Monday, December 29, 2008
Not one of these schools is in an area of declining population. In fact, the opposite is true. Logic tells us that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark."
Can we cut to the chase? Hundreds of students in these attendance areas have been allowed to transfer to schools in other constituent districts, most recently under NCLB, but most for years under various cooked-up personal reasons. These are the mostly apartheid schools, resegregated through artifice with the full cooperation of the School Board. These facts explain why CCSD refuses to provide numbers to the public on students attending schools other than in their attendance area.
Faced with sanctions under NCLB for years of failing [read "loss of federal funds"], Superintendent Nancy McGinley and the Charleston County School Board coterie urge these closures. After all, how would NCLB sanctions look on McGinley's record when she interviews for her next position?
This analysis holds no water for Lincoln High School, which is not failing. McGinley must be really annoyed at how bad this small, community-supported school makes her ideas of mega-high-schools look. Could it be that smaller high schools can be more successful?
And what about the closings of Charlestown Academy in North Charleston and Charleston Progressive Academy downtown? Close down the schools that are succeeding so that scores will rise at other schools?
Under cover of a bad recession McGinley and Gregg Meyers mean to remake CCSD in their own image. That means mega-schools instead of neighborhood ones. That means using earthquake scares to tear down every building not built by Bill Lewis.
When they get through with the Charleston County School District, it will have no history or traditions, this in an area settled in 1670.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Then ask yourself: where is Dot Scott? How about Joe Darby? Developed laryngitis, have they? Has the NAACP taken a year-end vacation? Did it take the Ministerial Alliance with it?
Or have they sold out?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Fraser puts the Charleston County School District's suggested District 20 closings in the proper perspective (something that both Superintendent McGinley and the reporter lacked):
". . . if we bother to understand them." There's nothing quite as valuable as boots on the ground.
"This meeting was clearly structured not to solicit public opinion regarding proposed school closings and restructuring but to sell the public the point of view that the current economic crisis demands that public schools as we know them be shuttered and deconstructed to achieve false economies. The public clearly rejected all of the administrative proposals. No one spoke in favor."
"I personally criticized the planned closing of Wilmot J. Fraser Elementary. Its closing would tearing apart the history and culture of the community it serves because schools are not just buildings but cultural legacies of how to teach and learn successfully that can serve us well long-term if we bother to understand them."
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Just in case you ever wondered why Meyers has such good press from the P & C, the answer appears from perusal of Sunday's op-ed commentary, Charter Schools, Old and New, Still a District Sore Point. Williams carefully clarifies all of Meyers's objections to charter schools, especially his "concerns" over the Board's supervision of James Island Charter High School.
Please, butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
Don't forget who's the real impetus behind restructuring and closing schools--and making life as hard as possible for the Charter School for Math and Science. If Meyers had not proposed to Superintendent McGinley that she come back to the Board with a plan, none of the nonsense we're dealing with right now would be happening.
Did it occur to Meyers that such proposals would make the idea of charter schools even more attractive in CCSD?
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Problems? Yes, but possibilities galore for the Charleston County School District. If only someone would think "outside the box." [That's a pun, by the way.]
Friday, December 19, 2008
It just doesn't make sense to some folks on Johns Island.
Why would you completely rebuild a school and then, three years later, stick it on a list of possible facilities to close?
Who knows how much has been spent in the last three years on upgrading schools that CCSD now plans to close?
Wouldn't that data be interesting!
From Friday's Letters to the Editor:
Honor public's choice for Rivers siteFriday, December 19, 2008
All three of Dr. Nancy McGinley's School Redesign options for Rivers Middle School destroy this handsome 1938 building designed by Albert Simons and relocate the Charleston Charter School for Math & Science (CCSMS), a middle high school, to Archer Elementary School.
How well can the Archer building, designed for 283 little children, serve the needs of 480 teenagers? In addition to being too small in scale and capacity, Archer won't meet the many special needs of high school students — including science labs and a gym. Does Archer make sense for a middle high school?
