Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jim Rex Confuses Buildings with Standards

Hard to believe, isn't it, that State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex is so confused that he equates buildings with academic standards. Rex revealed his confusion at a Rotary Club meeting in Columbia Monday. As reported in the State, Rex said:

"More political courage is needed by the state’s 170 lawmakers if they are to fix the state’s ailing public education system. [. . . ]

Rex said state lawmakers often tell him they want to stand up for public education but are afraid of being targeted by powerful [so powerful they cannot be named] groups in their home counties. Rex said that within an hour’s drive of Columbia, there are public schools that look like something in the “third world.”

The state’s 700,000 young people in public schools will be the dominant population in the state, so it makes sense to spend money on them, Rex said. A “tsunami” of bad consequences is rushing toward South Carolina if it does not raise public education standards, he said."

Let's follow the logic here: South Carolina's "Corridor of Shame" has "third-world" school buildings. Therefore, the state should replace and/or renovate the buildings. As a result, "public education standards" will rise. Oh, yeah. Better buildings = higher standards.

Listen, I didn't vote for him.

Monday, April 28, 2008

CEN's Butzon Butts in on Charter School Rent

Don't you just love the edu-blob? It pretends to have the best interests of students at heart, when in fact it has its OWN interests at heart. Take Jon Butzon, of the Charleston Education Network, a Riley and Chamber-of-Commerce front--please take him!

Monday's P & C's op-ed page has a message from Butzon: The sky is falling in CCSD. Run for your life.

Butzon tries to link CCSD's financial woes to its failure to charge rent to the new Charter School for Math and Science. For example,
"Locally sponsored charter schools are already a financial albatross for school districts. When charter school proponents complain about the slow growth of charter schools in South Carolina, they typically attribute that slow growth to anti-charter sentiments among educators and school boards. But as the law is currently written, having charter schools is a financial disincentive for school boards."
What you really mean, Jon, is that school boards lose control of the money that goes to those students. I agree it's a financial disincentive but only because many on the school board have other agendas than the best interests of the students involved. You and I both know that the amount of money alloted per student in the district does not change--only who handles it.

More to the point, why should the Charleston Education Network get a chair at the table? Who elected it to decide what policies the district should have about anything? Why do so many friends of Riley and Democratic activists sit on the committee? What qualifies Jon Butzon to sound off on the finances of the district and its funding? Let's see his credentials.

As I inquired in a posting last July 27th,

Who calls the shots in this unwieldy committee of 26?
Who decides what policies to push?
Where does more than $92,000 in "public support"[as of 3 years ago] come from?
What are Butzon's qualifications for sitting in on CCSD meetings?
Why does CCSD list CEN under "parent" organizations?
Well, Jon? Why did CEN leave its offices at the Citadel? Why is it that on CEN's website not a single member of the committee is listed under "Who We Are"?

Don't you just love it?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Riley's Golden Goose, or Running a City with Illegals

How many P & C readers got indigestion over Saturday morning's headline, Company's Goose Cooked After Bird Killing? Plenty, I'll bet. While our state legislators pass an immigration bill at a speed somewhere between dead slow and stop, let's look around.

Once your friendly neighborhood teenager had a nice income in the spring mowing lawns. Now those nicely manicured lawns are worked by illegal aliens employed by temporary services.

Once the City of Charleston employed workers to care for its parks. No longer. Now it employs illegal aliens procured by temp agencies. And they certainly cost less than any legal workers who might, after all, complain about their rights under the law. Sweet, isn't it? That allows Mayor Riley and his friends to state that they had "NO IDEA that gambling was going on in this establishment," to paraphrase Casablanca. Right.

Doesn't it make you wonder what other parts of city government are employing illegals? How about other cities? Other city contractors? Staffing 2000 isn't the only temp agency to use illegals and claim that they're all legal. The agency is only one step up from using slave labor.

Those poor workers probably thought they'd enjoy a nice roast goose. Does it make you angry to think that Charleston has knowingly exploited the evil situation this country now faces? Knowingly because South Carolina has one of the lowest percentages of legal Mexicans (and other Latin Americans) in the country, and Staffing 2000 has provided its so-called legals for nine years? What did they do, round up every poor but legal Mexican in the entire state?

