Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Answers Are Blowin' in the Wind

Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Think of me as someone who actually reads the newspaper every day. My source of local news, along with fleeting local TV newscasts, IS the Newsless Courier.

As someone who grew up in Charleston, graduated from the Charleston public schools, and returned after a long hiatus in other parts of the country, I want my "hometown" to be the best that it can be. Using a perspective of living in the Lowcountry years ago, information from family members who never left, and insight that only living and teaching in other cities can bring, I carefully read what the newspaper publishes on education, especially in regard to CCSD.

But, now I feel betrayed. Somehow I assumed that the paper was being straight with me. I discovered in my search for information that it actually had been sitting on relevant information. It was the Channel 4 website that clued me in.

It's in regard to these vacancies in the seventh and eighth grades at Buist. Channel 4 News apparently reported on February 1st that they existed and had existed since the start of the school year. Not surprisingly to me, I didn't catch that. But the Newsless Courier, this time deserving of its nickname, sat on the information until February 24th.

That's 23 days, otherwise known as three weeks, during which time I'm sure the 2000+ parents on Buist's waiting list (and my "guesstimate" of 100 who remained on the seventh-grade list) would have been VERY interested in that information.

What? Too much else was going on to report it? It didn't "fit"? It was no one's business?

This "oversight" had to have been an editorial decision.



Anonymous said...

You stated in an earlier response that you wanted to expose the short comings of the school district, but here you are again, knocking the newspaper.

I notice you never offer solutions.

The irony is that you get the fodder for your blog from the very newspaper you bash.

Anyone can come along after the fact and mock. The time to identify you is fast approaching.

Babbie said...

Please do, anonymous. I gather you believe strongly that the newspaper should never be criticized, only those who blog? "The irony is that you get the fodder for your blog from the very newspaper you bash." Yes, anonymous, that's exactly my point. If there were no "fodder," I wouldn't have anything to criticize!

Anonymous said...

Don't let anonymous bother you, notice he/she is not revealing who they are. It's the First Amendment!!!!

The newspaper does offer information some good information, why do you think that the editor sat on the information? Maybe waiting for a bigger story or the CCSD just didn't or wouldn't confirm the information in time. Could the education reporter be to blame? Probably not, after all one can assume that both the news and and the paper got the information at the same time or around the same time. Or being a Charlestonian you could assume that it's the well known but seldom talked about good old boy network.....
Maybe you should take a look at the well discussed Buist Directory?

You have a right to feel disappointed by the paper we all do.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting a smile on my face when I've felt like I'm banging my head against a brick wall.

a Post carrier said...

The lastest rumor in the wind is if they can't get the folks in Dist 20 to shut up they might jus' move ole Buist up to North Charleston. That'll make the 25th school, I tink, up thar in Cooper River. But those people in the North Area are oh so much more coopertive than the ones down in Dist 20. Dist 4 people do whatever misses tell 'em to do. Not like all those uppity folk down in the city. So how what percentage of this relocated Buist will they reserve for North Charleston kids? Give the failure of so many North Charleston schools, how many of these kids are really being prepared for admission to any one of the five magnet high schools now located in North Charleston? At least Dist 20 is going down fighting.

Anonymous said...

Hello. i heard about your site and thought I would take a look. As the director of communications for CCSD, I ALWAYS return calls from media and give direct and honest answers to their questions, despite what some anonymous detractors may say. I have not had information requests from bloggers, but will do what i can to reply to specific requests. You can find me at should you have questions as you seem to have interest in school issues and how we conduct ourselves. other media are limited by space and time to give my complete and unedited answers, but that should not be an issue for a blogsite which has unlimited space. Let me know.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Jerry, just go down to Wando High and ask for the teacher who "writes" this blog.

Anonymous said...

oh jeez. babbie must be churning today. a positive story about buist! or is her name really Babble??

anon said...

Saturday's P&C article is just a puff piece about Buist. Got to show balance. Let's report good instead of bad. Right Jerry? The P&C still hasn't reported about how, when or even if CCSD has filled the 11 vacancies in the 7th and 8th grades at Buist. That's an 11% vacancy rate for those grades with a couple of hundered still on those waiting lists. How can officials at Buist justify holding those seats open for so long and for whom?

Anonymous said...

CCSD here..

