Thursday, December 31, 2009

Whatever Happened to LaRon Dendy--2009

Back when I started this blog, I focused on weak reporting of a diploma mill for high school athletes up in Pickens. In particular, LaRon Dendy, a potential Clemson basketball player caught my attention.

Things didn't go exactly as planned for Dendy. [See previous posts,Forward to Pickens!, What Ever Happened to--LaRon Dendy?] Last heard of, in August 2007, he was headed to a junior college in Iowa to attempt to beef up his academic prowess while playing.

Thursday's P&C article about the breaks athletes get in admissions [Admission Breaks for Athletes Widespread] made me wonder how his story turned out. According to this AP story,

"Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said the university's admissions department conducts 'thorough research' in determining whether prospective athletes will have an opportunity to be successful students.

"'The ultimate measure is how kids are performing,' Phillips said. 'Are you bringing in young people that have a chance to be successful [student athletes]? That is occurring at Clemson.'"

As it happens, Dendy never made it to Clemson. Instead he is a junior at Iowa State University, doing well but not yet a starter. See LaRon Dendy for a summary of his first semester at Iowa State.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Crush the Infamous Tax Deal in CCSD

The Beach Co. has had its way with the Charleston County Council [see Council OKs 1,285-home Development in Wednesday's P&C].

Now is the time for taxpayers to wake up to crush any tax deal in the making with the Charleston County School Board.

See CCSD's Selling Potential Millions to achieve the necessary sense of outrage.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SC's Stupidity Rides Again on Tax "System"

Was ever a law passed that so clearly was ultra-idiotic from the very beginning, one that almost immediately began to show its stupidity to the rest of the world?

No, I'm not writing of prohibition, although it does come in a close second.

Of course, it's the idiotic property tax relief "system" put into place by the South Carolina state legislature in 2006. From now until the turkey is repealed, we will be trying to fix it and its repercussions.

See Legislature Considers Reassessment Cap in Tuesday's P&C

"Business groups, real estate sellers and those who bought property after 2006 have complained loudly that the new system is unfair.

"Under the proposed legislation, only new construction would be taxed at full value, creating another subset of aggrieved taxpayers.

"The legislation also would make an estimated $44 million in annual revenue disappear from local government, county and school district budgets statewide, the Board of Economic Advisors has estimated.

"The result would be a shifting of some property taxes back to current home and business owners, constraints on the budgets of local schools and governments, or both."

Sounds great, doesn't it? So great, it's hard to believe the CCSD School Board didn't create it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

We Kid You Not: How Much Did These Cost?

A "private company" produced the equipment and lessons for Stall High School's Star Academy profiled in Monday's P&C. Stimulus funds are paying the bills, $720,000 worth. Presumably CCSD is contributing the teachers' salaries. [See Star Academy Shines] As per usual with these articles emanating from 75 Calhoun, it is impossible to tell how much the program costs per student.

In case you are curious about the "ball chair" referenced in the article, here it is: an exercise ball.

Just my curiosity: how can stimulus funds have been used to pay for a program that is in its third year? This year, yes. The previous two years???

If you Google the Star Academy Program,, you will find a nice website with a phone number. Some might be mildly curious who started up this private company and who are on its Board of Directors.

Apparently, that's a secret only the edublob knows.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jim Rex Hasn't a Clue

And this is our state superintendent of education!

Anyone around many teenagers for very long knows their abysmal lack of knowledge of history, so the results of the most recently instituted end-of-course test in South Carolina, U.S. History, should have come as no surprise to anyone. [See Students Bomb on Newest Test.]

Superintendent Rex has another take on the ignorance, however. Quoted in the article, Rex stated that "'These low history scores, together with the mixed improvement we see for the other tests, are proof that many schools need extra tools for learning.'" Tools? Would that be chalk, paper and pencils, or desks? Or more edublob special programs and gadgets?

Maybe they can't read.

Rex's retirement from his position can't come a moment too soon!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How Many Designs Does It Take in CCSD?

The denizens of 75 Calhoun have never seen a traffic jam they didn't like--or so it would seem from the new, new design for a three-school campus in Mt. Pleasant. [See 3-school Campus in Thursday's P&C.] But at what long-term cost do citizens get this short-term savings?

We're talking about more busing and more traffic; more students taken out of their home communities; and more take-a-number enormous elementary schools. It's not good education.

And, let's get this straight: the CCSD School Board "initially approved and paid for a two-school campus design for Jennie Moore Elementary and Laing Middle" but now it's going to pay for another three-school design? Can we get a discount?

Oh, well, it's OPM (other people's money). Who cares?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another Senseless Decision by CCSD School Board

Day after day, the former Charlestowne Academy school building sits vacant, after its being closed by the Charleston County School Board last year in the name of budget cutting.

A proposed church wishes to pay to use the premises two days a week for the next six months. And the School Board says, no, no, don't force that rent upon us. Why, heating and cooling costs will be associated with using the building! [ See Member's Request Denied in Wednesday's P&C.]


"Those voting against the item talked about two issues -- the appearance of a conflict of interest and the extra cost the district would incur by leasing the space to the church." The church would be started by Board member Chris Collins, who recused himself from voting. In her usual idiotic fashion, member Green suggested that "board members needed to exercise a higher degree of care and caution when it comes to requesting use of district buildings." What would that look like, Toya?

Those who voted down the request (Meyers-Fraser-Green-Oplinger) admitted that Collins would pay the same as any other entity renting CCSD property. Others do, including Trident Technical College, the Park and Recreation Commission, and Durham School Services. So why this sudden worry from "the quad" that "the fee doesn't cover all of the costs associated with using the building"?

What idiot set the fee so low that it wouldn't cover costs? Are the other renters also costing the district money because their rents are too low? Is this the gang that couldn't shoot straight?

Meanwhile, the district forgoes the $1,032 monthly fee. Chump change to them. Let them make up the loss.

That will be $258 each, please, for the next six months. Put your money where your mouth is.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Goal: CCSD Grads Will Be Able to Read Diplomas

The newest goal of the Charleston County School District is that all of its high school graduates will be able to read their own diplomas.

Now, some not familiar with CCSD might wonder what was going on before this. Don't ask. It's too embarrassing. The P&C should pride itself on Tuedsay's headline, Literacy Backed as Schools' Top Job. If not for a series of articles revealing the illiteracy secret within CCSD's schools, reading still would be at the bottom of the heap!

Cynics may point out that this new focus is another in a long line of promises made and not kept. The antidote is to keep the heat on. Do you hear that, Diette?

Meanwhile, it becomes clearer that the District will never share the results of last summer's enrichment programs touted as the model for future remediation. Theywould undermine confidence in and funding for the new set up. While pointing out that the literacy program needs the penalty of not promoting students if they do not participate in the summer programs meant to raise reading scores, McGinley said, "last summer's voluntary programs [are] an example [. . . where] some students came only sporadically, which lessened the programs' effect."

Translation: An analysis of the students attending last summer's voluntary programs shows little to no improvement in their reading scores.

Not encouraging. Let's hope for the best.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

CCSD's Selling Potential Millions for $350,000

When will the national media pick up on the idiocies perpetrated by the Charleston County School Board? Surely not all school boards can be this dumb, or should I say self-serving?

