midwest, left coast, even Texas (which in reality is the South also); I returned, lived here for another six years, and I never ONCE heard of anything called CPT. I did not grow up in a bubble or exist in one for the last 35 years either, so when Sandi Engelman says "Colored Person Time" is not what she meant, I believe her!

It reminds me of an older political buddy of my husband's who used to call liberals "NDG." As in, "Nelson Rockefeller is NDG." Now, I suppose someone could invent a racist interpretation of that acronym also, if he or she were so inclined, but to get that treatment, I would have to be running for office. [By the way, it meant, "No Damn Good," and he was too much of a gentleman to use profanity before a woman.]

Apart from my own experience, I have other evidence that this interpretation is deliberately BOGUS, even though the Newsless Courier claims that "most people familiar with the acronym say that means 'Colored People Time.'"

1. First, since the P & C made that statement, I would like to know who those referred to as "most people" are. And the ones familiar with the acronym who did not think it meant that (as use of the word "most" implies), what DID they think it meant?

2. I took an informal survey of native Charlestonians at my workplace, and, guess what! THEY had never heard of CPT either.

3. Even Arthur Ravenel, Jr., reported as "[catching] flack" a few years ago when he used the phrase "'black time,'" obviously had never heard of CPT, or he would have used it then! [But it was brilliant, wasn't it, to link him to the controversy, since he's running with Engelman.]

4. As for Marvin Dulaney's claim that the phrase came from the 1920s (I'm sure he meant the Harlem Renaissance, although the reporter apparently didn't know what he was referring to) and Langston Hughes--I don't buy it. I want to see the actual reference in print. I am familiar with Hughes's voluminous writings, but not the more obscure ones, I will admit. Now, I can believe that Hughes referred to "Colored Time" because I have heard of that. Of course, the phrase has nothing to do with being late, so the truth wouldn't have fit in this case. It's about serving time in the slammer--that, since treatment in jail was so much worse for blacks than whites, "colored time" was much longer in a metaphorical sense than "white time."

5. BREC, as I stated in a previous post, is supported by the Democratic Party of Charleston, and it has tried to "play the race card" already once before--suggesting that its endorsed slate should be elected because the school board needs more black members and its slate has them.

6. It's the Democratic strategy for this election, in case you have been on another planet for the last month, to make every race about ANYTHING but the issues. Thus we have Sanford being attacked for using "tar baby," the Republican Congress for not being aware of text messages sent to pages, and George Allen of Virginia being labeled a racist for using a word that I can't even spell and no one reading this had probably heard before it was picked up and splashed all over the national news ad nauseum.

And the Newsless Courier, instead of focusing on and educating the voters about the issues, chooses to participate in this name-calling and personal-attack campaign.

We're on the "darkling plain," I'm afraid, when votes are swayed by making the issue one of black versus white instead of performance versus incompetence.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Policy, What Policy?

BREC--That's the Blue Ribbon Education Committee to all members of the Democratic party here in Charleston County, the one that's supporting the liberal hopefuls for county school-board seats in the upcoming election. Three weeks before the election, BREC thinks it's pulling out the big guns by criticizing Sandi Engelman for travel expenses paid by CCSD for training sessions. Candidate Sandi Engelman has "considered the source" and called it "'a witch hunt.'"

No doubt she's correct; however, it turns out that our intrepid reporter has uncovered a policy "adopted by CCSD 23 years ago" [that would be in 1983] that is being ignored by the Board. Now, there's the NEWS.

It seems that in 1983, probably in response to a particular problem, the board voted that "all out-of-county travel must have prior approval by a majority of the board, but the board doesn't follow that policy." Doesn't it make you wonder how many OTHER policies the board is ignoring?

Candidate Gregg Meyers, who has been endorsed by BREC, somewhat gratuitously offers that he pays his own expenses because he can afford them more than the district can. Isn't that nice for him? Let's give him a blue ribbon. Taking his idea to its logical conclusion, we see that we need to fill the board with those who can afford to pay their own expenses, you know, like rich people.

Chairwoman (and non-candidate) Nancy Cook said she'd like to see the board come up with guidelines for such spending!

Nancy, why bother? Won't it merely be another ignored policy once the election is over?

Financial oversight is the issue here, not how much certain members have spent. There does not appear to be an explanation for why the board does not follow its own policy now, except that it's just money.

Believe it or not, there are many school boards in, yes, the State of South Carolina, that must report to another official body responsible for their financial oversight. How come ours is autonomous? Oh, must be its great track record.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Hit a Nerve, Did I?

It seems that Lowcountryblogs took exception to my posting on the whitewater park story (see below). Maybe they need to step back and look at the big picture at the P & C.

Frequently what lands on the front page, I assume at the decision of the editors, is inexplicable, other than by tortuous logic and/or cynical ruminations. If the cynical explanation isn't correct, then I'd like another one that makes sense. [I wasn't the only one to question the logic of "starring" a park in Charlotte--Elsa McDowell fended off another critic in her response column earlier this week, and the editor's explanation quoted there was lame.]

Here's another case. Today's front page has a screaming headline about the cost of expanding the jail ["Jail Price Tag: $101 Million]. Surely the editors knew that the story about the filings load of state judges being the highest in the country was RELATED to the crowding that's going on ["Chief Justice Tells Panel Judges Smothered by Work"]. Yes?

So, who made the decision to separate the two stories, one for the front page and one for the State and Local section, bottom corner? Couldn't The P & C at least have indicated on the front page that there was a related story inside?

Or are they so dense that they can't figure out that--what was it--something like 80 percent of the prisoners in the jail are waiting to see a judge?

Do you think if we had more state judges we would need less space in the jail?


Saturday, October 07, 2006

First Myrtle Beach, Now Charlotte

There is not enough news in Charleston to fill up the front page of the P & C. Today's paper spotlights a puff piece on a whitewater rafting business outside of Charlotte.

HELLO! That's in NORTH Carolina. Even the article acknowledges it's a three-hour drive from here.

So, what's going on? On the inside pages there were TWO MORE articles about this business venture!

Now, there are logical explanations for the Low Country's touting business enterprises in other states, none of which are pretty.

The least objectionable is that the reporters justified their vacation trip by writing about the place, and the editors went along with it. Not pretty, but it falls into the arena of expense-account fudging.

