Thursday, November 29, 2007

CCSD's Wayward Bus

CCSD uses buses labeled with different names: Charleston County Schools, South Carolina State Schools, and Durham School Services. [See Please Explain the CCSD Bus Fleet! of August 30 & its 15 attached comments.]

I have a different question now:

What was a Durham School Services bus doing on Seven Farms Drive at 7:45 a.m. on a Thursday? That would be on Daniel Island in Berkeley County, CCSD!
Am I wrong? Does BCSD also use Durham School Services?
Update: Spotted again, this time at 3:15 p.m. on a Tuesday. Heading for Seven Farms Drive from the north side of Daniel Island, thus suggesting more than one student living on the island is being transported.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oops! We Forgot to Negotiate--Hillery Douglas

Hope you're ready to pay more in legal fees for the Charleston County Board of Trustees. The Board is moving full steam ahead to confront the Charter High School Committee's appeal to the State Board of Education over the rent issue, now scheduled for hearing on December 11.

Apparently, Charter School organizers, who must come equipped with the patience of Job, have been waiting since early October to get together with a committee from the CCSD Board to talk over differences. When no such meeting occured they had to fish or cut bait at Tuesday's deadline for its appeal.

Hillery Douglas, new Board Chairman, said that, well, they were supposed to meet. His solution is that he might "try this week to set up a meeting." That, of course, would be after the filing deadline. But then, what naif believed that the Board's committee planned negotiation in good faith with the Charter School proponents?

Douglas pouts that the "school is relying on legal arguments" that the "board hasn't had the opportunity to address"! He plans that opportunity for when hell freezes over, or at least the last possible moment on his delay-linger-and-wait agenda. That apparently is the next board meeting.

Meanwhile, CCSD's lawyers continue to rack up legal fees. Too bad we can't spend the money on education.

Which do you think the CCSD Board prefer: new charter schools or vouchers? They seem to believe that they can go on forever without either.

For a look at the Charter School's plans visit charlestonmathand

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"City on a Hill" Versus Seattle School District

For thoughts on the "first Thanksgiving," see Seattle's School District's Turkey of a Thanksgiving on The Past Is Not Over.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gadsden Green's Heroes

Mention Gadsden Green to Charlestonians and you are likely to hear complaints about the latest shooting or drug-deal--not about positive developments in this city-owned public housing complex. In fact, this week's local TV filmed mothers of six teens arrested for armed robbery complaining that their families should not be forced out of the complex because the crimes were caused by "peer pressure."

TV 5 News also quoted James Heyward, of the Charleston Housing Authority, as saying "The parents need to be held accountable for their children where they are and what they're doing. . . .We as the Housing Authority in accordance with state and local laws, have a right to remove families who are involved in criminal activity on or away from the property."

Amen to that, and thank you, Mr. Heyward! Gadsden Green has its heroes too.

In fact, recently the P & C focused on the successes of the Charleston Development Academy Charter School and its principal, Cecelia Rogers:

  • "founded in 2003 to serve economically and socially disadvantaged children who live in Gadsden Green, a city of Charleston Housing Authority project, and the surrounding area.
  • About 75 percent of the 105 students live in that area, and many others are the children of professionals who work downtown.
  • The school, in a retrofitted building at Gadsden Green, grew out of a tutoring project at Ebenezer [AME] that was designed to help parents learn to teach their children.
  • It developed into a charter school, which is run by a governance board of parents, teachers and community leaders."
  • Keith Waring, who is on the governance board, says that its principal, Cecelia Rogers 'has taken the vision, to raise the comprehension levels of the children and make sure they test above the Adequate Yearly Progress level under the federal No Child Left Behind initiative, and is succeeding,' he says.
  • 'She's doing what you're not supposed to be able to do: to go into Gadsden Green and turn those children into exceptional students.'"