Such was my reaction to Sunday's article on the potential creation of a special tax zone for the Beach Company to develop a large portion of Johns Island. See the blithely-headlined School District Would See Immediate Gain.

For $350,000 (probably the yearly cost of Superintendent McGinley's transportation) economically-challenged Board members such as Ruth Jordan are willing to forgo forever millions of future tax dollars from property taxes on this major development by one of Charleston's most well-connected development companies. On the other hand, Board member Chris Fraser's remarks are simply disingenuous: he's looking out for his own term on the Board, not the interests of taxpayers.

You can't make this stuff up fast enough to keep pace with its escalating stupidity.

Never mind that such tax zones are supposed to provide incentives to redevelop blighted areas instead of providing an easy way for developers to pay back loans to develop pristine land. Such a zone presupposes that, without tax breaks, a large portion of Johns Island would never be developed. Yeah, right.

It's a sweet deal for the Beach Company. As the reporter explains, "Imagine you're building a house, and the government agrees not only to loan you funding for construction, but allows you to pay it back with money you would have otherwise paid in property taxes." Apparently, Jordan and Fraser find the county's schools to be so well-funded that increased property tax totals are unnecessary.

We can understand why the City Council might be interested in seeing the Beach Company pay for infrastructure, but the position of members of the CCSD hierarchy is untenable.

The rest of the taxpayers of Charleston County should rise up in revolt before the School Board sells its soul for a mere $350,000.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

CCSD Board Disdains the Poor--Again

Scurrying around the halls of the Taj Mahal at 75 Calhoun these days are minions planning the Charleston County School District's next building program. Much hand-wringing has ensued over its inability to continue alternative financing, the method for its program reaching its completion in 2010. How to get the millions? How to get the millions? Scylla and Charybdis appear on the radar screen.

In the vernacular, that's a rock and a hard place. The school district actually must put the question to the (gasp!) voters. Let's see, which would the voters prefer? [See School Board Weighs Finance Options in Thursday's P&C.]

That master of understatement, Michael Bobby, the district's chief financial officer is quoted as saying, "'The fact that we have to be on the ballot with the building program presents some real challenges and considerations.'" No kidding! The two options on the table? " a bond referendum or a sales tax increase."

Incredible as it may seem to the sane, the Board leans toward putting a sales tax on the ballot "which would be accompanied by a reduction in property taxes."

See, cynically the educrats and the majority of Board members think that people who don't own property (the poor) also don't vote. Therefore, the way to sugarcoat a tax increase is to promise the most likely voters a decrease in property taxes. Didn't the state of South Carolina just do that? Isn't it in trouble already by attempting to finance through falling sales tax revenues? Where will this madness end?

At least Chris Collins spoke up for the poor, knowing full well that the burden of financing through sales taxes falls most heavily on them. No one else seems to care or understands the issue. Chair Ruth Jordan opened her mouth to prove that she needs to take Economics 101, making the economically-illiterate statement (regarding an increase in the sales tax) that ""We all bear the same burden. . . It's the most fair way.'"

Painful, isn't it?

I need to create a new label: super-idiocies.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Is Forbes Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?

Is it possible to make Forbes' list of smartest cities while having among the weakest school systems in a weak state? Apparently the answer is "yes." [See Riley's Outlook: Mayor Says City, Area Poised to Be a Leader in Future Economy.] Maybe it's all those newcomers who were educated in Ohio.

What the rating reveals is the enormous divide between the haves and have-nots in Charleston County. Smartest to have the Academic Magnet to educate the top echelon of CCSD students and Wando High School to satisfy the wealthy and influential. Why waste breath on CCSD's failing schools? After all, they were fashioned for the have-nots and their poorly educated, noninfluential parents. Why, if you can't read on a fourth-grade level, you probably won't get a job with Boeing anyway. You won't be able to read the application.

Companies used to look at the overall educational achievement of a community when considering its workforce. Apparently no more.

Monday, December 07, 2009

McGinley Misses the Point on Harlem Zone

If you watched "60 Minutes" last night, you may have been entranced by the vision and results reported concerning the Harlem Children's Zone in New York City. Today's P&C followed with its own story on how local community leaders hope to create a Children's Zone in Charleston County. See Harlem Program Inspires Concept for Local Proposal.

How dense are Charleston County Schools Superintendent and Mayor Riley anyway? The Harlem Children's Zone school is successful because it is a charter school, because it is not overseen by the bureaucratic New York City Schools System! And McGinley has already made it clear that charter schools not controlled by her will not be allowed. McGinley's idea is doomed to failure, root and stem, because it sprouts from the bureacracy known as CCSD, the same bureacracy that has given us failed schools in every poor area of the county.

We should trust these same people to re-create the Harlem Children's Zone results? Please!

Let's see a robust, true grass-roots movement instead of more self-aggrandizing posturing from the Superintendent in order to get the district's hands on a half-million dollar nest egg.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Power Play in CCSD Almost Over?

Why would anyone assume that a public school should be allowed to use a public school building? As you read this, the Charleston County School District is wasting your tax dollars to prove this use illegal in Charleston County. See Ruling Soon on Charter School Act in Wednesday's P&C.

A charter school is a public school. Circuit Judge Roger Young should extend Act 189 of the State Legislature to all counties in the state.

CCSD's complaint against this use dates to the emergence of the Charter School for Math and Science, organized by a group of parents that the School Board and Superintendent did not, and do not, control. No such grief was given to Orange Grove Charter (for which Act 189 was written) or James Island Charter.

It's all about power.

By the way, why is Armand Derfner representing the District? Doesn't CCSD have a perfectly good lawyer, John Emerson, on its payroll? Derfner surely is an added expense!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Public Prekindergarten for Poor Only

They never see somebody else's dollar they don't want to spend.

I'm talking about the Charleston County School Board, of course. In its rush to add more prekindergarten classes for low-income children, some members are planning to drive private preschools out of business. Oh, most of them don't say that, and some of them are so slow at economics that they don't even understand the unintended consequences of their actions. [See Early Learning to Grow in Monday's P&C.]

What the CCSD Board has agreed is that it will "offer full-day, pre-kindergarten classes for all of its low-income students within the next five years." No one can quarrel that children who have attended preschool classes are not better prepared than their peers who haven't. Even CCSD's experiments speak for themselves. However, "Lerah Lee, the district's director of early childhood education," is barking up the wrong tree when she blithely comments that, "School leaders' ultimate vision is to have pre-kindergarten for all students, regardless of income."

Let's get this straight, Ms. Lee: you're planning for a school district that just closed five schools to save money to take on the additional costs of preschool education for every child in the district, even for parents who can pay for preschool? You, or these so-called "school leaders," want to put all of Charleston County's non-public preschools out of business? Did I get that right?

What planet did you just drop down from? Or are you a mouthpiece for Superintendent McGinley?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Throw Money at CCSD's Illiteracy--McGinley

Millions of additional dollars will fix the district's literacy problems. So proposes the Charleston County Schools Superintendent.

