Friday, October 31, 2008

McGinley Subscribes to the NSNS Too?

National Sarcasm News Service, or Halloween joke? You decide.

From the Superintendent's Desk, October 31 [italics mine]:
On Monday, we honored the proud legacies of Nancy Cook, Brian Moody, and Hillery Douglas—all three of whom, after longstanding tenures on the School Board of Trustees, stepped down. We will miss them, but as I said on Monday, we know that the enduring impact of their work will be felt for a long, long time. Not only is our recent academic success a tribute to their leadership, but new buildings—such as Sanders-Clyde and Haut Gap, two schools we ceremoniously broke ground on this week—would not have come online if these Board Members had not championed the need for them.
"Come online"? Who's writing this stuff?

MiShawna Moore On NYT's Radar Screen

CCSD has made the big time! Thursday's New York Times ("All the news that fits, we print") rehashes the Sanders-Clyde scandal. [See School’s Success Gives Way to Doubt.]

The reporter confuses District 20's boundaries with those of the city and CCSD, since he says that "[t]he public schools here are 98 percent African-American, and nearly 20 percent of the city’s population was below the poverty level in the 2000 census." Well, both can't be true. The first is true for District 20 only (and that's not the whole city, as those of you living in West Ashley know well)--and probably is closer to 100 percent. The second statistic probably relates to Charleston County, but since it comes from the 2000 census, maybe it's the whole metropolitan area.

Also confused is his description of Sanders-Clyde's location: "The school, a two-story brick building framed by palmetto trees, has 326 students in a fraying district worlds away from tourist Charleston’s 18th-century brick-and-stucco splendor." A fraying district? Coming apart at the seams? Take a walk. Maybe the reporter doesn't know what "fraying" means or how it actually doesn't apply to any downtown neighborhoods in 2008. "Frayed," yes.

Notice that no one in CCSD claims credit for the next tidbit: "The principal’s renown was such that she had been given control of yet another struggling downtown Charleston school, in hopes that she could also turn it around." Passive voice is so handy when you don't want to say that Superintendent McGinley did it.

Not only that, but Janet Rose has her hindsight CYA glasses fully attached: "Many students made spectacular gains — leaps that in retrospect seem unlikely. 'You don’t go from nonreader to proficient reader over the course of a year,' said Janet Rose, a Charleston school official [responsible for oversight of testing and achievement, who didn't have the sense to compare other tests with the one under fire]." Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.

Is it possible that McGinley and company have learned some sense from this fiasco? If so, why does Janet Rose still have her job?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

CCSD Soaks the Taxpayer, Part 100

Sue the state with taxpayers' money.

The state defends itself with taxpayers' money.

The suit concerns what becomes of buildings paid for with taxpayers' money.

Are they to be used by CCSD schools paid for by taxpayers' money, or are they to be inhabited by CCSD charter schools paid for by taxpayers' money?

[See Thursday's P & C, District to Sue State over Charter School Law.]

What was that Shakespearean quote? "Let's kill all the lawyers"? It would save some money. Doesn't the district need to save money?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Real 5 for Downtown CCSD School Properties

How about several acres of prime real estate for sale in downtown Charleston? The REAL 5 have a deal for you.

The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors
has its eye on a couple of prime spots. Of course, at the moment these contain neighborhood elementary schools, but who needs those?

Now that CCSD mismanagement has driven half the students on the peninsula out of its schools, it's time to elect the REAL ESTATE TEAM--Collins, Fraser, Green, Lecque, and Oplinger--to the CCSD School Board. These candidates, the endorsers candidly admit, "best represent the interests of the real estate community." What better qualification could they share?

The team also happens to have the endorsement of the Metro Chamber of Commerce PAC, with the permission of Mayor Joe Riley. What a coincidence. [See Business Panel Backs 5 School Candidates.]

Imagine what could be built where Memminger and Fraser sit! Once the REAL 5 are elected, the Superintendent can get down to business recommending school closings (i.e., "school redesign") without fear of hard questions. David Engelman's request to put district expenditures on line for more transparency will be relegated to the dustbin of history. These will "set a positive tone," the one desired by Brett Jonas, Metro Chamber PAC chairman.

With the REAL 5 on board, so to speak, CCSD need no longer fear that unused school buildings will be occupied by those pesky charter schools. And, with the downturn in the real estate market, these properties are serious bargains.

Sounds like a plan. No, not conspiracy. Stupidity.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pay Increase Refusal Reveals CCSD Super's Dedication

With more economic woes reported every day, seeing Superintendent McGinley refuse to accept an $8,000 performance bonus and $300 more per month travel allowance from a lame duck School Board was heartening.