The second most objectionable is that the reporters' local connection, mentioned in one of the inside -page articles, paid for their trip to Charlotte so that he could get free publicity for his business investment, and the editors went along with it unknowingly. This explanation supposes the reporters can be bought off and the editors are naive.

The third, and most unconscionable explanation, is that the editors have invested in the business (or have friends or relatives who have invested in the business or developments planned for the area) and they sent the reporters to Charlotte so that their friends' investments could get some free publicity. This explanation suggests the P & C's front page (and further reporting) is being manipulated by the editors for the financial gain of themselves or others.

Well, which one seems most likely to you?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Campaign Coverage, Where Art Thou?

I don't think it's too early to complain about the Newsless Courier's lack of coverage of local and state elections.

Fairly soon I expect I'll see comments in the paper about voter apathy. Well, why not? Who knows his or her local candidates? Who knows where they stand on ANY issues? What ever happened to the Charleston County school board race? Is it possible that our congressmen are up for reelection as they are in the rest of the country?

The P & C seems to be doing its level best to minimize coverage and/or stick it on the back pages of the paper. Why shouldn't Scarborough's character be questioned over his behavior? Why would accusations about Ravenel the younger be buried in the back pages?

They don't want you to take an interest in the elections.

Where are our intrepid reporters? Assigned to shootings, wrecks, and fires, I guess.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Charleston, 1691: Prickly Pear???

Check out the article on newly-discovered letters and maps of Charleston circa 1686 to 1691 found in a library in Aberdeen:

What you can't see in the web story is that one of the drawings of flora enclosed with the letter is CLEARLY prickly pear cactus in bloom.

Cactus in Charleston? Native to Charleston??? That's a new one on me. I thought it thrived in the desert. Okay, I know we have sandy soil, but this is hardly a dry climate now, and I can't believe it was in the seventeenth century either.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gridlock in 2013: Navy Base Port or Not!

Which do YOU think is more important to Charleston and the Lowcountry: that the old Myrtle Beach Pavilion is going to close down or that "even if a cargo terminal isn't built at the former Navy base in North Charleston" in 2013 (that's seven years from now) "sections of I26 will come to a standstill during peak traffic."
This a dozen years sooner than the previous estimate, yet the news is buried in the largely-ignored (for good reasons) Business section of today's paper (that's 9B) while a large picture and headlines concerning the Myrtle Beach Pavilion were splashed all over the front page of Sunday's paper.

DOES the paper have a responsibility to educate and inform the public?

It won't happen this way.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thanks, Bob!

Hats off to Bob Henderson, whose Letter to the Editor in today's Newsless Courier calls the paper to task: he asks, "Does not the press have a [. . . ] responsibility to investigate and inform" the public [in regard to the 15 percent reassessment cap question on the November ballot]?" See below:

Of course, he assumes that the paper's reporters are capable of sorting out the financial impact of the question if it passes. Anyone who has read an article in the Newsless Courier that had a financial angle is probably a doubter in that regard.

Nevertheless, Henderson points out that passage of this initiative "will require poor owners to forever subsidize wealthy owners." I suspect he's right, but why would the editors of this paper care? They ARE the wealthy owners!

I'm waiting for the P & C to disprove his statements and/or release the results of a cap impact study. But, let's face it--Henderson and I have a loooong wait.

The last mention of the cap was in an article on June 18th. We're coming up on three months of ignoring the 300-pound gorilla.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Help! My Child Is Being Held Prisoner in a Failing School

Local school districts must be cavorting with glee--they (or Berkeley County, that is) have discovered a loophole in the No Child Left Behind law that will allow them to keep children prisoners in failing schools for at least a year. See today's Newsless Courier for details:

Isn't it great? As Chester Floyd, Berkeley County Superintendent is quoted as saying, "We thought that we were required to offer choice, and it had to be for all students at low-performing schools, no matter whether the students had attended that school in the past or not." Now, according to an alternative interpretation discovered in a "national publication," students may be required to attend the failing school for a year BEFORE being allowed to transfer.

Now, that's what I call interpreting the law in the best interests of the students!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Is There a Pattern Here?

Random (or, perhaps, not so random) thoughts regarding last week's "news" from the Newsless Courier. Maybe this could be a quiz for readers who believe that the paper actually reports news of the Lowcountry.

  1. Whatever happened to the Wando High School students who were charged with multiple crimes?
  2. What was the "good" news about the PACT scores?
  3. Why is the Myrtle Beach Pavilion so important to the Lowcountry that it garners the front page of the Sunday paper?

Answers: 1. (a) suspended pending outcome of explusion hearing; (b) expelled; (c) sent to Burke to beef up their football team; (d) not important enough to report.

Okay, for those of you breathlessly waiting to hear how the recommended expulsions of the Wando football players and their cronies in crime came out--I hope you're able to hold your breath for a long time. The answer is (d).

In typical Newsless Courier fashion we first have raging headlines; then we have silence. . . . Oh, I'm sorry! We must be sensitive to the needs of adolescents. Forget those who had guns held in their faces.

2. (a) the majority of elementary and middle schools have now raised their scores to more than half scoring above basic; (b) the majority have now raised their scores to less than half scoring above basic; (d) the majority have now lowered their scores to more than half scoring below basic; (e) no analysis beyond basic score reporting; crunch the numbers yourself, if you're so d---d curious!

Then, the "good" news about PACT scores? Yes???? I suppose it is that those students who were in schools where the majority of students passed the test in the past continued to be in schools where the majority of students passed in the past.

Consistency of results. That would be (e).

I'm afraid that's the best I can do in the way of "good" news. Certainly, it isn't great news for parents of students in failing schools, but who cares about them anyway? They don't care, right? They expect their schools to be that way; in fact, they deserve for their schools to fail, right? Pity the well-brought-up child at Alice Birney or Brentwood Middle who's been told that teachers and administrators (in this very school district) believe that using obscenities is part of his or her culture. 'Nuff said on that.

3. (a) all Charlestonians spent their childhoods there; (b) all Charlestonians wish they had spent their childhoods there; (c) Myrtle Beach has moved closer to the Lowcountry than it used to be; (d) Myrtle Beach is full of ex-Charlestonians who just couldn't take the trashy ways of Charleston any more; (e) it's a favorite vacation spot of the editors.

