Saturday, February 24, 2007

Buist Vacancies: Run That by Me Again...

Question # 1: Why do the Newsless Courier's stories on Buist Academy always raise more questions than they answer?
Case in point: "Buist Admission Policy Still Under Fire from Parents." See for particulars.

The Charleston County School Board recently "organized" the "Buist Academy Task Force" to address concerns [i.e., complaints] of downtown residents. Question # 2: Organized? As in "appointed" surely? [I'm always open to new meanings for words.]

Question #3: Do those on the Task Force have names and affiliations? Apparently not, since none are mentioned in the article.

The Task Force can't "reach consensus on any issue"? Question #4: And those issues have been what? Too scary to mention, I guess.

The "lottery drawing" will take place in a bigger room to accomodate those appointed to have "some oversight" to "boost confidence" in the process.


Pam Kusmider, the observer from the District 20 constituent board, is quoted as saying that trust in the "process" is lacking "in part because it's done through a COMPUTER PROGRAM"?

So, Question #5: what will the observers watch, a computer screen?

Since when are "drawings" done by computers? Doesn't the word "drawing" conjure up a large container filled with, say, plastic balls, and someone's hand reaching in to get one? Or, how about what we see on TV with the SC Education Lottery--you know, numbered balls that get sucked into tubes?

I admit to being gullible when I was younger. Maybe that's why I'm so skeptical now, but who provides the "computer program"? ARE we talking about lottery software? If the results appear strange, will the observers say, "The computer did it"?

Sorry, I lost track of how many questions I had, they were coming so thick and fast!

When you think that officials have not been forthcoming on an issue as concrete as where a student actually lives, can you imagine the finagling on testing of potential kindergarteners? I don't even want to.

Most mysterious of all are the 11 vacancies in the school's seventh and eighth grades. Say what? Doesn't Buist have long waiting lists for all its grades? No denial here either.

Now, I want to get this next part straight. Buist's principal has known since last August that 11 vacancies existed, "since the beginning of the school year," as the article states, but she hasn't "been able to find anybody who wants to enter the school in the middle of the year [italics mine]." [Note to editor: Why don't you question discrepancies like this one?]

Her "process" doesn't "often" get her "to the end of the waiting lists." Process? "the process she uses"? The only "process" that makes sense to me is her starting at the top of the list with 1; then going to 2; to 3; etc. Maybe her process doesn't begin until the middle of the year? Who knows?

As long as address verification, lottery selection, testing procedures, and results are the sole responsibility of the principal at Buist, with no oversight from disinterested parties, rumors and anecdotes concerning the abuse of selection processes for this outstanding school will not go away. If the Charleston County School Board really wanted to fix the problem, it could.

As a saavy politician once remarked, "Trust but verify."


Anonymous said...

I just read your "About me" blurb. For a teacher, your grammar sure is poor. I'm glad I don't have kids in your class. Wando, right? Worth remembering.

I noticed "reporter" isn't listed under your experience. Given that, where do you get off saying what a reporter should or shouldn't have done? It's easy to mock after the fact. Could you have reported the story better given the same time? I doubt you understand a single facet of what goes into newspaper reporting. How could you?

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. You need to get out more.

Anonymous said...

I don't care what the first comment writer thinks of the messenger; if the message is clear (there's a real scandal going on with CCSD's coverup at Buist) who care about the imperfections of the messenger. What about the imperfections of an entire public school system we have been told to trust to the point of blind loyalty?

Babbie said...

To anonymous #1--First of all, please point out to me the mistakes in grammar. I would be glad to learn from your "expertise." Perhaps you expect a formal composition each time I blog. What Alexander Pope said rings true: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

Second, what makes you think I teach at Wando or have ever taught at Wando?

And third, your argument regarding how I don't "understand a single facet of what goes into newspaper reporting" is what's known as the "straw man." You don't like the facts, so you build up the case that only a "reporter" could know what needs to be said.

The stones, if any, that I am throwing are aimed at a failed educational system. My aim is at those who stand in the way of improving it, not at those who report about its failures.

Your attack is simply evidence that I hit some of my targets.

Anonymous said...