Citing her already sufficient $184,000 per year salary and $800 per month in-district travel allowance, McGinley stated it was "too sweet" of her toadies to award her more money considering the depths of the district's financial woes. She also hesitated to accept as valid the score projections from her own district staff (the basis for the bonus), just for appearance's sake. In fact, McGinley said that she had begged the School Board to save its vote until the actual scores were known so that she would not to appear to be milking the district. [See School Board Gives Superintendent Good Marks in Tuesday's P & C.]

Oops! Sorry. That report was from the National Sarcasm News Service.

To set the record straight, McGinley said none of the above and happily accepted the money and a year's extension on her contract. Oh, and she blushingly asked that the "bonus be delayed." How coy.

If you really want more of this nonsense from CCSD, vote Green, Fraser, Oplinger, and Lecque. The Superintendent will have a really professional cheering squad.

Sanity lies with Stewart, Kandrac, Engelman: at least they won't ask McGinley how high to jump. If more nonsense like this latest comes out, I may even force myself to vote for Altman!

Monday, October 27, 2008

CCSD Barn Door Locked; Academic Magnet Horse Out

It's grotesque and ludicrous, not merely laughable.

After years of planning and months of construction on the new building to house both the Academic Magnet High School and the School of the Arts, the CCSD School Board has voted to allow parents and certain students to vote on whether the Magnet will move at all. [See Academic Magnet Might Reject Facility in Monday's P & C.]

You can't make this stuff up.

Do you wonder why the Academic Magnet parents don't trust the School Board to keep its word regarding a non-merger of the two schools?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

P & C Article Guaranteed to Confuse Voters

Do you want girls to be at least 14 to legally consent to sex in South Carolina? One would hope so! So you may vote "no" on one ballot proposition when, in reality, you should want to vote "yes"!

Expect long lines at the polls on November 4th. That's the word from the media, which sees large voter turnout. Not even calculated into their warnings are the three ballot propositions that face South Carolina voters. Those have received virtually no attention--and their content is unknown even to really savvy voters. Believe it or not, some states (like New Jersey) send out sample ballots to voters in advance to avoid confusion on voting day. Could it be they expect large numbers at the polls?

So it was with great interest that I skimmed the P & C's Saturday article on one proposition, Contradictory Age of Consent on Ballot.

Then I slowed down and read the article from start to finish.

Then I read its contents to my better half out loud, hoping that its information finally would become clear.

I think I got it. The second half of the article had nothing to do with the question on the ballot. Oh, yes, it was interesting background but did not give the voter any guidelines on what voting "yes" or "no"would mean. A simple "if you vote 'yes,' wording in the state constitution that contradicts established state law will be eliminated" would have sufficed.

Whoever created the wording on the ballot needs to be sent back to Composition 101:
"Must Section 33, Article III of the Constitution of this State be amended so as to delete the provision that no unmarried woman shall legally consent to sexual intercourse who shall not have attained the age of fourteen years?"
Got that? Vote "yes" and a girl under 14 will be able give consent!

Of course, once you study the background of the ballot question, you discover that's not the purpose at all. The age of consent in South Carolina is 16, and, no matter how you vote on November 4th, it will remain 16.

Well, I hope the people in front of me will just skip over ballot questions or (more likely) vote "no"on general principles and make room in the booths.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

CCSD Message to Time Travelers

"Does your child qualify for free tutoring?" is the bold captioning on a large ad placed in Saturday's P & C, no doubt as a requirement of NCLB.

After listing eligible CCSD schools, the ad states, "Learn more at an information fair.". . . "A district-wide information fair will be held on Saturday, October 18 from 10 a.m.--4:30 p.m. in the Board room of 75 Calhoun Street."

We could argue that the place selected for most parents would be off the beaten path. The middle of Gadsden Green might be more appropriate, but let that pass.

What I want to know is, where can they catch the time machine?

Money to Charter Schools Needs Explaining

Add $800,000 per year to its budget for yearly expenses? What school wouldn't go charter?
[See 1 Charter Gets Approval, 1 Must Try Again]

No doubt many readers of Saturday's P & C wonder why Drayton Hall Elementary will get $800,000 more per year when it goes charter. Just think what Fraser Elementary or Edith Frierson Elementary could do with extra bucks in the bank!

Well, Courrege isn't going to explain it for you, probably because she doesn't know the answer. She gets her information from CCSD, after all. Despite continual protests by CCSD administration and School Board alike that they really favor charter schools, CCSD doesn't want you to know.