To use the excuse that the City just noticed that Staffing 2000 is not on the list of state-approved contractors is just plain nonsense. We all know what's going on here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Lead Article's Unanswered Questions

It has a front-page banner headline above the fold, so why didn't the editor insist that the reporter provide enough information for the story or at least ask more questions?

Yes, I'm referring to Friday's P & C article, Caught Handing Out $100s at School.

In fact, this Brian Hicks article raises so many unanswered questions, maybe it's meant as a teaser for Saturday's paper? One can only hope.

Let's look at what we've been given here. Two 13-year-olds. Of course, we aren't allowed to know where they live or anything about them except that they attend C.E. Williams Middle School.

Well, if they don't live IN Parkdale, how did they get there? It's very unlikely that they walked or even bicycled, unless you assume that both come from well-off, middle-class families. That's the neighborhood. If you look at the location of the house on the Intra-coastal Waterway, your suspicion that someone older was involved may also rise.

Then, there's the question of how they targeted this particular house. Randomly? That seems unlikely. Why did the owners not even know they'd been burgled. Isn't that a bit odd? If these boys were such dolts that they got caught for flashing around their money, would they also clean up after themselves? Leave the place spotless? Something doesn't add up.

And, dare I say, what about their parents? The article makes NO mention of them at all. While I can believe that one boy's parents might not have known about the money, it defies the odds that BOTH sets of parents were unaware of what had transpired. One hopes that the police are thinking along similar lines.

C.E. Williams gave them a week's suspension for bringing stolen property onto school grounds. Pray tell, what is the school's policy for students charged with burglary? A week's suspension? What is CCSD's discipline school used for, anyway? Murderers?

Which brings me to my final question. Why can't the State of South Carolina have a law that holds parents responsible for the crimes of underage criminals? On a sliding scale. Say, if the students had been eight years old, the parents would be held 75 percent responsible, while for 13 year olds, only 50 percent responsible?

Think about it. 13-year-old boys. Burglary. Flashing the cash. Back in school studying for the PACT.

CCSD Teacher-of-the-Year Story Surprise

Don't you just love stories with punchlines? There I was, reading a story about this year's selection of CCSD's Teacher of the Year, thinking that nothing very startling would appear. Was I ever wrong! [See Teacher of Year 'Never Gives Up,' Principal Says.]

First of all, let me hasten to say that Gwendolyn Benton undoubtedly deserves her award. Judging from her many accomplishments and willingness to work in a new and undoubtedly difficult environment (Morningside Middle School), the award is much deserved. I suspect, however, that Benton has more common sense about such awards than the district that made this one.

Someone who spent 35 years of teaching in another state (and at the high school level) who then comes to CCSD to teach for two is not the most likely recipient of this honor. In fact, teachers with as much experience and education as Benton frequently are not hired in CCSD because they must receive higher salaries based on that experience. That's why I continued reading the article after the first few paragraphs.

I learned that "during her last few years in North Carolina schools, Benton worked as a coach for teachers, but she decided when she moved here that she wanted to be back in the classroom." No mention of why she left North Carolina. Should the reader assume she retired with an irrestible yearning to live in Charleston County?

Then I read the Morningside Middle School's principal's remarks:

"Goodwine said she could tell during Benton's interview that Benton would be a good fit for Morningside, and her prediction has come true. Benton has a good heart and a good spirit, and she'll pick the most difficult students in her class to work with and help, Goodwine said."

Was there ever any doubt that Benton would be hired? Are we being asked to believe that Goodwine didn't know that Benton was the wife of the new principal at Burke High School?

This was the article's punch-line: "'If she was not my wife, I'd love for her to teach in my school,' said Charles Benton, principal of Burke High School. 'I'm real excited for her.'"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

CCSD's Legal Costs Fiasco

$625,000 spent in an eight-month period on legal bills.

Let's see. At this rate CCSD will dole out something approaching a million dollars for attorney fees during this school year. Is anyone crying, "Stop! Hold! Enough"? Yes, but it's not 75 Calhoun. It's Arthur Ravenel, Jr., who has questioned the ballooning costs of the district's arrangement with Alice Paylor's law firm. In one of her most it-goes-without-saying statements so far, Superintendent McGinley has pointed out that "every call the district makes to its legal counsel is billed." Duh.