Having been shown the light by the P&C's expose of the district's dirty little secret, McGinley now signs on wholeheartedly to going with the flow: "'We're not doing them any favors (by promoting [those who can't read])," she said. Oh, what a difference a little transparency can make!

The Superintendent was Chief Academic Officer for three years before she became Superintendent without realizing "we're not doing them any favors." She will head in the direction that seems most likely to preserve her job. That said, at least under certain conditions she proposes to eliminate social promotion.

"Charleston County students who can't read at grade level would be required to participate in intervention programs, and their refusal to do so would mean they wouldn't be promoted to the next grade." Excuse me, but it would not be the students who would refuse to participate but their parents. What is the rationale for not holding their parents accountable? Too much effort?

And now the costly components:

Students who made enough improvement in the summer program would be allowed to move on to the next grade without extra help, and those who still aren't reading at grade level would be promoted but separated into two groups -- those needing intensive, one-on-one help and those in need of small-group assistance.

Students who are behind in reading would be in special classes in which teachers would focus solely on math and literacy; teachers would not have to teach the curriculum standards in science or social studies, McGinley said. Students would be assessed the following spring to determine whether they still needed serious literacy help or whether they are at grade level.

The intervention program would expand by one grade each year, she said.

First, the cost of summer programs. CCSD had summer literacy programs last summer, but, believe it or not, it has never published the results of those programs showing whether students made real gains or not! So, are we now going forward without knowing if they work?

Second, the cost of special classes. Attending the summer program brings the reward of being promoted whether the child made any progress or not. Some students would receive "one-on-one help" and some "small-group assistance" if still lagging at the beginning of the next school year. Additional reading specialists will be needed, in larger numbers every year, if the district continues its program.

Third, the cost of edublob reading programs, experts, and technology. Think not? Then you aren't familiar with Superintendent McGinley and her methods.

Fourth, the cost of not addressing the needs of older students. The Superintendent (and School Board, especially Gregg Meyers) must take responsibility for students now in grades seven through twelve who cannot read above the fourth-grade level who were promoted in a system they fully supported. Where are the proposed solutions for them?

"For older students, McGinley would like to use the Sixth Grade Academy in North Charleston as a model and replicate it in two other areas." Do we know that the Sixth Grade Academy has made any difference? It has been in existence for barely three months, hardly enough time to tell if the approach works! It's nice to hope that it will, but touting it as a major component of change is premature.

Most of all, where are the millions coming from? They can't be taken from the capital budget.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Paranoia at McGinley's CCSD Headquarters

With a cast of thousands. . .

No, wait a minute. The cast actually consists of the mayors of Charleston and North Charleston, the infamous Dot Scott of the Charleston Branch NAACP, and a big shot from the local Chamber of Commerce. (I wonder what happened to Mt. Pleasant.) These supporters of Superintendent Nancy McGinley believe that losing control of the election for chair of the CCSD School Board portends that McGinley is doomed, doomed, and we must do whatever we can to save her, save her, before it is too late!

That means arriving en masse at Monday night's regular Board meeting. [See Community Leaders to Show Support for Superintendent in Saturday's P&C]

Question: Do any of them have children enrolled in CCSD schools?

Another question: Where are the masses of grateful parents coming to sing the praises of the best superintendent Charleston has ever had? I mean those who do not owe their livelihoods to the Charleston County School District.


And Keith Summey proves once again that he can be manipulated into not acting in the best interests of North Charleston. What did they do, promise him no opponent in the next election?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

End Run Around CCSD Board to Score

When Apple Charter School becomes a success, it will be despite the ill wishes of the Charleston County School Board and put one more nail in the coffin of the present administration of 75 Calhoun. [See Shiny Apple in Wednesday's P&C.]

Patricia Williams's drive to create a special place for those left behind (educationally, not physically) in CCSD schools shows how far individuals can go in defeating a system holding back the progress of the county's neediest students. This school promises to focus on those scoring basic or below in standardized testing with plans to halt the predictable cycle of defeat for these children not served well by the district.

Williams wisely sought approval for the school from the state Charter School Advisory Committee because she knew that CCSD would turn her down. She found a local church, First Baptist of James Island, happy to assist her in her dream. If Apple Charter takes the same course as Charleston Development Academy and includes Core Knowledge curriculum as part of its program, Williams and her board may show Charleston County just how remiss CCSD has been in serving this slice of its community.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Great Program Also in CCSD Schools, Ken

Anyone reading Ken Burger's column in the P&C on Saturday must have been struck with the same thoughts I had: why don't schools do more of these programs? [See Another Day at the Office]

Burger highlighted his visit to Stratford High School's Virtual Enterprise classroom, part of "a national network of high schools, including 40 in South Carolina, that offer products and services to each other so students can learn the ropes of business." Stratford High School offers "an on-line grocery business" under its organization named Unlimited Possibilities. Students experience how a business virtually works by interacting with other virtual high school businesses.

Imagine that.

Turns out that the Charleston County School District has several of the 40 S.C. schools that participate in the program. These include James Island Charter, West Ashley, Wando, and Stall. We should hope that every high school in the district will offer this stimulating and educational program.

See Virtual Enterprises: U.S. Network for the full story on the program.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Commission Cherry-Picks High School for Program

"But commission leaders said they especially want to help students who are among the first generation in their families to attend college."

Wednesday's P&C featured a program [Focus on Future] meant to help seniors fill out their college applications on-line with the help of guidance counselors and other mentors. Wando High School was picked as one of 11 participating high schools statewide after Cynthia Mosteller, a member of the Commission on Higher Education, originated the idea.

Her idea must have been to pick a high school where most of the parents have attended college, even graduated from college, to pilot a program for students whose parents didn't go to college. That should surely predict how the idea works!

How will the commission tell if the program makes any difference? Did it occur to Mosteller or anyone else that piloting the program at Burke or North Charleston or Stall might have helped more students whose parents don't know the ropes?

There I go, thinking again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CCSD School Board Chair Jordan

She's not a tool of Gregg Meyers, Mayor Riley, the Chamber of Commerce, or the NAACP.

That's the good news. [See School Board Picks New Leader.]

While Ruth Jordan has not always spoken against the Meyers-Green agenda, her voting record and statements over her years on the CCSD School Board do indicate a certain independence. Superintendent Nancy McGinley fondly recites that "everything is for the children," but Jordan's record suggests that she actually believes that to be true.

So it was only fitting that Jordan made her point at Monday night's meeting. After an unapologetic attempt by Gregg Meyers to make the election of a new board chairman all about supporting McGinley, Jordan was quoted as saying, "'Frankly, I was appalled that it would come down to the mandate about the superintendent. I thought it was about the children. ... If we're truly committed to public education, we're going to do what's right for children.'"

You tell'em, Ruth!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Alliance Survey Poses Questions, Gets Stock Answers

Is it a serious morale problem, or does it come with the territory?

What does it mean that 60 percent of the Charleston County School District's teachers participating in a survey believe that they are not valued by the district? See Many Teachers Don't Feel Valued in Monday's P&C.

Part of the complaint concerns extra pay given to administrators while teachers' salaries remained the same and class sizes rose. Part is perceived inattentiveness to previously stated teachers' concerns.

