Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just My Imagination? CCSD's Discipline School

I'm so confused now. Didn't CCSD open a discipline school for students having trouble in its other schools? Wasn't an entire building built from scratch just within the last few years to provide a home for "at risk" students? Isn't it named Murray Hill Academy? Didn't it cost $ 9 million, and doesn't it still sit holding classes in North Charleston?

Maybe someone can enlighten me, then, as to why the long-beleaguered Greg Mathis Charter School would be needed for the same purpose. [See Charter School Skating on Thin Ice in Tuesday's P & C.] According to Tuesday's article,
"Most of Greg Mathis' students have been suspended or expelled from other district schools; and for many of the students, the North Spartan Boulevard school is their last chance to earn a diploma. The only other school that served a similar student population was Sea Islands YouthBuild Charter, which the board closed less than a month ago. That school is appealing the decision."
What is this? Down the memory hole? This year, after having its own problems, Murray Hill Academy was changed to a 6-10 school by Superintendent McGinley. However, its brand-spanking-new building could easily hold the 75 students now at Gregg Mathis and then some. That would hardly be a monster-sized school even then, as its limit is supposedly 240 students. So it adds the 11th and 12th grades. That's a problem?

Here's what non-district evaluators say of Greg Mathis:
[They] cited a list of problems, including a lack of clear sense of direction, poor attendance, a need for faculty training, an unorganized governing board and an absence of on-time, four-year graduates. Nearly one-fifth of its students were suspended or expelled for violent or criminal offenses in 2007 [italics mine], and the school did not have a certified special education teacher to ensure its special-needs students received required services, according to the review.
Also, "Its estimated budget this year was $607,401. Sellers [its principal] said it's difficult for Greg Mathis to offer a comprehensive high school curriculum because of its small enrollment."

Talk about wasting taxpayers' money! Last Friday when the school was visited, 25 of the school's 75 (approximately) students were absent. Isn't something wrong with this picture?

I wonder how long they've been absent.

Monday, September 29, 2008

CARP: CCSD Redesign as Educational Value

Moving forward with the second installment of our redesign plan for CCSD administration at 75 Calhoun, we come to our second set of criteria definitions (again, thanks to CCSD for setting the format for us!):

Administrative Redesign Criteria Definitions

II. Educational Value: Summarizes academic achievement in CCSD under current administration

A. Adequate Yearly Progress – Does the district meet taxpayers' expectations regarding transparency in spending (cost-effectiveness of educational gimmicks, excuse me, innovations) and answering direct questions regarding educational programs in public forums as well as supporting new charter schools; indicates if pace of progress will ever produce students who on average meet state academic standards

B. Absolute Rating – The value of administrative results compared with similar-size districts in regard to administrative costs, including the superintendent's salary in relation to comparable districts.

C. Improvement Rating – Measures administration's progress since selection of current superintendent in regard to access to magnet programs, funding of magnet schools, and transparency in lottery results for magnet programs.

Care to add any others?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

CCSD Accountability: Fire Janet Rose

For those of you who remember George Orwell's 1984, the protagonist's job was actually to rewrite history in the Ministry of Truth. Apparently, CCSD Superintendent Nancy McGinley has taken this policy to heart, judging by her self-serving comments in Sunday's P & C in regard to the discrepancies discovered between PACT and MAP scores at Sanders-Clyde. [See Analysis Reveals Scores Don't Jibe.]

Doesn't she realize that the more she obfuscates, the bigger the hole she digs?

McGinley's Ministry-of-Truth version of events is that an alert CCSD notified the state of problems at Sanders-Clyde; thus, the problems came to light. It doesn't pass the smell test. At about the same time she named MiShawna Moore as principal of Fraser Elementary over the objections of District 20 parents and community.

Forget McGinley for a moment. Let's get to the bottom line here. Who is responsible for testing oversight in CCSD? Her title says it all: Janet Rose in her position of Director of Assessment and Accountability. She is the person responsible for oversight of all testing in the district and the one who should have noticed how Sanders-Clyde's PACT scores skewed in relation to its MAP scores. It's no good to say that the discrepancy is hindsight or couldn't have been noticed at the time; watching a school's scores that were being touted as miraculous should have been seen as careful stewardship of her job.

Do we live in a district where no one is held accountable for not doing his or her job properly? Are employees at 75 Calhoun appointed for life, no matter how poorly they do their jobs?

School board candidates should be asking these questions.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Green vs. Stewart for CCSD School Board

What each said (and didn't say) to a League of Women Voters question [See charleston.sc.lwv.org] reveals self-interest versus common sense

LWV: What motivates you to become a member of the County School Board? What experiences have prepared you to serve on this Board?