As for Myrtle Beach, please! Isn't that where people from New Jersey and Pennsylvania come when they get tired of Atlantic City? Some of us are old enough to remember that it was the place to go for illegal high-roller gambling and expensive call girls in the good old days. It was NOT a magnet for Charlestonians (unless they had such proclivities). Shagging at the beach was at FOLLY, for all of you interlopers. Why should we care what happens to their Pavilion? Put it in the Business section, if you must. There's little enough there! The answer must be (e).

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Copycat Crimes from Wando

We have come a long way from "Win one for the Gipper." But at least Notre Dame and NC State haven't lost their minds yet. The same cannot be said for recruiters at Alabama and Ohio State!

Now the question remains, will these Wando football players meet the same fate as their counterparts from "an academically acclaimed school that draws its students from upscale neighborhoods" in Maryland?

Let's see--the equivalent would be that they be allowed to finish out this year at home & then next year they could go to Burke wearing "ankle bracelets," where students who been expelled from other schools have been enrolling on a regular basis, and Burke's football team could be revived like that of Wheaton High School. Check out this article & then compare it to the Newsless Courier's below!

NOTE: Red for emphasis.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 08, 2006 7:27 AM
Hatching robbery game planPolice say Wando High students huddled at house to plot their strategy
The Post and Courier
MOUNT PLEASANT - On the night of Aug. 26, a group of Wando High School football players assembled at one student's house to map out strategy.
But it wasn't an upcoming game that was on their minds. Rather, the group hatched plans to rob a Food Lion supermarket at gunpoint and then divvy up the profits, police said.
Investigators say the plot came to light Tuesday as police began to round up members of the group in connection with the Food Lion holdup, a subsequent car theft and a Labor Day robbery at a Subway restaurant. Detectives have arrested 10 students and a Wando graduate, seized evidence from the crimes and recovered some of the stolen cash.
But investigators have yet to answer what is perhaps the central question in the episode: Why would a bunch of suburban teens from predominantly middle-class families participate in crimes that threaten to derail their futures?
"They have not told us why," Mount Pleasant Police Lt. Amy McCarthy said. "We don't have a reason at this point."
Talk of the arrests swirled around Wando on Thursday, the eve of the football team's game with regional rival Summerville High School. Seven members of the Wando Warriors, including their star quarterback, were among those arrested. All are now banned from participating in school sports and activities.
Some students suggested that the initial robbery was planned to aid a friend who had been booted from his house for hosting a party. But police said that doesn't make sense, as those involved reportedly split the meager proceeds of the heist. Others suggested the crimes were just a way for thrill-seeking kids to get their kicks.
If so, it wouldn't be the first time. In 2000, police arrested eight Wando students and graduates in connection with a vandalism spree at the school and a string of burglaries at local businesses.
Von Bakanik, a sociology professor at the College of Charleston, said the recent holdups appear to be a "coming-of-age phenomenon gone terribly awry."
Bakanik said teens often engage in risky behavior for thrills and to assert their independence. Girls tend to rebel sexually or romantically, while boys often act out through property damage and theft, she said.
"Boys who come from middle- and upper-class homes don't need to steal for monetary reasons," she said. "They are stealing for other motivations, mostly to feel powerful or to feel the excitement of doing something illicit."
Fred Medway, a psychology professor at the University of South Carolina, said there is an element of peer pressure as well. Teens involved in a team or group are often more likely to follow the lead of friends headed down the wrong path, he said.
"They are either trying to impress the other kids and show some bravado, or a couple of them are already doing something and it lowers the inhibitions of others," he said. "On a team, it may be a way to get additional respect, especially if you are not as competent or not a star player."
Three of those charged were starters for the Warriors, including Michael Dawley, 16, the team's quarterback and a grandson of the late Chuck Dawley, a former Mount Pleasant police chief and former Charleston County sheriff.
Dawley is accused of participating in the Food Lion robbery with students Patrick Brown, 17; Sean Shevlino, 16; Michael Anthony, 17; Jackie Washington, 18; Christopher Cousins, 16; Samuel Perez, 16; Graham Stolte, 16; Vincent Weiner, 17; and Max Hartwell, 16. Brown, Washington, Weiner, Stolte, Hartwell and Perez also play for the Warriors.
Several of the students provided police with written statements implicating themselves and others in the crimes. Police said the group held a planning session at Hartwell's house before robbing the store with a pellet gun.
Shevlino confronted employees and grabbed the loot while the rest of the teens served as lookouts, according to arrest affidavits. They had inside information about the store, as Cousins worked there, police said.
Shevlino and Anthony also are charged with robbing a Subway restaurant at gunpoint on Monday and stealing a $35,000 BMW on Sunday with the help of Wando graduate Sean Deaton, 17, police said.
The exact amount of money taken in each robbery remained unclear Thursday night.
Anthony, Deaton and Weiner were still being held at the Charleston County jail late Thursday; Brown and Washington were released on bail during the day, according to jail officials. The others had been released from the county's juvenile detention facility, according to an official there.
Charleston County School District officials are still evaluating the case and have not decided whether to suspend any of the students from school, district spokesman Jerry Adams said.
Christine Weiner of Awendaw, mother of Vincent Weiner, called the charge against her son "emotionally devastating." She said the facts of the case are being twisted and she thinks the boys "are getting raked over the coals."
"I think that the football team shouldn't turn their back on them," she said. "Everybody makes mistakes in their lives. Let's try not to ruin their lives over this horrible event."

Several friends left messages of support for the suspects on their pages at Several in the group maintain a presence on the popular Web site, sharing thoughts with friends on football, partying, girls and other typical teenage pursuits.
Fellow students said the suspects are just that - typical teens.
"They can be rowdy, and they do like to party, and sometimes their fun gets out of hand," student Bri Greer said. "But all in all, they're really cool people."
Junior Lindsey Dworschak, 16, said she doesn't condone such crimes, but the suspects remain friends and "I won't bash them." She chalked up the episode to peer pressure and a football mentality that pushes players to be "big and bad."
"A lot of them are football players and you have to fit in this crowd or whatever," she said.
Senior Justin Buckley, 17, said he doubts anyone involved put much thought into the gravity of what they were doing.
"It probably started out something like - it would be funny if we actually did it," he said.
Staff writers Lucia Walinchus and Prentiss Findlay also contributed to this report. Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or
This article was printed via the web on 9/9/2006 9:44:48 AM . This articleappeared in The Post and Courier and updated online at on Friday, September 08, 2006.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Shock and Awe, Newsless-Courier Style

Why is it? Here we are in the "holy city," with a church practically on every corner, and yet the Faith and Values section of the Newsless Courier must be written and edited by those who haven't a clue what goes on in said buildings.

