Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Seismic Upgrades: Gift That Keeps on Giving

. . . to CCSD's building director Bill Lewis's contractor friends, that is. Reported by the Charleston City Paper Blogs (see left) is another round of useless attention to Charleston County's major earthquakes [Schools Move Forward with Seismic Upgrades]. Major, you ask?

Poor Lewis. Traumatized by experiences in California with earthquakes, he assumes he's still in California. He probably wonders why the poor, ignorant saps in Charleston County have built schools for the last 100 years that don't meet California's seismic standards! And Green, Meyers, & Co. have swallowed this nonsense, hook, line, and sinker.

As Lewis puts it, "The district has been constrained by budget concerns, but discretionary money in the building fund, increased awareness on the school board, and the potential for federal stimulus aid have reignited plans for precautionary improvements. 'The window has opened for us to proceed with speed.'" Well, yes, before the School Board comes to its senses, if such an event is possible.

Lewis views the entire peninsula of Charleston as a building project awaiting his rescue. Clearly, every building not meeting seismic codes must be torn down, including all older school buildings (think Memminger, Courtenay, Rivers, Buist). For another point of view, check out New Study: Charleston Overreacting to Earthquake Threat.

Who cares if the chances of a major earthquake in the next century are somewhere between slim and none (and closer to none). If CCSD has the money, why then it must be spent! This school board is just the one to do it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Truth or Rumor About Buist Acceptance?

Sources say that Buist Academy has accepted a student who lives on Daniel Island (that's in Berkeley County, for you dummies). The student has been accepted from the District 20 list.

Wasn't that nonsense supposed to have stopped?

Oh, well. It is a county-wide magnet. Who's to say which county?

McGinley Moves to Retain Control of NCHS

NCLB strikes again: North Charleston High School Faces Drastic Reforms.

You see, if CCSD could ignore what's happening at North Charleston High School, as it did in the good old days prior to NCLB's demands that schools make real, measured progress, no restructuring would be called for. Even though the reporter has written ad nauseum on CCSD's responses to NCLB requirements, she still doesn't know (or pretends she doesn't) that once a school reaches NCLB's point of no return, one of five possibilities must ensue:
In particular, schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in the percentage
of children meeting grade level standards for five consecutive years must engage in restructuring to improve student learning. All five restructuring options are called alternative governance arrangements in the law, and thus are intended to change how failing schools are led and controlled. NCLB restructuring options include the following:
Chartering: closing and reopening as a public charter school.
Turnarounds: replacing school staff, including the principal, relevant to the failure.
Contracting: contracting with an outside entity to operate the school.
State takeovers: turning the school operations over to the state educational agency.
Other: engaging in another form of major restructuring that makes fundamental reforms.
Needless to say, Superintendent McGinley would shudder at the thought that NCHS might become a charter school or (heaven forbid!) be turned over to the state. However, she could not choose business as usual.

So McGinley has chosen the avenue that allows her the most control over what happens to NCHS. Let's all hope that "High Schools That Work" works better than the half-hearted efforts at Brentwood's and Rivers's restructurings that failed.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Accuracy in Media for School Tax Credit Meeting

For those of us in favor of accurate headlines and reporting, let's change the P & C's

  • "Anti-School-Tax Credit Rally Planned by NAACP at Joe Darby's Church May 4."
Be prepared if you attend representing the other side. You're not likely to be heard.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

P & C's Common Sense on School Tax Credits

Perhaps breaking with past policies, the editorial writers of the Post and Courier endorsed school tax credits in Sunday's edition [Give School Tax Credits a Try].

Apart from clear observation of the tug-of-war between the edublob and parents desperate for better schools, the editorial ended with the following cogently-stated points that echo what has been said previously on this blog:

"Just because such programs can't benefit every child doesn't mean they shouldn't benefit any child. And just because foes of vouchers and tax credits are so adamant — and so politically powerful — doesn't mean lawmakers should ignore the continuing plight of children stuck in public schools that aren't educating them."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Clarifying Port Development "Planning Mess"

Finally! Someone writes in the P & C on the Port of Charleston's problems and makes sense!