GREEN: I believe that the Charleston community will only realize its full potential when every child is receiving the benefit of an excellent public education. I am a mother of two children so, like all parents, I have a vested interest in public schools performing at their best.

Yes, two children, one safely at Buist Academy where the other is headed in the future. That's her "vested interest." Guess what, Toya? The entire community, parents or not, have a vested interest! Oh, I forgot--you don't speak for District 20.

GREEN: My election to the Board was for a two year term to complete the unexpired term of a former board member. [so therefore?] I have attended school board member trainings at Harvard University’s Public Education Leadership Project and the National School Board
Association’s Annual Conference in San Francisco.

If prior election to the Board is proof of competence, maybe we need to see what you accomplished during that term--such as alienating District 20 by saying you represented the entire district instead; voting against the James Island High School's charter renewal; and cooperating in the cover-up of malfeasance in the Buist Academy lottery and address verification.

GREEN: I understand the fiscal cycles, academic strategies, and policy governance of school board service. I am in the best position to effectuate academic improvement and more efficient use of resources. ["effectuate"?]

"fiscal cycles"= I follow Gregg Meyers's lead on all financial questions.

"academic strategies"= I'm delighted to send my child to Buist while guaranteeing that other District 20 students do not have the magnet options students do in Mt. Pleasant or West Ashley.

"policy governance"= Following Gregg Meyers's lead again, I'm delighted to vote for policies that pander to special interest groups while ignoring prior Board policies that go forgotten, unrecognized, and unenforced. Selective enforcement: that's my mantra.

STEWART: I have been in the field of education my entire adult life. I taught high school English and Journalism for ten years.

In other words, I actually know what happens inside of schools and what problems teachers face on a day-to-day basis when unprepared students enter high school.

STEWART: I am currently Branch Manager of Village Branch Library in Mt. Pleasant S.C. I see up close and personal the need to educate all of the children.

I'm not in this for personal gain but because of daily contact with students.

STEWART: I am in my tenth year of service on District 20 Constituent School Board, where I have been Chair seven of those years.

I'll put my 10 years of service on the constituent board up against your two any day, Toya. Do you even know what was happening in CCSD 10 years ago?

STEWART: I served as a mentor at Rivers Middle School, member of the Board of Directors of Boys and Girls Club of America and coordinate many Children's activities for the libray system.

Rivers Middle School. You remember that, don't you, Toya? Where is it now? Did the condition of the building deteriorate on your watch?

STEWART: I want to be a voice for the underserved and disconnected.

These are not Green's constituents. She's said so.

Green plans that the vote totals from outside District 20 will guarantee her re-election. We have a fatally flawed system. She may succeed, since she has ingratiated herself to outside voters.

Green's re-election will signify that the residents of District 20 will continue to have no voice on the School Board and to be the dumping ground for students and principals other constituent districts wish to get rid of.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ketner Closes Closet Door; P & C Cooperates

I've said it before: I hate hypocrites. Today's on-line "staff reports" on Linda Ketner's most recent anti-Henry Brown television ad just riled me again. [See ADWATCH: Ketner Ad Focuses on Brown's 2004 Fire.] In case you haven't seen Ketner's ad or heard of it, the P & C is happy to post it for your enjoyment.

Democrat Linda Ketner is running in the heavily Republican First Congressional District against incumbent Republican Henry Brown. She won the Democratic Primary because, seeing its chance to run a candidate who could finance her own campaign, the local Democratic party with the full approval of the Charleston NAACP ensured that no other attractive Democratic candidate ran against her. Since then, Ketner's campaign has bombarded local voters daily with God-Dad-and-apple-pie commercials. They make you wonder why she didn't run in the Republican primary!

It is a fact not disputed that, since arriving locally "about 20 years ago" as Ketner says, she has made a concerted and highly visible effort to finance the gay rights agenda. Nor is it disputed that Ketner herself is a divorced and out-of-the-closet lesbian in a relationship with a local interior designer /real estate broker with whom she purchased a $3 million property West of the Ashley last year.

So why do her campaign commericals show her sitting with Dad, the Food Lion founder? Shouldn't she be proudly stating her social agenda on her campaign website and providing us with a picture of her and her partner?

The answer to those questions is quite clear: she's a hypocrite. She wants to amass kudos for being out of the closet but still get the votes of the poor, socially conservative schmucks who can't figure out what she really stands for.

She's not going to tell them; Henry Brown is too much of a gentleman to do so; and Brown's defeat suits the agenda of the editors of the P & C.

