Monday, June 30, 2008

CCSD Technology & Library Funding

While touting the latest moves by CCSD Monday, the P & C inadvertently revealed that it pays attention only to CCSD press releases, no surprise to readers of this blog! According to our local paper, anything that emerges from the publicity (i.e., Planning, Marketing, and Communications) department of CCSD could only be positive. The editors have never met a CCSD press release they didn't swallow--hook, line, and sinker. In fact, they never find it necessary to ask anyone outside of 75 Calhoun whether the district is on course or needs a few course corrections.

It remains true that the paper has stood by and watched as "them that had got" over the three decades since the district was consolidated--watched as PTA's in wealthier suburbs raised the money to provide new band uniforms, new band instruments, computers, Smartboards, even overhead projectors, watched as the disparity in equipment ballooned to the point of embarrassment. Surely, not even the parents at Charles Pinckney Elementary in Mt. Pleasant would claim that parents at Fraser Elementary downtown could replicate their 41 Smartboards if only the Fraser parents were more involved! [See Schools to Get Technology Boost]

Smartboards are an exciting, albeit expensive, new technology that may indeed advance student motivation. However, although it looks promising, its effectiveness in advancing learning remains anecdotal so far. We can be sure that if discipline is not improved in classrooms, Smartboards will be no more effective than blackboards.

Of more concern is how the technology is being financed and whether it will be fully utilized.

Any large expenditure--and at a cost of $42.5 million over five years, this one qualifies--needs to be justified in two ways. First, will the return on this investment be worth the cost? One would have to say that having equally equipped schools is worth the cost; it's not as clear that the full bells and whistles in play here are all as necessary, but perhaps CCSD is getting a good deal on the full package that justifies the extra cost. We'll never know.

Second, and equally important, is the foregone expenditure on some other aspect of CCSD. Think of it this way--going to college full-time has tuition, room, and board expenditures that we know all too well; most of us do not consider the foregone INCOME that the student does not make while he or she is a full-time student. Even adding in that foregone income may still suggest that the student should go full time in order to reap future benefits.

So, what aspect that might cost $42.5 million over five years (and over $6 million per year thereafter) is being foregone? Where is the money coming from anyway? Here's what CCSD says,

The plan will be paid for through the capital fund because this expense requires an ongoing funding stream, said Michael Bobby, district chief financial officer. A majority of the tax increase on the debt service fund is tied to these improvements, as well as those for school libraries. After five years, the plan will require about 75 percent of the $8.5 million annual amount to replace and enhance equipment.

What I get out of this is that the money will come from the capital fund that is not limited by being tied to sales tax revenues and, as far as I can tell, that is limited only by how much the Board wants to increase taxes. The district is spending $42.5 million over five years. Then CCSD will need to spend about $6.4 million every year thereafter to keep on track. I hope it's worth it.

As for full utilization--is there a teacher out there who has not had the experience of watching new technology's being underutilized because of lack of training or lack of time built in to learn to use it? Training is usually not considered a capital expense. 'Nuff said.

In regard to libraries (excuse me, media centers), I've addressed in previous blogs the ridiculous disparities that exist, especially in District 20. I do wonder about the P & C's math skills, however. According to '09 Budget Addresses Libraries, "[CCSD officials] found the district's median book age was 17 years old. The average age of collections in school libraries statewide ranges from two to 38 years, and the average age overall was 15 years, according to state education department reports."[italics mine]

Who is it--the editors or CCSD officials or the reporter--who does not know the difference between a median and an average? It is a difference!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

North Charleston & Stall HS Starting Times

I never need worry that the P & C will give me nothing to write about, either by omission or commission. Take Sunday's paper, for example. It contains a relatively interesting article on changes in start times for schools in North Charleston. [Some North Charleston Schools Alter Start Times] According to Courrege, North Charleston and Stall High Schools will start an hour later than last year and some elementary schools will start earlier to accommodate the changed bus schedules. So far, so good. There's only one problem.


Well, I know now because I took a look at the PDF attached to the on-line version of the P & C. But if, like North Charleston High School's principal, you're making a point about how teens need to sleep longer in the morning, wouldn't it make sense to state what time school has begun in the past? Seems logical to me.