What could be costing so many hours' worth of Alice Paylor's time? Why, that would be
  • personnel issues (hmm),
  • construction contracts (mm-hmm),
  • special education (huh?), and
  • charter schools (oh! yes, of course).
That's Nancy McGinley's story and she's sticking to it.
([See Charleston Schools Looking to Hire Attorney.]

So, why did CCSD cut out the position of staff attorney "years ago"? Whose boondoggle is this? Is CCSD getting its money's worth? Or are its actions so ill-advised that it will always cost this much to defend them in court?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Buist Under Fire Again for Racial Discrimation

The on-line version of the P & C is confirming rumors that have been circulating regarding Buist Academy. More to follow in Tuesday's paper. See Buist Accused of Discriminating Against Student. Another lawsuit.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

CCSD: Themes as Sleight of Word

To wax philosophical--what is a "magnet" school?

While it might seem a silly question to those of you unfamiliar with the sleight of word performed regularly by CCSD, it's no small matter to the thousands of students who must attend CCSD's failing schools. CCSD prides itself on never having defined what it means by "magnet"--just ask Board member Gregg Meyers or supporters of Charleston Progressive Academy! A definition might actually force the district to admit that some of its "magnets" are more equal than others. According to Public School Review [see What Is a Magnet School], magnet schools receive extra funding. As Charleston Progressive knows only too well, one can be a magnet in CCSD without any such promise or follow through. Then there's Buist.

Now Superintendent Nancy McGinley plans to muddy the murky waters even further by encouraging "themes" to create "mini-magnets" in 11 failing elementary schools. McGinley and her mouthpiece, Diette Courrege, the reporter who wrote about the themed schools in Friday's P & C, suggest that somehow the situation of these 11 themed schools is analogous to that of the St. Andrews School of Math and Science. [See 11 Schools to Pursue Themes ]

Only to someone who doesn't know Charleston all that well!

According to native Pennsylvanian McGinley, "St. Andrews was a struggling, traditional neighborhood school, but it has been in high demand since it began accepting students from across the county and added the math and science focus." Struggling? Does she really think that the student population of that school's attendance area resembles the 11 schools she has in mind to emulate it? What planet is she on? Furthermore, St. Andrews has suffered an attendance "surplus" ever since previous Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson threw a sop to vociferious parents whose children did not get into Buist by dumping them wholesale at St. Andrews [hence last year's trailer fiasco].

Also, "each school will have a district staff member assigned to them [sic] to provide support." Yes, we can imagine what that will consist of. How about "watchdog"?

Sometimes it seems as though CCSD won't be happy until every student in the county is bused to a school in another attendance zone. Can themes alone work here to improve these schools academically and INTEGRATE them? Of course not. Is McGinley hoping that parents who live in the failing schools' attendance zones but send their children elsewhere will return? Let's not kid ourselves that a theme will convince them.

How about discipline?

Harlem Charter School Success?

Let's face it. This is Ruth Jordan's worst nightmare:
Charter School Frenzy in Harlem

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Charter School for Math & Science: Elite?

Let's go to the dictionary for this one.
Elite: the choice part; the best of a class ; the socially superior part of society; a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence; a member of such an elite —usually used in plural (Merriam-Webster On-Line).
With CCSD School Board Trustee Ruth Jordan's recent words about the "wealthy elite" desiring a charter school downtown, we need to look at the present demographics of the group of about 170 students enrolling so far. [A previous post has the black-white breakdown]:
  • 78% from Charleston County Public Schools
  • 19% from private schools
  • 3% from home schools
  • 22% of private school students are African American
  • 60% of home school students are African American
  • 34% are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch

Well, Ruth?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wavering Kilograms!