I will be happy to report everything i know about the vacancy situation and the process for filling them. all babbie need do is ask. nothing like facts to get in the way of hyperbole.

short answer -- many many people on the waiting list are/were contacted in order and given 10 days to decide. if they say no or can't be contacted, the next on the list are contacted. people move, change addresses and lose interest. remember they've been on the list many of them for eight years -- and the kid still doesn't walk in -- they have to have the qualifications. not to mention that many don't wnt to move their kid in the begining of the year and many others simply don't have the background for the course work. it all sounds so easy from the outside, but the devil is always in the details. cheers, anon, and have a good day!

and for the record, and in the interest of full disclosure, I was a reporter for the news and courier from 1978-1982, spent more than 15 years at SC's highest level of print and broadcast journalism and also published my own weekly newspaper before coming back to Charleston and this job in 2005. i know that side of things and have a broad perspective. and i do tend to babble!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't tell me the some of the kids in the predominately African Title one schools are not qualified for Buist.....The CCSD has a responsibility to educated these kids but fails to give them the same programs as they do everywhere else. Give me a break!!!!! I fail to recognize why the CCSD continues to ignore these kids. Oh wait I do, we all do. You just fail to admit it.

Anonymous said...

i did not say some of the children from the title one schools are not qualified to go to Buist, i said children on the waiting list had to pass the test and be academically qualified in order to enroll when a slot comes available. those are two different questions. step one is to apply for admission and get on the list. parents given the option to enroll do not always do so for reasons best known to themselves. i also believe ccsd is working hard to improve the quality of all downtown schools. sanders clyde, for instance, is getting much better while not attracting a diverse student body, which is another question entirely. it's also worth mentioning that per pupil spending at buist is about 7K while it's about 14k at sanders clyde.

Anonymous said...

Give us all a break Jerry. you have been asked for this information dozens of times by many people. Seventh and eighth grade students are already tested (with PACT and other standardized tests Buist is known to accept). You're making this up as you go along. The reason Buist and CCSD officials haven't filled these positions (at beginning of the year or even at mid-term) is they couldn't find anyone else on the lists they liked. Why don't you publish the waiting lists and then tell those people you tried to contact them? Your story doesn't hold water Jerry. You're a publicist, not a journalist. Too bad the local paper doesn't have any journalists either.

Anonymous said...

this is an old debate. the parents -- and their children -- have rights to privacy and their names are not public record and legally cannot be released. and personal attacks from the same tired and discredited enemies never work and always come across as shrill and imcomprehensible and have zero chance of effecting change.

i stand by the facts and my credibility, which are two things that some of the usual critics lack. fact is some of our biggest critics have passed up buist before. i am just waiting for Babbie -- or whoever authors this site -- to ask and I'll send her whatever she wants.

Anonymous said...

The tired old news is that whenever CCSD gets caught it uses student privacy as a way to cover its tracks. Students and their parents should have a right to privacy when they're not doing anything wrong. It also stinks when highly paid public school leaders claim privacy as the reason they won't reveal the names of those that have committed fraud and cheated others. CCSD uses this as a cover because the evidence trail for fraud leads right back to the same CCSD spokespeople. Why did P+C reporters avoid investigating this? The word of top school leaders just isn't to be trusted anymore. What about those Buist vacancies in the 7th and 8th grades? Were they filled this year or not? I know there must be some over crowded classes at Burke Middle where at least one or two students meet qualifications whose parents would love to have their kids get a shot at this opportunity. As for Mr. Adam's claim that some potential transfers with good test scores might lack the needed academic preparedness to transfer into Buist, what does that say about the quality of regular public schools in Charleston? What about it Mr. Adams?

Anonymous said...

give it a rest, henry. the law, the facts about buist and magnets are not on your side. neither is credibility. you do no better as an anonymous blogger than as as a minor member of a minor board as a small town mayor or as a self-proclaimed mold buster. you might fool some blog readers, but you'll never change buist.

Anonymous said...

Wrong. Guess again. You still didn't answer a single question yet.

Anonymous said...

whatever. it really doesn't matter whether you are henry or whether you are simply channeling him, but it's that level of discourse and logic and that is not the path to change. there's no disagreement that we need to improve all of our schools. the board built buist and would have to change it. the Buist task force meets again on March 20 you you are welcome to sit in, although we don't allow for anonymity but I suppose visitors could wear bags on their heads. :-) i have no real interest in debating anonymous people on-line but with a very few exceptions will talk directly with just about anyone and give straight answers to their questions. raising legitimate concerns about other downtown schools is an easy political debate, but that won't change the rules that govern Buist or the process for getting into the school. you have my same, email address and number. call or write me during normal business hours. and have a nice day!