In response to perceived low morale, Superintendent Nancy McGinley plans to make a video.

You can't make this stuff up.

"Board Chairwoman Toya Green said she thinks the district's leadership has a good connection to its teachers."

Well, she would know, wouldn't she?

And "teacher coaches," that many surveyed teachers say add little to educational advancement, continue to proliferate under the name of "instructional resource teachers."

You know, Don Quixote gave his old nag a beautiful-sounding name, but it was still an old nag.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Kandrac: Crackpot or Watchdog?

Were you as surprised as I was that the P&C thoroughly investigated CCSD School Board member Elizabeth Kandrac's place of residence? [See Kandrac Takes on District in Sunday's edition.]

After all of the allegations regarding legal residence for Buist students the P&C did not follow up, the story shows that the reporter can do investigations when she has the incentive to do so. Or maybe she was just handed the information by Kandrac's antagonists on the Board.

Certainly, Kandrac appears to be following the letter of the law and not its spirit in her living arrangements these days, but CCSD already set many good examples for her to follow in its treatment of Buist. And what about those rumors over the years that other Board members were not living where they claimed? Down the memory hole?

More problematic is the Board's single-minded agenda to get rid of Kandrac through insinuating that any queries she raises are simply harrassment. Green and Meyers would have the public believe that Superintendent McGinley walks on water and should not be challenged at any point. Have you ever seen either one of them do so on any point?

The goal is to make Kandrac into a caricature that folks outside of North Charleston will vote against if she decides to run again.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Army Base? Please!

Proving once again that the headline writers for the P&C need to get out more, the banner headline screams "Army base" in Friday's paper. Why do I think none of them ever served in the military?

There are no Army bases.

There are Army posts.

Notice the two words have the same number of letters, so don't tell us the mistake was made to save space.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

McGinley's Town Halls Preach to the Choir

What if we hold a meeting and nobody shows up?

This is an anomaly that will never occur in the Charleston County School District, thanks to planning on the part of our district officials. [See Residents Offer Feedback in Wednesday's P&C]

The reporter seems befuddled over lack of opponents to Superintendent Nancy McGinley's plans presented at her "town hall" meeting at Burke High School Tuesday night: "Some of the school district's toughest critics and most- challenged schools are on the peninsula, but it seemed that most of the approximately 50 residents who gathered at Burke High were supporters of the district."

Diette, McGinley always recruits a good crowd of supporters. She probably uses the "or else" method. During last year's round of meetings, her opponents learned what a waste of time they are.

These are PR meetings, not opportunities for change.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

First Things First at CCSD's SIxth-Grade Academy

Maybe previous principals rode their bikes to North Charleston's Sixth-Grade Academy (AKA Orange Grove Charter School, AKA Ron McNair Elementary). Or maybe they reduced their carbon footprint by walking. In any event, having their names on the handicapped parking spaces nearest the back entrance wasn't their top priority. Not so with Superintendent Nancy McGinley's newest choices.

According to a Saturday P&C Watchdog story [McGinley Settles Confusion over School's Handicapped Parking], "For a couple of weeks or so this past month, students and parents entering the Sixth Grade Academy in North Charleston walked directly by cars belonging to the school principal, assistant principal and secretary, all parked atop bright blue spaces designated for the handicapped."

It seems that McGinley-appointed Principal Gail Glears decided early on that names on parking spaces were a necessity--even for the school secretary. She took it upon herself to have signs put up, even though the spaces nearest the door clearly were marked for the handicapped.

That was the first mistake in what Watchdog kindly calls "one mistake after another."Let's hope this fiasco is not indicative of Glears's judgment on other issues!

Friday, October 23, 2009

CCSD Committee Dithers over Reading Standards

Even Brian Hicks can be right at least one-third of the time. [See Isn't the First 'R' Reading? in Friday's P&C]

Ever since the P&C's August series revealing just how disastrous literacy levels are in CCSD, administrators at 75 Calhoun have practiced damage control. Beyond the public hand-wringing by the CCSD School Board and administration, we can only hope some effective classroom changes are being made to improve the situation.

However, reports of the CCSD School Board's literacy committee show just how ineffective such committees are. According to an October 20th story, [School Board Discusses Creating Literacy Policy], district officials can't figure out how to measure grade-level reading. Chief Academic Officer Doug Gepford stated, "The issue that's troubling district officials is how to define what reading on specific grade levels means."

If Doug Gepford and Janet Rose can't figure out how to set a standard for each grade level, they should lose their jobs and the district should hire people who can.

These objections are just more of the same mealy-mouthed, self-serving drivel that passes for competence in CCSD administration.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bottom Feeder Does Good in CCSD Territory

Who would want to be associated with a debt collector, especially one that bends the law and makes headlines with consumer complaints? Apparently, Mayor Joe Riley. Check out this description of Sherman Financial Group, big buddy of Mayor Riley, who encouraged the City Council to spend $5 million purchasing land for Meeting Street Academy's new campus sponsored by this bottom feeder [see Dreaming High in Thursday's paper]:
"Charleston, S.C.-based Sherman generated revenues of $1.05 billion in 2006, according to MGIC’s 2006 annual report filing with the SEC. Sherman contributed nearly $122 million to MGIC’s pretax income last year, Michael Zimmerman, MGIC’s vice president of investor relations, told earlier this month.

"1.05 Billion? How many consumers did they rip off to get that? The scale of this is unbelievable. How many times have they violated the FDCPA, the FCRA & the FACTA to get this amount ?

"Let’s see, mortgages, insurance, credit, debt collection, New York offices, three paper corporations in Delaware, banks in Las Vegas, Brazil and Mexico. The CT Corporation system that they use as Registered Agents has offices in Reno, Nevada and is headquartered in Chicago. They report forgiven debts on 1009-C forms to the IRS, when they have only paid pennies on the dollars; how do they report the profits? Structured to shield the higher ups form law enforcement. Harrasment, illegal debt collection practices, extortion. If this was the 1950’s, I’d say it was the Mob." [Mortage Servicing Fraud Forum]

See also Ripoff Report on Sherman Financial
Let's hope Riley hasn't made a Faustian bargain.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

CCSD Needs to Repair Neglect of Rivers Campus

I'll admit: it looks like an earthquake hit it.

Seismic "repairs," is it now? So says Gregg Meyers in Tuesday's P&C regarding the Rivers campus where the Charter School for Math and Science has set up shop in portable classrooms. [See Rivers Campus Promised Funds]

According to the story, "The charter school and a proposed district program, currently called Lowcountry Technical Academy for Health, Human and Public Services, have received the board's OK to share space in the building, but the structure needs a considerable amount of work, including seismic repairs, before students can occupy it."

Those repairs would be from the nonexistent earthquake that occurred after CCSD last emptied the building of students, well documented previously on this website.

You've got to figure that the anticipated earthquake will actually occur when pigs fly, or when the proposed Lowcountry Tech materializes, whichever comes first.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Stronger Academics Pull White Students into CCSD

The percentage of white students attending partial-magnet schools of Haut Gap Middle and Mitchell Elementary has risen. CCSD Superintendent Nancy McGinley credits the ability of students at Haut Gap to earn high school credits and the Montessori program at Mitchell. [See Some Partial Magnet Programs Succeed in Helping Integrate Schools in the online P&C.]