I'm not going to lose any sleep over this one:
The International Kilogram Crisis

SC Senate District 42: The CCSD Connection

Have you ever tried reading the contributions reports of candidates running for office? They can easily be found on the website of the State Ethics Commission. Inspired by the P & C's report of contributions made to State Senator Robert Ford and his challenger Dwayne Green, I tracked down the senate district number (42) and scrolled through both lists of contributors. [See Green Passes Ford in Senate Race Cash ]

Although I said months ago that Dwayne Green, husband of Toya Hampton-Green of the CCSD Board of Trustees, planned to be mayor of Charleston someday, I must now qualify that by admitting that Green wants to replace State Senator Robert Ford first. I don't know Sen. Ford, nor have I followed state politics closely enough to know if he is vulnerable to this challenge. But what I do know is that the Greens have been enjoying the perks of being Charleston's young black "power couple." Toya's election to the school board after representing CCSD for a local law firm was well bankrolled by local Democrats, and she won despite lack of support from District 20, the constituent district she represents (oops, I mean the one she lives in, since she claims that she represents the WHOLE county). Strangely enough [sorry, the sarcasm just slipped through] the Greens' child was a winner in Buist Academy's "lottery." Readers of this blog will understand that we are using the word "lottery" loosely here.

Toya-Hampton Green has been one of the most vocal critics of CCSD's allowing the new Charter School for Math and Science to use the Rivers building, so I certainly should not have been surprised to see the name of Alice Paylor, present attorney for CCSD, as a contributor to Dwayne Green's campaign.

Cozy, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Copycat, Copycat: Now It's Chicago

Bishop England? Academic Magnet? If it works one place, why not another? See

North Charleston Principal Subject to Rumors

Emblematic of CCSD's failure of nerve, the suspension with pay of Eric Vernold, who took over as principal of North Charleston High School last October, remains a mystery, unreported by the P & C and apparently not dealt with during Monday night's CCSD Board meeting.

Failure of nerve because the case so typically is described as a "personnel" matter with no further details. Which causes more harm to the District--rumors or basic facts?

You can see where I'm going with this. Nasty rumors are flying about this removal, even some posted on this blog. What else could be expected when not even basic facts are released about the issue?

Who's being protected here? The student body of North Charleston High School? Vernold? I doubt it.
UPDATE: CCSD announced Wednesday that Vernold has resigned. Will it let the rumors continue to fly unchallenged by any other facts? Of course.

CCSD Nay-Sayers: Keep Segregation Downtown!

No surprises. The vote Monday night at the CCSD Board of Trustees meeting on charging rent to the new Charter School for Math and Science was 6 to 3 in favor of no rent. [See Charter School Vote Breaks Racially] Those voting "no" had already voiced their reasons at previous meetings; they had no new arguments, not even ones challenging Attorney-General McMaster's ruling that rent couldn't be charged.

Chutzpah? Gall? Nerve? Arrogance? Effrontery?

We could exhaust the thesaurus trying to grasp the attitude of Toya Hampton-Green, Ruth Jordan, and Hillery Douglas. The organizers of CSMS have shown considerable forbearance in not responding to the racist attacks hurled their way by these three, who purport to be defending the schoolchildren in District 20.

Ruth Jordan actually "said that [the] vote would show the district has a long way to go to ensuring fairness and equity in education," accusing the organizers of being a wealthy elite who no longer wish to pay private school tuition. What she refuses to acknowledge, thanks to her racist agenda, is that this school is the best step towards "fairness and equity in education" downtown in decades.

Here we have a school in District 20 (not Buist!) that will actually be integrated, and purposely so! Present sign-ups for the school show a population that is 46 % white and 42 % black. That must be what nettles Jordan so much.

Maybe we should call in civil rights leaders to protest the horrible injustice of CCSD's supporting a non-segregated charter school? After all, what other charter schools in CCSD claim a balanced population?

Monday, April 14, 2008

CCSD Budget: Do Board Members Really Know?

" The Perfect Storm." The 2009 CCSD school budget has mandated obligations--such as increments in teacher salaries--and other expected operating increases, along with decreased revenues.

Those of you who have followed the progress of CCSD Superintendent McGinley's series of budget forums, attended one or more of them, and/or viewed the pertinent videos on the CCSD website know that those presentations have been long on promises and short on details. McGinley has been promising the impossible (an excellent education for every child next year! We wish!) while preparing the public for serious cuts to programs.

Does the School Board get a copy of a line-item budget for discussion? Does CCSD's Board of Trustees have any more details of the budget than the general outline doled out to the public?

Well, if they don't, they are operating in the dark, apparently the atmosphere that has been preferred by 75 Calhoun.