"Professionals that work downtown" are sending their children to a charter school located in Gadsden Green? Now THAT is news! And this school is meeting AYP while other downtown elementary schools are sinking? GOOD news! Funny, I haven't heard any complaints from the CCSD Board of Trustees about THIS charter school's draining students away from CCSD oversight.

I hope that others in District 20 are taking notes on how Ebenezer AME, Rogers, and the community have succeeded with this school. Visiting the school's website, I was struck by the following statement: " CDA incorporates, The Charleston Plan of Excellence, The Coherent Curriculum and The Core Knowledge Curriculum [italics mine] as the foundation teaching tools."

E.D. Hirsch, Jr.'s cultural literacy ideas have been controversial in educational circles for 20 years. I've always thought Hirsch makes sense, but I'm not an elementary school teacher. I do know that in San Antonio, Texas, several public elementary schools adopted this curriculum and met with success. Do any other elementary schools in CCSD use it?

You can check the curriculum out at .

CCSD: Just in Case You Forgot About Broad

The latest press release from CCSD:

CCSD Chief Academic Officer Graduates from Prestigious Urban Superintendents Academy
November 16, 2007
CHARLESTON – Chief Academic Officer Randolph Bynum has successfully
completed the prestigious Broad Superintendents Academy of the Broad
Center for the Management of School Systems. Mr. Bynum is one of only
eleven 2007 graduates nationwide of this rigorous ten-month executive
management training program.
“I am so proud of Mr. Bynum’s accomplishment. As our county’s academic
chief, who has already made such great contributions to our schools, this
experience will prove invaluable for him and for us,” said CCSD
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nancy McGinley, herself a graduate of the
inaugural Broad Academy class.

Otherwise known as an employment agency for those hoping to move up in the superintendent game. Seems to work. Wonder how long Mr. Bynum will be with us.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Anti-Homework Campaign Nonsense

Japanese parents are in revolt because their children get too much homework. Oh, yes. And in cities across China, too. Same goes for India, especially in the poorest suburbs.

Believe that? Of course not. Only affluent American parents would raise such a fuss. Actually, the "homework wars" debate, which recently hit the consciousness of the P & C [see "Homework: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" in last Tuesday's Family Life section], has enjoyed several years on the radar screens of the Junior League and in neighborhoods of half-a-million-dollar and more households.

The Elizabeth Moffley quoted in former CCSD board member Fran Hawk's article receives credibility for her "anti-homework bullets" from identification as having run for state superintendent of education in 2006. Never mind that she lost the Republican primary (with a whopping 4.6% of the vote) and promptly endorsed Democrat Jim Rex, nor that various news sources can't decide how to spell her last name (Moffly?) or that, at least in 2006, two of her four children were in private schools. Her "arsenal" reads like the top 10 list of a late-night talk show host:
  1. Parents are not qualified or certified get judged for monitoring their children's homework; never been true
  2. Family values are compromised because children are too busy with homework to spend time with their families; or on other scheduled activities like football or soccer practice
  3. Homework is not in the school's jurisdiction because it's assigned for after-school hours; please!
  4. The schools that are charged with teaching democracy are acting as dictators. ah, yes, the democratic classroom!
  5. Children have a right to their childhoods and should be allowed time to let their minds wander. or watch television or play mindless video games
  6. As a compromise, Moffley suggests that homework be assigned as extra credit, with no penalty for the students who choose to ignore it. gee, I can think of penalties assigned by the real world

I don't know about you, but my favorite from the list is #5; or, maybe it should be #6--then with all that extra credit the child could pass on to the next grade.

Jay Mathews, a Washington Post staff writer, has researched the facts. Scholarly research from the University of Michigan "says the weekday average for 15- to 17-year-olds went from 33 minutes in 1981 to 50 minutes in 2003. Those teens, crushed by such punishing assignments, were recovering their sense of self and their need for play by spending on average two-and-a-half hours a weekday watching television or doing non-study-related computer activities [italics mine]." More likely in Moffley's neighborhood, playing video games or working after-school jobs to pay the insurance on their late-model cars. In a comparable report, the weekday average for grades 1 to 3 is 22 minutes, or as Mathews puts it, "less time than it takes to watch one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants."

