Friday, June 29, 2007

Progress on District 20 Charter High School

Today's P & C grudgingly notes the approval of the proposed plan for the Charter High School of Math and Science (with a story tucked beneath Thomas Ravenel's rehab on the obituary page).


The charter school plan is well on its way to approval by the state board. Minor clarifications need to follow, but obviously the elephant in the room is the use of the former Rivers Middle School building. According to Courrege, "Park Dougherty, chair of the charter group, said the requested information was supplemental and wasn't concerned about whether the school eventually would gain county board approval. 'The public engagement was such a strong vote of support to be at Rivers that we feel good about our chances of the board allowing us to operate at Rivers,' he said."

Being optimistic is good, but now is the time to bring any possible pressure to bear on Nancy McGinley and the CCSD School Board for a positive outcome in July when she makes her recommendation.

Decisions have ignored public opinion before, especially in District 20!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Jerry, We Hardly Knew Ye!

Tonight's Channel 5 News reported the departure of Jerry Adams as Communications Director for CCSD, confirming some prior speculation from commenters on this blog.

Well, maybe now Jerry can say what he really thinks. Or, maybe not, if he wants a job recommendation.

Jerry, we hope you will continue to play "Devil's Advocate" for us once in a while. It's been educational.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

CCSD: We've Got the Power

So CCSD board member Arthur Ravenel, Jr., using a memo drafted by Greg Meyers, pulled political strings to gut the district's constituent school boards, a major component of the Act of Consolidation. What a surprise. And at the last minute prior to adjournment the state legislature surreptitiously agreed to a provision subtracting those boards' power to approve principals and teachers. Another surprise. Gee, this couldn't have anything to do with Fraser, could it? And, to the pleasure of his Sullivan's Island neighbors, Gov. Sanford signed it. Really.

AND the CCSD School Board has awarded resources to Memminger Elementary instead of Charleston Progressive--does anyone notice a pattern here?

Yes, they're playing hardball at CCSD. Slam those who dare to disagree with their policies and actions.

It's not going to work.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Veto! Veto the High School Coaches' Dream Bill!

Do it!

The P & C reports today that Governor Sanford is considering vetoing the "school choice" bill passed by the state legislature. On its face, the bill sounds reasonable; it's the predictable effect that is monstrous.

This bill is a coach's dream. No longer will Summerville High School's coaches need to figure out surreptious ways to get players from other districts eligible to play on its football team (and we know that practice has been going on for decades). Multiply that effect all over the state.

The bill masquerades as school improvement. Yes, it will improve certain athletic teams but not academics. Does anyone believe that, say, the ordinary student from Burke or North Charleston High will be any more able to transfer in to Wando? Wando will say it's full. Will the ordinary student at Wando desire to transfer to Burke or North Charleston other than to play on their athletic teams or escape expulsion? Show me.

The bill is a cockeyed answer to growing pressure for allowing true school choice. It gets pressure off politicians but creates even more problems for students. It is also likely to encourage re-segregation of schools, just as CCSD's liberal intra-district transfer policies have done in the past.

Why would new Superintendent Jim Rex advocate its passage? When has any state school superintendent advocated REAL change?

Please, Governor, do all South Carolina's students a favor!

UPDATE: Yessss! He did it! Thanks to Gov. Sanford and, one hopes, not enough votes to override the veto, South Carolina will be spared this bill that would illustrate the law of unintended consequences!

Monday, June 18, 2007

NAACP: Wearing Mental Blinders

Protesting that they "had no idea" that Monday was McGinley's first day on the job as superintendent, the NAACP and Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance rallied yesterday before the former Rivers Middle School to insist that CCSD not allow a charter high school on its premises. You have to wonder just whom they think they represent. How many of the participants in yesterday's rally actually live on the penninsula? NAACP President Dot Scott doesn't.

Many statements made to the media (and this was an event staged solely for the benefit of media coverage) are simply untrue. Channel 5's reporter even was told that the building should not be used, that "nothing needs to be done with it." Channel 5 was also told that the "School Board has proposed making it into a District 20 charter school." Would that it were so! The truth is that the NAACP was caught flat-footed by the groundswell of community support--both black and white--in evidence at last month's meeting on proposals for Rivers.