How about some questions to clarify the elements of the "storm":
  • What was the total budgeted expenditure for each of the last 5 years?
  • What was the total number of students served for each of the last five years?
  • What were the total revenues from "local" sources for each of the last 5 years?
  • What were the lump sums for these from all other sources, including "state," "federal," and "all others" for each of those years?
  • Show all the estimates for the same figures for the coming year, taking care to reflect or explain any "adjustments" for things like non-typical "losses," "gains," or changes in the law such as "property tax relief."
Is that really too much to ask, especially for elected board members who vote on the budget?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Brinson's School Funding: Five W's and an H?

At the end of a long, fuzzy-thinking op-ed piece aimed, I infer, at the problem of funding the building of more schools for overcrowded Dorchester County [see Public School Funding Requires Rising Above Interest Groups ], Ron Brinson, an ex-associate editor of the P & C makes the following statements:
This is not rocket science. Reliable and equitable school funding models have evolved in many high-growth states.
No further details. Unnamed states. Why wasn't the entire op-ed piece about them? No wonder he's an ex! How about
  • who
  • what
  • when
  • where
  • why and
  • how?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

CCSD Alert: Principal Suspended

Too late for Saturday's paper (naturally), CCSD announced the indefinite suspension with pay of Eric Vernold, the principal of North Charleston High School. According to News Channel 4, it's over a "personnel" issue. Some details will follow presumably at Monday night's School Board meeting.

According to the P & C's on-line version,

"Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley said it was a personnel issue and that she could not comment further on the circumstances of his leave.

School officials are doing an investigation, and an assistant principal is temporarily charge of the school, she said. She hoped to have more resolution to the situation by Tuesday.

Vernold was in his first year as principal at North Charleston High."

North Charleston High School started this school year without a principal because McGinley failed to replace David Colwell, its previous successful two-year principal (who had also worked at the school the previous 18 years), after Colwell took an out-of-state job. We hope he didn't leave because of an unfriendly attitude on behalf of 75 Calhoun! The school was also short of two assistant principals in August! Why?

Vernold replaced Colwell in October in the midst of a complete breakdown of discipline at the school. We could argue that waiting until then for a permanent principal was not the wisest choice on McGinley's part. Supposedly, Vernold's experience in a rural high school in upstate New York made him qualified for the job.

I always wondered why.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Budget Storm?: CCSD Transparency Needed

A "Perfect Storm" of a budget process this year for the Charleston County School District, at least according to its superintendent? How about a Perfect Opportunity?

In coming weeks we will begin to hear about what must be cut from CCSD's operating budget. No one will like it. Superintendent McGinley has already prepared the way with her budget "forums" in various parts of the district.

Needless to say, this process has been long on promising an "excellent" education for every child in the district, and short on details of how this miracle will be accomplished next year for the
first time ever! The video of McGinley and the Power Point presentation on the CCSD website have little detail beyond stating that we will have less to spend and more bills to pay in 2009. These public "forums" appear to have been designed to be as nonspecific as possible while meeting the minimum requirements for public hearings. Why hasn't the School Board pointed out to McGinley how misleading and ultimately undermining of public confidence such a process is?

No one in the community will trust the budget process until CCSD's expenditures are transparent. Here is CCSD's opportunity to begin regaining trust by starting, as a reader has suggested, with a truly independent forensic audit of the entire financial operation. Not only does the District have the need, it's the perfect time with a new Chief Financial Officer just come on board.

Several years ago the last one, limited just to cell-phone usage, saved about a million dollars in the first year by plugging the holes in the system allowing expensive and duplicate contracts while being unable to prevent abuse of the equipment by some CCSD employees.

Here's the opportunity to take the same approach with the bus system, food services, concessions, facilities management, copy equipment, etc. CCSD could save many times annually what it recovered on the cell-phone system.

A good forensic auditor wouldn't cost CCSD a dime. The auditor's work can be paid for by a reasonable and relatively small percentage of whatever money it actually recovers for CCSD and whatever is documented as saving the district in the first year after it identifies measurable waste and how to stop it.

Okay, so that won't solve this year's problems. It's a start.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

SC Legislature: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Do I often agree with the editorial staff of the P & C? What do you think? However, Thursday's editorial, A Way to Fund School Buses, hit a nerve.