Dr. McGinley's plan also raises other questions. What happened to the public's vote on Rivers last year and the school district's four year agreement with CCSMS to use Rivers Middle?
On May 22, 2007, about 250 people participated in an elaborate public engagement process concerning the Rivers Middle campus. After hearing and discussing the alternatives, they were asked to rank various alternatives through a formal voting process. CCSMS was the undisputed winner of the vote.
In keeping with the vote, on April 14, the Charleston County School Board approved a four-year agreement for CCSMS to use Rivers. Yet eight months later, all three redesign options banish CCSMS from Rivers Middle.
Do votes by the public and signed agreements mean nothing?
On Aug. 20, CCSMS opened on the Rivers Middle campus with the most diverse student body in Charleston County. Before its first year of operation, it built a waiting list and already has more applications than spaces for next year's 6th grade.
Bucking the tide of declining enrollments in peninsula schools, CCSMS, will grow from 188 today to 480 in 2012 if it is allowed to stick with its four-year plan and facility agreement.
One sure way to improve educational opportunities for all District 20 children is to respect the public's choice for the Rivers Middle School. That choice is that the Charleston Charter School for Math & Science — designed for that campus and doing very well — remain there.
CCSMS is currently accepting applications for 2009-2010 for grades 6-10. Applications are due by Jan. 14 and are available at: charlestonmathscience.org. Prospective students and their families are invited to an open house on Jan. 10 from 10 a.m.-noon.
PARK R. DOUGHERTY
Board of Directors
Charleston Charter School for Math & Science
Thursday, December 18, 2008
District 20 needs its own IED (yes, Improvised Explosive Device) to give CCSD School Board members reasons to vote against the McGinley-Meyers-Green guided missiles. Improvised, of course, because 75 Calhoun has guaranteed that dissenters do not have the proper data concerning school capacities, school expenses, and potential student bodies. That means that they will respond (as McGinley has already) that District 20 residents simply do not understand the problem and are reacting emotionally to a "data-driven" inevitability. In fact, if you view Mr. Bobby's economic explanation to public audiences, he believes not only are you economically ignorant, you are also simple-minded.
Allow me to quote from Core Knowledge what one respected educator has observed about being "data driven":
Wow! Did he just describe CCSD or what? Trendy poor judgment and lack of sensible restraint.
"Gone are the days when educators dismissed data as having only a limited utility for improving schools and school systems. What’s taken its place, argues Rick Hess, is 'The New Stupid' — where data-based decision making and research-based practice 'stand in for careful thought, serve as dressed-up rationales for the same old fads, or [are] used to justify incoherent proposals.'”"The key is not to retreat from data, Hess counsels, 'but to truly embrace the data by asking hard questions, considering organizational realities, and contemplating unintended consequences. Absent sensible restraint, it is not difficult to envision a raft of poor judgments governing staffing, operations, and instruction—all in the name of 'data-driven decision making.’”
Start from the assumption that any suggestion deviating from CCSD's plans will be met with sniggering and belittling. McGinley et al fervently hope that any plan put forward will compromise enough schools that you will have signed on for your own punishment. Don't let that happen. Whatever plan you put forward must be outrageously bold and sensible; there is no way to propose dollar savings with no reliable information, so don't waste time trying.
What to do?
- Announce that most dollar savings must be found in Mt. Pleasant, James Island, and West Ashley.
- Immediately move to structure Charleston Progressive as a charter school. (Yes, I know they said they won't consider more charters; call their bluff).
- File a lawsuit in federal court claiming that the School Board is attempting to resegregate the schools;
- Call the bluff of the NAACP and Ministerial Alliance, both of whom have remained strangely silent on McGinley's proposals.
- Ask for what you really want and have wanted for decades; don't bend to seismic or economic threats.