Gee, just maybe white parents were discouraged previously not by race but by sinkhole academics.

Dot Scott, eat your heart out!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

South Carolina: Bottom Tier Again

Our state legislators must like being at the bottom.

"South Carolina has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates, but the state is taking its time using federal stimulus money to launch job-producing road projects."

See the chart provided for ProPublica report: Stimulus Dollars For Schools Miss The Mark in Wednesday's P&C.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Waiting for the Other Shoe on PASS Testing

The one result so far of switching to a new test (the PASS) to replace the old (the PACT) is to delay the results. See Test Change Advances in Tuesday's P&C. It also obfuscates progress being made.

What other conclusions could be reached from the following:
  • "a scoring system that would mean more of the state's schools meet federal education goals"
  • "means more schools will make 'adequate yearly progress' under No Child Left Behind"
  • "years of complaints that results came in after the school year ended and provided no analysis on topics in which students excelled or struggled"
Next, our superintendents will be extolling the progress made by switching tests.

It's coming.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Picking on Kandrac Isn't Going to Work, Part 2

A new low in public relations and transparency for Superintendent McGinley--see What's a Board Member to Do?

In a meeting of 200 administrators and principals, the mere presence of School Board member Elizabeth Kandrac so frightened Superintendent Nancy McGinley that she slandered Kandrac in comments to the P & C. Although the reporter was not at the meeting, she gave the accusation by McGinley and "staff members" already unhappy with Kandrac's questioning of edicts issued from 75 Calhoun credibility in handling the information.

In a poor attempt to sound even-handed, Courrege wrote the following:

"'They actually believe I'm here to harass the superintendent," [Kandrac] said. "I'm here to represent my constituents in the county. That's why I'm here."

"She said others are lying about what happened in order to protect the superintendent and to make Kandrac look bad because they don't like her.

"Associate Superintendent Terri Nichols and Elliot Smalley, the district's executive director of planning, marketing and communications, gave consistent accounts about what happened."

So these people whose employment relies on good relations with the superintendent provide unbiased proof of what happened? Give us a break.

According to the smear campaign, "principals and administrators gathered at the district office [felt] intimidated, distracted and unable to have frank conversations." What a bunch of pantywaists. There were 200 of them and one of her. I hope they have more nerve when they're dealing with students.

Imagine this. Meyers and company are attempting to draft board policies that will prevent Kandrac from attending meetings in that "gray area." Once they have done so, and the majority of bootlickers on the Board have approved such rules, will they employ bouncers? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In for a Penny? So Says CCSD School Board

Do you wonder if anyone at the CCSD School Board of Trustees meeting on Monday night had the nerve to suggest that, perhaps, the residents of Charleston County would not be happy about a one-cent rise in the sales tax to fund more mini-Taj Mahals? If so, these doubts were not reported. [See Next Phase of Plan Considered in Tuesday's P & C]

The headline itself is a misnomer, unless you assume that the "plan" is to spend as much money as possible closing school buildings and building new ones in their places on into the twenty-second century. If so, the last "phase" was to close five schools under a cloud of suspicion that they were too poor and black to make the Superintendent look good in her stats, a move now actively being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights.

At least one Board member (unnamed by the reporter) dared to suggest that the closing schools--tax increase juxtaposition might be difficult to explain to taxpayers. Then, with his usual tin ear to the poor (from the well-paid), Mike Bobby, the district's chief financial officer reassured them that "'A sales tax increase would provide a longer-term stream of revenue and it would affect everyone instead of just property owners.'" True. A sales-tax increase would hit the poorest among us. This will be right after their schools have been closed.

Given lack of transparency in the past and present, who among us will trust the "district staff in evaluating the condition of buildings, collecting demographic information and assessing the use of district space"?

Aren't we thankful that "community input" will be allowed in April? So unnamed "community leaders" "seem supportive" of a sales tax increase, do they?

Let's hear their names, please.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Picking on Kandrac Isn't Going to Work

In a pathetic display of thinly-veiled spite, at the behest of Gregg Meyers, Toya Hampton-Green dragged the CCSD School Board's rules into the public forum of its open meeting Monday night. [See Board's Behavior Discussed in Tuesday's P&C.] You know, just in case anybody [not to be named] needs reminders.

Evidently, Board member Elizabeth Kandrac has become the elephant in the room--she who cannot be named--but who every last bootlicker for Superintendent Nancy McGinley is determined to silence, one way or another. It's the let's-try-to-embarrass-her-in-the-open-meeting ploy. What Meyers et al do not comprehend is that a seasoned middle-school teacher has endured tougher battles than these dilettantes can throw at her.

Let's look at the lead on Courrege's article: "Some Charleston County School Board members have been breaking the board's rules by giving orders to school staff, being disrespectful to employees and visiting schools unannounced." Serious stuff, right? But where are the specifics? Let's hear names, dates, and places instead of innuendos.

What is ripe, though, is that Meyers asked McGinley "to evaluate the board's behavior." Who's the employee here? The Board is made up of elected officials; the superintendent serves at their pleasure, not the opposite.

Then we learn that--holy cow!--Board members actually visited schools without giving the Superintendent advance notice! It's a rule, is it? Let's ask ourselves, what real purpose does it serve?

Meanwhile, the public is probably surprised to find that its elected representatives don't have the same rights as any resident of the county when it comes to visiting a school!

The message from Meyers, Green, and McGinley to their favorite Board member: Don't ask too many questions. Don't visit schools to see what we are doing. Don't interfere with the good thing we've got going here. Don't rock the boat. And, for pete's sake, when the Superintendent speaks, smile and just say, "Yes, m'am. You are so right."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Well-Meant Meeting on NCHS Goes Awry

What can community members do to improve North Charleston High School? Apparently, local politicians and religious leaders decided that holding a meeting of parents would help. See Sunday's P & C for Forum Draws Few Parents.

That was the first mistake. It may have been compounded by confusion about the meeting place (old North Charleston City Hall versus new North Charleston City Hall), but I doubt it. Those who showed up at the wrong place could have easily driven to the correct one.

No, parents who care have been worn out by the Charleston County School District's version of community meetings. Those are the ones where Superintendent McGinley speaks, answers no questions from the floor, and breaks up attendees into groups to share their "concerns" with CCSD-appointed leaders who report their findings, they trust, to McGinley once the meeting is over. Attempts by parents to take over CCSD meetings about restructuring of schools earlier this year are symptomatic of the cynicism born of such tactics.

Never mind that the meeting wasn't sponsored by CCSD. According to the article, "State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, said the forum was a way that he and fellow organizer state Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, decided to try to help parents concerned about what is going on at the school where 26 students were arrested in one day." In fact, the majority in attendance were invited by the organizers, including "Three school district officials [. . .]to provide an outline of their work in North Charleston schools." They had no names that the reporter could provide.

Parents with children at NCHS know perfectly well that one more meeting with politicians and school district officials will not change the system. No, parents at NCHS aren't perfect; parents aren't perfect anywhere else either.