Either the state legislature wants to update the ancient buses used statewide, or it doesn't. I bet if we try we can come up with a long list of expenditures in the new budget that should have much lower priority than protecting public school children with safe buses. Let's face it, due to the idiotic changes in funding of school operating costs and their inevitable downturn in revenue (if not this time, some time!), school districts will be focusing on keeping the lights on, not replacing buses.

If using the politicians' slush fund is the way to go, as the editorial suggests, so be it. If not, find the money somewhere else--maybe in that inflated matching of contributions to pension funds for state legislators.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

School Choice, Diversity Training, & Duck Death

Wednesday's diversions from the P & C:

"The push for school districts to offer more choices to students has been stopped this year by lawmakers."

Whose push is this? Oh, yes. The State Superintendent of Education. We're using the word "choice" here loosely, as in charter schools. If school districts need more charter schools, let's see elected school boards and community members organize them without the help of the legislature.

"After meeting with [Nancy] Cook about her controversial comment [see my previous blog about CCSD airheads] over the weekend, the [NAACP] said she should enroll in sensitivity and diversity training, and urged other members of the county school board to condemn her comment."

Can we require President Dot Scott to attend also? She believes anyone with a white skin must be racist [i.e., her previous remarks on organizing of the new charter high school downtown--a racist plot]. That couple could contribute so much to the class!

See Driver Charged in Accident, Duck Death

No wonder we have such a high homicide rate in North Charleston.

I know--it's not that funny when you read the article. Still.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Copycat Bomb Threat at Academic Magnet

Allow me to put Tuesday's report about a bomb threat at Academic Magnet in context. I will simply make a few substitutions in the article as it appeared. [See Police at Magnet High After Threat ]

[Substitutions are in italic bold.]

"Extra security officers patrolled Bishop England High School over the weekend and Monday after a bomb threat was discovered.

School officials found writing in a boys' bathroom on Thursday that warned about a potential incident at the Daniel Island school on Monday, said David Held, Bishop England's Principal. Bishop England staff and Berkeley County Police checked the school twice during the weekend, and police monitored it overnight Sunday, he said.

Although the searches turned up nothing suspicious, the school increased security Monday, Held said.

Several police officers were at the school to monitor students as they arrived and watch for any potential problems, Held said.

School Principal David Held did not send a message to parents Monday morning, instead choosing to make an announcement to the students to let them know what was happening.

Officials made an announcement about the threat and assured students they were OK. If officials thought it safe enough for them to be in school, three-fourths of the student body said, they felt safe being there.

Several classes had deadlines for their research papers on Monday, and many teachers and some students speculated that was why the day was targeted."

That was before the Easter break. Rumors spread like wildfire through text messaging. It worked for the 200 or so students who did not attend Bishop England that Monday. Maybe officials at AMHS should investigate a connection.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Principal Likes Lack of Parental Contact?

Somehow, I don't believe that Alice Birney Middle School's new principal had quite the above message in mind when she was interviewed by the P & C's reporter for Monday's article. Nevertheless, that is the gist of her delight in being able to pursue academics instead of answering to parents all day at her previous school, Cario Middle. [See Birney principal relishes tough assignment ]

According to the article

"[Carol] Beckmann-Bartlett spends more time doing what she wants to as a principal at Birney. She's able to focus on her responsibility of leading instruction.

At Cario, constant distractions pulled her away from academic work, such as parents who would demand to talk to the principal and not anyone else. If those parents had been willing to talk to the appropriate staff person at the school, their problems could've been resolved in five minutes versus the hour that it would eat up of Beckmann-Bartlett's time, she said. Entire days would pass in which she did not have a conversation about academics.

At Birney, parents respect the chain of command, which enables Beckmann-Bartlett to focus on instruction. "

Let me get this right. The district wants parents to be more involved with their children's education; however, if that involvement means that parents want to speak to the principal, that involvement is NOT wanted. Also, parents in wealthy districts, such as Cario, don't "respect the chain of command," but poorer parents do. Are you smiling, reader?

Certainly, everyone wishes Ms. Beckmann-Bartlett success in leading Alice Birney and its teachers. One wonders, however, how this particular principal came to the attention of the P & C. It's not too far a leap to assume that CCSD invited this interview in its campaign for CCSD teachers to voluntarily move from successful to failing schools.