- Forget the seismic upgrades and the costs associated with moving students around to do them;
- Combine all grade-level-performing students from Charleston Progressive and Buist into one magnet school that is K-8 (let's call it Courtenay Magnet, maybe);
- Put CSMS in the Rivers building and let its board decide about upgrades;
- Make all downtown elementary schools K-7, planning that in better times they will become Pre-K through 7;
- Make Burke High School grades 8 - 12, for reasons enumerated previously on this blog;
- Put the so-called Career Center / technical high school in Burke as a magnet;
- Redraw district lines to include nearby parts of Mt. Pleasant, West Ashley, and North Charleston to fill any remaining spaces and bring down per-pupil costs.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The removal of Wilmot Fraser fils from Tuesday night's School Redesign meeting at Burke High School only proves the point. He wanted to change the preapproved agenda. How dare actual members of the community challenge the fly-by-night plans of outsiders (McGinley--Philadelphia; Meyers--New Orleans; Green--Germany & various army posts, etc.) telling them what's best for their community! [See 350 Jam Schools Meeting, Demand to Be Heard.] Fortunately, they didn't just fall off the turnip truck, as the School Redesigners seem to believe.
What McGinley and School Board members have received is the frustrated, pent-up anger of those who have been prevented from engaging in true dialogue for too long. True, these sham community imput meetings weren't started by McGinley, but she has been only too content to follow in her predecessors' footsteps.
Say, what ever happened to the OLD plans for downtown schools? You know, the ones gathering dust on some CCSD shelf, for which a facilitator was paid $70,000 not too long ago?
The proper derision met talk of "seismic upgrades"(TV coverage reported laughter and catcalls; the P & C quoted Sandra Perry, a supporter of Fraser, as saying, "'I've been there 50 years, and I haven't seen an earthquake knock down Fraser yet,' . . . in response to the district's position.") The community knows full well that these are an excuse to close some schools and destroy others.
Too much disinformation passed by CCSD and the media goes unchallenged. On Channel 5 Wednesday morning, viewers were blithely told that Charleston "lies on a major fault line."
Nobody is exactly sure what causes these earthquakes [in intraplate areas]. In many cases, the causative fault is deeply buried, and sometimes cannot even be found. Under these circumstances it is difficult to calculate the exact seismic hazard for a given city, especially if there was only one earthquake in historical times.So what's the big rush now? The bond issues for these upgrades haven't even been voted on yet, have they? If we've waited 50 years, why not a couple more?
We know the answer. Those in control of CCSD have seized the opportunity of weak school funding (brought on by our state legislature, I might add) combined with so-called necessary upgrades for earthquakes and a now reeling economy plus new School Board members who don't yet realize what's going on in the dog-and-pony show to ensure that no integrated school other than Buist exists downtown and to show the Feds next time they look at NCLB results that CCSD has no failing schools. They'll simply move the schools across the street, create sham mini-magnets, and give them new names, get rid of that pesky CPA magnet that keeps asking for a magnet's assets (that might take resources away from Buist) and squash CSMS in the embryo stage so that everyone can see that an integrated school downtown is impossible. Oh, yes, and sell off Fraser and Archer to developers.
Now that's Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in a nutshell.
Apart from lobbying School Board members to, at the very least, postpone voting on these very complex proposals in January, and, at most, to vote against the whole package at any time it comes up, residents of District 20 need to band together, pool resources, and hire a lawyer. Sue in federal court. Point out that CCSD plans to resegregate the district.
We may not be able to stop them, but at least we can slow them down. And time is valuable.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
So it should be no seven-day-wonder that the residents of Wadmalaw and Johns Islands have banded together to propose their own more sensible plan to redesign schools on the islands. [See Islands' Residents Offer School Plan.] If only the School Board would take notice.