If the instigators of the Sep. 2 brawl are classified as special education students, as suggested by readers, not much can be done to them.

It's the system, stupid, not the parents.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Is CCSD-Mandated Curriculum Effective?

Unfortunately for Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley and the CCSD School Board, they just approved spending $186,000 for a "new" curriculum (entitled Creative Curriculum) for its prekindergarten classes. These classes are aimed at students who are most at risk to be unprepared for kindergarten. See Pre-kindergarten Programs Focusing on Literacy in Sunday's P&C.

According to the district's new early childhood education director, Lerah Lee, former principal of St. James-Santee Elementary School, "It marks the first time in years that all pre-kindergarten classes will have the same, standardized curriculum. Teachers are being trained to use it, and that should enable them to better address students' problems."

I say "unfortunately" because not quite a month previous to McGinley's remarks praising the curriculum, the well-respected federal What Works Clearinghouse issued a report on it that was unfavorable. According to the WWC report, "The Creative Curriculum® was found to have no discernible effects on oral language, print knowledge, phonological processing, or math." This "new" curriculum CCSD just bought into has been around for eight years, in case you were wondering.

Intervention at an early age is extremely important so that identified children will be successful in reading in the early grades. Making sure that all students at the end of the third grade could read was the original impetus behind No Child Left Behind, whatever its flaws. But making teachers use a mandated curriculum that has failed to prove its worth in any study so far cannot be the answer.

See for the full report.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Either Middleton or Zumalt Has 'Splaining to Do

Arrested for what? Being black while outside the cafeteria?

Everyone in the Lowcountry is breathing a collective sigh of relief that during Wednesday's fight at North Charleston High School no one used a knife or gun. The 26 arrests made by the police and the school-wide lock down were enough to quell the brawl. See Police Boost Presence at School in Friday's P&C.

Now, according to NCHS Principal Juanita Middleton, very few of the 26 will be expelled because "most of those arrested didn't actually fight."


Please explain why they were arrested. Someone.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Good News for Charter School for Math and Science

Brian Hicks approves.

At least, that's the gist of his P & C column in Wednesday's paper, School Has Marks of Success. Hicks makes several points about CSMS that makes me wonder if he's been reading this blog:

  • "It's hard to understand why anyone would have a problem with another good school, open to the public, on the peninsula. But ever since a group of parents had the idea for the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science, people have been taking potshots."
  • "The truth is, Math and Science couldn't be more diverse: 49 percent of the students are black, 44 percent are white."
  • "Principal David Colwell, who was formerly at North Charleston High, has never failed to increase diversity in his school staff."
  • "The student body and, frankly, its board look like Charleston."
One quibble from me: the school needs to start using its blog to communicate the good news.

The Good News and the Bad News for NCHS

Depends on how you look at it: 26 Students Charged in Fight.

At least administration called in the law.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Will Use of False Addresses Continue?

Headline: No Change for Buist Admissions

Monday, August 31, 2009

What Focus Can Do to Reading Scores

Why didn't we think of focusing on literacy in the schools before? Silly us, we just assumed that it was the top priority. Strangely enough (or not), the emphasis pepped up by the P & C's articles on literacy had an impact. See Sunday's Freshmen Show Improved Reading.

Don't celebrate too hard, though, because these improved scores show that fewer ninth graders are reading at the fourth grade level or below than they did as beginning eighth graders. If high school texts were written on the fourth grade level, maybe we could relax.

So, what does it mean that the deficient students at Baptist Hill showed a much greater percentage increase in skills than those deficient at Wando? Did Baptist Hill do a better job with its eighth graders, or was some other factor at work?

And, just in case you've forgotten, we were supposed to get the results from the summer's expensive reading focus programs to show if they were effective. WELL???? Does silence mean they weren't? This article would have been a good forum to discuss them.

McGinley says she's data-driven. She should prove it by releasing those results.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Down to Brass Tacks with CCSD's McGinley

Unnecessarily long and full of verbiage, especially edublob jargon. That would be an accurate description of Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley's Op-Ed piece in Sunday's P & C. [So far the piece is not on line; the matching editorial may be found at Reading Right Aim for Schools.]

You may chew and swallow the Op-Ed in its entirety, if you can stand phrases such as "more focused than ever" and educational name-dropping (Barzun is misspelled, I hope by the editor). However, one bold sentence stands out. According to McGinley, "Our academic office refined our instructional approach and established 3rd, 6th, and 9th grade 'gateways' so that students are never promoted with skill deficits."

What her verb tenses imply is that at some murky time in the past the academic office [i.e., person?] decided that--at those grade levels--students with "skill deficits" would be retained. The use of "are never promoted" suggests that current practice does not allow these students to be promoted. We know that's not true, so in her feeble way McGinley seems to promise that at the end of 2009-10 students with "skill deficits" (including reading deficiencies presumably) will be retained at those three grade levels.

If so, this is big talk from one who, as Chief Academic Officer, forced the wholesale promotion of severely deficient eighth-graders over the objections of principals and parents.

During the course of her Sunday pep talk, McGinley points out that Quick Start helped struggling readers this summer (see previous P & C article). If the federal stimulus money was so effective, why can't she tell us the results, as we were promised earlier this month?

It is down to brass tacks. Either the "gateways" exist or they don't.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

If Doug Gepford Said It, It Must Be True?

Talk about a lack of critical thinking!

The Charleston County School District's Chief Academic Officer Doug Gepford stated that "it's been his experience that retaining students doesn't work because nothing different happens when students repeat a grade." [See Policy Panel Grapples with Literacy in Thursday's P & C]

So the Charleston County School Board's committee on literacy policy (when you want nothing done, form a committee) simpered in unison, " Oh, yes, Doug! Of course, Doug. We shouldn't make students repeat a grade." Let's keep doing the same thing we've always done--promoting students who aren't reading on grade level--and hope for different results.

You all know what that constitutes, right? Insanity.

Oh, I know that the committee is trying to dress up the status quo with different language, such as directing the superintendent to identify which literacy programs purchased from the edublob might help individual students (Gregg Meyers's idea), but those same programs could be directed to students who have been retained. It was virtually automatic promotion that caused the severity of the problem in the first place.

Committee Chairwoman Ruth Jordan sincerely wants to see a change from students entering high school unable to read their textbooks. Let's hope Meyers and his ilk don't bamboozle her with their vocabulary on this one.

Why, even Jon Butzon (and what was he doing there?) disagreed with Gepford and Meyers, proving once again that even a stopped clock can be right twice a day: [he] told the committee after the meeting that he wanted them to take a firmer stance on requiring children to be able to read before pushing them through the system." [italics mine]

Holy cow! I just agreed with Butzon?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

ACT Scores Picture Too Blurry to Be Useful

While everyone should be happy to see that ACT scores for last year's graduating classes in the tri-county area remained stable or improved slightly [see Area ACT Scores Improve], those statistics are virtually meaningless without regression analysis of variables affecting the scores. The numbers taking the test vary widely from one high school to another and from one year to another.