Dot Scott's remarks to Channel 5 (reported on its website) become increasingly disingenuous. First, she practically states that the school will become a private one and then suggests it will end up like Beaufort Academy. The latter is not, nor does it appear ever to have been, a charter school; it is a private school, pure and simple. She also suggests that, contrary to state law, the school will become one for the privileged and white. Why does she continue to ignore the obvious community support among black residents on the penninsula for the charter high school? Why is she ignoring state-mandated requirements for charter schools that will prevent such an outcome?

Scott's statement in today's P & C calls for those who are "really serious about diversity" to "choose [Burke High School]." Just exactly what does she have in mind here? Burke is a failing school because it has been run by CCSD; that continues to be the case. Maybe Scott should consider starting a movement to turn Burke into a charter school. Except, of course, state law would require it to be "diverse." She really doesn't want that.

James Island Charter High School uses a public school building. Scott would like readers of the P & C to believe that it's not fair for another charter high school to similarly use a public school building. Nonsense. In fact, since Rivers was originally the name of a high school, let's bring back the old name.

Rivers Charter High School. Now, doesn't that sound good?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Why Problems at Murray Hill Academy?

As the late congressman Everitt Dirkson from Illinois used to say: "A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." Actually, he probably said "billion," but fortunately CCSD doesn't YET fall in that ballpark.

What's happening at Murray Hill Academy (i.e., the Discipline School) doesn't make sense. No one in his or her right mind would question the need for such a school in CCSD, but its $9 million building will not hold the projected 432 students next year. The five-year contract to run Murray Hill Academy (previously known as the Discipline School) of over $3 million per year has been negotiated down to 328, approximately the number attending at the end of this school year.

Community Education Partners (CEP), the Tennessee-based private company that runs the school, has similar schools in Houston, Atlanta, and Orlando that do not appear to have suffered from revolving principals, high staff turnover, and extremely high dropout rates (200 out of 533 assigned this year). So what's different here?

Certainly the students in CCSD aren't harder cases than those in the urban districts listed above. Those schools must be faced with the same problems of expulsion, dropping out, and alternative home or private schooling that Courrege's article in today's paper attributes to the high dropout number.

Then there's the question of staff turnover and placement. CCSD cannot complain about lack of teacher certification when CEP clearly states it will use other qualified professionals when appropriate. However, if CEP did not provide a full-time mental health counselor as promised, did that shortcoming affect the contract? And then, why was it necessary to replace CEP's choice of principal in the middle of the year with a consultant from CCSD (and former Burke High School principal)? If the school "culture has been restored," as the director of CCSD's Office of Prevention and Intervention suggests, what made it go south in the first place?

CEP points out that the mix of students at Murray Hill differs from its other schools, but CEP deals with the students sent it by CCSD, so THAT phenomenon means that CCSD has selected a different mix. Was that the plan originally? Did CCSD have such a backlog of students needing expulsion that the mix this last year was skewed? Are "low-performing students with behavior problems" not being recommended to Murray Hill by CCSD unless they are on the verge of expulsion? Surely the school could be filled to the brim with them, if CCSD so desired. What percentage of Brentwood's students do you think would qualify? The selection process seems flawed--that's CCSD's management.

The P &C briefly mentioned "missing academic goals" as a concern regarding the program's effectiveness. Well, how do its academics compare to previous incarnations of "discipline schools"?

And why mix males and females together in the classroom if CEP's model calls for separation? Obviously, if CCSD wants to emulate the successes of other CEP schools, it should follow their model.

As for its previously having an average of 27 students per class, that number strikes me as rather high. Is that what CEP had planned for or what CCSD insisted upon? No one in CCSD is saying that CEP isn't following CCSD's lead.