Go ahead. Check out my facts. While you're at it, try the P & C website to see if the paper has ever mentioned any of them. Oh, yes, one tiny phrase--"and her partner"--when Ketner announced that she was going to run.

Newsless, indeed.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

PSAT Results a Local Disgrace

Why did Charleston County have more National Merit Semifinalists in the early 1960s than it does in 2008? Do you realize how much the county population grew during that more-than-forty-year period?

Some testing results act as thermometers, especially if they can be compared over a number of decades. If we were to apply a thermometer to 2007's PSAT results in CCSD, we would realize that the patient, if not on his deathbed, is sinking fast. Allow me to attempt to put the most recent results concerning National Merit Semifinalists and National Achievement Semifinalists (named on the basis of PSAT results) in context.

PSAT's, taken in October of the junior year, are the SAT without its essay portion.

What does the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, as it is grandly named, measure? First of all, it's not an aptitude test: it's a combination of an achievement test and an aptitude test. Students need to be competent in algebra and geometry to score well on the mathematics portion; on the verbal portion they need to be competent in reading for ideas and understanding passages from essays, literature, science, and/or social studies. So, looking at results, how do you separate what the student has learned from the student's native abilities? The short answer is that you can't--at least not absolutely.

Back to the semifinalists. The College Board has an arcane system that, to simplify, allocates a certain number of semifinalists to each state based on its population. If all states had remained the same in population growth relative to each other over the last forty years, the number of state semifinalists in 1968 for South Carolina would have been the same as it is now. But South Carolina has grown faster than the national average.

What has happened to CCSD's results is that in South Carolina the upstate school systems are producing a greater proportion of high scoring students (both Merit and Achievement) than they were 40 years ago. Now, does that mean that the native ability of students in CCSD has declined during that time period? All those people from Ohio and points north who have migrated here should bristle at the suggestion!

Maybe you see where I'm going with this. We are left to explain the drop using the achievement component. That's what the educational system in CCSD must answer for.

The entire CCSD had a total of ten (10) Merit Semifinalists--and only the three from Wando didn't come from a magnet or charter school; CCSD topped that poor showing with two (2) Achievement Semifinalists--both at magnet high schools. How pitiful is that?

So, what are they doing in the upstate that CCSD isn't?

Per-pupil expenditure is not the answer. Neither are school buildings.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How to Lie with Statistics: CCSD, Part Deux

Why would any sane person believe numbers put forth by Hillery Douglas, Chairman of the CCSD School Board? [See A Question of $80.5 Million in Wednesday's P & C.] His goal is to strike fear into the hearts and minds of taxpayers in Charleston so that other board members and the public will shy away from creating more charter schools. Instead, he's struck loathing--of some members of the School Board and their toadies at 75 Calhoun.

But, Hillery, we think your proposal is an excellent one! We're so glad that you brought it up! If we make all CCSD schools into charters, we can get rid of you and all of your cohorts at 75 Calhoun and sell the Taj Majal.

Imagine how much money we could save! How much hot air we could avoid! How many residents of the district would put their children back into the schools.

Yes, it's a vision of loveliness! Go for it, Hillery!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CCSD Board Members Need Reality Check

Would you believe that the CCSD School Board voted for a policy in 2002 that it forgot about until 2008? You would? Me too. [See Board to Set Diversity Goal in Tuesday's P & C.] In fact, if we just had an instrument of measurement for board performance, we probably could create a list as long as Santa's--of policies voted upon and then ignored--by present Board members. Are there not a number of policies that are routinely violated by this Board?

That's why it's so disingenuous of Chairman Hillery Douglas to suggest that now after "forgetting" for at least five years (we'll give him 2003) about its affirmative-action policy for minority and female-owned businesses, the Board should get on with enforcing the policy, in fact, beef it up. He couldn't have a particular relative- or friend-owned business that wants part of the cash cow? Surely not.

Imagine. This policy was so important that no one on the Board noticed its disappearance.

Same goes for fatuous comments from erstwhile watchdog Gregg Meyers, whose votes over the years have oh-so-effectively created a new segregated district in Charleston. He's been there on the Board, meeting after meeting. Figures on diversity were not put forward in the last five years. Now he says, "We should be paying attention to it." How about "should have been," Gregg? What a hypocrite. It's called lip-service.

In his usual fuzzy-thinking manner, Douglas also expands the reach of diversity, now saying that "The school district doesn't have a good record on its percentage of contracts for small, minority- or women-owned businesses." Who said anything about "small" businesses, Hillery?