It needs "Commentary," for the cogent to appear in print. [See Port Compromise Needed in Fairness to N. Charleston]. Whether it be the after-effects of pulling port expansion from Daniel Island or an explanation for ongoing squabbles over railroad tracks, thanks to Ron Brinson, readers can learn how the emperor has no clothes. Make that plans.

Some highlights:
  • "[Rep. Jim Merrill] was a leader in the legislative processes that chased the SPA off Daniel Island and to the city of North Charleston. His side won, but that should not mean North Charleston loses."
  • "And [his] taking the lead to provide the railroads a legislative solution to these predictable rail access issues, surely didn't mean to insult North Charlestonians — but he did. Docks and railroads were long ago legislated off Merrill's Daniel Island district. To many North Charleston citizens, his proposed legislation equates to a state instruction that North Charleston accept and abide impacts not acceptable to Merrill and his Daniel island constituents."
  • ". . .the Ports Authority's long-delayed port development plan is a planning mess and political nightmare that simply won't end."
  • "If the railroads would agree with each other, these pesky issues could be resolved with reasonable accommodation to Summey's valid concerns. But trunk line railroads fiercely protect their competitive advantages and their perceived shareholders' values, and thus, they seldom readily agree on anything,"
  • And, most importantly to North Charleston commuters, Mayor Summey railed that "railroads can wear out their welcome. More specifically, he argued, his constituents are sick and tired of unreasonably slow and stopped trains clogging up the city's busy streets. He challenged the railroads to be more sensitive to their impacts in North Charleston."
Brinson's analysis clears up many puzzling aspects of the "planning mess." Why can't the P & C report on it more coherently on a regular basis? Or does it have a planning mess, too?

Friday, April 24, 2009

SC School Funding Bill Not Reported by P & C

Sometimes it pays to look at the Charleston City Paper Blogs website [see left-hand list]. Charleston County is in its usual struggle with the rest of the state to regain the funding that recent tax changes have taken away and given to poorer counties. [See Legislators Challenge Temporary School Funding Fix]

The "negatively impacted" counties aren't receptive. Gee, I wonder why.

CCSD Plans Value-Added Compensation

Let's hope that 75 Calhoun will be more transparent about the statistics behind its new teacher compensation plan that Superintendent McGinley proudly announced Thursday. [Teachers To Get Cash for Success]

While most of us can agree that compensating bad teachers at the same rate as good ones seems wrong, the idea of assessing teacher effectiveness with statistical comparisons has its pitfalls. How good are the statistics? It makes those of us who have watched CCSD finagle other numbers nervous!

More reactions:
  • Using statistics to generate a best-teacher list negates the duty of administrators to recognize them--maybe a good idea?
  • Will $500 energize teachers to reach all students? It almost seems like an insult.
  • Imagine listening to McGinley for most of 40 minutes "touting the district's accomplishments this past year."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SC Black Voters Support Sen. Ford

Unlike the school discipline survey taken in Charleston earlier this year, this poll cannot be interpreted as skewed by faulty methods by those who don't like the results . See Thursday's P & C for the accompanying story. [Friends, Foes of Choice Lining Up]


Pulse Opinion Research, a public opinion research group that follows Rasmussen Reports standards, polled 1,000 black voters across the state earlier this month to see where they stand on using tax credits toward private school tuition, and related questions. The poll was paid for by the Parents in Charge Foundation, an organization that advocates for school choice by helping parents pay for private school tuition, including tapping tax dollars to do so. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Here are highlights:

• Should parents, grandparents or custodial relatives be allowed to receive state scholarships for their children to go to private schools if they feel the public schools are not meeting their children's needs? Yes, 43 percent; no, 40 percent; not sure, 17 percent.

• Will giving parents tax credits and scholarships to allow them to choose the best public school or a private school improve the graduation rate in South Carolina? Yes, 53 percent; no, 28 percent; not sure, 19 percent.