So, who has the management problem?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bluejays Endangered? NIMBY

Diving from the tallest trees pretending to be hawks to scare off the house finches and cardinals, bluejays daily decimate the seeds in the carefully-filled birdfeeders in my backyard. Nevermind that the P & C reported today that their numbers are down 50 percent since 1967. Not in my backyard!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Long Goodbye: Maria G-J Part 2

Two parting revelations from Goodloe-Johnson today in Courrege's softball interview in the P & C:
  • G-J doesn't "have any failures"--she has "lessons."
  • And she believes that her "media treatment" has "been good. And at times when they stepped out of line, I just let them know and dealt with it and it was done. So that was good."

Stepping out of line? "It" was done? Who called the shots at the P & C anyway?

One "lesson" perhaps could be to learn to admit her mistakes. She'll need to work on that one in Seattle.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Maria's Parting Thoughts

For a change most of my information comes not from the P & C but from an interview granted to Katie Crawford of WCSC-TV. You can log on to a video of the interview through Channel 5's website or through

For someone in Charleston for barely a year, Crawford does a decent job of asking the right questions; however, she can't pin Goodloe-Johnson to specific answers on some issues of interest to readers of this blog, partly because G-J wasn't going to answer and partly because Crawford doesn't know enough yet about the CCSD's history.

For example, Crawford asks G-J about whether constituent school boards should continue or be abolished. G-J never directly answers except to say that no measure at this time shows they are effective. Neither addresses why constituent boards were created in the first place and whether that reason still exists. I'm sure Crawford doesn't know.

Although seeming unaware of Principal Sallie Ballard's manipulation of the lottery, Crawford does try to press G-J regarding parents' using false addresses to attend Buist. G-J would not answer if anything will ever be done about these students, although she essentially admits that they do exist. Instead, she uses the old "everybody has always done it" as cover while positing that all schools should have the resources that Buist does.

Well, that'll happen soon. About the same time these students get expelled from Buist, I guess.

G-J also reveals her naivete by suggesting that Charleston is a very segregated city where old attitudes die hard. As opposed to Corpus Christi where she came from four years ago? Yeah, right. Old attitudes there [read "prejudice] are between Mexican-Americans and whites; the schools had been segregated previously--white separated from Mexican. Virtually all of the black students in the city (and there are very few) attend the same failing high school with mostly Mexican students in a poorer area of the city. Mexican-American students won't speak Spanish to each other at school because they think it shows they are lower class. Part of the reason G-J left Corpus undoubtedly is that she knew she wouldn't advance because she wasn't Mexican-American. If she had been white, she wouldn't have advanced because she wasn't Mexican-American.

Crawford does manage to get G-J to admit, after some fumbling around, that basically she wants ANYTHING except a new charter high school at the Rivers Middle School building. Her attitude comes as no surprise, except perhaps to Rev. Darby, at least judging from his last op-ed piece. She was very defensive of Burke, stating that at last it had the right leadership in Benton, but didn't she appoint the previous principals as well?

Finally, G-J's comments about the state's funding of school districts speak to her ignorance. In the P & C's op-ed farewell, she says, "Let's determine what it takes to fund public schools and then allow the state to figure out where the money will come from." Allow?

Can YOU picture individual school districts' telling the legislature how much money to give them and the legislature's saying, "Oh, yes? You need $20, $30, $50 million more? Why didn't you say so before?"

It doesn't work that way, Maria, and you know it. And the 13 districts (like CCSD) getting less from the state were previously spending MORE than the other districts (that are now getting the difference). They called it the "Robin Hood Law" in Texas. But you already knew that. It just wasn't politic to say.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

CCSD: Everybody Else Does It

What part of "kickbacks" does Don Kennedy, CCSD's financial officer, not understand? Apparently, he never met a kickback he didn't like.

Part of the P & C's campaign to return to the good graces of CCSD (and probably Joe Riley) is a front-page followup on the solicited funds that paid for Goodloe's farewell party.

According to Kennedy, "Companies that win major contracts with the Charleston County School District have been subject to requests from district officials for donations for school-related activities for years. Vendors for the district could be asked for donations several times in a school year." Kennedy goes on to extol the benefits of those contributions to the school community.

This story gets better, though. Kennedy admits that CCSD "doesn't have records . . . and no one monitors the requests or donation receipts." So, as I understand it, this is "off the books" money? Does anyone wonder how much is involved besides me?