The P&C education reporters are obviously sitting on their investigations about the vacancies at Buist. They will tell you that it's because they can't get anyone at CCSD (Jerry, Janet, et c.) to return their calls about CCSD’s “official” side of the story. When they do print something it always leaves the reader more confused. They have finally confirmed the information that parents are waiting and vacancies have been reported. Is it possible that the newspaper itself is becoming part of this story? You have to ask if there is a disproportionate number of high level P&C employees who may have a stake in maintaining the status quo at Buist Academy. Is this one of the reasons that this story is being buried? So how many P&C employees actually have kids that attended Buist? Wanna be that of those that applied none were turned down?

Of course we can't forget that the P&C editor has openly supported G-J against all criticism, regardless of how indefensible the superintendent's behavior might be. Then there’s the communications officer for CCSD who is forever making statements like they can’t find any parents among the thousands on their “secret” waiting lists who are willing to transfer their child in the middle of a school year to the county’s best rated school. Then there’s the principal who says to the press that she has to follow a “process” for filling vacancies that have been open since the start of the school year. Yet the same principal won’t discuss the process of how she and the superintendent can truthfully verify specific addresses when an applicant’s stated legal residence is clearly unverifiable to almost everyone else.

Then there's the curious fact that virtually every PR firm, large law office and media conglomerate in the region have had their pockets lined for years with contracts, large and small, for services from CCSD. These strategically scattered deals have been distributed like seeds almost without regard for the bottom line costs to CCSD. Just how many of these scattered deals represent no real value to those in the classroom remain unknown. Even business and political groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the NAACP have all been given a stake in this through CCSD having woven so many financial ties to the income stream of many special interest non-profits. Many local civic groups now have a financial interest in maintaining the status quo within CCSD’s organization, even though the better judgment of their peers and parent organizations located outside of Charleston have taken a dramatically different position when asked about the wisdom of this blind support for such a large governmental agency.

Then there's the issue of just how many Buist Academy officials and parents are tied into the mayor's office. Consider that just the little issue of the upcoming municipal election may become part of this debate before next November. Some major campaign contributors of the mayor are also supporters of the status quo at CCSD. Some of them are either high profile East Cooper residents or major real estate developers with deep roots in Mt. Pleasant. The latter group's personal wealth has greatly depended upon continuing the rapid pace of residential growth in Mt. Pleasant where it's been nothing short of CCSD driven sprawl for most of the last 30 years.

Is it a coincidence that Mt. Pleasant is where CCSD chose some time ago to concentrate the major portion of Charleston's entire county tax base in support of schools in what was only one of eight constituent districts? Starting more than 30 years ago that policy fueled an otherwise isolated area's growing demand for increased school funding. That support and the growth it encouraged would be unmatched elsewhere in the county, despite the educational needs or the growth potential that might have been found anywhere else. New school construction and ensuring the public's perception of school quality at least for East Cooper residents is what has driven CCSD major focus for years. Maintaining these spending policies and the established status quo within CCSD are critical elements that have largely sustained real estate development profits East of the Cooper for years.

The Academic Magnet HS and Buist Academy, especially with the latter’s manipulated admissions process, have become critical parts of the safety valve that ensures support for CCSD among both politically important Mt. Pleasant residents and those "political desirables" who might live elsewhere (otherwise assigned to less successful or even failing schools). These are CCSD's "chosen ones" who are then given a free pass (if they want one) which allows their child (if they have one) to attend a CCSD sponsored excellent rated magnet school (otherwise described as a "lifeboat"). How indebted these parents become to CCSD officials and the status quo is anyone's guess.

East Cooper was certainly in need of support for its public schools, but did that justify the virtual starvation and abandonment of the public school programs elsewhere in the county? This question is especially important as we see the large number of failing schools now found downtown and in North Charleston?

Tell me that CCSD’s internal opposition to a charter high school for downtown isn't about real estate, money and power, because it certainly isn't about improving educational opportunities for inner city kids. A charter school in this case happens to represent a highly desirable opportunity for both white and black parents who are working together for this objective. It must be a scary thought for such a diverse group of parents to be essentially in a position to be beyond the control of CCSD and its bureaucracy. The fact that the powers-that-be are importing a Burke graduate with a briefcase (and incidentally the former Mayor of Charlotte) to cover CCSD’s attempt to leave Burke out of the loop in the creation of new educational programs that might otherwise help turn Burke's recent failures into a grand success. They would sacrifice Burke's future just to strangle a proposed charter high school while it’s still in its cradle.