The residents of District 20 downtown, including those who support the Charter School for Math and Science, are facing their own armageddon Tuesday night as they band together to rebel against the most convoluted and self-serving proposal of all. Let's hope all will be heard, not merely listened to.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Even as you read this blog, CCSD is paying its lawyer to protest CSMS's right to reside on space owned by CCSD. And these so-called charter-loving folks have declared themselves above the law when it comes to considering future charters.
So it should hardly come as a surprise that all three options under the School Redesign proposals include putting CSMS into the Archer building, thus giving an elementary school building to what will become a 6-12 school. Furthermore, Archer will hold only 280 students; CSMS plans to enroll 480. That should be a good fit. The extra 200 can sit on the grass outside.
Let's face it: if the new Board members go along with the majority of the old (and so far they show no signs--other than Kandrac--of being other than cheerleaders for McGinley), they can ram this travesty through. They have the votes. All supporters of CSMS can do is make as much noise as possible and round up its own lawyers. What ever happened to the Office of Civil Rights, anyway?
It must be galling for McGinley and friends to see an integrated and successful downtown school arise after CCSD has managed to gut all previous ones.
Even beyond that travesty, after treating Charleston Progressive Academy, an erstwhile magnet school now in the Courtenay building, as the poor stepchild for years, McGinley et al will close it. That, my friends, is another piece of the pattern revealed in District 1 and District 4. CPA isn't McGinley's child, so why not jettison it willy-nilly, even though it is one of the most successful elementary schools downtown. As I stated previously, it's all about the numbers (and I don't mean financial ones).
"Seismic upgrade"for Courtenay, indeed. Does that make sense for new buildings? Yes. For the old ones? No. It's just another way to spend taxpayer dollars and keep cronies employed. Furthermore, let the Montessori school find space in Mt. Pleasant or West Ashley. Or how about on John's Island? I understand it has some excess capacity.
No, here's a better plan.
MERGE CPA with Buist!
- Any child now attending either school who is on grade level will remain; others will return to the schools in their attendance districts. Brilliant, isn't it?
- That way, CCSD will have kept its promise to CPA's parents when it designated it a magnet school.
- Kept its promise. Its promise.
- This merger should be much less expensive than the options proposed by CCSD.
- Include those parts of Mt. Pleasant and West Ashley that are closer to Burke than to Wando or West Ashley High Schools;
- Keep the eighth grade at Burke so that eighth-graders will make a smoother transition into high school; those prepared can take world languages and algebra at the high-school level;
- Add the technological and vocational classes to Burke that its parents so highly desire.
- Redraw lines where necessary to include students from Mt. Pleasant and West Ashley to keep buildings full;
- Keep Fraser and James Simons open; their space will be needed for the downtown students who will return once CCSD gets serious about improvement; otherwise, Bill Lewis will come hat in hand to ask for more millions to build schools before these students are out of high school.
Friday, December 12, 2008
CCSD has suggested so many changes and shifts in student bodies in this part of its redesign proposal that only one conclusion is possible: move those students around to the point that no one looking at test scores will be able to compare future results with present ones.
Isn't that what this is all about anyway?
- School A, now 6-8, will become 7-8 for one year, then switch to 3-5;
- School B, now 6-8, will close for one year, then open magnetized as 6-8;
- School C, now 6-8, will become 7-8 for one year, then magnetize as 6-8;
- School D, not on line, will become 6-7 for one year, then magnetize as 6-8;
- School E, now 9-12, will stay 9-12 for one year, then magnetize as 6-8.
As the article stated,
"The atmosphere was more subdued than in McClellanville on Wednesday night but the crowd ignited at the mention of Charlestowne Academy, the only area school that might be closed under the proposal. . . . The district's proposal calls for Charlestowne Academy, a K-12 magnet school, to close and for its building to be used by Clark Academy, a program for high school students at risk for dropping out."District 4's per-pupil expenditures are lower than the district overall. No purpose exists for shutting down Charlestowne Academy, considering that it stands out as a school that actually is meeting goals--rated Excellent, etc. Sound familiar? It should. The same exists for shutting down Lincoln High School. Yet if the achievers now at CTA are dispersed among the rest of North Charleston's schools, their overall scores will rise. Of course, McGinley hasn't considered that angle. Right.