The answer actually makes change more supportable. Since next year the late bell at these high schools will ring at 8:15, this past year that time was 7:15. That IS early. In fact, I've never worked at a high school whose schedule began so early, except for special elective classes outside of the normal curriculum (and those were scarce). And I assume that students also were dismissed at 2:15 last year instead of 3:15 for this coming year. That later dismissal time is still probably time enough for students to get to their jobs. Again, the P & C ignored the possibility that dismissal times would change as well.

Speaking of jobs, why does the state allow minors to work until midnight? Let's face it. The student who works until midnight is a part-time student and full-time worker. It should be the other way around. That schedule doesn't encourage a student to stay in school.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

AP Education Poll Reflects CCSD Realities

A Bill Gates-financed national AP poll on education, as reported in Saturday's P & C, actually emphasizes the concerns of CCSD parents, especially those in District 20 on the penninsula.

For example, more than half believe students are not prepared for everyday jobs or for college--echoing the concerns of Burke parents who wonder why the new technology campus can't be at Burke and why Burke gets short shrift in vocational courses.

But it's when the numbers are broken out by minority versus white that the story gets interesting. For example, the poll suggests "minority parents are more likely to believe their children are getting a better education than they received." Well, yes, especially if the parents dropped out of school earlier than their white counterparts did--it's not clear if the poll corrected for this factor. Historically, whites have higher educational attainment.

More telling is the disparity in those who rate their schools as good or excellent. Only 42 percent of minority parents agreed versus 59 percent of white parents. Was this adjusted for economic background? Let's see--could schools in poor areas be worse than those in rich areas? Are more minority parents poor? Wouldn't you love to see such a survey done in CCSD? Don't hold your breath.

Is education important to minority parents? Yes. They know education is the way up economically. That's why they consider it just as important as the economy. That's where it becomes obvious that the survey reflects District 20 and its ubiquitous failing schools.

What percentage of minority parents in District 20 would rate their schools as good or excellent? Don't make me laugh.

On a lighter note, the desire expressed in the survey for more math is being met with the Charter School for Math and Science. What an irony that the school board is fighting it!

Friday, June 27, 2008

ACLU & Planned Parenthood No Coincidence?

Brace yourself. Friday's P & C divulged that both the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are opening offices in downtown Charleston. For the ACLU it's the only office in the state--where else but Charleston, of course. For Planned Parenthood the impetus is being "flush with cash" and seeing Charleston as under-served. Probably it saw South Carolina's "sixth-lowest abortion rate in the nation" as a disgrace, you know, rather like the way we view CCSD's graduation rates.

According to PP, "'Initially, the center will not offer abortion services.'" For how many hours?

Don't hold your breath, either, waiting to see if the ACLU will support the rights of protesters against Planned Parenthood.

Maybe these two like-minded organizations thought there would be safety in numbers. Maybe they're both being funded from the same source. Does anyone see the irony in Joe Riley's being present for the ACLU's ribbon-cutting?

Food for thought.

Does Spelling Count? Not in the Media

It drives some of us crazy. Watch the captions on local TV. Look at the CCSD website.

No, I'm not talking about spelling errors by non-professionals. A student is not going to fail a literature test because he or she can't spell "villain" or "conscience." And while I try to hold myself to a high standard in posting on this blog, spelling errors in readers' comments bother me not at all.

It's just that, as I explain to students when they ask that question, if you are presenting yourself as a professional, spelling errors suggest that you are deficient in other ways as well. Would a sign company stay in business if even 10 percent of its signs were misspelled? My son, who was recently recruiting bloggers for on-line jobs, was inundated with emailed applications. The ones with misspellings in the application were the first to reach the circular file.

What set me off on this rant was the title of a story on Channel 4's website: Litter Is More Than an Eye Soar on Folly Beach.

At first I thought the headline on Channel 4's home page might have been a joke, but then I read the story. I'm still trying to imagine those eyes soaring on Folly Beach.

Al Parish's 24 Years Not Long Enough

Did you ever hear such nonsense as from those who have bought into Andy Savage's "I didn't really know what I was doing" defense of "economist" Al Parish? It's hard to explain why some folks are still making excuses for him. I've even heard some blame-the-victim comments! Why?