It's up to you, charter school supporters, to get the word out. CCSD Board Chairman Hillery Douglas is about to make more noises about how Drayton Hall wants to take money from other schools in CCSD.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fayetteville Taxpayers, We Feel Your Pain

Why not tear down a perfectly sound school building? The school board in Fayetteville, Arkansas thinks it a great idea. Some of them say, "the building is inadequate for developing a 21st-century curriculum in which teachers are more like facilitators in the classroom. The 21st century curriculum can't be done in the building we have." Really? And why would that be?

Here's some plain talk from a fed-up taxpayer who believes the school board simply wants to keep up with the Joneses (a newly-built nearby high school):

"Yes, Fayetteville High School is half a century old. Yes, its cafeteria and auditorium are too small. But there are smarter and less costly ways of addressing those problems than temporarily housing students elsewhere and spending tens of millions. How about if we just build a new cafeteria and auditorium? The recently completed appraisal of the facility said that it was in “excellent condition,” so why do we have to tear it all down and build a shinier new one?

"And how about if we take some of the money that we were willing to spend on a shiny new building and invest it intelligently in recruiting, retaining, and motivating the best teachers?

"As a separate matter, someone needs to look into why exactly school buildings cost so much. The average cost [of housing construction] is $55 compared to $93 at [a nearby community's new high school] and who knows what at the potential new Fayetteville High School. My guess is that school construction firms have effective lobbies that insert all sorts of gold-plating and burdensome requirements into school building codes. Doing so limits possible bidders who could meet all of those requirements while it drives up the construction profit. And I imagine that most of those requirements have nothing to do with educational necessity or realistic student health and safety."

Did someone say "earthquake"?

We all know what a wealthy state Arkansas is. Not.

Let's Hope He's Better at Economics

"My advice to you is to button down the hatches," the state's chief economist Bill Gillespie said. [William C. Gillespie, SC's Chief Economist in Friday's P & C--Pared Budget Spreads Pain]

Button-ing down the hatches instead of batten-ing them down probably won't be effective against the next hurricane. Or against the next economic crisis either.

According to, "This term originated in the navy, where it signified preparing for a storm by fastening down canvas over doorways and hatches (openings) with strips of wood called battens."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

In Case You've Forgotten Who Kandrac Is

An underfunded candidate running for CCSD School Board from North Charleston is Elizabeth Kandrac, who made national news headlines by winning her discrimination lawsuit against CCSD two years ago. In case you just moved into town or have been on another planet, you can check out Kathleen Parker's 2007 take on the case at : The Black and White of 'Ho' Culture.

Because I can't think of anyone running who is less likely to be a cheerleader for business as usual in CCSD, I'm going to take my opportunity to "bullet vote" on this one. North Charleston has two seats. The two other candidates have yet to pry themselves away from adoration of present CCSD School Board members. We need "outsiders" if the culture at 75 Calhoun is ever to change.

Vote for one in North Charleston. Kandrac's chances of winning will increase.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Playing Charades in CCSD

Let's play charades! CCSD administration and particularly School Board member Gregg Meyers have the game perfected. Why, Chip Campsen even admitted as much in Wednesday's edition of the P & C. [See School Panels Lure Few for these unguarded comments.]

Ready to play? My category is a quote or phrase, so imagine quotation marks.

I'm holding up four fingers, one for each word, and I'm working on the fourth word. I'm laying four fingers on my arm for the syllables. I've put my hands together with the fingers interlaced and waving, so that they appear to be eight people.

Yessss! On the nose--the word is "integrated." That's "status as being integrated." Read on.

The P & C laments that few have chosen to run for CCSD's constituent boards. As Courrege writes, "their increasingly limited powers and responsibilities have led to growing frustration among their members and waning interest in this second tier of the district's structure."

A statement from Doug Berger of the District 20 (downtown) board reveals the downside of constituent membership: "'You can only beat your head up against the wall for so long. . . ; Constituent boards have a lot of inherent value, but without a budget and being able to get an FOIA request honored, we're put in a stranglehold.'" Strangled, of course, by 75 Calhoun and School Board members like Meyers.

Getting rid of the constituent boards would change the structure of CCSD, and "Constituent boards were part of the reason the courts found the school district to be desegregated." Thus, "changing the district's structure could disrupt its status as being integrated [italics mine] and lead to lawsuits and expenses."

Well, so long as the Justice Department thinks that the District 20 schools are integrated, we can breathe easy.

Meyers adds that "the state could make any change it wants to the district's structure, and it wouldn't affect its status as 'unitary.' The state could get into trouble only if it makes changes motivated by a racial discriminatory purpose or whether those changes have a racially discriminatory effect."

He should know. According to those statements, CCSD is already in trouble.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Replace Testing with Portfolios? That'll Be Effective

Effective in hiding discrepancies in learning between schools, that is. This one goes on the same list with fuzzy math and constructivist learning.