Look at it another way. What would really be an accomplishment would be that the statistics on standardized testing did not continue to mirror the socioeconomic status of the students. Do the numbers mean that Wando High School (at an ACT of 22.9, above the national average) does the best job in education or that its relatively affluent and white student body would do that well regardless of how poor its curriculum was?

Do the numbers mean that Burke High (with an ACT of 15.7, well below the national average) does the worst job in educating its students or that its relatively poor and ill-prepared student body would have done even worse if not for its strong curriculum?

In fact, until taking the ACT is a graduation requirement and high schools become more diverse, such numbers will be but a blurry snapshot of educational progress.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Scott's Call of Segregation Falls Flat on Facts

“It’s about segregation,” [the NAACP's Dot] Scott said. “That is germane to every move (the charter school) makes - to keep these kids separate." [See Friday's on-line P & C for School Board to Hear More About Lowcountry Tech.] Scott continues to whine that the Rivers building might be used by a charter school.

According to Scott, the Charter School for Math and Science (CSMS), the most heavily integrated school in CCSD's District 20 (downtown) is "really just a commie plot, you see, to get us internally." (That's what conspiracy-theorists sang when fluoride was introduced to the Charleston water supply.) Her comments reflect their paranoid philosophy. Truthfully, it's Scott who hopes to "keep these kids separate," for as long as the downtown schools are 98% black (or more), the NAACP will be in the driver's seat, and she will be the driver.

Peninsula residents both black and white agree that high-tech programs should exist. Many Burke supporters have asked for them at Burke High School for years and instead have been presented with programs such as the AP Academy. Lowcountry Tech High may or may not be the answer.

The saddest fact is that Scott erroneously assumes that a high-tech program would appeal only to black students and that CSMS's fully-integrated student body would be afraid to inhabit the same building with them.

How prejudiced is that?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

State Scholarships Total Funny Money

I decide to advertise my old clunker for sale for $8,000. My first caller offers $5000; the second, $6500; the third, $4000 (a cheapskate!), and the fourth, a mere $3925. Things are going downhill. I decide to wait a year and try again.

The next year I advertise again, this time asking $7500 (well, it is a year older). Again, offers come in at $6000, $5500, $7000, and $5800. I'm still not satisfied, so I take my offer back.

The third year I try again with similar results. Then in the fourth year, when I ask $6500 for the car, I receive 10 offers: each for $3500.

Realizing I've hit the jackpot, I quickly sell the car to the first caller for $3500, thereby making $35,000 on the deal.

What's that, you say? I didn't make $35,000? Well, tell that to State Superintendent Jim Rex and all of those district superintendents all over South Carolina (and other states) who claim hokey scholarship totals. What I've done with my old clunker mirrors how they've jacked up the totals awarded to individual students.

It's funny money. Doesn't this practice make you wonder how they arrive at other numbers?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sensible Talk from DD4's Montjoy

Dorchester District 4's Superintendent Jerry Montjoy has at least one idea right concerning improving his school district: see Student Motivation Is Primary Goal in Wednesday's P & C. It's an idea that was trashed years ago by the Charleston County School Board. Give up?

Montjoy says, "What we're trying to do here is build tradition. That keeps alumni involved. And motivation leads to tradition." You might also put that, tradition leads to motivation.

Ever wonder why Burke High School has the only strong group of alumni supporters in CCSD? Easy. It's one of the few high schools that's been allowed to keep its name.

What graduate of Moultrie High really feels a connection to Wando? Or graduate of St. Andrews High to West Ashley? Which high school do graduates of the High School of Charleston support? Or Chicora or Rivers High?

Pathetic, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Can't Talk Straight Either

The gang-that-couldn't-shoot-straight--AKA the CCSD School Board--admitted Monday night that it "forgot" to add the Rivers Middle School building to its request for estimates of repairs and seismic upgrades of older schools in the district. [Board to Assess Scope of Repairs]

Sometimes it seems as though the Board, and its henchman, Bill Lewis, think they're doing the rest of us a favor by not immediately razing every school over the age of 20, but that's another story.

The NAACP--that would be the "shoot-self-in-the foot" gang--which remained remarkably silent on the closing of five all-black schools, spoke up in advance to decry any expenditure on a building potentially useful to an integrated charter school.

Gregg Meyers can use words such as "unintentional" and "misunderstanding" all he wants; given the history of this issue, "supporters of the Charleston Charter School for Math & Science [who] realized the omission of Rivers and began asking questions" propelled the change of course on the Board's part.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Superintendents Serve Up Pablum to P & C

If you're so young that you've never heard of Pablum, you may be wondering what it is; on the other hand, if you have ever tasted this old-fashioned baby food invented in the 1930s, you too would find it "bland, unappetizing, or with little content value"--its metaphorical definition today.

Precisely what is served up in recent interviews with CCSD Superintendent Nancy McGinley and Berkeley's Anthony Parker. [In Berkeley, Children at Center; Charleston Superintendent Prepares for Third Year]. You might suspect that the reporter either was afraid to ask pointed follow-up questions or didn't know what to ask. Instead, we find out that McGinley doesn't especially like to cook.

In any event, interested readers learn that McGinley's new "top priority" is "improving student literacy." Duh. I wonder where she got that idea. We all hope she's serious.

At least she was a bit more forthcoming about her recent trip to Houston, saying that "When I was asked to have a conversation to see if I might be interested in running the seventh-largest district in the country, I thought it was worth my time to give it some thought" [as I wended my way west on the airplane?]. That's about as close as she's going to get to admitting the trip was for a job interview.

Superintendent Parker wants to keep "put children at the center point" in Berkeley County. Well, that's a relief. We were worried that he would put them off to the side.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Waiting with Bated Breath for CCSD's Quick Start Results

This expenditure of stimulus funds sounds great, although the stimulus may affect reading ability instead of financial stability. I'm referring to CCSD's summer Quick Start program described in Thursday's P & C, Failing Our Students Series: Fast Forward.

The anecdotal evidence of reading improvement among elementary students gladdens the heart; however, the final comparison of ability at the beginning and end of the course should be made public also. Doug Gepford should send that information to the P & C as soon as possible. If the district shows that its expenditure of $325,000 this summer for the program has been effective, it will lend credibility to other programs getting underway.

Two aspects of the P & C story remain unclear. How did the district measure the "highest-performing teachers" at each school? Also, the article states how many students were offered a chance at the program but not how many accepted. Isn't that important?

Why does the lack of that information make me suspicious? About 480 students were eligible. If fifty percent took advantage, that would be a cost of $1354 per student; if only one-fourth attended, it would be $2708.

Aren't you curious, too?

Monday, August 03, 2009

North Charleston HS Signs Up for Edublob

Cloaking the true situation in the Charleston County School District, State Superintendent Jim Rex's press release has glossed over the meaning of the reorganization of North Charleston High School and, now, the meaning of the district's signing up the school for a program called "Turnaround Schools." [See School to Receive State Help in Monday's edition.] Or maybe the reporter didn't understand.

We know that NCHS needs all the help it can get. First of all, the majority of incoming freshman read at or below the third-grade level. In the past, many of those students would drop out during or at the end of freshman year. The new NCHS has to figure out how to teach them to read while still maintaining a high school curriculum for the students who read at or above grade level.