Either quite naive or disingenuous, Kennedy claims that "donations play no role in whether the companies win lucrative contracts." He also defends the practice by saying that it "preceded his working with the district" and isn't "'unique to Charleston County.'"

An important question for SMG Chairman Bill Wiseman, whose firm contributed and has $241.5 million in contracts with CCSD, was NOT asked (or at least not reported): how or if SMG reports such contributions in its income tax returns. Needless to say, Wiseman "did not see the donations as a conflict." In fact, he's quoted as saying that :the only time the company avoids giving money is when a contract is pending." Right. When a contract is pending, CCSD can't remember if SMG has ever contributed to the district.

The comments solicited from district officials in Berkeley County and Dorchester District 2 reveal another can of worms, folks. While Berkeley claims not to solicit on a regular basis, it also doesn't know who's given what to whom. Dorchester District 2 says it "doesn't pay attention" to contracts when "soliciting partnerships or resources." The article did not clarify the attitude of its business manager, Allyson Duke, on the practice of donations, but she apparently does not have records of them.

The most egregious example of a kickback is the $6000 to CCSD from SSC Service Solutions, more than 10 times the amount provided by the other two contractors. Don Kennedy and its spokesman, Bill Steward, would have us believe that gift was unconnected to the expiration of its $24 million contract next summer. Wiseman's memory is fuzzy over how much has been donated in the past 25 years. Again, my question: how is the company reporting this $6000 on its income tax returns? How does CCSD plan to report it; or, maybe I should say, does CCSD plan to report it, if it doesn't keep track of donations?

Everyone can understand a local school's soliciting funds for extras, but let's think about what abuses can arise from the process if it is not monitored or recorded.
  • The district receives funds unrecorded on its balance sheets.

  • Contributions theoretically can influence awarding of contracts.

  • Schools with "contacts" will receive an inequitable share not reflected in the figures shown by district accounting.

  • Lack of oversight tests human nature's desire to get an edge on the competition.

We should use common sense, as Ron McWhirt is quoted as saying.

  • Donations over some minimum amount, say $50, should be recorded and reported to the district.

  • The district should keep records, public records, and include such donations on its balance sheets.

  • And those who award contracts should not solicit nor accept funds from potential contractors.

These policies (with the appropriate adjustments) can be put into effect for the coming school year. All it takes is the will to do it!

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Contrite P & C Manufactures Puff Piece

Bill Hawkins, executive editor of the Post and Courier was properly contrite this morning. Oh, you won't find his name on Courrege's puff piece about Goodloe-Johnson's speaking at two graduations this week. No, the payback for being critical of the contractor-paid farewell party in an article on the front page last week (see June 2nd post here) was to mend district fences with a contrived "news" piece.

What was the news, you ask? There wasn't any, but since principals at "two of the district's most troubled high schools" had asked Goodloe-Johnson to speak at graduations, the occasion lent itself to Courrege's highlighting G-J's "accomplishments."

What accomplishments? Let's see. According to the salutatorian of North Charleston High, who doesn't even know G-J, " The superintendent motivated and cared about her and her classmates, . . . and the superintendent did all she could to make her school better academically. 'It's like we're her children.'"

According to Courrege, "The schools were among those in most need of help in Charleston County, and she was their champion." In support of that statement Courrege points out that G-J managed to prevent the state takeover of Burke a few months ago. Does she also point out that, of the more-than-a-dozen other high schools also facing takeover, NONE was selected? In fact, the state made a point of NOT taking any over. Is anyone sure that this non-takeover was the result of G=J's actions and/or a solution? Not me.

Burke principal Charles Benton, who owes his job to G-J, was quoted making the proper noises, and a Burke junior who had been treated to special "lunch dates" with G-J gushed her thanks.

The P & C provided the same puffery in its coverage of the North Charleston ceremony, stating that "[North Charleston High] isn't the same as it was two years ago; it's safer and stronger academically." Where is Courrege's evidence that the school is "safer and stronger academically'? Missing in action.