To quote Flypaper, "If you think 'adequate yearly progress' is complicated and leads to insane results, wait till you introduce portfolios. With every grader coming up with a different score, you are going to see mass confusion about whether kids are reaching standards or not. (This 2004 Education Next Jay Mathews' article on portfolios is a good primer on the pros and cons of the approach.)"

NCLB testing has created problems, but most of them concern not being able to sweep bad results under the rug any more.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Gregg's Been at the Kool-Aid Again

Where are the editors of the P & C when we need them?

CCSD School Board member Gregg Meyers's rant in Monday's "Letters to the Editor" needed the red pen. He takes several iterations of "have not had the charter school Kool-Aid," "Not having had the charter school Kool-Aid," "Those who have had the Kool-Aid," "If you've had the Kool-Aid" to get to the point of his letter--his endorsement of Toya Green for CCSD School Board as the representative who lives in District 20. Notice I didn't say "represents District 20"; Toya should be happy.

Of course, I love the added touch, that Meyers uses his business address (Broad Street) in this rambling and disconnected endorsement. Using his home address East of the Cooper would have sent the message that Mt. Pleasant is trying to tell downtown Charleston whom to vote for. Of course, that would be the correct message.

Also notice that Meyers is afraid to mention the name of the "particular charter school" that was asked by Meyers and Green to "create a plan to address its educational weakness" in a failed attempt to intimidate. He would like the uninformed reader to believe he means SeaIslands Youthbuild or one of the other failing charter schools that were formed by CCSD cronies as baliwicks for relatives and toadies of school board members.

He dare not mention that he and Toya tried to intimidate James Island Charter High School for two reasons: (1) he doesn't want to become a laughingstock, given how much better run the school is without CCSD School Board oversight; and (2) he doesn't want to alienate James Island voters.

Fortunately, most readers certainly stopped reading after the second glass of Kool-Aid.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Levi, We Love You!

I once asked my son why so many of his generation like songs from the sixties (which he calls "garage rock" and I simply call "real rock"). When he replied, "because they're upbeat," it took me a moment to realize he was right. After all, so many of the great hits are about lost love.

So it is with sadness that I note the passing of one of the greats, Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops. What a great voice, and what a great interpreter of song! Surely everyone has his or her favorite Four Tops hit. Mine would have to be "It's the Same Old Song." Who could sit still to this?

The Four Tops-It's The Same Old Song (great 1966 color clip)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A 2015 Letter to the P & C Regarding Bin Laden

Saturday's P & C features a Letter to the Editor that I have updated [in italics] to reflect October 18, 2015:

A different Bin Laden

There has been so much talk in the news lately focusing on Osama Bin Laden and his protest activities 10-plus years ago.

I've heard nothing about the gentleman I met at a constructivist [see below] education conference two years ago.

Osama Bin Laden gave an inspiring speech there about the moral heart and ethical task of teaching. Many heads were nodding in agreement as he discussed what is and what could be in America's madrassas.

I invite your readers to inform themselves about the Osama Bin Laden of today, who is an advocate for social justice. He brings enormous insight into making things better for the next generation, especially for the nation's poorest citizens.

With the recent economic news, we could use many more like Osama Bin Laden working to improve the status quo. Go to

We can all benefit from his inspiring words and judge him on his contributions today.

Leftist College Professor of Education

Old Dominion University

A sample of the constructivist theory of education:
Some subjects, such as mathematics, are more "bounded" than others by rules, formulae, and procedures. They are more likely to be regarded by teachers as producing problems and tasks to which there are "correct" answers. Individual interpretations and construction of ideas and concepts are less likely to be encouraged by teachers than in subjects such as literature and writing.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Puzzled over Endorsement? Don't Be

Many people reading about the financing of campaigns in the First Congressional District (Brown versus Ketner) must have been startled when they reached this statement (in the fifth paragraph or so) in the P & C Friday morning: "The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund has named Ketner's one of its top 10 races to watch."

Well, I'm startled that local news outlets continue to ignore this aspect of the campaign. Does anyone ever even ask Ketner what her social agenda is? If so, I haven't heard it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tracts or Tracks? Little Things Mean a Lot

Here we go again. Is it the editor? the reporter? or the school itself?

In Thursday's edition of the P & C two more schools are added to CCSD Superintendent McGinley's list of those desiring to be "partial magnets." [See 2 More Schools Seeking to Operate like Magnets.] According to the Courrege-written article, Chicora Elementary in North Charleston and Haut Gap Middle on Johns Island are hoping to get on the goodie list.

Chicora Elementary wishes "to offer a communication theme. Students would publish a newspaper and magazine, create a Web site, host a daily TV news program and participate in project-based learning." We could ask why Chicora must be a magnet in order to do this, but let it pass.