Second, since Bill Lewis has not managed to finish renovations of the NCHS building in a timely manner, these high school students will be taught for at least a semester at a notorious middle-school building, namely Brentwood, that is not designed for high school needs. If the new principal manages to get them to settle in there, by mid-year the settling-in process will start all over again. There's no way that precious instructional time and discipline won't be lost through the mid-year move. You begin to feel sorry for Juanita Middleton, although we suspect she simply goes where she's told by Supt. McGinley.

How did NCHS achieve the status of the only district-run high school in the state that will participate in "Turnaround Schools"? CCSD made the decision that it would avoid a state-takeover required under NCLB rules since NCHS did not meet its goals for the required number of years. NCHS then could have gone charter (horrors!) or--CCSD's choice--been completely reorganized. No other school district that qualified for "Turnaround Schools" chose this path. You have to ask yourself why.

"High Schools That Work" and "Turnaround Schools" programs may or may not do the trick. Considering the reading problems at NCHS, they have a hard row to hoe.

Should I point out that both are part of the edublob that makes its living from billing districts for institutes and training, or is that fact already obvious to you? Can there ever be local solutions from local educators and administrators or do those people not charge enough?

Straight Story on New CCSD Buildings

Probably not everyone is
as irritated as I am by paeans of praise to the Charleston County's newest Taj Majal school buildings in the latest editions of the P & C. Even knowing that the funds for building them and those for daily operations are separate has not assuaged my nagging suspicion that, here in these multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art schools, children will still be left behind in reading skills.

Now, let's use just a little bit of critical thinking about statements made as fact in two recent articles on Mt. Pleasant Academy and Orange Grove Charter Schools.

According to one article, the enormous new Mt. Pleasant Academy had to be built because the old 1950s building had grown too small. Wrong. It would be an easy bet that the Old Village of Pt. Pleasant doesn't have as many elementary-age children as it had in the 1950s! No, what happened is that the CCSD School Board made a conscious decision to create large elementary schools instead of smaller new ones and, as a result, to increase busing. Now ask yourself if it is better for an elementary-age child to be bused to an 850-odd student school or go to one half that size in his or her own neighborhood.

Monday's article on Orange Grove Charter School has a misleading brag in both the front-page teaser and the article itself: that this is the first school building designed specifically for a public charter school in South Carolina! Of course, the decision to rebuild Orange Grove was funded prior to its becoming a charter school. Of course, the CCSD School Board fought its going charter tooth-and-nail and caved only when it became clear legally that the Board didn't have a leg to stand on.

And the much-touted separate building for day care for faculty? The lack of the ability to have that facility, thanks to CCSD's policies, created the impetus to go charter in the first place. What short memories we have!

Let's hope that Bill Lewis has managed to build and plan these facilities better than he did for Wando High School, where they're still suffering with air conditioning problems in the gym!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Missing Children Alert: Burwell & Waring

What's wrong with this picture: Your child is missing. No law enforcement officer even mentions an amber alert or takes you seriously because he or she is 18 years old or older. After a brief mention in the local news, the story disappears from the public's radar screen, but not yours. It's your child.

Take the case of Teista Burwell. Her mother lobbied law enforcement for almost two years before Burwell was even listed as missing. [See Woman Finally Listed as Missing.] Never mind that her former boyfriend, David Kornahrens, is a known criminal whose rap sheet has now topped 27 pages! During that time period the local media also ignored this crisis. The attitude seems to have been that, since she had been involved with a criminal, she got what she deserved.

Only when the Dorchester County Sheriff's office listed Burwell on a national computer base did the P & C notice. To be fair, since then it has published stories about a vigil for Burwell and the suspicion cast on a Summerville resident who used to be employed by Kornahrens. [See Vigil Held in Ladson and Marcotte in Clear, But Fallout Lingers.]

Now Kornahrens is nowhere to be found, though he is also wanted for armed robbery. It's time to publish stories on his activities and, especially, his 12 or more aliases. Maybe someone will notice him or remember an important detail.

Perhaps because of the Burwell fiasco or because of her family's status, Charleston Police responded more rapidly to the case of Katherine Waring. However, since her mid-June disappearance occurred, the only media update has been a July 23rd article detailing the lack of results from a false tip that her body might be in an Anderson County field. [See Rural Area Searched for Missing Woman] It's an odd case. One odd aspect is that, even though a video exists showing someone trying to cash one of her checks, no picture of that person has been released. Why not?

Finally, I don't understand why the P & C doesn't put more focus on cases like these. Think of the popularity of America's Most Wanted for the last decade. Such coverage might actually sell some newspapers.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

McGinley's Tale Tests CCSD's Gullibility

Throwing up a smoke screen in front of her every action has become such a habit for CCSD Superintendent Nancy McGinley that she can't manage a bit of candor when the truth would help her credibility.

That's what most readers should take away from the P & C's Saturday story, McGinley to Stay in Charleston. If Courrege wrote the lead, "McGinley flew to Houston on Friday to interview with the Houston school board that's looking for a new superintendent," that's what she thought also.

McGinley would have the public believe that she simply wanted to share the Charleston success story (!) with the search firm hired by the Houston School Board looking to replace its superintendent and had no intention of actually interviewing for a job that pays twice what she makes now. The Houston Chronicle was confused about this being a job interview. The moon is made of green cheese, also.

This much is true: her plane was rerouted to Austin, causing a delay that made her miss her interview. She learned about the Houston article. She may have learned other facts through the grapevine, such as that she was being interviewed only because of the recommendation of the previous superintendent, her "friend" from the Broad Institute, or that her interview was pro forma because the School Board really wants a black replacement for its present Hispanic.

Abe Saavedra! The name brings back sweet memories of Corpus Christi, his post prior to Houston. I won't rehash his shenigans there except to point out that he hired Maria Goodloe-Johnson. You all remember her, right? These three Broad Institute graduates make quite a triumvirate. If McGinley should leave, one hopes another won't be shoved down our throats.

Another reason? Why would Saavedra leave Houston at the ripe old age of 58 without another superintendent's job on the horizon? One Houston blog may have had the answer last February:
". . .he's made more than his fair share of bungles. Board members have sometimes seemed blindsided by his proposals -- like cutting transportation for magnet schools or combining whiz-kid high school Carnegie Tech with the much rougher Worthing.

"He'd been on thin ice for a while; it seems the ice finally cracked. " [See Houston - Hair Balls - Abe Saavedra Is Leaving The Building.]
In another of those bizarre coincidences, the name of Houston's school board chairman is Greg Meyers.

Our own Meyers version was already blowing more smoke:

"Board Vice Chairman Gregg Meyers said McGinley's actions tell him that she has such little interest in moving somewhere else that even a job paying more than double what she earns here isn't of sufficient interest to bother with an interview if there's a small inconvenience involved.

"'I don't think this trip means anything,' he said."

Why the subterfuge? Who would blame McGinley if she took a job paying double what she gets now? Let's just hope that she doesn't pull an Abe Saavedra on us and work this "interview" into a raise to keep her here.

Does it ever occur to these people that a little honesty would go a long way towards restoring their credibility?