Oh, its principal thanked G-J for being "a supporter, cheerleader and advocate of the school"(her job?) and said that G=J "talked at faculty meetings and assured them [faculty?] she understood their challenges and that their school was not failing. She led a pep rally to motivate students before they took important standardized tests." However, this flattery is not evidence that the school has improved, although I sincerely hope it has.

It seems that editor Hawkins received many nasty emails regarding the original front-page story. As he wrote on his blog of June 4th, "The gist of the e-mails is that we weren’t being fair to Goodloe-Johnson, as this was a practice that apparently started with the farewell party for her predecessor, Ron McWhirt." He went on to echo my posting of June 2nd on that issue (hmmm).

Now, I agree that if the P & C didn't cover the previous party in the same manner, it could be interpreted as unfair to G-J. What's needed now is some investigation of who contributed to the cost of McWhirt's party and what they expected (or got) in return.

THAT would be useful information. Let's send Hawkins some emails. He can be reached at

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

First Anniversary!

1878--Pancho Villa is born; 1967--the Six-Day War begins; 1989--Solidarity defeats the Communists in Poland; and 2006--the Newsless Courier appears!

On June 5th, in an amazingly simple move guided by my computer-savvy son (although I soon realized I could have done it alone), I began to comment on line about the "South's Oldest Daily Newspaper." Clearly, a certain amount of arrogance might have driven me to such an extreme, but actually, it was annoyance.

The P & C's coverage of various items had been driving me crazy ever since I moved back to the Charleston area from Texas. The Caller-Times had been such a horrible excuse for a newspaper that I looked forward to better journalism. Well, the P & C probably is slightly better, but either it improved in retrospect, or it has declined in quality since I last read it on a regular basis. So, that first posting, prompted by an article like many others to come, presented my questions (and opinions) concerning the ParaPro and TAs in CCSD.

People write because there is something that they find important enough to write about. Over the last year my postings have ranged from CCSD to traffic to NCAA high school diploma mills to illegal aliens to global warming to Anglicans, but my focus and commenters keep me coming back to education.

What has pleased me the most is finding a community of like-minded people. I would hope that the Newsless Courier can continue to function for its community as (in no particular order) lessons in history, bulletin board, listening post, call to action, place to blow off steam, and force for positive change. What has happened so far reminds me in a small way of the Russian Revolution--of 1989, not 1914. Opponents of the Soviet regime found each other and successfully coordinated their information and actions through access to fax machines!

Let's do it with the Web!

Monday, June 04, 2007

CCSD: James Island Charter and Sour Grapes

Just out of reach but sooo enticing! Those are the grapes just out of reach of the fox in Aesop's fable, just as the $4 million reserve created by James Island Charter High School is just out of reach of CCSD. Drat! They can even see it just over the Ashley River.

According to Don Kennedy and CCSD board members, who can't get their hands on the charter school's reserve, those are SOUR grapes; at least the analogy seems appropriate for remarks reported in yesterday's P & C. Some CCSD board members are "rais[ing] their eyebrows and asking questions about oversight."

Is this a joke? Hillery Douglas thinks the reserve is "ridiculous" and accuses the charter school of "squirrelling away millions of taxpayer dollars without input from elected boards who oversee spending." Yes, Hillery, that's true. You can't (thank goodness) oversee what the charter school does with its funds; the state does that.

In another example of reporting only HALF of the story, Courrege stated that the "state funding requirement for charter schools allotted James Island High over $3 million more the year after it converted to a charter school." Yes, that's because the district was forced by state law to give JICHS as much as it was doling out to its non-charter high schools. The purpose clearly is to prevent school districts from starving out charter schools. In this case it ended the diet that JICHS had endured over a number of years. No wonder they wanted a charter high school.

Now the district seems to think that the charter school is SAVING TOO MUCH MONEY. Guffaws must have been echoing all over the Lowcountry when taxpayers read THAT complaint.

James Island Charter High School is making the district look bad. CCSD and its Board of Trustees can't do anything about it. That's all that's going on here.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Front Page News! CCSD's Conflict of Interest

Wow! What a pleasant surprise this morning to see on the P & C's front page coverage of CCSD that wasn't a puff piece extolling district administration. I almost wondered if the editors had been reading my blog.