Let's also consider the angle that Communities in Schools, run by Mayor Riley's sister, which is heavily involved in the development of Clark Academy, would be delighted to get its hands on the building now being used for Charlestown Academy. Disperse those higher-achieving students AND please the Mayor--how could McGinley et al resist?
Then there's the asininity of shutting down Brentwood once again and calling it something else. A rose by any other name. . . .
"Some questioned the district's spending, such as its administrative costs, and whether that has led to the district's predicament." McGinley answered with "We've done everything we can without touching the schools. . . . The (state) cuts have been so severe that we don't have anywhere else to find the dollars."
Here's a thought: how about McGinley's returning her windfall extra $300 per month in-district travel allowance now that the price of gasoline has fallen.
What? She really needs $1100 per month? What's she driving?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Maybe Dylan Thomas wrote about dying in this villanelle, yet it gladdens the heart to see that residents of McClellanville have chosen not to file meekly away into classrooms to fill out yet one more form to be ignored by CCSD. Instead on Wednesday night they attempted to create the actual public discourse that CCSD, and Superintendent McGinley in particular, dread and avoid at all costs in public meetings, school board meetings, and the like. [See School Officials Get an Earful in Thursday's P & C.]
"People wondered aloud when they would be able to talk in an open forum about the proposals that would close their schools. They walked up to the front of the room and asked to be heard, and [the paid facilitator] Robertson relinquished the microphone.
"Some questioned how they could give feedback now when they still didn't know the results of a previous community forum on the criteria that would be used to rank schools for closure."
Open forum! Imagine that.
What did McGinley learn at the Broad Institute? Apparently not that small communities take pride in their schools and see them as centering their communities. It certainly had not occurred to her that the black community in McClellanville first gave up its black schools for integration and is now being asked to give them up again--this time to melt into the woodwork at Wando and Cario. Trade a close-knit community for a number in a warehouse. Maybe 150 is too small for complete high school offerings, but 3300 is about three times too large!
The most closely-guarded secrets of 75 Calhoun include the number of high school students who live in the McClellanville district (District 1) and attend public high school elsewhere in CCSD. Even more top secret would be the racial mix of students that CCSD's School Board has allowed to transfer out of the district for "convenience." It stinks.
Despite the rantings in the P & C article's comments section, Lincoln High School is not a failing school; in fact, this year it earned a Good rating overall and in improvement. Does anyone seriously believe these students will be better off if they go to Wando?
On the other hand, land in McClellanville has rapidly risen in value in the last few years. Why, only a couple of blocks away from this school are million-dollar homes for sale. Why not tear down the school and build more of them? Maybe McClellanville can attract some more millionaires from New York. That seems to be the CCSD mindset.
Let's be practical. If it's all about saving money, Option 3 should be Option 1, the only option. It is the only one that makes any sense from every point of view. Middle schools, such as McClellanville and Cario too, are sinkholes of academics, regardless of the best efforts of all concerned.
A high school with Grades 7 through 12 is not unreasonable; such structures exist everywhere, in most cases to the benefit of students. More advanced eighth graders are able to take their "high school" credits such as Algebra 1 in high school. Doesn't that make sense? And why not put sixth graders in elementary school?
This option leaves McClellanville Middle School vacant. Selling it would be short-sighted. That would assume that Charleston County is not expanding in its direction. Look at its picture above. This should be torn down? And then in a few years, probably before today's middle-schoolers have graduated from high school, Bill Lewis or his replacement will come to the taxpayers with a proposal to build another multi-million-dollar school.
Still left unaddressed is the overcrowding at Wando and Cario. Golly gee, what about redrawing district lines? Given the number of students who cross them every day, at this point they exist for purposes of segregation only.