I'm no fan of such policies, especially for women. Anyone paying attention to how such policies have been manipulated over the entire country has no faith that they work as they are supposed to. Now, as the School Board rewrites the rules to cost taxpayers more money, it should also explain how said policy will add educational value for the district's children, especially the poorer ones.

Sometimes I think education is the last thing on its mind.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CARP: CCSD Redesign We Can Believe In

As long as Superintendent Nancy McGinley and her supporters on the CCSD School Board plan to "redesign" (i.e., close and consolidate) the CCSD schools, it's only right that we should move forward our own redesign plan for the administration of CCSD at 75 Calhoun.

We can give our process the hoity-toity title of "Charleston Administrative Redesign Plan," or CARP. Perhaps McGinley might understand better if we called it "The Stakeholders Administrative Redesign Plan," but, as readers know, I hate the term "stakeholders" in place of "taxpayers"; anyway, I like my acronym.

McGinley has already made arrangements to import the "edublob" (beginning with Sue Robertson of the Planning Alliance and cohorts) and milk so-called statistics from her dog-and-pony-show process while carefully protecting herself from providing any direct answers to the public questions. How unique.

We need our own criteria obviously, so I will start.
[Note: Thanks to CCSD for setting these up for me]

Administrative Redesign Criteria Definitions

I. Administration as Center of the Community: Examines how administration utilizes the facility at 75 Calhoun as a primary resource for children in CCSD and examines other uses of the facility.

A. Enrollment Decline – Tracks trends over the past 10 years in employees at 75 Calhoun versus enrollment decline in the district.

B. Minimal Administration Size – Indicates whether or not administrative office building meets or exceeds the minimum administrative requirements

C. Building Use – Reflects the other uses for the building outside of normal school
hours, for example – hobnobbing with Mayor Riley.

D. Transfers Out – Measures the number of administrative employees that transfer out of the district, especially those under suspicion of wrong-doing.

This process is fun. Anyone care to join in? The next category is Educational Value. We can have a field day with that one.

How about asking present school board candidates for their opinions on CARP?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Moore's Adding Insult to Injury in Sanders-Clyde Scandal

She saw the writing on the wall, so MiShawna Moore, principal at Sanders-Clyde and Fraser Elementary Schools, scrambled her defenses as best she could, sent a CYA tome to CCSD, and bailed town assisted by her (most likely) co-conspirator and former supervisor Geraldine Middleton, now Superintendent of the Halifax County, NC, schools. So reports the P & C in Friday's edition. Well, the P & C didn't actually say it that way. [See Moore Maintains Innocence.]

MiShawna Moore committed a crime ("the injury") against students and their parents at Sanders-Clyde, one that should have much stiffer penalties than it does. Her very act of inflating test scores for her personal gain belies her prior assertions that the scores of these children will improve with enhanced opportunity. Her now obvious activities reveal her prior lack of faith that the school world of these children could improve. How damning is that?

That Moore now has the temerity to suggest that these same students whom she personally has injured performed so badly (when outside supervision prevented Moore from her usual misdeeds) due to strangers in the classroom or strangers' leaving and entering the classroom shows that her arrogance (yes, that's what it is) knows no bounds. That's "the insult."

It's usually called "blaming the victim." This particular educrat has no shame.

The message to the king of Babylon ("the writing on the wall" in the Book of Daniel) was that the days of his kingdom were numbered, that he had been weighed in the balance and found wanting, and that his kingdom would be divided.

Sounds about right.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

CCSD's Phase I Public Engagement for Real

This will be a reality check on Monday night's meeting at Burke High School.
CCSD Website:

On Monday, September 15th, the District launched the first phase of this plan, with over 100 people attending the public engagement meeting at Burke High School.

District 20 Participant:

It was another well-represented cross section of District 20. This must be unnerving to McGinley because her CCSD staff was unprepared as usual. They had only enough participant packages for 100 participants. Twice as many showed up.

During each meeting, the Superintendent provides an overview of the School Redesign Plan and process.

McGinley did a monologue for 40 minutes. Then in her well-practiced way to avoid direct questions, she ended her lecture by directing the nearly 200 people to five break-out sessions.

Following this presentation, attendees break into small groups, where they are led by a group leader—a member of the CCSD staff—who helps them to fill out a survey form on the proposed criteria;

These groups were managed by senior staff. There was no question who was in charge. No democracy here, no debates, not even a discussion. It was another one-sided engagement.

answers any questions they might have;

In the same acoustically challenged auditorium all five groups competed for sound. They lasted not much more than 20 minutes.

and records feedback from each participant on a flip-chart.