• Do you agree or disagree with this statement, "Trapping poor black students in failing public schools is the largest civil rights issue facing our state today?" Agree, 53 percent; disagree, 31 percent; not sure, 15 percent.

• Sen. Robert Ford is an African-American Democrat state senator who is proposing giving parents tax credits and scholarships to choose the best school for their children. Is Sen. Ford looking out for poor kids by getting them out of failing schools and into a better learning environment? Yes, 61 percent; no, 21 percent; not sure, 18 percent.

• Are public schools becoming more segregated, less segregated or has there been no change? More segregated, 42 percent; less segregated, 22 percent; no change, 26 percent; not sure, 9 percent.

So do the views of the Charleston NAACP's Scott and Darby represent CCSD's parents or not?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Speak Up on SC School Choice Bills

Want your voice to be heard by those considering school choice bills? [see School Choice To Be Vetted by Senators on the P & C's website]

The senate committee " will take testimony from 9 to 11 a.m. [Thursday] on two bills. The first would offer tax credits and create a scholarship fund to help parents pay for private school tuition. The second would require local public school districts to offer additional instructional choices to parents."

Our local NAACP heroes were armed with quotable quotes for our intrepid reporter:
"Dot Scott [. . .] said [Senator] Ford is not considering all the facts as he advocates for his bill, including the fact that private schools are not obligated to accept all children. The Rev. Joe Darby [. . .] said the futures of a lot of children are at stake."
Here's how you too can be heard. Email any of the following with your opinions:
Robert Hayes, Jr. :
Luke Rankin :
Michael Fair:
Harvey Peeler, Jr. :
Larry Grooms:
Thomas Davis:
John Matthews, Jr. :
Phil Leventis:
Gerald Malloy:
Joel Lourie:

No doubt they would appreciate hearing from those who actually have children in the system!

Friday, April 17, 2009

"Anger Management" Times at Moultrie Middle

The P & C's article about the knife-wielding thirteen-year-old at Moultrie Middle [Teacher Avoids Knifing] provides crumbs for thought but hardly the big picture of teacher Jennifer Robinovitz's classroom or even of her previous problems with this particular student.

Whatever the reason the boy brought the knife to school, these facts are clear. The teacher provoked the attack by "insisting" he take a test. In other words, she was doing her job.

Why do I think that this was not the first time that the student's behavior disrupted learning in her classroom? The reporter neglected to get any background on his previous behavior, but it is not much of a stretch of the imagination to assume that his "attending anger management classes" was not voluntary. That fact alone suggests a long history of outbursts in the classroom.

One only has to read the comments posted by CCSD teachers in the recent discipline survey to understand that this incident was most likely an escalation in an ongoing war between a disturbed student and a teacher trying her best to meet his needs while educating an entire class. Otherwise, why would one incident in which no one was harmed have produced charges of "assault with intent to kill, disturbing school and a weapons law violation."

There's a larger story here. I wrote about some of it in my post of March 28th. Consider some of the following from CCSD's teachers:
  • The abuse of IEP and 504 documents has created a Teflon shield for the students who often drain each school of multiple resources. Many times these students receive little discipline and are readmitted when other offenders without 504 or IEP documentation would have received instant suspension and/or expulsion. At a given point, accountability and responsibility have to occur.
  • The majority of the students at my school are wonderful. We have a few that have been bullying other kids for several years, and other kids are terrified of them. It is only a handful, but nothing seems to be done to these bullies no matter how often the teachers write referrals. It seems that the zero-tolerance for bullies has gone by the way side in an order to not rock the boat, and this is extremely sad for the kids that are terrified to come to school each day.
  • There are too many students who are getting too many chances. Sure these students should have rights, but what about everybody who suffers because of them.
  • There are several students in each classroom that can disrupt the entire class. If the students were put into another setting to address their behavior issues, the rest of the class would be free to learn. Usually at our school it will be 2 or 3 per class that stop instruction constantly lessening the material that can be covered and reiterated for the students who want to learn.
  • Some students seem to be persistent offenders but we have not tracked offenses properly in order to document the intervention steps that create behavioral changes or eventual removal. Several behaviorally disordered mainstreamed students enjoy protections that encourage continuous non compliance w/ rules. What ever happened to earning one's way out of a self-contained setting or returning to that setting as the best least restrictive environment aimed at promoting educational goals and gains. Why do we continue to rationalize that the federal protections that certain students have are rights that override other student’s right to learn. Put them in the setting that protects theirs and others needs.
  • I feel that there are many children that have serious anger, mental, emotional and behavioral issues that are not addressed and are left for the regular classroom teacher to deal with. These issues often take up a lot of the teacher’s time and takes away from instructional time for the students that come to school to learn. PBIS is a great program but it often does not work for the major behavior problems.
Kudos to Jennifer Robinovitz for her fast thinking. Anyone who teaches in middle school is racking up brownie points in heaven! Here's what she reports about herself.
Masters in Special Education
Trenton State, College of NJ
Bachelors in Education
University of Delaware