Let me guess.
  • Charleston isn't accustomed to business fraud on such a scale;
  • Parish's defenders, such as the Metro Chamber of Commerce, can't accept that they were bamboozled;
  • Even though Parish was "investing" in $4000 suits and trips to Ireland, they still think he meant to make money for them;
  • Parish used his religious connections (church and Baptist College--excuse me, Charleston Southern) to defraud while many others use religious connections to generate business;
  • He's a white male who is non-violent;
  • Bankrolling his flamboyant lifestyle was worth it for the entertainment value?
Brian Hicks said it rightly in Friday's P & C:
Parish's greatest asset was not his gnome collection but his air of respectability. He worked for a Baptist college, he was the toast of city officials and the chamber of commerce, he was in the newspaper. He fooled everybody in town. But really he was just a lowlife in a purple jacket, a man who would rob not only senior citizens but his own friends and neighbors.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How About That CCSD Budget, Folks!

Raid the contingency fund! What's a contingency anyway?

Sell that old real estate that's just hanging around! Next year's budget will be harder? Sell the Fraser campus for next year's budget. Sell the Rivers campus to balance the budget the following year. Sell the Charleston Progressive campus. Sell, sell, sell--cover those operating costs with sales of capital until. . .

Stoke Gregg Meyers's ego with *Meyers* provisions to the budget; he needs more self confidence!

Up those taxes on businesses! It was a forgone conclusion when the new state funding rules went into effect! Why do businesses matter anyway?

Get used to it, folks. Charleston County School District gets funded from the state sales tax on the same basis as every other school district.

Not fair, you say? There's nothing fair about a sales tax.

Why did CCSD get the short end of the stick while other districts' finances actually improved? It doesn't take a rocket scientist or accountant to figure out that CCSD was spending more per pupil than the others--and getting less in results. Now it's on a forced diet, except the Board is raiding the refrigerator.

Why Teachers Hate In-Service Days

Making the rounds is this video of teachers in the Beaufort area complying with asinine preparations for teaching Everyday Math. No matter that the dance has absolutely nothing to do with math. No matter that Everyday Math is hated and reviled in all other parts of the country as being ineffective and detrimental to student math proficiency, these hapless victims of in-service bravely attempt to follow an idiotic dance with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

FYI--almost all teachers have encountered some idiocy like this one on an in-service day. During one particularly inane and demeaning exercise, I walked out, ready to confront anyone who got in my way. Probably the rest thought I was ill or had an emergency. More likely, at least half were wishing they had the nerve to follow.

Thanks to The Palmetto Scoop for the memories!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why Lack Details for AP Academy at Burke?

Do you think that it ever occurs to Superintendent McGinley and the rest of the staff at 75 Calhoun that more details about CCSD programs might just make them more accepted by the public that CCSD serves?

The thought occurred to me, anyway, as I read about a week-long film-making orientation at the AP Academy at Burke High School as reported in Wednesday's P & C. Oh, yes, it was publicity of a sort. However, so many details were omitted regarding the program that you wonder what the reporter had her mind on when she interviewed Juanita Middleton, the program's coordinator. Or did the reporter interview anyone?

Most of the story clearly was based on a press release, not surprisingly, given the P & C's propensity to parrot whatever the District hands it and ask no embarrassing questions. In fact, now that I look again at the short article, I do wonder if the reporter spoke to anyone. See what you think:

The Advanced Placement Academy at Burke High School kicked off orientation last week with a filmmaking workshop that ended Friday with the presentation of a film made by students titled "My Charleston."

Filmmaker Portia Cobb, currently a visiting filmmaker at College of Charleston, instructed Burke's rising ninth-graders, members of the new academy.


"My objective is to motivate the students to explore image-making and storytelling through brief, individual autobiographical vignettes that will be edited together as a finale for the intensive five-day workshop," she said in a press release [italics mine].


Juanita Middleton, coordinator of the AP Academy, also appeared in the film [italics mine] to talk about her belief in God and in her students.

Middleton said she faces skepticism and criticism of the academy which, beginning next school year, will offer rigorous advanced placement and honors courses to prepare participating students for college.

Is she worried about the success of the program?

Middleton responded with confidence:

"I'm not worried about it. I never worry. I just do," she said.