Only half, at most, of the 16 criteria were discussed in the time allowed. But no matter; it was just for appearances. A second-grade teacher might have allowed more dialogue in the two dozen minutes allowed to the 40 or so people in each group to address the 16 items that will be used to bury a few more of [McGinley's] mistakes.

To view the survey, please click here. To see a list of the proposed criteria with definitions, click here.

We encourage your thoughts.

McGinley is sadistic. Who would have thought she could entice the public into participating in this brutal mass execution of their own schools?

Please send any thoughts, questions or suggestions about the School Redesign Initiative--and any related criteria, factors, options, or plans--to us at schoolredesign@charleston.k12.sc.us, or by calling us at 937-6303. Your feedback is critical to this process! Thank you.

They don't get it at 75 Calhoun, do they? This is exactly why so many have given up on Charleston's public schools. It's not the poor schools; it's the poor management.

Feel free to add your own comments.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Go, Marvin, Go! Russell Drops Out

As of Monday afternoon, the P & C online edition reports that college professor Robert Russell has dropped out of the District 20 school board race. That leaves Marvin Stewart to face Toya Hampton-Green.

Was there ever an easier choice to make?

CCSD Dog & Pony Show Tonight at Burke HS

Taking her show on the road, Superintendent McGinley stops first at Burke High School, barely giving District 20 residents time to realize that community meetings are being held. Not that they're going to change anything.

It would be good for her to hear from some District 20 "stakeholders" (her word, not mine--as though we are all in a joint-stock company) to ask pertinent questions regarding the fates of various elementary and middle schools. Why, someone could even ask if the district has had any further contact with MiShawna Moore or her lawyer. Someone could ask about the upkeep of the Rivers building.

Actually, many questions remain unanswered. Maybe even one or two will be allowed the floor tonight. If school board candidates are there, do try to pin them down on where they stand on the issues!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Where Does the Buck Stop in CCSD?

If we just didn't have all this high-stakes testing, we wouldn't have principals who cheat.

Apparently, that idea will be the P & C's take in Sunday's edition on CCSD's MiShawna Moore fiasco. [See today's High StakesTesting Creates Pressure to Cut Corners .]

Let's take a deep breath here.

We have NCLB because educational results at schools such as Sanders-Clyde were being swept under the rug all over the nation. Now these poorly-served students can no longer be ignored by school boards such as the one in CCSD. And communities have finally awakened to the reality that poorly-served students deter the achievment of everyone's well-being.

The community puts pressure on the school board. The school board's problem becomes the superintendent's problem. The superintendent, who answers to the school board, puts pressure on the principals. So do the associate superintendents. The principals, fearing for their careers, cheat. It happens everywhere.

Wait! Stop!

Let's use some common sense about this particular cheating scandal. It began with the school board's assuming that candidates for superintendent specially trained for urban schools by the Broad Foundation would be the best fit for CCSD. Never mind that the large bulk of students in CCSD live in suburban or even rural areas and that the remainder live in an area considered urban by only the widest stretch of the imagination once you actually look at it.

What we have here is mistake # 1.

Mistake # 2 was the selection of Mishawna Moore to be principal of Sanders-Clyde.

If in fact this decision was made in 2003 while Ron McWhirt was still superintendent, as one commenter on this blog has declared, why was the District 20 constituent board provided with a list of candidates for the position in 2004? According to someone who was on the scene,
"District 20's recommendation was for one of three qualified candidates to be considered for the S-C principal position. These three were from a list of qualified candidates supplied to them by the superintendent and CCSD's Human Resources office (as per the Act of Consolidation). When the school and constituent level interviews were completed, three names were sent up to Goodloe [who by then had become superintendent]. MiShawna Moore's name was not among them."
We can only conclude (without further facts) that Moore's appointment was originally temporary. So, how did it become permanent? According to that same source,
"Then a wonder of wonders happens. Ms. Moore emerges as Goodloe-Johnson's choice. Who else was involved? Ms. Middleton was the Associate Superintendent assigned to keep watch over District 20. Without legal authority, she and G-J scuttled the process in favor of their preferred candidate, Ms. Moore. . . . The District 20 Board made their reservations about Ms. Moore known to the administration as early as 2004."
This is not a pretty story, and it gets worse. The "Ms. Middleton" referenced above is now superintendent of the Halifax County Schools. In fact, you can email her at

Geraldine Middleton middletong@halifax.k12.nc.us

Guess who hired Moore away from CCSD, just in the nick of time, you might say?

Aw! You cheated.