This is my first year at Moultrie Middle School! I recently moved here with my family from Rumson, New Jersey. I have taught in the public school system of NJ for 14 years before moving to Mount Pleasant in 2007. I have worked with students of varying ages, grades, and disabilities. I currently work on the 7th grade team at here at Moultrie.
A Jersey girl. I might have known.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Online School Enthusiasm Reflects Discontent

Homeschool? How about online charter schools? Not for the faint of heart or those without time to supervise their children's education, state-approved online charter schools fill the gap for homeschooling parents unsure about their ability in every subject their children need to study--and everyone should be! Parents unhappy about their children's daily experiences in poorly disciplined schools and high school dropouts should also take notice.

Today's P & C article touts the benefits [see Online Charter Schools a Big Hit] and the initial enthusiasm for this recent development in South Carolina's public education. The website [] presents some interesting choices for diverse students.

As with the voucher idea, online charters make possible an end run around the CCSD schools and Superintendent McGinley for those with children in school right now, not at some pie-in-the-sky later date when the schools are "fixed."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Newsflash: Buist Parents Push for Expansion

Just kidding.

More than a tad interesting that parents at the Montessori Community School (public) have kept pushing for an expansion of the program because of its long waiting list. See A Bright Idea Grows in Wednesday's P & C.

Need I mention the school with the storied waiting list, the longest in CCSD for decades?

Imagine the following as a description of the activities of Principal Sallie Ballard and Buist parents:
"They've attended nearly every Charleston County School Board meeting since August, and they've written numerous letters to the superintendent seeking space to expand their small program. 'We cannot accommodate everyone who wants to be here,' program director Kim Hay said. 'We have so many students on our waiting list, and it's always been this way.'"
That'll be the day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thanks for the Memories, CCPL!

If you're as book-crazy as I am, when you enter the door of any library, your first thought is, "Why am I not here more often?"

Pre-television days, my cousin and I would walk the four hot blocks to the downtown library in the small North Carolina town where my grandmother lived and return with stacks and stacks of good reading for those unairconditioned summer afternoons when we were supposed to be "resting" in the upstairs bedroom. The cool interior of its old building would beckon to us again a few days later.

I am old enough to remember (but just barely) the old Charleston County Free Library on Rutledge that held much the same charm, though the Charleston Library Society was a shorter walk and fascinating place. Even the pink monstrosity on King Street never failed to call my name.

So I am delighted to see that congratulations are in order for the Charleston County Public Library for being named in the top 3 percent of libraries nationwide. That's definitely an assessment I can agree with.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Vouchers are Quick Fix for Captives

I might agree with the editorial staff of the Post and Courier even twice a day, like a stopped clock, or on some days, like today, when the lead editorial is titled, Give Vouchers a Fair Chance.

The P & C's editorial writer observes the Washington, D.C., experiment in vouchers and finds it effective. He or she also points out President Obama's words supporting the use of vouchers. Apparently to counterbalance such clarity, the editors also print an anti-voucher rant by Linda Ketner, who will never have children in any public school system, much less CCSD's, but who does intend to run for Congress again. [See Voucher Dangers]

According to Ketner, "Public school is the only way to level the playing field. If the public school system is broken, then let's fix it."