I wonder how much money has been spent renovating these schools in McClellanville over the last decade. Plenty, I'll bet. Got to keep those cronies busy.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
- If citizens' concerns raised during the first round of public meetings affected this redesign, its complexity hides the results;
- None of the information indicates what will happen to the buildings and land around the closed schools--it's a great time for a fire sale, isn't it, real estate values being so high and all;
- McGinley's blaming closures on the present economic crisis; however, the true culprits here are those in the state legislature who changed the way schools are funded;
- Weren't we happy last night to see "experienced educator" Jane Riley complimenting the district on its plans? Let's hear more of her ideas. We're all ears.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Perhaps the local press awaits his retirement to investigate the illegal recruiting of players that fuels that success. Almost everyone I meet has a story, just not for publication. What does that say to our students about ethics? Cheating is okay if it's football?
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Meanwhile, the Charleston County School Board has decided to rewrite the rules for charter schools set down by the state legislature. Six members of CCSD's Board don't like the law, so they've decided to ignore it until someone forces them to pay attention. Fortunately, this time they're not dealing with those with no money or influence, so repercussions will be forthcoming. Prepare yourself for seeing more school budget money going to defend lawsuits. Sigh.
This law-breaking decision became entirely predictable when these four cheerleaders for 75 Calhoun were elected. Hold onto your hat. It's going to get worse.
They're so dense that they don't realize that every time they oppose charter schools they add more support for school vouchers.
Out of the frying pan, into the fire.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
A pointed editorial in Wednesday's paper [see Back School Choice Options], indicates that
"The law includes a provision that allows a district to reject a charter conversion on financial grounds but requires more than a mere declaration that the loss of funding will have an adverse impact. Charter school regulations require that districts specifically demonstrate "a direct negative impact on students." A district also must show specific options it considered to counter that negative impact, but to no avail."
Well, Superintendent McGinley? Let's hear about those options you explored.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Much more interesting is the genesis of the fund at present supervised by Superintendent McGinley, a fund that contains $13,000. She said she "sometimes receives donations from community members, and the district receives rebates from vendors based on its volume purchasing."[boldface added]
Are we to assume that such money just started coming in to the school district? Does anyone else wonder what has been done with such monies in the past and by whom? People just habitually hand the superintendent money willy-nilly, no strings attached?
And "volume purchasing" of what? Has the district received "rebates" previously? Why aren't they returned to the original account from which those vendors are paid?
Thirteen thousand dollars to send flowers, buy bus tickets, outfit children--these fall under "unique, catastrophic or emergency situations," according to Chief Financial Officer Bobby.
Says Superintendent McGinley, "We have to be good human beings and take care of people in dire need . . . . When tragedy strikes, we'd like to offer some help. There's always a need to reach out and help people in need."
How about donating money to the local Red Cross?
How about focusing on education?
Monday, December 01, 2008
Of course, we all hope that our own children are in the minority who do not cheat, but ask yourself: if you could cheat on your income taxes and not get caught, would you do it? If you believe that "everyone else" gets ahead of you because they cheat, would you? If you did get caught and you could blame the tax preparer or the government or ignorance and get away with without serious consequences, would you cheat?
Students today don't even know the meaning of the word "Draconian" because they and those responsible for forming their ethics make too many excuses for bad behavior, whether it be cheating, stealing, or lying. Too many teachers suffer burnout from facing the hurdles (angry parents, administrators that want parents to go away, etc.) to enforcing a cheat-free classroom. How many parents will say, "Thank you for catching my child"? High school teachers of writing require more and more class time for drafting so that they know that the work is the student's own (and not his-or-her friend's or parent's or something found on the Web).
Don't forget--this financial crisis was largely brought about by mortgage brokers who were so greedy for commissions that they didn't care what consequences ensued, even encouraging applicants to lie on applications. And the applicants did. They weren't high schools students.