It's also not too far-fetched to assume that Ms. Beckmann-Bartlett is following a game plan set up by Superintendent McGinley. You see, her transfer to a problem school, turning it around (or at least improving its performance), and then applying to the Broad Foundation for a fellowship to be trained as an "urban" principal is exactly the path blazed by McGinley in Philadelphia.

The article also touts how discipline is handled at Alice Birney.

The way Birney teachers handle discipline offenses is one example. They take a team approach in dealing with misbehavior and recommend consequences. In most schools, one teacher refers a student to school administrators, who decide what to do. Although Birney's process takes more time, it limits emotional recommendations from teachers and enables deeper discussions about ways to better handle students, Beckmann-Bartlett said.

I wasn't aware that this school is known for its good discipline. Is it?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Show Me the Teacher, Joe!

Dorchester District 2's math scores have been slipping on the elementary level. To forestall further deterioration, the district is taking action. Sunday's P & C carefully enumerates Superintendent Joe Pye's plans, developed at his request by a curriculum specialist. [See Dorchester 2 on a Mission to Change Math Instruction ]

But when Pye made the statement that "no longer will teachers lecture for 40 minutes," every fact that had previously been presented was called into question. Lecturing for 40 minutes in a math classroom? Lecturing for 40 minutes in any high school classroom? You must be joking, Joe.

Remember "Show me the money"?

Well, "show me the teacher"!

If DD2's superintendent really believes that 40-minute lectures are being given in high school classrooms in his district, he is totally out of contact with reality. In fact, his brain has been left in the 19th century, not the 20th. No, that's not the likely problem. Instead, he has revealed himself to be an educrat, part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Maybe the problem is that third-grade teachers are spending more time on "dot plotting, mode, and range" than making sure that students are proficient in basic math skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division without a calculator.

Personally, I cringe every I see high school students dive for one to figure out what percentage 47 out of 50 is!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

CCSD Politics: Airheads at Play

Now obvious to the public is the political deal made between CCSD School Board members Hillery Douglas and Nancy Cook. Let's face it: the two of them may be the biggest racists on the present board, so maybe that's what they have in common.

The conversation clearly went something like the following:
Hillery: If I run for mayor of North Charleston, you'll support my candidacy.
Nancy: Yes. And then if you lose, I'll let you be Board Chairman while you support my candidacy for Charleston County Council, even if I have to run as a Republican.
Hillery: Why do you want to be on the Charleston County Council?
Well, remember, the CCSD Board can't send funds to my shelter any longer, the way it did with the Derthick Fund. If I get on the Charleston County Council, I can get some funding from the county to replace that money. After all, the County Council puts lots of earmarks right into the budget, even if its slush fund has been under the gun lately.
That's true. It's a deal.
Of course, the former was only an IMAGINED conversation, but it does explain Douglas's reaction to airhead Nancy's stupid remarks made earlier this week on local talk radio.

In case you've been hiding under a rock, the comments, which Cook now claims have been taken out of context, concerned sterilization and taking babies away from what used to be called "welfare mothers." THIS is her solution to high dropout rates in our nation's schools. AIRHEAD is not too strong! [See Cook's On-air Remarks Draw Fire]
Cook: We're not paying for another baby, maybe one baby, but after that, we're taking the baby. And maybe you get sterilized. I know that sounds kind of extreme and radical, but we're in times to where — think about America.
Out of context? Here's what Douglas said in response:
Cook was trying to give an answer to a problem that has most people perplexed.

"Sometimes when you try and do that off the cuff, the wrong things come out," he said. "I'm almost certain she really doesn't mean that that's the solution to it by sterilizing. I just think it was something that was said that should not have been said."

Why was it said? Because Cook is after the racist vote in North Charleston, that's why. She's no Republican. Don't kid yourself that she really doesn't think this way.

Can you imagine the firestorm from Douglas and his cronies if Sandi Engelman had made remarks even one-third as racist as these?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Inner-City Dropout Rates Reflect CCSD, Too

Perhaps this cartoon will remind you of recent news stories on the cities that that have the highest dropout rates in America. The figures, in fact, show that surrounding the miserable rates of graduation in each of those cities are suburban school systems with low dropout rates. Is anyone surprised?