Anonymous said...

Why are you then Jerry? Seems like you are more interested in protecting CCSD then helping kids.... Find a new Job, become a human.

Anonymous said...

Gregg Myers, Janet Rose Beale, the new IB director at Buist all manage to get their children into Buist off of the huge countywide list. It's astonishing. I wonder how Toya Green's daughter did in the lottery? At least she lives downtown even if she doesn't want to speak up for downtown.

Anonymous said...

.....short answer -- many people on the waiting list are/were contacted in order and given 10 days to decide. if they say no or can't be contacted, the next on the list are contacted.---CCSD spokesman Jerry Adams on this blog

Please do the math Mr.'s been 6-7 months since those children left their spots in 7th and 8th grade. Sallie Ballard clearly follows no written procedure or waiting list. According to a local TV news broadcast other classes at Buist had newcomers to the school in January 2007.

According to the Post and Courier and City Paper we know there were criminal issues with children in the middle school at Buist last year. Maybe that is why so many children left and perhaps that is why so many Buist kids failed to get into the Magnet High School this year. Were the 7th and 8th grade classes kept small because of all of the problems with that group?

We know from the Post and Courier last year that the bullying and death threats were not handled properly by Buist officials. Is Buist an unethical and toxic environment for children? Does the International Baccalaureate organization know about the ethical issues at the school?

Below is a letter from a Buist parent to the City Paper that was published last year. It is still available on the City Paper web site.

Home » Letters » Letters to the Editor

DECEMBER 14, 2005
LETTERS to the Editor


Let us dispense for the moment with truth, and right from wrong. Last month, three seventh grade girls were suspended from Buist Academy for making death threats in journals against a teacher, a teacher's aide, and a student, who was then permanently withdrawn from the school by his parents. The spokesman for the Charleston County School District condemned the students' behavior and said publicly that the three girls were facing expulsion. Fast forward a few days and a few high priced lawyers later, and everything was OK, mistakes were made, and it was all just "child's play." Not even a week later, the students were back in school at a motivational get-together party that only the parents of the three girls and the rest of the students were notified about in advance.

Kim Alsbrooks' recent letter "("Mere Child's Play, Dec. 7) was dead right about one thing, Sallie Ballard, the principal of Buist Academy. If she had called a meeting of the students, parents, and teachers involved and mentioned in the journal, we are sure it would all have been settled amicably and quietly. Instead, in an appalling lack of leadership, she chose to surround the whole matter in a veil of secrecy in hopes that it would all just sort of go away. The episode would have never reached the point that it did, the news media would have never followed the story, a police report would never have been filed, and the parents of the three girls involved would have never had to hire lawyers.

As the parents of one of the children mentioned in the journal, we were, and are, understandably concerned. When we called the school to inquire, Mrs. Ballard at first denied our child was in the journal, then admitted it, then laughed. After denying she had a copy of the journal for our inspection, she then proceeded to refer us to a nonexistent person at the school district offices on Calhoun Street. When we spoke with someone there, they also refused to allow us to see a copy of the journal. Mrs. Ballard then sent out a letter implying misinformation on the parts of certain entities, and then she scheduled the meeting that we referenced above, once again neglecting to inform us.

We have no axe to grind with Buist Academy. Mrs. Ballard can tell you that we have so far 15 years worth of children at Buist and have always supported the school.

There have been several articles and letters in your paper, and we initially thought to just let the whole thing go away. Paranoia it's not. Right from wrong? Your choice, we guess, depending on the way you were brought up.

Oh, and that party at Buist? The only thing missing, amid the clapping, '60s feel-good symbols, and clue words was the child who left because of the threats made against him. We guess he wasn't invited.

Anonymous said...

From the City Paper web site in late January (written by a Buist parent)

January 24, 2007
Buist Address Controversy Gets National Spotlight
What do you call a $200 penalty for using a false address to get your kid into Buist, Charleston County’s elite downtown academic magnet?

An application fee (badum-bum).