"Haut Gap Middle plans to develop three academic tracts: science, humanities and foreign language. Students would have the opportunity to earn up to five high school credits."

Tracts? Tracts?

Well, we could assume that each of the three will be given a section of land on Johns Island to farm--using science, humanities, and foreign language methods (actually, Spanish methods might work quite well there). You know, sort of like the Watson Hill tract.

Or, we could assume that the Oxford Movement has come alive on Johns Island and Tractarianism will rule each sector, although perhaps administrators have another Common Sense in mind instead. We'll wait with bated breath on that one.

It seems so unlikely that the Roman Catholic Church has taken over Johns Island that we can safely assume that these tracts will not concern the Mass, especially since it's not even Lent.

Let's be generous. Someone's handwriting was difficult to read. Someone was a poor typist (I sympathize!). The copy editor forgot to look at the article.

Let us all hope that Haut Gap, Courrege, and the editors of the P & C actually know the difference between a "tract" and a "track"!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jim Rex's Red Herring Four-Day School Week

Great consternation abounds in the local news! State Education Superintendent Jim Rex has proposed a four-day school week to deal with cuts to his budget from state funding. Doing her best imitation of taking the proposal seriously, CCSD Superintendent McGinley responds that she will. . . not consider it lightly. No one will who has half a brain, at least not until everyone goes on a four-day work week. Not going to happen.

My, what a charmer Rex is. It worked. No one is giving air time to his other "budget-cutting" measures--except the Newsless Courier, of course. At least the P & C did publish his entire list in Wednesday's edition. See 4-day Week Proposed for Schools.

A "red herring" is meant to throw taxpayers off the scent, get them going down the wrong path so that the real culprit is ignored, in this case proposed measures that have nothing to do with cutting expenditures! Let's look at the record:

Rex proposes
  1. Limiting testing this year to only what is required by federal law, which would mean a one-year exemption from end-of-course tests and social studies tests.
  2. Eliminating 2009 ratings for schools and districts on the state report card.
  3. Giving districts flexibility to use state money as they see fit instead of how lawmakers mandate.
  4. Enabling districts to eliminate programs that lawmakers demand.
Okay, I'll grant that testing does cost money, but if we can do without "end-of-course tests and social studies tests" for one year, why do we have them in the first place?

The other three proposals will not save money! How disingenuous is that? Oh, yes, I'm sure that Rex would like to see 2009 state report cards eliminated. What educrat wouldn't?

If state legislators fall for the last two, they must be dumber than dirt. They would be voting to negate their own legislation.

Get real, Jim. Start with cutting staff and salaries in the state office of education. In fact, start by cutting your own. Then we'll take you seriously!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CCSD Progress in Senior Staff Salaries

As CCSD continues under the present "crisis" to contemplate closing neighborhood schools, we need a little perspective on CCSD's spending:
  • Under Superintendent Nancy McGinley, in January of this year a teacher at Burke High School was told supplies of paper had run out and no funds remained to purchase more.
  • Under Superintendent Nancy McGinley, teachers at Goodwin Elementary have already received their "paper for the year." They trek it to the copier, then hoard what remains in hopes it will last the school year, since no funds remain for more (it's still October, folks!).
Now, the background to this penny-pinching, thanks to CCSD's finally responding to FOIA requests (it took CCSD three full months to arrive at the following list):
  • Superintendent McGinley has created four new senior staff positions during her year as superintendent: Director of Volunteer Services and Public Affairs; Executive Director for Planning, Partnerships, and Communication; Director of Community Outreach; and Director of School Choice, Staff Allocations, and Accreditation.
  • Three of these new positions have a salaries in the $100,000 range. One is "only" about $80,000.
The district's carefully worded explanation for this tax-dollar mushroom is that "in many respects these are simply new job titles covering responsibilities previously undertaken by another employee with a different job title. For example, Mr. Smalley's job includes the work previously done by the Director of Communications, but also includes numerous other responsibilities."

So the salaries are also the same? Of course not. And McGinley herself is one of the highest paid district superintendents in South Carolina.

No wonder there's a budget crisis. How did McGinley word it? Oh, yes--"doing better than ever--more with less." That's one way to put it.

Please ask the CCSD cheerleaders running for the school board about these expenditures. Their answers should be illuminating.

Monday, October 13, 2008

CCSD's McGinley Out of Touch with "Progress"

In her latest pep talk on the CCSD website, Superintendent Nancy McGinley makes the following statement: "We have never compromised on teacher support, student safety, achievement, and progress. That is why our students are doing better than ever—more with less."