Let's put these statistics into perspective for CCSD. Cities such as Detroit and Cleveland have school districts that are SEPARATE from the surrounding suburbs. Students do not legally cross those district lines to attend school.

Such is NOT the case in CCSD. Thanks to the Consolidation Act of thirty-some years ago, here in Charleston County the "urban" (if you can call it that!) "hole" is part of the same district as the suburban "doughnut" that surrounds it. Students cross from the hole into the doughnut (and vice versa) in large numbers every day. They are able to do so because the county is all one school district, unlike the situation in larger urban areas. Yet the outcome is amazingly the same!

How could that be? Well, how could it be that downtown Constituent District 20, containing a majority of white students of high school age, has one high school (Burke) that, for all intents and purposes, is all black? Why do up to 30 percent of students attending Burke come in from the suburbs? Where do the majority white students disappear to every morning? How did that come about?

And, what is the result in terms of dropout rates? You guessed it. Burke's matches inner-city Detroit and Cleveland, while suburban high schools like Wando match their counterparts in the suburbs of those cities. North Charleston doesn't count: it is rapidly becoming the "hole" for the "doughnut" districts of other counties.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Stop Stupid Testing

A series in Slate that is worth reading begins with an analysis of what needs to be fixed in education. Check out the article at Fixing It: Education by Jim Ryan.

Example: Don't stop testing; stop stupid testing. Good idea.

True Source of Band Inequities in CCSD

If all middle and high schools are treated equally in funding by CCSD, why do major inequities exist in the equipment available school-by-school for their bands?

It would be easy to assume that inequity results from prior unequal treatment; however, that's a very unlikely scenario. Unfortunately, the inequity exists in the amount of parental involvement in the schools' band programs and, in particular, in the affluence of each school's community. Them that has, gets.

This point was not clearly made in Tuesday's congratulatory article on CCSD's decision to invest half-a-million dollars in instruments over the next five years, a move that follows its prior decision to purchase half-a-million dollars of new band uniforms over every nine-year period. According to the P & C,
Some Charleston County high schools use band instruments that are 20 years old. Others lack basic instruments, and still others don't have enough instruments for students who want to play.

In an effort to address the inequities among high schools across the county, the school board has agreed to sink $575,000 during the next five years into its high school band programs. It's the first time in at least 10 years that the school district has made a significant investment in its band instruments.

The money will replace or buy the most expensive instruments that are in the worst condition. The lease-to-purchase program means schools will own the instruments after the district finishes making payments, and the instruments will be bought at half the market price because of the mass purchase.

"We wanted to make sure we used the money as efficiently and effectively as possible," said Jim Braunreuther, the district's fine arts coordinator, who repeatedly thanked the school board for agreeing to the purchases. The new instruments should be in schools by this summer.

This is the second financial boost from the school board to its band programs, the first being nearly two years ago when it agreed to allocate $60,000 annually to replace uniforms on a nine-year rotation cycle.

The district's 32 middle and high school band programs have an estimated $2.4 million of band equipment in poor condition. It doesn't have a program to buy band equipment. Schools get up to $8,000 per year, depending on its students' poverty and enrollment, to buy or repair its instruments, and one pricey instrument purchase can wipe out an entire school's budget.

Wando High School needed $76,000 in band equipment last year just to handle the new band students who played smaller, typically "school-owned" instruments. The district money allocated to the school was only enough to buy one tuba. The 247-student band got the needed instruments through grant money, help from the school's principal and fundraising by its booster club, which has taken out three loans in the past 11 years to pay for big-ticket items.

Wando serves an affluent community. Like it or not, schools such as, say, Alice Burney Middle cannot call upon "fundraising by its booster club" to even approach the loans and tens of thousands supplied by Mt. Pleasant parents. Should adequate equipment be possible only for the middle-class and the rich? Should schools that serve poorer communities not have bands?

A million dollars over the next nine years IS a big commitment; however, imagine what the district spends on football programs! No contest. The only question is whether the school district should provide music programs in its middle and high schools that are open to even the most disadvantaged among its students. It's ludicrous to suggest that those students could rent or buy their own instruments and uniforms.

Students who are actively involved and participating regularly in school-organized activities, whether they be athletic or otherwise, are much less likely to drop out before graduating. If these band expenses serve to keep potential dropouts in school, they are well worth the money.