Was that an interview or a record of what Middleton said in the film? Of course, reporters use press releases all the time. However, it would be nice if the article had teased us with a few facts--such as why orientation took place in June, whether other activities are planned for the summer, how many students participated in the orientation, etc., especially if CCSD plans to build community support for what promises to be a difficult new venture. The last time we heard from CCSD on the subject of its AP Academy in May it had recruited 27 for the 100 spaces allotted. Did the reporter know that?

See for yourself: Burke's AP Academy Starts with Filmmaking Workshop.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Be Afraid, Fraser Elementary, Very Afraid

CCSD Board member Gregg Meyers began to prepare the public for school closings Monday night by revealing part of his hand at the scheduled Trustees meeting. Schools will be closed, and their properties sold off to the highest bidder and/or friend of Joe Riley. That sale will balance the budget for a year-to-be-named down the road.

That brings us to Fraser Elementary, the school that didn't even merit its own principal during the 2007-08 school year. Is there anyone so naive as to think that the goal of 75 Calhoun is NOT to merge Fraser with Sanders-Clyde and sell the Fraser property for development? If so, that person probably doesn't read this blog! Now, if this betrayal were on the horizon in Mt. Pleasant, parents would rise up in droves to keep their neighborhood school. Meyers knows he can pick on Fraser because its parents are poorer and less well-connected. They will rise up, but can they prevail? How suave.

You see, Superintendent McGinley and her cronies at 75 Calhoun, as instructed by Meyers and his toadies on the Board, plan for ONE ALL-BLACK elementary school on the peninsula--Sanders-Clyde. Never mind that elementary students learn better in smaller "learning communities." Never mind that their projections for student enrollment are based on "funny" numbers. McGinley and Meyers can't even see the differences between the student bodies at the two schools. Even after all these years, McGinley still doesn't understand the dynamics of CCSD's neighborhoods--just look at her misidentification of the neighborhood surrounding St. Andrew's Elementary. Meyers knows but doesn't care. After all, Buist and the Academic Magnet took care of HIS children.

Why aren't we hearing from the NAACP on this issue? Hmm.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Feel Free to Rant About Comcast

Did you ever hear a good story about dealing with Comcast? Apparently one was posted on a Maryland-based blog my daughter regularly visits. She became so incensed that she responded with a blast regarding her three-month-long battle to get reliable internet service.

Well, our battle took only two weeks. I could rant on about incompetent management and disappearing personnel; however, I am grateful to the final installer who performed his work professionally. I'm sure he's unhappy with his fellow workers who give Comcast a bad name.

But then, how about the following story from last October:
75-Year-Old Woman Takes Hammer to Comcast Office
After not showing up for appointments, 75-year-old rampages through local Comcast office.

Photo Credit: By Richard A. Lipski—The Washington Post

By Jason Unger
10.22.2007 — If only we could actually do the things we sometimes think about doing.

Mona Shaw, a 75-year-old Bristow, Va. woman, did.

Shaw recently went on a rampage at her local Comcast office after the service provider missed a scheduled appointment, came without completing the installation, and then cut off her service.

When she went to the local office to complain, she ended up waiting for a manager—for two hours. And then the manager never came.

After a weekend of “stewing,” she went back to the office ... with her hammer.

As the Washington Post reports:

Hammer time: Shaw storms in the company’s office. BAM! She whacks the keyboard of the customer service rep. BAM! Down goes the monitor. BAM! She totals the telephone. People scatter, scream, cops show up and what does she do? POW! A parting shot to the phone!

“They cuffed me right then,” she says.

Her take on Comcast: “What a bunch of sub-moronic imbeciles.”

Wow! We’re not going to condone this action, but it is pretty interesting.

Shaw received a three-month suspended sentence for disorderly conduct, a one-year restraining order from the local Comcast office and a $345 fine.

Now I feel much better.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Moving on Down the Road

A brief (we hope) hiatus will occur as we pack up the computer and move down the road about two miles. If Comcast keeps its promises, we'll be back in business by Friday. You're welcome to use this posting as an open thread to comment on various problems with CCSD and its Board.