Let's look at reader-reported events at Burke High School over the last year of McGinley.
"Last year three Burke eighth graders received high school credit for Spanish. Never mind that Burke didn't offer a year-long course in Spanish to the middle school students or have a certified teacher for the few sporadic weeks it attempted to claim a foreign language program in the middle school. When questioned on how these students could qualify for credit from a course that didn't exist, Mr. Cannon, the Dean of the Burke Middle School, said (proudly?) that these students 'worked hard' so they 'deserved' the credit. One of the student's parents called District 20 constituent board members to complain. Credit is one thing, but an educational foundation is something else. It appears that some Burke parents understand this truism better than many CCSD administrators." Or at least Mr. Cannon.
That must be an example of "never compromising on achievement." Are these freshmen now pretending to take Spanish 2?
"Recent internal reports reveal that more than half of the eleventh graders at Burke read at the fourth grade level or below. Weren't many of these eleventh graders just finishing the fifth grade when McKinley came on board as the chief academic officer?" Have their skills improved at all since then? Doesn't sound like it.
How did they get to be eleventh graders without those reading skills? This must be an example of "progress."
"Shockingly, when a Burke student was under consideration for disciplinary action, administration discovered that the student had an IEP [Individualized Educational Plan] that had been ignored. The student's offense was so serious that the administration's failure to follow its own procedures became a secondary consideration. The student was asked to read one of the documents in the student's own file: to the horror of the hearing official, it was quickly obvious that the student, a tenth grader, couldn't read at all. When a disgusted District 20 representative confronted Mr. Benton [Burke's principal] about the situation, he reportedly shrugged his shoulders and said there are at least a half dozen other Burke High School students in the same situation." And so we just shrug our shoulders?
Must be "never compromising on teacher support" and "achievement" kicking in again.
"Saying students had to begin studying for the PACT and couldn't afford to give up any more valuable time to a tutoring program, Benton also dismissed the Circular Congregational Church tutoring group last year after only a few weeks on the job. One volunteer in the middle-school program complained that in just six weeks they got one seventh grader, who had originally tested as reading below the third-grade level, to read on grade level." Don't let results cloud your judgment!
What's one seventh grader when we're focused on "never compromising"?

Did you ever hear a story about a school district that lost a lawsuit brought by a student who graduated without being able to read? Maybe Benton thinks it's kind to non-readers to allow them to graduate without the skills needed for jobs. Maybe he's given up. Maybe he wants graduation rates to look good.

None of that explains why a tutoring group would be turned away when the need clearly exists.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

CCSD's Sanders-Clyde Seven

Prior articles on criminal wrongdoings at Sanders-Clyde during PACT testing have indicated that, even before the results of last year's testing were known, seven teachers and counselors were explaining away the not-yet-known low results. Finally we get a look at what they said last May in Sunday's edition of the P & C. [See Teachers Criticize Test Monitoring.]

Maybe the good news is that only seven, or less than a third, of S-C's teachers participated in this charade. Not knowing the individuals involved but having been in education for a number of years, I know that those seven can easily be divided into three groups: the guilty, the naive, and the toady ("Oh, yes, Ms. Moore. You're wonderful, Ms. Moore"). Why name only three of the seven in the article? Those three are still listed on Sanders-Clyde's website. Are the others cooperating with the investigation, or have they left town along with Moore?

And, here's another question: were the skewed results more or less the same across the board for all classrooms at Sanders-Clyde, or were some classrooms closer to expectations based on the MAP results? Now that she can no longer ignore the overall discrepancies, has Janet Rose done any analysis of individual teachers' results?

Oh, that was two questions. Well, here's a third: why does Janet Rose still have her job?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

CCSD Foot Dragging a Habit That Needs to Be Kicked

Using smoke signals, Pony Express, Civil War casualty records, and 1950s phone books, CCSD doggedly forged full-speed ahead in its quest to verify magnet-school student addresses, despite nagging questions from Diette Courrege! One need look no further than its inability to finish verifying those addresses to substantiate how inefficiently it spends tax dollars. [See District Still Validating Addresses.]

Making no excuses for this strategy, Doug Gepford (the CCSD official in charge) pointed out that people don't want to be hired, that counting violators who are identified is impossible, and that CCSD will follow breadcrumbs to the end of the earth to find parents who haven't responded, even if it takes a hundred years.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

CCSD Drops Ball on Stoney Field's Scoreboard

Now well into the high school football season, the promised new scoreboard for Stoney Field, where the Burke Bulldogs play, has yet to materialize! How low a priority is Burke for CCSD?

Last spring even the P & C paid attention to the poor state of Stoney Field, a valley of humility between two mountains of conceit. Oh, sorry! That was the old joke about North Carolina. At the time (April), reporter David Slade reported that
"The field is patchy and sandy, the weathered wooden seats on the concrete viewing stands are broken in places, the scoreboard is decades old and the dressing rooms are, to put it kindly, rustic.