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (as the Church of England) pre-existed any version of the Charleston newspaper. The colony's official religion was Church of England. After the Revolution, Charleston continued to be rife with Episcopalians. Still today within the Lowcountry the parishes of this diocese are burgeoning with new members, unlike many other Episcopal dioceses in America. So, one would think that the local paper would actually know a few characteristics of the faith. WRONG.

The headline writer (and, for all I know, copy editor and reporter--that is, Michael Gartland, who is in charge of this section of the paper) thinks it news that the Episcopal Diocese of S.C. selects its own bishop. Gasp! Gasp! Presumably they all think the bishops for Episcopal dioceses in the United States are selected by the Pope? Or maybe the Archbishop of Canterbury? If they know he exists, that is. It's another Idiocy of the Day!

Isn't this pathetic? Here we are in the South, where people actually do still go to the religious services of their choice on a regular basis. But we must endure a Faith and Values section (even the name of it is atrocious) written by agnostic ignorami.

Further, in that section, Gartland (I'm presuming he's still in charge of it after this ridiculous "discovery") selects the most asinine and insulting articles off the wire to include for our edification every Sunday. So, today, we also have a story about how parents need to select "Sunday school" classes carefully so that their children will not run into a (Catholic) sanctuary and yell out, seeing a depiction of Christ crucified on the cross, "Wow! What happened to that guy?" Golly, how embarrassing. No mention in any part of the article of belief on the part of parents or children.

See, you need to select your children's church as you would your country club or private school so their ignorance won't embarrass you.

That story didn't have to find space in the P & C. Gartland had plenty of stories about believers out there to select from. So why print this one? To insult believers?

Could it be that he thinks the Faith and Values section is eagerly-sought-out reading for atheists? Probably so.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why It's Pointless to Write to the P & C

On Thu 08/31, Elsa McDowell <> wrote:
RE: Headlines
Thank you for your message. While technically "mosquitoes" and "mosquitos" are both acceptable spellings, AP Style calls for "mosquitoes" and a copy editor here should have caught the discrepancy.

As for the SAT headline, I respectfully disagree with you. To say "student scores perfectly" would indicate he is a scorekeeper who did his job just right. To say he scored "perfect" means he made no errors in taking the test. It's a bit like saying "he felt badly" when "he felt bad" is intended. If he felt bad, he was achey. If he felt badly, his sensory perception wasn't working well.Hope this helps!Elsa McDowell

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, August 31, 2006 12:52 PM
To: PublicEditor@postandcourier.comSubject:
RE: Headlines
Sorry, Elsa, but I respectfully disagree with that analysis of the phrase "scores perfect." You use the analogy of feels bad or badly, with which I am quite familiar. Try substituting the verb "to be" here. That is the rule for deciding whether or not you need bad or badly or perfect or perfectly. "Student is perfect" is not the same meaning, and "scores" in this context is not a linking verb. It is an action verb.

From: Elsa McDowell]
RE: Headlines
Thanks for your response. We'll just have to disagree on this one.

Let's look at the definitions of the verb to score:
v. scored, scor·ing, scores
1. To mark with lines or notches, especially for the purpose of keeping a record.
2. To cancel or eliminate by or as if by superimposing lines.
3. To mark the surface of (meat, for example) with usually parallel cuts.
4. Sports & Games
a. To gain (a point) in a game or contest.
b. To count or be worth as points: A basket scores two points.
c. To keep a written record of the score or events of (a game or contest).
d. Baseball To cause (a base runner) to cross home plate, especially by getting a hit: scored both runners with a double.
5. To achieve; win.
6. To evaluate and assign a grade to.
7. Music
a. To orchestrate.
b. To arrange for a specific instrument.
8. To criticize cuttingly; berate.
9. Slang
a. To succeed in acquiring: scored two tickets to the play.
b. To succeed in obtaining (an illicit drug): "Aging punks try to impress her with tales of . . . the different drugs they've scored" Art Jahnke.
1. Sports & Games
a. To make a point in a game or contest.
b. To keep the score of a game or contest.
2. Slang
a. To achieve a purpose or advantage, especially to make a surprising gain or coup: "They . . . score in places like the bond market" Mike Barnicle.
b. To succeed in seducing someone sexually.
c. To succeed in buying or obtaining an illicit drug.
[Middle English, from Old English scoru, twenty, from Old Norse skor; see sker-1 in Indo-European roots.]
You bet we disagree. One of us doesn't understand that adjectives modify nouns and pronouns.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Not Perfect on Headlines

To the Public Editor of the Newsless Courier:
Dear Elsa,

I tried to ignore "mosquitos" in a headline earlier this week, even though the first sentence of the article clearly spelled the word "mosquitoes" correctly. However, today's "Area student scores perfect on SAT" set my teeth on edge. Maybe the student's score was perfect, but the headline writer's wasn't.

FYI, either "Area student's scores perfect on SAT" or "Area student scores perfectly on SAT" would have been correct.

What is the possibility of getting someone who can spell (or can learn to use the spell check) and knows grammar to check the headlines before the paper goes to press?


Friday, August 25, 2006

Who's in Charge? Maria

Andrew HaLevi's op-ed piece in today's Newsless Courier makes interesting reading.
He believes one of the most important issues facing the Charleston County School District is the performance of its principals. No teacher would ever disagree with that. The principal sets the tone in a school and can make or break its progress towards improvement. And too many of them retire in place and/or are too timid to venture forth from their offices.

HaLevi's heart is in the right place, and he obviously has the best interests of students in mind. He brings up the topic in the context of school board races and their potential focus. However, he makes it sound as though school board members have control over principals. THEY DON'T. Oh, maybe they have a voice in hiring, but not in supervision, especially once a principal gains tenure.

THAT would be the superintendent's job. No wonder the performance of the superintendent is under scrutiny. What progress HAS been made in the performance of PRINCIPALS under her tenure? I'd sure like to hear the results.