More Nonsense from the NAACP and CCSD

Monday's CCSD Board meeting was a classic--a classic satire on school board meetings.
  • Nelson Rivers III, field director and Burke High School graduate, showed up to prove that he doesn't know what's happening in District 20 these days.
  • Academic Magnet parents showed up to protest the potential deflation of the Magnet's effectiveness when combined with the School of the Arts.
  • Toya Green's absence (is there some reason she couldn't have voted by phone also?) guaranteed that the proposed budget for next year would not be passed.
  • The Board refused to renew the charter for James Island High School.
  • Hillery Douglas pretended he didn't know that, as chairman, he needed to sign the Board's approval (from its April meeting) for CSMS to use the Rivers campus.
Meanwhile, the ground is being prepared for the construction of the combined Academic Magnet and School of the Arts off Enterprise Avenue in North Charleston, now that the Special Day School has been completed. Has the public ever seen the final plans on that building? Has anyone? Has any traffic study been done? Where will the entrance to this "gi-normous" school be, off Enterprise or Montague? What is this, a state secret?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Last Gasp of a "Failing Mindset": NAACP & Ravenel

Dot Scott has lied to Nelson Rivers III, whose speech can be seen on the P & C's website. At least, I assume that Rivers wasn't being ironic when he said that the organizers of CSMS "want a segregated, or almost segregated, school" at Rivers. Maybe that was a joke? Or maybe a school that is all-black, such as virtually every school in District 20 except Buist Academy, isn't considered segregated by Scott and Rivers? Frankly, given the circumstances, Rivers's comments are bizarre.

Dot Scott is worried. Oh, not about the de facto segregated schools on the peninsula--about getting an integrated one. This is the most logical explanation for the illogical line that Scott, as Chairman of the Charleston NAACP, draws between Arthur Ravenel, Jr.,'s now famous blow up at 75 Calhoun Street and the Charter School for Math and Science's use of the Rivers campus. Scott hopes to use those remarks to drive an old man from office and prevent the election of another one who just might oppose the 5 - 4 majority of the present Board. See Friday's P & C for Meeting AddressesInequities in Schools.

Given that headline, didn't you assume that finally the NAACP and the phantom Interdenominational Alliance (that exists only for public meetings like this one) were going to demand that Charleston Progressive Academy, an almost all-black magnet school only two blocks from Buist Academy, get the resources it needs to be truly a magnet? Or that Fraser Elementary get its very own principal? Nary a mention. Instead we get more of the same from Scott and her cronies.

Let's all keep in mind that Ravenel, who certainly has his flaws, has been one vocal and mostly effective opponent of the majority of CCSD Board members led by erstwhile civil-rights attorney Gregg Meyers and Board Chairman Hillery Douglas, who can't even get control of the Board's agenda (if McGinley has been writing it, as the circumstances of the brouhaha suggest).

This meeting kicks off the election campaign to make sure that November's replacements for Board members follow the racist agenda set up by the NAACP. Despite who shows up at Monday's CCSD Board meeting, it is a "failing mindset." Thank God.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Jim Rex, Where's the Other 22 Percent?

Could it be true that South Carolina at last has begun its slow climb up from the bottom of the states with its on-time graduation rates? So says a new Education Week study that will be featured in Thursday's P & C. Actually, what the calculations of the study show is that South Carolina improved from a 54 percent graduation rate to a 55 percent rate.

Think of it: we beat out Nevada, New Mexico, and Louisiana! What losers they! We only lost 158 students from this year's graduating class every day of the last four school years.

Don't you wonder what percentage of those dropped out of CCSD high schools? Don't you wonder what the on-time graduation rate for CCSD is? Well, that's a secret that is guaranteed to remain right up there with what ever happened to Jimmy Hoffa.

Oh, CCSD keeps records all right, but whatever they report needs to be adjusted for the fudge factor. You see, for the same year that the study calculated a 55 percent rate, South Carolina REPORTED a 77 percent graduation rate. One could argue that some students take more than four years to graduate, but that would hardly begin to explain the 22 percent wishful-thinking discrepancy.

Time to get real.

Monday, June 02, 2008

CCSD's Derthick Committee to Meet June 3

Speaking of handing out pork, or not--

Those interested in District 20's input to awarding grants from the Lawrence Derthick Fund may wish to know that the Committee meets Tuesday at 1 p.m. in the Superintendent's Conference Room at 75 Calhoun to dole out the funds.