"Some of those demanding improvements to Stoney Field believe similar treatment is something Burke High has not received.

"When you look at (The Citadel's) stadium, and Riley stadium, and then this sitting in the middle, it's a disgrace," said Elder James Johnson, a North Charleston activist who joined Gilliard and other community leaders at the field. "It only happens in the black schools."

Sad, but true. According to District 20 constituent board chairman Pam Kusmider,

Burke officials were originally told the new scoreboard would be delivered on August 15 and ready for the first home game. That did not happen. The new date of arrival was September 15, yet that did not happen either. The next date promised was September 22. Still no scoreboard.
Sgt. Allen was told "get your people ready" because the scoreboard would be up by the next home game on September 26. He was scheduling the band and a minister for a pregame ceremony to bless the new scoreboard. This would have been Burke's first new scoreboard in 40 years, a day to celebrate. That ceremony was also canceled.
It's now October 8. No scoreboard. What happened? Someone forgot to order it?

Imagine all the promises made by CCSD and Superintendent McGinley about intangible educational problems. Here's an example of an unfulfilled promise that can easily be seen. Don't you wonder about delivery of the others?

Ask the CCSD cheerleaders running for the school board about this one. Why not start with Toya Hampton-Green?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

AP Minces No Words on Ketner, Unlike P & C

From an AP story on hoped-for breakthroughs of gay candidates in this year's election:

While Polis, Frank and Baldwin are all heavy favorites, another congressional candidate endorsed by the Victory Fund, Democrat Linda Ketner, is an underdog in her race in South Carolina's 1st District, which includes Charleston and other coastal communities.

Ketner, 58, whose father founded the Food Lion grocery store chain, has been a major financial supporter and organizer of several gay-rights campaigns, including a failed attempt to defeat a ban-gay-marriage ballot measure in 2006.

However, neither Ketner nor her opponent, four-term Republican incumbent Henry Brown, has raised her sexual orientation as an election issue, and Ketner's campaign has turned down requests for interviews that would highlight the topic.

"She happens to be gay - she's not a gay candidate," said Tony Snell of the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement.

"Throughout the South, there's softening on the gay issue," he said. "It's becoming more of a non-issue as we look at the economy, we look at the war. ... People are going to go beyond their old biases."

Yes, particularly if they don't know about it. So, we can count on Ketner's not using her gay status if she wins, right?

Monday, October 06, 2008

MiShawna Moore Denies Everything

After being unreachable for weeks, the former Sanders-Clyde / Fraser Principal answered questions from the P & C--with two attorneys present. [See my prior blogs on the testing scandal & Tuesday's paper.]

What can you expect from this woman? Denials, of course, She did nothing wrong; she doesn't know of anyone else who did. Why, those PACT scores just must have dropped of their own accord!

You know, it's very similar to the tobacco companies' claim that smoking cigarettes didn't cause cancer. The evidence against Moore is also statistical. The tobacco companies held out for quite a while on that one; will Moore do the same?

Can she be convicted on statistics alone? Anyone at 75 Calhoun who knew what was going on isn't going to cooperate with the investigation. Her mentor who hired her in North Carolina is already safely out of state.

Unfortunately, the students at Sanders-Clyde who received this shabby treatment probably will never get justice.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

What the P & C Should Ask Board Candidates

Good spread in the Post and Courier in Sunday's edition; however, many questions asked of candidates were either inappropriate or inane. [See 9 Candidates Vying for 5 Seats as well as pages 6A-7A of the print edition; questions and answers do not seem to be on line]

Question 1: What grade would you give current schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley? Why? Unless the candidate has a history with McGinley, it's better not to answer this one. The question is designed to identify McGinley supporters.

Question 2: What should the board's role be when it comes to the superintendent (i.e. would you support a more hands-on board that is involved in the district's day-to-day operations or a policy-setting body that would set overall agendas for the superintendent to implement)? This is not an either-or situation. Most candidates realized that the answer must be somewhere in the middle. Poor question.

Question 3: Should the School Board set specific expectations for the school district in terms of measurable objectives, . . .? If not, why? If so, can you give specifics on the expectations you would set. . .? Any specific objectives must be in an area that the district can't fiddle. For example, SAT scores can be raised by discouraging weaker students from taking the test; graduation rates can be raised by ensuring that students graduate by their raising earned grades or disappear down the memory hole or are shunted into district-created charter schools that are off the books. Only tests that can't be locked in a closet overnight are eligible for consideration. Poorly-worded question. Who's going to support non-measurable objectives?