Friday night was Goodloe-Johnson's going-away-party at the Charleston Yacht Club, but going away wasn't the focus of the article. No, it focused on "three recipients of multimillion- dollar contracts with the Charleston County School District [who] collectively contributed $7,000 for" the party. Goodloe-Johnson was not amused. She must have been shocked to get probing questions from Courrege: in fact, she called such questions "'tacky'." That's as in "lacking good taste"?

Most people would call these contributions kickbacks; they have nothing to do with good taste but are, in some corrupt circles, considered a cost of doing business. The biggest contributor to the party's costs provides custodial services to three-fourths of the constituent districts. It has a multi-million dollar contract that could be extended, especially if it's nice to the administration. Two other companies are "construction management firms for the district's building program." Their "program management" fees total about $17 million over the next few years. What's a minor payment when so much is at stake?

And Don Kennedy's defense: "most of the district's major contractors make donations to the district. School officials who work with the companies asked them to give money for the event."

Well, that's clear, then. Those donations CERTAINLY couldn't be considered kickbacks!

And to cement the soundness of the practice, Kennedy pointed out that the district did the same for Ron McWhirt.

Oh, well then. If they did it in the past, it MUST be okay.

"Kennedy said the district doesn't solicit money from companies that could soon be submitting contract proposals to the district, and he didn't see the donations as a conflict."

Well, he wouldn't, would he? After all, he doesn't see it as a conflict of interest that he sits on the audit committee that selects the auditing firm that audits himself.

They must still be searching for the tattler who told Ravenel where the funds came from. Unfortunately, Ravenel, who chose not to attend as a result, was the only board member who did see the conflict, or as he said, "'It doesn't pass the smell test.' It's difficult for companies that do business with political entities to turn down requests for money for events."

Well, duh. I wonder what the other board members thought.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Op-Ed Pages: Where CCSD Cronies Opine

Todays' P & C Op-Ed page showcases a complaint about CCSD's $77,000 meeting to discuss utilizing the vacant Rivers Middle School building.

Oops! Sorry, I didn't mean to mislead you--the complaint wasn't about the ridiculous COST of the meeting.

Here in his own words--

One-sided input on charter school
Friday, June 1, 2007
The Post and Courier's lead editorial of May 27 urged the Charleston
County School District to house the proposed Charleston Charter School for Math and Science on the former Rivers Middle School campus, and did so under the headline: 'Encourage community input by advancing charter school.' The writer noted the significant and diverse attendance at a recent public forum held by the school district at Burke High School to discuss the issue and noted that the proposal with the most support was for exclusive placement of the charter school on the former Rivers Middle School campus.

So far so good, Rev. Darby, although you make the reader think that "most support" might be a bare majority when the majority was overwhelming.

I attended the meeting and since have spoken with attendees who don't support the proposal and who left the meeting feeling it was geared to achieve the outcome noted above.

Surely you jest! You mean that Harvey Gantt and Maria Goodloe-Johnson engineered groups to support the charter high school? What planet are you on?

Based upon those conversations,

with an unknown number of unnamed persons

I urge the school district to carefully consider its options and gain more objective and balanced input

that would be advocating NOT supporting the charter high school in any way whatsoever

before reaching a final decision.

not to allow the charter school into Rivers Middle.

I agree that community input is crucial and would make some strong suggestions to the school district in seeking community input. The first suggestion is to be clear in intent. The publicity leading up to the public forum indicated that it would be a time for community input but made no mention of the process

You mean that the "process" of input needs to be spelled out in advance to get some community members to show up? Don't tell me CCSD has never used this process before.

or that there would be any kind of vote on any proposed options.

That's called input. Probably the most objective kind to come from such a meeting. Would you be complaining if the vote had gone as you wished?

Had that critical information been shared, it's very likely that many more citizens would have attended to express their opinions by voting.

Face it: there is no enthusiasm in the community for your point of view.

What happened instead was the equivalent of holding a mayoral candidates' forum and then informing those in attendance that the next mayor would be elected by a vote at the end of the forum.