Why do I think the Newsless Courier isn't going to take up this topic?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Carpool, Anyone?

n. also car pool
1. An arrangement whereby several participants or their children travel together in one vehicle, the participants sharing the costs and often taking turns as the driver.
2. A group, as of commuters or parents, participating in a carpool.
v. also car-pool car·pooled, car·pool·ing, car·pools
To travel in a carpool.
To transport by means of a carpool: carpool the children to school.

The Newsless Courier tried to suck me into another rant on the Charleston County School District and its superintendent with a front-page love-fest interview with Maria Goodloe-Johnson, but I refused the bait. No one with half a brain, reading the copy, would seriously consider the reporter to be OBJECTIVE.

Also, the Newsless Courier broke new ground in its obvious push for local acceptance of illegal aliens with a truly slanted look at illegals in Charleston County, hence the title of my previous blog.

I don't know. Should we take anything they cover seriously? There were so many egregious statements and flaws in coverage of that issue that response would require several pages and I'm busy right now.

School has finally begun in Charleston County, in case you have been living on another planet. This morning's idiocy (maybe I should call it "Idiocy of the Day") has finally forced me to take some time for response. It didn't occur in the Newsless Courier! It was on local oldie rock station 102.5, which, yes, I know is sanitized Clear Channel, but is a port of shelter in a dearth of horrible choices on the FM dial. The morning team, who shall remain nameless, not out of kindness but because I have never been interested enough in their chatter to learn their names, asked carpoolers to call in, ostensibly to get numbers assigned to each carpool for a later contest, or something like that.

Now, you would like to think that people who are driving kids to school in a car know what a carpool is. Well, they don't. Or at least the first three calls taken were from women driving children to school who don't know what a carpool is. Jack and Jill, or whatever their names are, apparently were too polite to tell them (or, horrible thought, don't know what a carpool is EITHER). The first three calls were from mothers driving THEIR OWN CHILDREN, and ONLY their own children, to school. And they were assigned numbers and congratulated as though they were actually carpooling! I'm sure other commuters on the Don Holt must have noticed the faces I was making at the radio. Not a good way to start the day.

Now you see why I worry about education!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

"A Smooth Legal Path Is Hard to Find"--Illegal Alien
Great quote, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

ACT Results: We Did It! Forty-ninth out of Fifty-one!

Try . You'll need to go there to find out what the state Superintendent knows full well but did not put into her press release. That would be the press release that was the basis for

"State scores improve, but national average still a tough ACT to follow," by Mindy B. Hagen and Diette Courrege, The Post and Courier, Wednesday, August 16, 2006, Local & State section, below the fold.

"Focus on the positive" must be the message from the editors to reporters, or "follow the superintendent's lead." Otherwise, why would I be forced to go to the ACT website to find out which state South Carolina ranked above in its wonderful accomplishment? You won't find it on the website of the state's department of education. To its credit, the Newsless Courier did report that SC was the 49th of the states. And reporters don't write the headlines.

Gee, I don't see why we shouldn't brag about it--we beat those dummies again! That is, the ones in the District of Columbia and Mississippi! Yes, 49th out of 51.

Now, I know that apologists will say that these results are so low because so many of our students take the ACT (that would be 39 % of graduates this year), but the fact is that in some states well ahead of the national average 90 to 100 % take it. And why did we beat Mississippi? It turns out 93 % took the ACT there. Does anyone really think that, if 93 % of OUR graduates had taken the test, we would have come out ahead of them?

Or, maybe some will say that our results are so low because so few of our students take the test. GET SERIOUS! The ones taking the ACT are not going to be at the bottom of the class! Students who score below expectations on the SAT are encouraged to take the ACT because it is more of a measure of what the student actually has learned, rather than aptitude.

Exactly. It would be nice if the Newsless Courier reporters would report ALL of the story. Well, if the editors would let them.

There's always hope.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

"Burke termed a last resort: Board questions open enrollment," by Diette Courrege, The Post and Courier, Tuesday, August 15, 2006, Local and State front page.

[Should have been front-page news: "County high schools caught using Burke as dumping ground for troublemakers."]

As I follow the doings of CCSD, sometimes I feel as though I've fallen down the rabbit hole with Alice. The latest expose, courtesy of constituent school board 20 (that's downtown), is one of those times. Yesterday's school board meeting (which appparently wasn't as important as the Newsless Courier's front-page news on the A-Team and its finances) was a shocker--at least to me and, I expect, to most people who do not have connections with the "in" crowd.

It seems that about five years ago, the school district "opened" admissions to anyone in the county, not just downtown residents, so, according to the chief academic officer, "high-achieving" students could transfer in.

Man, there must be a lot of gullible people in Charleston County!

Well, no, actually, just some who made a pretense of academics as the reason for the "open" admissions. After all, only students who were about to be expelled from other high schools knew about this policy. Gee, I wonder how they found out. Like, the guidance counselor (or school police liaison) said to them, "Go to Burke" and you won't be expelled for ... oh, drug-dealing, pot-smoking in the johns, fighting in the cafeteria, you name it. In fact, Burke has been used as a dumping ground for students unwanted by other schools, an "open admissions" alternative school, if you will.

Would any high-achieving student (and/or his or her parents) in his right mind transfer to Burke? We all know the answer to that. And so did the people who thought up this pretense.

With reasonable certainty, I can state that, whoever came up with this scenario guaranteed to encourage all gang members, druggies, and others who belonged in alternative settings to transfer into a school already on its last legs, did not have any children (or friends that had children) at Burke High School.

How dare the constituent board 20 complain! And no one admits to knowing how many non-residents have enrolled at Burke or even whether anyone looked at transcripts and records before they did!

Obviously, I don't need to worry about running out of material to write about. YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. WHO WOULD BELIEVE IT?

Then, as an afterthought it seems, the reporter mentioned a three-year contract of $430,000 awarded to the "executive director of the district's building program." SAY WHAT? That's over $100,000 per year, a nice chunk of change.

For what? Doesn't say. [Editors: where are you?] Aren't you as taxpayer even mildly curious?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

At Least It's on the Editorial Page This Time

"School board candidates should stand on their own," lead editorial, The Post and Courier, Sunday, August 13, 2006.
Showing its true colors, the editorial staff of the Newsless Courier blatantly revealed today that it would like to be in a blue state, or shall we say, a Democratic one. Under the guise of showing how a "slate" of candidates is unfair to the voters, they shot their second (or third depending on how you count it) salvo at the "A-Team" running for Charleston County School Board.