What is it about CCSD officials who say one thing and do another that P&C reporters find so difficult to understand? They have something to hide. Investigative reporting is obviously not the P&C’s strong suit.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Babbie, Annon. #1 again. If your blog is aimed at the school district, why did you call it "Newsless Courier"? Why does your most recent post contain this line: [Note to editor: Why don't you question discrepancies like this one?]? Just read your "About me" blurb again and tell me I'm wrong.

You know nothing. You're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Instead of hiding behind this blog, post a recent picture of yourself. The newspaper prints pictures of columnists, and last time I checked, e-mails and phone numbers of all reporters. Why don't you do that? Is it because you don't want your bosses at Wando to know who you are? (I'll save that little "exclusive" for another day.)

Babbie said...

To anon #1- why are you hiding behind anonymous?

The Newsless Courier, for your information, has been the fond nickname for the Post and Courier since its days as the NEWS AND COURIER. Perhaps you are a transplant to the Lowcountry and are unaware of such things.

The note you mention WAS to the copy editor, not to the reporter. But that didn't fit your polemic about my shortcomings.

In fact, I'm aiming at anyone standing in the way of improving our schools, not just the school district.

I can hardly wait to see your *exclusive* on my teaching at Wando. That should be a real hoot.

By the way, you still haven't pointed out my grammatical errors.

Anonymous said...

hmm. anonymous #1 sounds suspiciously like someone with interest in the paper. employee ? backer ? why don't you tell us who YOU are, buddy...

and while you're at it, why don't you try to explain some of the discrepancies in the P&C's reporting, its endless number of blatant mistakes, or its seeming bias ?

i'll bet you don't have too much of substance to say about THAT.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your Blog. As someone that deals with the school district on almost a daily basis now it is nice to read things that people write who actually get it. Maybe anonymous #1 has something to gain from the Buist lottery that went off without out a hitch. CCSD seems to have won again or did they? I guess we will never know the extent of the violations that the CCSD continues to inflict on the kids of this county. How can they continue to say the things that they do with a straight face? I guess they don't need to look at themselves in the mirror everyday. No wonder Jerry's tie always looks so bad.

Chasparent said...

CCSD makes me sick. Buist officials and CCSD administrative staff have no shame. I was at the lottery yesterday and they obviously think they can get away with anything. Buist is run like a private school in every way. They even have a foundation that has a secret donor list.

Just one mile from Buist is the Charleston Progressive "magnet" school that is 100% African American. They have no foreign language and Buist has 4 full time foreign language teachers.

Dan Conover said...

Sunlight is the best disinfectant for the problems of public life. Transparency is the best policy for media outlets, bloggers and -- in this case -- exclusive public magnet schools. Named sources are more credible than anonymous ones.

I work for the paper and I disagree with much of what you write. That said, I think these are some good questions and they deserve answers. I have no idea what my colleagues are doing with this story, but I certainly hope they're working to address these issues. A good question is a good question is a good question.

For the record, I had a child at Buist once and I wound up quite disillusioned by the school's administration, its questionable policies and -- ultimately -- character. Buist has the potential to be a great school -- but it would benefit from a good scrubbing, the kind you only get by letting the light in.

Anonymous said...

Here are the members of the Buist Task Force for those of you who were unable to attend:
1) Nancy Cook (no introduction needed)
2) Hillery Douglas (same as above)
3) Gregg Meyers (HAAAA!!!!)
4) Thuane Fielding (Buist parent and Dist. 20 Board member)
5) Pam Kusmider (Dist. 20 Board member)
6) Nancy McGinley (didn't attend a meeting)
7) Wanda Sheats (Chas. Progressive Principal)
8) Diane Ross (Memminger Principal)
9) Jennifer Middleton (CCSD Teacher of the Year, did not attend)
10)Susan Cale (Ha! Need I say more?? Oh, yeah, she's still Buist PTA President for some reason)
11)Mario White (Buist SIC Chair)
12)Alan Hopkins (hmmmm...why is HE everywhere?)
13) Diana Ruttonsha (Dist. 20 community member)

needsmorelight said...

Among the 80 or so public schools in the county, would any other schools besides Buist rate the direct involvement in such 'task force' of 1/3 of the county board including its chair and vice-chair, 3 different principals, the director of communications, the director of stats, the superintendent and her immediate subordinate? There were 9 senior CCSD officials of the 18 people in attendance at the 1st meeting of this group. Why did the top brass all need to be there? Are they hiding something. What are they afraid the public might find out if they left the oversight of these questions about this school to mere mortals? I know, mere mortals might be inclined to tell the truth.