No. The vote did NOT decide who the next mayor would be, sorry, what would be done with the Rivers building. An equivalent scenario would be a candidates' forum followed by a vote to be considered as another piece of information before APPOINTING a mayor.

The second suggestion is that preparatory information be shared in an even-handed and public manner. The five options presented were not widely publicized prior to the forum.

They were if you paid attention.

I noted when listening to the group reports, however, that those who support using the Rivers campus for the charter school seemed to express the same pros and cons on the proposed choices in each of their groups.

Maybe because those pros and cons made sense to a great number of attendees, and charter-school supporters have had months to marshal their facts?

Since four of those choices were only presented on the night of the forum, it made me wonder if the Charter School's supporters were privy to information that was not made available to all interested parties.

Oh, that's right. It's a conspiracy. The charter-school supporters have a secret line to Goodloe-Johnson. She has only pretended to be against them every step of the way, just for your benefit!

The third suggestion is to see that facilitators in future discussion groups are familiar with the full scope of the issue.

"The full scope of the issue"--being unnamed, of course.

Some of the facilitators were not, which led to needless and time consuming debates on 'side issues' rather than on the merits of each proposed option.

Who decided what the unnamed "full scope of the issue" was, Rev. Darby? You?

The goal of facilitation, in fact, seemed to be not to prompt earnest dialogue, but to reach a speedy end without having to face pointed questions.

Sorry, but isn't that ALWAYS the goal of CCSD's public meetings?

The afore stated concerns and eventually predictable outcome made many of those who attended the forum feel that it was an exercise in futility.

Many whom I spoke to

Such as Dot Scott

felt that our mayor and other political and business leaders, who wrote letters endorsing the charter school placement on the Rivers campus, simply made up their minds to make that happen and that the forum was crafted only to provide some shred of justification.

There being no OTHER justification?

In that light, the promises regarding the well-being of Burke High School

Haven't you fully supported the district's treatment of Burke High School?

sadly seemed like the kind of window dressing that's usually presented before questionable decisions are made to tamp down dissent.

I assume you meant "window dressing to tamp down dissent," one of CCSD's [and the school board's] greatest talents.

As a Charleston resident of eight years standing,

Well, Rev. Darby, you had me fooled. I assumed you were a leader from the long-benighted downtown communities ill-served by CCSD. I never realized you were an outsider, not having attended CCSD schools yourself! And you may live in Charleston, but don't you live in West Ashley? Did YOU send your children to Distraict 20 schools?

I won't at all be surprised to see the proposed Charleston Charter School for Math and Science placed in the former Rivers Middle School building. I've learned that when the powers that be here set the table, they usually get their way.

That would be the "powers that be" almost everywhere, not just here, Rev. Darby. But it depends on who you think the "powers that be" are. Are you implying that the mayor and business leaders run CCSD?

I still hope, however, that the school district will hold another forum with clearly stated intent, proper sharing of information and well prepared facilitators.

Are you suggesting that Harvey Gantt's expertise, for which he was paid $77,000, was inadequate? Why are his name and that of Goodloe-Johnson not mentioned in your piece? Weren't they responsible for the meeting?

One supporter of the charter school's placement on the Rivers campus frankly stated that her concern was a matter of trust in the school district.

Who wouldn't agree with that? Oh, I guess Buist parents.

I share her concern, but from a slightly different angle. For those without influence and privilege in our community, trust is a rare commodity because of past decisions that only benefit certain segments of our community.

Right. That would be, for example, Buist admissions and resource policies versus those of Charleston Progressive. You're confused about who "those without influence and privilege in our community" include.

When we get beyond that sad trend

i.e., ingrained policy

and make decisions for the good of the entire community

Now you're impugning the motives of charter-school supporters, black and white, as not for the good of the whole community.

and do so with clear intentions,

Again, what could be clearer than hoping to improve District 20 choices for all of its residents? Or are you suggesting that the real motive is to have an integrated high school on the penninsula? Horrors!

then 'community input' will be a valuable tool for progress and not simply a cursory, one-sided affair.

The Rev. Joseph A. Darby is senior pastor of Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church.

and a product of Columbia schools and vice-chairman of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, which clearly prefers that District 20 schools remain segregated.