Superintendent McGinley didn't choose Moore as principal of Sanders-Clyde (but do remember that McGinley was chief academic officer), but neither did she choose to remove her once facts and rumors began to appear. Given the vast movement of principals of various schools during McGinley's short tenure, she could have switched Moore to another position almost anonymously among the throng. Instead, she chose to give Moore a second school , ignoring the wishes of that school's community and the advice of the District 20 constituent board.You see, Moore's success was proof that McGinley knew what she was doing, so Moore couldn't be allowed to fail.

It's all about the children, is it? No, it's about advancing careers in bureaucracy, about those who troll state by state to find the highest-paying jobs, those who wouldn't make it to superintendent in their original school districts because school boards have gotten the notion that local (or even state) talent isn't good enough.

Well. Maybe changes need to be made in the makeup of school boards, too. There's an election coming in November.

Friday, September 12, 2008

How CCSD Cares for Its Assets: Rivers Demolition

Demolition by neglect.
First photo taken Fall 2006. Rest of photos taken August 2008. [Photos courtesy of a reader]

(1st ) Rivers, main building, 1st floor, 2006. Main hall is well lighted and maintained.

(2nd) Main hall 2 years later (2006 vs. 2008) with no maintenance. Some door frames have been stripped from openings; doors and hardware have been removed in other locations. This building was fully functional with Adult Education and administrative offices located here until late 2007.

(3rd) Appears to have once been a home economics classroom, complete with relatively new or unused kitchen appliances. These have been abandoned and are now piled high with discarded boxes and packing materials. . .a fire hazard.

(4th) What remains of a classroom last used by the MGAP in 2007. It was originally designed as a science lab but has been largely stripped of its fixtures and plumbing.

(5th) The Rivers School library, largely left intact by the middle school that moved out a few months before, was completely made over in the Fall of 2005 to host the downtown Adult Education Center and offices. As of August 2008 this same space has been stripped of its fixtures and left in far worse shape than it was in 2005. Once again CCSD has abandoned a library and a large collection of books to their fate.

(6th) Classroom space. Photo speaks for itself.

(7th) Walls of chorus room on 2nd floor have been stripped of plaster and taken down to masonry partition walls. Note concrete structural columns embedded within partition wall.

(8th) Until recently the entry area at the rear of the auditorium was maintained and functional. This is also the same area set aside for several city voting precincts. The destruction of this floor area appears to have taken place since the presidential primaries held in January 2008.

History Lesson

The school was originally constructed as a junior high school in 1936, using federal Works Projects Administration (WPA) funds designed as an economic stimulus during the Great Depression. In the early 1950's, Rivers was transformed into a high school designed to serve the northwestern neighborhoods and early 20th century suburbs of downtown Charleston.

The main building's exterior style was neo-colonial, or as some would say, neo-Williamsburg. The architect was Albert Simons, a local architect well known at the time who also designed other WPA projects in Charleston, including the Dock Street Theatre, Memminger Auditorium, and the College of Charleston's Silcox Gymnasium.

By the late 1970's Rivers was reduced to a middle school, finally ceasing to be used as a traditional school in 2005.

Who's been minding the store?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Post & Courier Snookered by CCSD over Moore

From the P & C of June 12, 2008: [italics added]

"I have nothing but positive things to say about MiShawna," Superintendent Nancy McGinley said. "We certainly don't want to lose her. I asked her not to leave."

McGinley said Moore had a significant promotion opportunity, and it's common for employers to reach out to known "stars" in any profession. McGinley said the legacy of good leaders is whether the reforms they started are sustained when they're gone, and she thinks that will be the case with what Moore established at Sanders-Clyde. Moore had a team that embraced her vision for taking care of children and their families, McGinley said.

McGinley wasn't sure who would lead Fraser or Sanders-Clyde next school year, and she hadn't decided whether she would appoint an interim or try to hire a permanent principal.

News of Moore's departure upset many tied to the schools. Aldakecisha Royal, parent of a Sanders-Clyde sixth-grader and another daughter who just finished eighth grade, started crying when she learned Moore was leaving. Moore has helped pay for her daughter to go on two trips to Florida, and she's bought the family Christmas baskets, clothes and bikes. Moore visited Royal's home and treated her children like family, Royal said.

"What do you say about someone who does more than her job requires?" she said. "She went beyond her job. She made a difference."