We are a loooong way from the days when the local paper was the FIRST in the nation to endorse Barry Goldwater for President. Then, believe it or not, most voters in the Low Country were Democrats. Unfortunately, many, if not most, Low Country residents (now Republican) still think of it in those terms, and the staff, nurturing that illusion, is careful not to go overboard in endorsing Democrats. Of course, nurturing Democrats is much easier when the election is non-partisan and candidates can hide their liberal opinions behind that label! Thus, the staff feels free to take aim at the "Republican" slate for the non-partisan school board elections.

Apart from being confused (the writer gives the impression that a bill can never become law in South Carolina unless the governor signs it), the editorial makes some rather duplicitious assumptions.

  1. "This is a non-partisan election. Candidates for the board should stand on their own." Why? No rule exists that prohibits candidates running as a team, nor does the editorial suggest one. In fact, that it is non-partisan has nothing to do with running as teams (on a legal basis, that is).
  2. "The measure [to make the races partisan] passed the Legislature three years ago over the objection of groups such as the League of Women Voters ...." Wow! If they object, we know it must be bad [not]. I don't think they're complete idiots at the Newsless Courier; they know that the LWV has been a lackey of the Democratic party for DECADES.
  3. "[passed] without the signature of the governor." My previous point ... if not vetoed, and the legislature adjourns, it will become law. See, the Newsless Courier subtlely intimates that the governor [Sanford] did not approve. SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE.
  4. "... the U.S. Justice Department ... contend[ed] that partisan elections would make it more difficult for minorities to be elected to the board" and thus "thwarted" efforts at partisan races for Charleston County. Well, yes, because the bill set up races in exactly the same fashion that was struck down by the federal courts regarding partisan races for Charleston County Council, where now candidates run in partisan races from DISTRICTS.

The solution to this nonsense is so obvious that, of course, the editorial does not mention it. The editorial also does not mention that in FOUR counties in South Carolina today, school board races are PARTISAN, yes, PARTISAN. Didn't know that, did you? One of them is nearby Georgetown County. The editors don't want you to think about why it's okay there and not here.

You see, the CCSD already has eight constituent districts. Obviously, the Feds would have no problem with partisan school board races in DISTRICTS; that's what they approved for the County Council, which serves the same population!

Truly laughable is the conclusion of the ACLU in this matter (yes, the editors of the Newsless Courier wholeheartedly agree with the ACLU--check for yourself). THEY concluded that implementation of the legislation for partisan school board members in Charleston County would "insure white control of the school board."

As opposed to the black control we have now??? With ONE black school board member out of NINE? No, what the ACLU was worried about was that Democrats would lose control of the school board if they had to identify their true colors.

I'd like to see a school board election in 2006 where every candidate, running as a non-partisan, is forced to identify his or her political party. Then voters would at least have an inkling of what they're getting.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Biased Coverage? Surely Not the P & C!

Front page news: a non-story--"'A-Team' fundraising methods questioned," by Diette Courrege and Schuyler Knopf, The Post and Courier, Saturday, August 12, 2006.

Reporters Courrege and Knopf cannot be blamed for this one. They do not write the headlines, and they do not decide what goes on the front page. No, bias here clearly exclusively lies with the EDITORS of the Newsless Courier.

The headline SHOULD read, "Democratic activist questions 'A-Team' fundraising," because that's what the story is about. Wow! Front page news! A Democrat attacking Republicans! Will wonders never cease!

Herbert Hayden, the executive director of the State Ethics Commission, in response to a query by a local Democratic activist, Charleston civil-rights attorney Peter Wilborn, will do his job looking into the accusation that the Republican-backed slate of Charleston County school board candidates is illegally soliciting funds. Of course, the part about the "Democratic activist" did not make it onto the front page with the accusatory headline. What a surprise!

Even Hayden is quoted as saying, "'I don't think there's been any attempt to circumvent the law or receive anything that they shouldn't be receiving.'" Non-story. Belongs in Local & State section.

What is going on here is what has been going on at the Newsless Courier for years. Non-partisan school board elections are a joke, as I said before. Democrats do not have to declare themselves as such. When candidates DO reveal party affiliation, Republicans in most of Charleston's constituent districts have the edge. HORRORS! [at least from the EDITORS' viewpoint]
We can't let THAT happen--someone might upset the status-quo!

Thus a blatant attack. Even if a similar article appears on the front page clearing the 'A-Team,' the damage has been done.

Why do I think those who make editorial policy for the paper have no affiliations with Burke High School, Brentwood Middle School, et al? Their children most likely go (and went) to Buist Academy, local private schools, boarding schools, and/or the best schools in the county.

What do they care about those who must send their children to failing schools?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

More Appropriate Headline: "A Band-Aid over Melanoma"

"State board leaves Burke in school district's hands," by Diette Courrege AND "Trouble on 'A-Team': Engelman departs," by Schuyler Kropf, The Post and Courier, Thursday, August 10, 2006, front page, above the fold.

It's hard to say which of these stories dealing with the future of public education in Charleston County is more disheartening.

  1. Is it worse that Joe Riley, after being mayor of Charleston for 30 years, during which time Burke High School has gone from a poor high school to an abysmal one, has the temerity to suggest NOW that he will make it a "renowned national model for excellence" so that it will not be taken over by the state? or
  2. Is it worse that the self-named "A-Team" running for the CCSD school board promising true reform turns out to be headed by "good ol' boy" Arthur Ravenel, Jr., who somehow believes that making millions mixing real estate and politics and having his name on a bridge gives him the right to be the new school board chairman?

It's a close call, but I have to go with # 2. After all, in the case of Burke, we have a DEMOCRATIC mayor putting on a good show for a DEMOCRATIC state supertintendent. If you believe politics wasn't a factor, well, you must have fallen off the turnip truck yesterday! But more importantly, the status quo will be changed ONLY by a change of personnel on the CCSD school board and in the state superintendent's office. Certainly not by Joe Riley, who has no control over what goes on in the school district!