Question 4: Would you support increased funding for schools (i.e. a tax raise)? Why/why not? Another poorly thought-out question. It should be, Should the state legislature vote to increase the state sales tax? Would you lobby for that? Do you think Charleston gets its fair share based on the present formula? Would you be willing to lobby in Columbia to change that formula?

Question 5:Do you think public education is adequately funded in Charleston County? If so, why? If not, what should happen? Hello, here is a function of the state legislature again. Question is inappropriate as worded.

Question 6: For the past few years, the school board has directed officials to scrutinize and improve 10-percent spending annually. Are there any areas that should be off-limits, and are there any areas that the board should be digging into more deeply? Please provide examples. Of course, the question is written as though the board wants to increase spending by 10 percent annually; what the interlocutor meant was that the board hopes that 10-percent of the spending in the area scrutinized could be eliminated! The notion that just part of the budget should be scrutinized is rubbish on the face of it. Would you want a teacher to grade a student based on 10 percent of that student's grades? The question should have been, Are you in favor of annual zero-based budgeting? Are you in favor of posting district expenditures on line? Do you favor the board's scrutinizing 100 percent of the budget every year?

Question 7: Would you support giving new charter schools space in school district buildings? Why/why not? The premise is invalid. Why would they need to be "new"? What possible reason would there be for not doing so? Is there any underutilized or vacant building that a charter school would not want to use?

Question 8:
What is the district doing or not doing for charter schools that you would like to see change?
Should have been worded, Should the district's policy of deliberately sabotaging non-district created (for relatives of board members) charter schools be reversed? Should the school district employ relatives of board members as administrators in its charter schools?

Question 9: Under what conditions would you support closing, consolidating or restructuring schools in Charleston? One assumes he/she means in the entire school district--poor wording again. The question covers too many possibilities: what is "restructuring schools" anyway? Is that adding a new wing? Making it into a charter school? More fuzzy thinking.

Question 10: Which school board candidates are you going to vote for in this election? Say what you mean! Who's on your team? Do you want the way the present school board does business to stay the same or do you want a change in its relationship with 75 Calhoun?

Let's add the questions that should have been asked:

11. Are you willing to reverse the unwritten policy of always building schools much larger than the ones being replaced? If not, are you willing to vote against neighborhood schools so that constituents know where you stand?

12. Are you satisfied with the transparency of CCSD's multimillion-dollar building program in its contract negotiations and expenditures?

13. Are you willing to adopt the policy that no one who has ever set foot upon a Broad Foundation campus will ever again be employed by CCSD?

14. Are you willing to adopt a discipline policy that holds principals accountable for enforcement? Perhaps a cell-phone to each teacher & policy that, every time a principal sends a misbehaving student back to class with no action, that principal will have 24 hours to justify his or her behavior to a committee created by the school board or be publicly humiliated.

15. Are you willing to investigate the burgeoning busing in CCSD that involves moving non-magnet or non-NCLB transfers out of their attendance zones? Are you ready to determine if the hours, not to speak of the dollars, spent busing these transfers can be justified?

Oh, yes. I'm confident there are more questions out there.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

CCSD Lowest Common Denominator: Excellence

Mindless repetition?

Are you beginning to wonder, as I am, how CCSD Superintendent McGinley defines the word "excellence"? Here's how she uses it in her latest letter posted on the CCSD website:
". . .this week, there were several shining examples of excellence. We wrapped up the first phase of our School Redesign Initiative with meetings at Wando and West Ashley High Schools, and I thank everyone—over 1,000 people from all across the county—for participating during this first step of the process."
Was it excellent that people came to the meetings or that the meetings ended?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Will Ketner's Campaign Implode?

Talk about standing on shaky ground! Today's P & C article on a Ketner video [see Ketner Pulls Video from Internet] and her later comments about it indicate that she has even fewer brains than I imagined.

The video in question, which I have not watched, supposedly shows Ketner impersonating Brown as claiming he should be re-elected because of "his long marriage and constituent service [italics mine]." Included in the article is the following exchange:
Ketner vowed to Brown that if the video came from her campaign, "then there's going to be some firing going on."

"I fired myself, then two minutes later I rehired myself because the district needed change," she said Thursday.

Ketner said she stayed up late Wednesday night to determine what video clip Brown was talking about and ultimately took the video down at 7 a.m. Thursday.

"He saw it one way. It would never have occurred to me to see it the way he saw it," she said. "My point was the same old same old won't do it any more.
That would be the "same old, same old" marriage--between a man and a woman? Gee, I wonder why Ketner would think it irrelevant.

Pathetic response on Ketner's part. Meanwhile, she continues to bombard the district with her half-truths about Firegate. We should believe she has good judgment?