Readers know well that the P & C never investigates what Superintendent McGinley or anyone else at 75 Calhoun puts out as truth. Unfortunately, Ms. Royal spoke truer words than she knew when she said that Moore "went beyond her job."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Some 'Splaining to Do in CCSD

An idol with feet of clay? According to the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins,
"The phrase comes from the Old Testament (Dan.2:31-32). . . .Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed of a giant idol with golden head, silver arms and chest, brass thighs and body, and iron legs. Only the feet of this image, compounded of iron and potter's clay, weren't made wholly of metal. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the clay feet of the figure made it vulnerable, that it prophesied the breaking apart of his empire. . . . the phrase 'feet of clay' in the story . . . was used centuries ago to describe an unexpected flaw or vulnerable point in the character of a hero or any admired person."
So it applies to MiShawna Moore, the highly-touted former principal of CCSD's Sanders-Clyde Elementary. [See School Under Scrutiny in Wednesday's P & C.] Her success in raising test scores over the last five years has pushed CCSD into asking for a SLED investigation.

How, you ask? While CCSD's taxpayers were under the illusion that everything was kosher at S-C, CCSD received information at the end of the last school year from a whistle-blower, principal of a charter school, no less, that a fiddle lurked in the background.

"DiCenzo [of Orange Grove Charter] reported his concerns to the district after an article in May in The Post and Courier that highlighted Moore's work to improve Fraser and Sanders-Clyde. He didn't understand how such large gains could happen so quickly, he said.

"Washing clothes for a family is not going to improve test scores," he said."
But 2007 wasn't the first alert that all was not as it seemed at Sanders-Clyde. Unfortunately, our SC Department of Education watchdogs were too dazzled by Moore's 2005 results to do more than a pro forma investigation even after erasures rang alarm bells: "The state monitor stayed for one day during testing [in 2006] and concluded there was no cause for alarm," according to Superintendent McGinley, who then went right ahead and appointed Moore to be head of a second elementary school.

Such trust encouraged ever higher results from S-C for 2006, to the point that even Janet Rose noticed, although she did tell a big, old fiberoo to the P & C last May when queried about CCSD's extraordinary precautions. According to the article,

"This year [2007 results], the school's PACT results fell sharply in every subject and at every grade level.

"This was the first time that the school district monitored the school's testing. District officials took tests away from the school each night and put monitors in classrooms daily. Janet Rose, the district's executive director of assessment and accountability, told The Post and Courier in May that the extra scrutiny would validate the school's scores " [but didn't say why they needed validating!]

So, even as the P &C wrote its puff-piece on Moore this summer, Sanders-Clyde's principal was fully under suspicion. Rose's caution allowed Moore to make her getaway to find another job, a promotion at that:

"A few weeks after the tests this spring, in a move that surprised parents and officials, Moore announced that she was leaving Charleston County. Moore refused to do any media interviews at that time, and she now works as an assistant superintendent in Halifax County, N.C., schools."

Maybe it didn't surprise ALL CCSD "officials." I'll bet it didn't surprise Larry DiCenzo.

Halifax County must be delighted to get such a paragon to improve its school system! Why, as assistant superintendent, Moore can have access to the testing of more than one school and improve it. Let's face it--it's not the first time that a school district has given a good recommendation in order to get rid of a bad apple.

What should happen to MiShawna Moore? Is $1000 and/or 90 days in jail enough punishment for making a travesty of testing procedures? NO. Losing teaching or administrative credentials isn't enough either. The rewards for cheating (and not getting caught) are too high and tempting.

How about $100,000 and/or five years in jail? Maybe some administrators lacking in morality will pause at that.

Meanwhile, should CCSD's assistant superintendents and superintendent be held responsible for fraud on their watch? McGinley wanted full responsibility for appointing principals. Now she's got it. What about penalties for her failure?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Statistical Cover for Closing CCSD Schools

Does anyone seriously believe that Superintendent McGinley doesn't already have a list of schools she's planning to close? [See Schools Might Be Closing in Tuesday's P & C.]

The so-called six-area ranking strategy has already been manipulated to produce the preplanned results. Don't think so? Statistics can be manipulated to support ANYTHING. Some of us are old enough to remember the title of the manipulator's game plan, How to Lie with Statistics.

This dog-and-pony show will be taken on the road to the constituent districts, where "stakeholders" will have the opportunity to state their concerns, or as McGinley puts it, the district will "gather feedback on the criteria." Don't hold your breath for real dialogue because it won't be allowed. I do hope, however, that blog readers will attend and make an attempt at penetrating the educationese blather that will emanate from the podium.

The truth is that what will have the biggest impact on which (and whether) schools will be closed and their property sold off is the November election. The P & C seems determined to mention the CCSD School Board contested seats as little as possible.

That said, ask the candidates where they stand. Pin them down. Your school's existence may depend on their answers and their success in getting elected.