Yes, students who take four or five AP classes may spend hours into the night on homework--or maybe not, depending on the student's ability and concentration. Kindergarten students can benefit by practicing their handwriting, and drill on multiplication facts can't be all bad for a third grader.

If a parent really believes that his or her child's homework load is problematic, that parent needs to sit down with the teacher or teachers involved to get to the bottom of the problem, not grouse with the neighbors nor spend time reading about the "homework debate."

Friday, November 16, 2007

CCSD Superintendent: Now the Buck Stops with Her

Listen! Are those wings? Maybe a cackle or two? I know! The chickens just came home to roost! Superintendent McGinley now has the power to replace principals without consulting constituent boards; that means she also has full responsibility for what happens. And she's ready to roll.

In today's P & C McGinley hints of changes coming in administrative positions due to schools' failing performances on the state's report cards. Although the article points out that 25 schools are now rated "unsatisfactory," as usual the number is not put into context. That would be (roughly) a third of the county's schools.

Never mind that "more than half of the county's schools" have had their principals in place for less than three years, let's shuffle them again! That must mean those who have been in place for three years or more at unsatisfactory schools get to move, since McGinley promises a three-to-five-year window to prove effective leadership.

The dirty little secret is that the district has been preparing for this round of musical chairs. Schools such as Burke and North Charleston High that have been rated failing for six years MUST be restructured. No one expected a miracle to occur this year, and it didn't. The choices left to CCSD under NCLB are:
  • replace all administrative professionals or
  • bring in an outside agency to run the schools or
  • make them into charter schools [yeah, likely] or
  • have the state take over the schools [ditto].

Whatever changes McGinley makes, she will be held responsible now for the results. Well, that's assuming that three-to-five years down the road McGinley is still Superintendent.

Jordan's quoted comments pose an interesting dilemma for McGinley: she wants the Superintendent "to put those highly successful teachers [and principals] with students who need it the most," namely, those students in unsatisfactory schools where teacher turnover is high.

McGinley's got the power; does she have the guts?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CCSD's New Leadership: Rearranging the Deck Chairs

Buried in today's report of CCSD's Board of Trustees Monday-night meeting is the fact that Hilary Douglas, last year's vice chairman, and Nancy Cook, last year's chairman (and chairman for the last four years), have switched chairs. Now Douglas supposedly is in the driver's seat ["Douglas to Steer School Board"] and Cook is his co-pilot.

Recycling the past will help the future? Douglas was first elected chairman in 1989, eighteen years ago. He was on the Board starting in 1985. These were years when county schools continued unopposed in their downward slide.

What is the record in North Charleston, the area Douglas represents on the Board? Both North Charleston High School and Brentwood have records during his tenure that should cause nightmares. Has Douglas looked out for them in his 15 years on the Board?

Same old same old.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest We Forget

CCSD School Board: Sweetness and Light?

"Sweetness and light": the state of CCSD's Board of Trustees one year after its acrimonious election, as reported by Diette Courrege in Sunday's Post and Courier.

Board members interviewed use the occasion to bash Sandi Engelman once again, suggesting all is "sweetness and light" now that she is gone from the Board. According to members such as Douglas and Meyers, even Arthur Ravenel, Jr's dissentions scarcely sour the mix because he always behaves as a Southern gentleman should. In fact, his politicking for taking powers away from the constituent boards proves how well the Board gets along. Of course, there's the little matter of the Charter School for Math and Science, but Meyers thinks he's quashed that through other means.

Why, if only those nasty critics Sandi Engelman and, perhaps, Lurleen Fishburne, had left the Board earlier, CCSD's schools would be right on track to excellence! The Board was being held back by its critics, of course! Now that Green and Jordan are in there supporting every thought and facial expression of Meyers and Douglas, the Board can make progress. In fact, critics of CCSD can be blamed for ALL of its problems, even those in District 20. If they would just stop being so negative, or at least keep their opinions to themselves, CCSD could make real progress.