Buist’s application process caused headlines last summer when the District 20 Constituent Board obtained the incoming kindergartener list and found some families might not be residing at the downtown addresses that they had put on their applications. A downtown address increases a kid’s chances of getting in the school, since Buist reserves 10 of the 40 kindergarten slots for Dist. 20 families.

Now the Buist story has made the national news.

On Tuesday, an ABC News crew was at Buist filming a package to tentatively air on Thursday on ABC World News Tonight with a longer package to follow on Nightline. The reporter spent the day following interviewed the Krasnoffs, a District 20 family whose child had made it into this year’s kindergarten class. The reporter also conducted interviews with principal Sallie Ballard and captured the school as it went about its day (my second grader proudly announced that he was going to be on television after being caught by cameras several times).

The ABC report comes on the heels of a new district-wide address policy, which was passed 7-2 at Monday night’s school board meeting. The new policy would require parents to provide a signed affidavit that the address they are presenting to the district is their primary address. The penalty would be $200. David Engelman and Brian Moody opposed the measure.

Moody said that he didn’t like the idea of increasing the workload of school staff.

“I think our pledge to them was to reduce their burden,” he said.

Moody also questioned whether the new policy would do any good.

“The worst kept secret is that folks will figure out a way to get into the school they want,” he said.

Worst kept secret is right. Last year’s Buist directory is full of instances of kids’ official addresses being listed downtown when their classmates and friends know very well where they actually live. And the incoming kindergarten list was scrutinized last summer by the District 20 Constituent Board and the media, with several addresses falling under suspicion. Despite the firestorm, the incoming kindergarten list didn’t change too much, with lots more high profile children making it into the school (the offspring of one mid-90s rock star who lives in Mt. P made the cut).

Carol Aust, a District 20 parent who worked with the county board to develop the new rules, said she declined an ABC interview because the county had addressed the problem and she was ready to move on to other concerns.

While Sallie Ballard assured parents at a PTA meeting on Tuesday night that the coverage would be positive, we’re not so sure. An excellent school, a troubled school district, and anxious parents so desperate to get their kids into a good school that they’ll lie? Sounds like a recipe for a national skewering to this Buist parent. —Stephanie Barna

Posted at 05:20 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Anonymous said...

surprise, surprise Toya Greens daughter is in the top ten...... according to her she was elected by the county and not the constituents of District 20 so she is out for the county not her neighbors.

Anonymous said...

Jerry, Jerry, Jerry...
What are you DOING?
Do the "others" know you are identifying yourself and speaking on CCSD issues on a BLOG? Are you getting paid overtime? Surely this isn't in your "Director of Comunications" job description. Hey, Babbie, since Jerry said he'd give you "whatever you want," I think you should ask him for the current Buist directory. Buist parents get a directory every year...yet where is this year's directory? They're waiting for their directory so they can schedule playdates with their children's classmates and neighbors, Jerry.

Anonymous said...

I'm certain that when people cast their ballot for Toya Green last November they hoped that she would do something to help the downtown children. There is an educational apartheid in downtown Charleston.

It's an emergency situation. She can't hide her head in the sand and speak only for the district as a whole. This school system is too big for CCSD to manage. Who but the downtown elected official will look out for city kids?

Maybe if Mrs. Green had lived in Charleston a little longer she would realize that even some of us in Mt. Pleasant are concerned about what is happening downtown. As a politician she knew it was a countywide election but she was voted in to represent the city.

We have two East Cooper representatives on the County Board and no failing schools. Despite their shortcomings both Ravenel and Myers are obviously looking out for the children they represent in Mt. Pleasant.

Clisby said...

"short answer -- many many people on the waiting list are/were contacted in order and given 10 days to decide. if they say no or can't be contacted, the next on the list are contacted."

I hope this doesn't mean the process is:

- contact person 1
- wait up to 10 days
- contact person 2

That would be idiotic.

The process should be more like:

- Contact the first 25 on the waiting list, tell them there's one or more vacancies, and tell them they have 48 hours to decide if they want a slot.
- 2 days later, start with #1 of those 25 and tell them to take it or leave it. If they leave it, go to #2, then #3, etc.
- If none of the 25 want it, repeat.

Cartman said...

Who said CCSD was logical or fair?

Anonymous said...