AND, politics was also the factor for the "A-Team," the "Republican" slate in this non-partisan election. "Non-partisan" is a joke, and all those involved know it. It's "pig-in-a-poke" voting. This expression refers to buying a bag supposedly holding a valuable pig while trusting that the unseen pig actually exists. When the sucker opens the bag, it turns out to hold ... a worthless[substitute some worthless animal here].

For those of you not familiar with South Carolina before it elected its first Republican governor in a century, it used to be that all white folk were Democrats, Southern ones that is [think of Dixiecrats], with only a few "Post-Office Republicans" (liberal) hanging on by their fingernails. That's when Arthur Ravenel, Jr. was a Democrat. Now, the large majority of whites in South Carolina have moved into the Republican Party with the rest of the conservatives in the country. In fact, for most offices in the state, you must now be a Republican to get elected, and thus Arthur Ravenel, Jr. is a Republican. But, he's still a good ol' boy who believes that Charleston should be run by the same small group of old Charlestonians and their hangers on. That belief is the true cause for the public disagreement between him and Sandi Engelman.

Is there any way to fix the train wreck? Not this year. Talk about counting your chickens before they're hatched--arguing about who's going to be board chairman even before running, much less before being elected?

Whence my quote, "a Band-Aid over melanoma"? That's from the only sensible member of the state school board (one out of 12!), Ron Wilson, in regard to the district's presentation of how it will fix the Burke problem, "smoke and mirrors," he rightly names it. Apparently he CARED that Marvin Stewart, chairman of the downtown constituent school board, presented a "unanimous vote of no confidence in Charleston administrators." Why should anyone pay attention to them? They only live in the district and send their children to Burke!

By the way, if you are wondering who these state school board members are, apparently four of the 17 did not vote. Were Terrye Seckinger (Isle of Palms), Kristin Maguire (Sanford's appointee), Patsy Pye (Summerville), and Joe Isaac (Pawleys Island) voting "Yes"? Or were they too timid to be there?

If so, let's hold these lackeys of the state superintendent responsible! They're appointed by your legislative delegation. You can email them at .

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Oh, No! Not in South Carolina Too!

I first encountered this insanity in Texas. In order to con parents into thinking how well its students "earned" scholarship money, the private school solicited from each graduating senior the amount of scholarship aid from each college or university applied to, added them all together, and multiplied by four (for the four years of college). Amounts for all students were compiled and the total released to show how much monetary value parents received in return for paying four years of high school tuition.

Then I came back to Charleston to find that school guidance departments are insane here also (they would have been laughed around the block in New Jersey!). Now today's headline:

"Class of '06 proved very scholarly," by Diette Courrege, The Post and Courier, Lowcountry and State section, Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Scholarly about what? SAT scores? NO. Graduation rates? Heavens, no. It seems that, according to a release from state Superintendent Tenenbaum, this year's seniors "won" more funds than any previous class. The State Superintendent's office encourages this nonsense by keeping a running total of scholarship money on a five-year basis!
Now, if you have been suckered into believing that this total represents intelligent accounting practices, let me enlighten you. Here are the factors that make that total a joke:

  1. The more schools the student applies to, the higher his or her total; thus, Jimmy Joe, who applies to 12 schools, contributes 48 times his actual financial need, whereas Peggy Sue, who applies early decision to one school, contributes 4 times her financial need.
  2. Notice I said "financial need" not "scholarship total." A FEW scholarships are not based on need, it is true; however, most of what goes into the school's (or state's) total is based on need. That brings us to
  3. The higher the total amount, the more financially-needy the students. Got that? Thus, if all students applying to college were below the poverty level and all managed to apply to 30 schools each, the "scholarship" total would SKYROCKET! We sure would want to brag about that!
  4. Finally, unless the state is losing population [not] or graduating fewer students total [not], the NUMBER of students reporting scholarship aid automatically increases each year, whether they are more "scholarly" or not.

My proof?

  1. According to the reporter, "the state counts the value of scholarships awarded as opposed to those accepted." Exactly.
  2. "It appears that no organization tracks the state-by-state totals for public and private scholarships awarded." Did the reporter ever wonder WHY? They seem to track everything else. But then, why track nonsense?
  3. After it "improved" the way it "counted and reported" scholarship winners, Woodland High School TRIPLED the dollar amount from last year. Let's see: last year's $341,013 times 4 = about $1.4 million, roughly comparable to the $1.3 million reported this year. The report doesn't mention what the "improvement" was, but it seems fairly obvious to me! I bet they hadn't been told to multiply by 4 (years of college)!
  4. Notice, the principal at Woodland said, "more students applied for money," not scholarships. That's financial aid being added into the total.

I could go on, but I've made my point. The Newsless Courier needs to employ more critical thinking to the handouts from the state superintendent's office. This is the second time since I started blogging that Tenenbaum's nonsense has been taken at face value.

Monday, August 07, 2006

It's 1958 at the National Governors Conference!

"No easy fixes for states: Education," by Diette Courrege, front page of The Post and Courier, Monday, August 7, 2006.

Yes, it is true that when the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik (I heard about it at a friend's house in West Oak Forest when the story broke), a vociferous hue and cry emerged to get students into science. And a generation of astrophysicists (none from the Charleston public schools that I know of) emerged (although many through necessity have now transferred to other scientific fields), but to suggest that America's inability to "attract and graduate students in science" constitutes a new phenomenon is just plain wrong. And, poor preparation in math and science at the high school level has always been the cause!

The Newsless Courier's take on a Sunday session at the National Governors Association meeting might as well have been printed for the 50th meeting in 1958 as for the 98th this weekend! Who knows, maybe a bit of digging would show that the same comments and solutions recommended in 1958 have been re-proposed in 2006.

The reporter states that "[it's] a complex problem," probably mirroring the comments of the attendees. The complexity comes from how schools are controlled. States now (and have always) determined their own standards. That's a minimum of 50 sets of standards. "Think tanks and foundations" can propose national academic standards until the cows come home, or the next "Sputnik" appears, but as long as students are captive to attending the nearest public school that is captive to nonpartisan school boards and liberal state bureaucracies, standards, regardless of how high they are set, will make no difference.

Here's the statement that set my teeth to grinding:
"South Carolina has gotten a bad rap for achievement, but education officials point to studies that show that the Palmetto State's academic standards are higher than those in some other states."

Please don't insult our intelligence! Nameless "education officials"? Such as our State Superintendent, who apparently to this day still believes that Wisconsin high school graduates need only 13 credits versus South Carolina's 22?