Yeah, right.

What the Board needs now is not "love, sweet love," as the song goes, but elements much more challenging (or, at least, specific)--those well-formulated by Matthew Arnold: that is, "sweetness and light." "'Sweetness' is moral righteousness, and 'light' is intellectual power and truth."[The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Ed. © 2002 Houghton Mifflin]. Arnold believed that civilization could progress if individuals and nations base their actions on that dichotomy.

"Moral righteousness" and "intellectual power and truth"? What percentage of the Board's actions or, for that matter, those of CCSD's bureaucracy, falls into even one of those categories?

Instead we have self-interest, fiefdoms, and ignorance. Or, as Arnold said, we're here "on a darkling plain."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

As Long as We Need to Restructure Burke

Now that Burke High School (among others in CCSD) has failed to meet AYP for six years, it faces restructuring, according to NCLB. May I remind you of some highlights of Burke's trials over the past 18 months? I'm sure many readers can add the tribulations of the many previous years.

Let's begin with June of 2006. Burke was almost taken over by the State Department of Education, Inez Tenenbaum then Superintendent. It had failed to implement recommendations made by the state review board during the previous year. What happened next? Promises, promises! In fact, Mayor Joe Riley promised at the time to make (and I quote!) Burke "'a renowned national model for excellence.'" Goodloe-Johnson promised that, after a string of six principals over seven years, the new one would do the trick.

Barely three months later, the P & C (of all sources!) broke the scandal that Burke has been used as a dumping ground for troublemakers from other schools in CCSD. [See my posting of You Can't Make This Stuff Up! for details.] Is anyone on the school board following up on these questionable transfers? What percentage of Burke's students do not live in District 20? Do these transfers continue? How about telling us how many students who live in District 20 are bused to CCSD high schools in other parts of the county? Now, that number would be revealing.

Of course, in May of 2007 CCSD held its famous $77,000 meeting at Burke regarding the use of the Rivers High School building. During that meeting (and at various times since) CCSD has hinted that Burke may get an "AP Academy" or other speciality program. As it is, Burke doesn't even offer enough world language courses to qualify students for USC or Clemson, not to mention other deficiencies in its course offerings.

If plans exist to improve Burke, it appears now that the Superintendent will spring them by surprise upon the residents of District 20. Is she going to meet with District 20 constituents (especially PARENTS) to ask what they would like to see with the restructuring of Burke? Surely that's an important step that needs to be part of any restructuring!

Meanwhile, Burke has plenty of room in its practically-new building.

Why not take all those applicants to Academic Magnet who will be rejected for the coming year's class but meet the old generic standard and create a second "academic magnet" at Burke?

Don't like that?

Why not take all 75 students from Sea Islands YouthBuild Charter (who don't have a school building) and create a spectacular building trades program in the space at Burke?

Don't like that either? What about replicating some vocational programs now at Garrett and offering them at Burke?

Most importantly, what does the downtown community as a whole see as the best solution for Burke? And I'm not talking about NAACP officers who live west of the Ashley!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ballard to Buist Parents: Live in CCSD or Else!

They must be quaking in their boots. All those who lied to get on the downtown list now are forced to prove they live in Charleston County! Gosh, where will it end?

What a hardship!

Has anyone considered funding a complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of black downtown students? Sometimes I wish I had money.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

That'll Work: Task Force to Stop Teacher-Student Sex

"Jim Rex, the head of South Carolina schools, launched a task force Thursday aimed at stopping teachers from having sex with students," according to Channel 4 News.

My question is: If the Summerville High School teacher charged with taking female students to his home and providing alcohol to them is 43 years old and the principal says he has been employed at Summerville for "about three years," where was he teaching before?

And what recommendations did the previous schools provide?