(The following has been shared with the School Board will be posted Friday on the CCSD website. It is being reposted here as it clarifies last night’s answer on status checks of applicants prior to the lottery. Cheers. JA)

Following are frequent Questions and Answers regarding the recent public lottery to assign applicants to Buist Academy. The Charleston County School District received 227 applications for spaces at Buist Academy and candidates were assigned to one or more of these four groups – District 20 residents, residents in attendance zones of low-performing schools, siblings of current Buist students, residents of Charleston County. Ten kindergarten students will be selected from each of the four lists, with the children being tested for admission according to their order on the waiting lists as determined by the lottery.
Q. Is the computer program used for the lottery a simple random number generator or some other type of program?
A. The computer program generates random numbers.
Q. If random, is it truly random or pseudo-random?
A. It is random.
Q. Is the computer program "canned" or locally written?
A. The program is “canned.” It is called SAS, which stands for Statistical Analysis System. More information is available at the SAS website, which is The procedure we use is called “PROC PLAN” and is referenced in the SAS/STAT User’s Guide, Volume 2, Version 6, Fourth Edition.
Q. How long has it been used?
A. As long as there has been a lottery for Buist. This program also is used for other schools that require a lottery for admission, e.g. St. Andrews Elementary, Charlestowne Academy and Garrett Academy.

Q. Are registered applicants for each of the four lists checked for their status prior to the lottery?

A. Applicants are checked, but verification is done prior to enrollment. It is easy to delete students from the list if there are problems with residency.
The children’s names are placed on the appropriate lists based on the addresses used on their application. For instance, for the low performing school list, Constituent District staff identifies the school for which the applicant is zoned. School District staff then determines which applicants are zoned to low performing schools. School District staff also assigns applicants to the District 20 list based on the address submitted. Residential address verification comes later in the process, after a child has been tested and academically approved for entry into the school. School Board policy now requires an affidavit that the address is the applicant’s primary residence. For the sibling list, Buist Academy staff verifies sibling status.

Q. When are registry numbers assigned to the applicants?
A. We will define registry as the official list of applicants. The applicants are put on the registry list in the order in which their applications are received and applied to the appropriate list(s.) For instance, the 227 countywide applicants for the 2007-08 kindergarten class were numbered 1 through 227 with the order number assigned according to when the application was received. The 31 applicants from District 20 were assigned 1 through 31 using this same process, that is, they are added to the list as they are received. The process also was used for the 18 children on the sibling list and the 67 children on the lists for applicants from low-performing schools.
Q. When do the applicants find out their registry number?
A. There is no reason to give them this number.
Q. Who assigns the registry numbers, and how are the registry numbers assigned.
A. Either the CCSD director of assessment and accountability or her administrative assistant enters the names into an Access database when that office receives the applications.
Q. When the lottery program itself is run, who matches the generated numbers with the names on each list? Is it the same person or persons who assign the registry numbers?
A. Once the random numbers are generated, a neutral party, in this case, St. Andrews Elementary assistant principal Kelly Heath called out the numbers from the randomly generated list in order and the administrative assistant announced the name of the applicant whose name corresponded with name on the registry.
For instance, the District 20 list contained 31 names, so the computer program randomly sorted numbers 1 through 31. If the first number on that randomly generated list was 25, then applicant No. 25 on the list of applicants was given the No. 1 slot on the waiting list. That process continued through all 31 numbers. The same process is used for each list.
Q. What check in the system prevents cheating on matching names with numbers that are generated by the program?
A. This lottery was conducted before an audience and the news media in the Board Room at 75 Calhoun Street. Dr. Janet Rose, CCSD Director of Assessment and Accountability, conducted the lottery and explained the process. The drawing and matching of names was witnessed and monitored by Mr. Henry Copeland from the Constituent District 20 Board and by Ms. Joan Dehne of the League of Women Voters.
Q. Has an independent auditor ever certified the lottery results?
A. No, but we would welcome an outside auditor to verify the process.
Q. Has the school district considered having registered applicants sign a waiver so that lottery results may be made public?
A. No. Federal and state privacy laws protect many forms of personal information and we could not require people to waive those rights (or the names and privacy of their children) to apply for admission to one of our schools.

Anonymous said...

People are trying to be diplomatic and you are slapping them in the face. Do we need to get angry in order for you to treat these questions seriously? Your answers are a joke. Did Janet help you write them? Give me a break.