If South Carolina's academic standards are higher than any state that you know of, I'd like to know it so that I can send that state a condolence letter.

Disillusioned Again: Dorchester 2 No Better than CCSD in Planning

"Fort Dorchester Elementary grapples with massive growth: School has doubled in size, to 1,500 in span of 4 years," by Mindy B. Hagen, front page of The Post and Courier, Monday, August 7, 2006

It turns out that CCSD isn't the only school district that needs to return for a brush-up in Planning 101.

Rows of "trailers" stretch neatly away into the distance, just like a prison, on Monday's front page. There are 28. Twenty-eight classrooms. Classrooms that stand alone, have virtually no windows (I hope none of the students or teachers suffers from claustrophobia), and separate all third- and fourth-graders from the main school building. Even if the students had windows, they would look upon the walls of another of these small prisons. Some are clearly far enough away to be in Outer Slobbovia, so lack of contact with the outside world is probably just as well. Imagine YOUR third-grader trekking from the farthest "learning cottage" (don't you love the jargon?) to the school's library (oops, sorry, I mean media center) in the rain, heat, or cold.

Perhaps this scene could be excused if the school itself (Fort Dorchester Elementary) was OLD. According to the reporter, it is: "the school has expanded by staggering proportions since those early days in a different era [italics mine]--the time before rapid growth found its way to Dorchester Road's subdivisions."

The different era? We must be speaking of the 1960s? the 1970s? the 1980s? Could it be the 1990s?

Would you believe that this dangerously overcrowed school, twice the size recommended for best dealing with students this age, WAS COMPLETED IN 2002?

Any of us can understand the difficult process that a school district must endure to finance and produce a new school. That said, apparently no one could foresee in 2000-01 that in 2006 a school TWICE the size of this one would be needed, that it was necessary either to increase the size of this one or to build two schools.

Perhaps they consulted the same people who built Wando High School, completed in 2004 and now adding three "learning cottages." Everyone could see that Mt. Pleasant wasn't growing very rapidly, right? Ditto Dorchester Road.

Did the reporter question the district's planning "issues"? We'll never know.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Law of Unintended Consequences: NCBTs

"Summit to address where top teachers would be best used" by Diette Courrege, in the Lowcountry & State section.

This report in the Newsless Courier this morning set me to thinking about the policy of South Carolina in regard to paying bonuses to teachers who gain National Board Certification. The article concerns a meeting in Columbia sponsored by the NEA (that's National Education Association), bringing together SC National Board Certified teachers to discuss "the best ways to get more accomplished teachers into schools struggling with high teacher turnover and poor student achievement."
South Carolina's policy provides yet another example of the law of unintended consequences--that is, a policy that attempts to engineer one outcome but results in another. Hoping to improve schools overall, the state legislature is now unwittingly moving state resources out of low-performing into high-performing schools. To put that another way, them that has, gets.

How so? Let's start with the following questions:

  1. What IS NBC (apart from well-known broadcasting network)? A certification process about 20 years old that addresses the perhaps less-than-stellar outcomes for potential teachers graduating from our nation's (and, yes, our state's) schools of education. It requires two years of substantial effort to complete the required portfolio and complete the vetting process. One has to wonder why this two-year effort should not be part of getting certified in the first place, but, oh well.
  2. What would entice hard-working, underpaid teachers to complete this time-consuming process? Clearly, several years ago the South Carolina State Assembly asked this very question, having decided that NBCT's would improve SCs abysmal educational standards, not an unreasonable opinion. The answer it proposed and passed, at least for today's teachers, is $7,500 per year over a period of ten years (that's $75,000 for those of you who need a calculator to multiply) PLUS loans to pay for the process that are forgiven when the candidate completes the process favorably.
  3. Why does South Carolina rank third in the nation in NBCTs when it ranks fifty-first in graduation rates? Did you read the answer to # 2? For younger teachers, especially, $7500 per year means a rise in yearly income by 30 percent or more! Who wouldn't go for that?
  4. So, how is the consequence "unintended"? That's easy. Where do these NBCTs teach? Did the State Assembly attach any strings to its program of rewards for hard work? NO. Most of these teachers continued to work at the school from which they came if the school was a good environment to teach in, and those who now had a "ticket" out of bad environments bailed to good ones. Who could blame them? That means that state resources are moving from"high-needs" schools (I'm using the latest jargon here) and sent to high-performing schools once again, thanks to this brilliant strategy that probably originated with our state department of education.
  5. Why don't we get a breakdown of NCBTs by school? It would be too embarrassing for CCSD to publish. I mean, what if it shows that 50 percent of Wando High School's faculty is board-certified compared to one percent of Burke's? (I'm making these figures up, of course, although they might be not far from the truth.)
  6. Why does the NEA's associate director of teacher quality think that "strings" requiring NBCTs to teach in "high-needs" schools are '''stupid policies'"? Umm, pandering to her constituency, perhaps? Carmon says that what Georgia did on this very question--"tying the supplement ... to a requirement to teach in high-needs schools" won't work. SHE says "money is not the trigger" to get good teachers into those schools. Really? What's her evidence?
  7. Why do a few NBCTs remain in the poor schools they were teaching in before? Actually, those are the saints, such as Barbara Hairfield, who was the ONLY NCBT at Alice Birney Middle School (maybe my statistics aren't off so much in # 5 above after all!) and is now (God bless her!) at Brentwood Middle School, which probably is the most difficult school for teachers in CCSD.
  8. And, the $64 question: Why is the NEA holding these "summits" (six counting South Carolina's) now? Ms. Carmon tips the careful reader off to that one! It seems that Georgia has just changed its policy in order to get more NBCTs into "high-needs" schools--in fact, every teacher certified after July 2006 must teach in one of these schools in order to get the 10 per cent salary supplement. The handwriting is on the wall.
  9. That's right--South Carolina is soooo much wealthier than Georgia that each NBCT gets $7500 regardless of salary. In order for a teacher in Georgia to get that much she would need a base salary of $75,000! Not too many of those, I suspect.
  10. Can we use some common sense here? The local school districts need to plan to encourage teams of NBCTs to teach and mentor at low-performing schools.

We don't need a summit to figure that one out! CCSD, that's PLANNING ...