Friday, September 05, 2008

CCSD Statistics on Cost Per Student

In the article pasted below verbatim from Friday's P & C, will CCSD's number-crunchers count these federal dollars to Malcolm C. Hursey Elementary as part of expenditures-per-student for Hursey?

Schools get grants for healthy snacks

Friday, September 5, 2008

Four Lowcountry elementary schools will receive federal money to put fresh fruit and vegetable snacks in hallways and classrooms.

Hursey Elementary in Charleston County, Hendersonville and Black Street elementary schools in Colleton County, and Harleyville- Ridgeville Elementary in Dorchester District 4 were among 34 schools statewide to get part of an $800,000 federal grant aimed at developing healthier snack habits. The program is a partnership among the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the S.C. Department of Education and the S.C. Department of Agriculture.

Grant recipients must show a willingness to develop nutrition education programs focused on fruits and vegetables and to establish partnerships with local growers.

Let's see. Eight-hundred thousand divided by 34 would be roughly $24,000 per school (assuming the money is distributed evenly). Malcolm C. Hursey Elementary has (according to CCSD's posted numbers) 283 students.

That's about $86 per student.

Will that money be included in CCSD's accounting of what is spent per student at Hursey or not?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Outside the Box: I Knew I Liked Ohioans

"Republican House Speaker Jon Husted, a charter school supporter, [has] asked the Ohio Department of Education" a provocative question. [Thanks to edspresso.com for the heads up.] Someone in South Carolina needs to pay attention:

[From The Columbus Dispatch]

Two Ohio charter schools will shut their doors for good next spring, the first casualties of a new law targeting chronically failing schools. The rules apply only to tax-funded, privately operated charter schools. What if traditional public schools had to meet the same requirements? [italics mine]

That's a question Republican House Speaker Jon Husted, a charter school supporter, asked the Ohio Department of Education. The answer: 16 traditional public schools would be forced to close, including four in Columbus. The rest are in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown.

The 16 schools are about 0.5 percent of the roughly 3,400 statewide. That's a slightly lower percentage than the two failing charter schools which are among 337 in Ohio.

Under the new rules, charter schools receiving an F for academic performance in three consecutive years and showing no improvement must close. Some charter-school advocates argue that the same rules should apply to all schools.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Half-truths and Whining Op-Ed from the Rev. Darby

Probably it's a good thing that these days I don't always read the P & C thoroughly before heading to work. Saves me some indigestion. So it was suppertime before I read the Reverend Joseph Darby's op-ed piece in response to a NEWS story about the opening of the Charter School for Math and Science (CSMS). [See New Charter School Must Prove Its Worth.]

Despite the facts Darby, unfortunately, continues to believe in the conspiracy theory of human behavior. All those well-meaning organizers of this new charter school, as the rant goes, are taking advantage of CCSD in order to create another all-white school downtown. Believe it or not, Darby cites Buist Academy and the Academic Magnet as proof of this conspiracy to make schools whiter. If only Darby could see beyond his nose to the conspiracy of silence that has made all other District 20 schools segregated, or, should we say, black? I guess that's not going to happen. No, apparently the Charleston NAACP will continue to make itself part of the problem in CCSD.

Meanwhile, Darby spouts inflammatory rhetoric concerning the approval of CSMS:
"It's worth noting, as my mother used to say, that you can't go the right way if you take the wrong road. Reservations about the charter school led to lengthy consideration by the school district, which ended only because of rude and profane coercion by school board member Arthur Ravenel, who took pride in the fact that his unprofessional and ill-tempered remarks and actions pushed the charter school along the road to approval."
Let's get this straight, Rev. Darby. You mean that Ravenel's somewhat idiotic remarks caused the charter school to be approved? That's called rewriting history.

Much to its discredit, the P & C continues to solicit and publish this nonsense.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

CCSD's Drayton Hall Elementary to Charter?

At the parent Open House Tuesday, September 2, the Drayton Hall Elementary administration announced that 100% of its teachers have voted to go charter. Parents will vote next week.

Drayton Hall is a K-5 school enrolling over 600 students that is located west of the Ashley near Shadowmoss. In 2007 roughly half of its students scored Advanced or Proficient in all four areas of the PACT. The school is four years old.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Common Sense About High School Reform

If you are as concerned as I am about not only dropouts but also their peers who finish high school not well prepared by the all college-prep curriculum, you really should read Jay Mathews's interview in the Washington Post with a California high school teacher who thinks outside the box, Class Struggle: Helping Kids Who Hate High School.

Wish this debate could occur in CCSD!