Let's get this straight, Linda. Public school is the one thing NOT leveling the playing field in CCSD right now.

Even if we knew right now, today, how to fix the system (and that's a big "if"), how long would "fixing" it take? One year? Hardly. Two? Ten? Twenty? You don't know?

What about the students who are enrolled right now and will enter kindergarten in the fall?

For all of the pitfalls, at least vouchers address the problems of real students captive in problem schools right now.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Mt. Pleasant Rebranding as Idiotic

Do you think it has occurred to Mt. Pleasant Council members that spending $100,000 during an economic downturn for "rebranding" its image actually reinforces its stereotype as the "wine and cheese" crowd? [See Town Launching Effort to Sell Itself.]

And who has admitted ownership of that 2001 permit law that predictably increased the average new home price in the town? I don't know, but Stokes-Marshall gets the prize for idiotic comment of the day:"the town is not welcoming to less-affluent newcomers of different ethnicity."

Don't be ridiculous. No one cares about ethnicity; it's all about affluence. Do they have the big bucks?

Other Shoe Drops for Fraser in CCSD

Can I say "I told you so"? Sometimes I wonder how the P & C lives with itself. It was obvious months ago that school redesign was all about Superintendent McGinley's crowing that her marvelous leadership has led to no additional threatened state takeovers of CCSD schools. Yet that obvious fact was never, never mentioned in the P & C's reporting.

Now the secret is out that Fraser must be closed at the end of this year; otherwise, it becomes a Palmetto Priority School in lieu of state takeover. What a horrible thought to McGinley--losing control of yet another set of students.

Here is the "news" article's statement, taken verbatim one supposes, from McGinley's lips: "The county's schools have benefited from the district retaining control [. . .]."

And we know they've benefited because McGinley says so! What passes for reporting these days.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Jim Rex's Out-of-State Stimulus Plan

Check out this story at The Voice for School Choice on the $358,000 spent in February by Jim Rex's State Department of Education for “Non-State Education and Training Services.” The writer refers to the list more aptly as "Consultants and Contractors." It's the edublob.

For your viewing pleasure, I have cut the list to those receiving $3500 or more. Maybe you can identify them:
Payee Transaction Date Amount
ZEKE STOKES LLC 2/18/09 $5,400.00; 3/2/09 $2,470.00
THE RACKES GROUP LLC 2/18/09 $4,292.00
SWANSON EDITORIAL INC 2/18/09 $4,470.00
RONALD D MILES 3/2/09 $3,000.00; 2/20/09 $1,000.00
RODNEY KELLY 2/11/09 $12,000.00
PWS EDUCATIONAL CONSULTING 2/20/09 $3,678.00; 2/10/09 $3,180.00
PASS ASSURED LLC 2/6/09 $6,000.00
NEWTON JAMES & ASSOC LLC 2/11/09 $3,600.00
NATIONAL CENTER FOR 2/25/09 $4,590.00
LINDA ELIZABETH HAINS 2/20/09 $3,900.00; 2/9/09 $3,575.00
LEIGH M ZALEON 2/11/09 $5,525.00
LEAP CONSULTING LLC 2/18/09 $7,700.00
JACKIE G CLARKSON 2/6/09 $5,000.00
FITZMAURICE INTERPRETING 2/12/09 $5,500.00; 2/24/09 $5,500.00
EDUCATION BUILDERS 2/18/09 $9,562.50
CINDY LUE MARTIN 2/19/09 $4,000.00
CHRISTI NICHOLE SCHRADER 2/24/09 $3,000.00; 2/11/09 $1,000.00
CAROL SUNDERMAN 2/9/09 $2,100.00; 2/20/09 $1,400.00
BROOKS MOORE 2/6/09 $2,000.00; 2/13/09 $1,200.00; 2/20/09 $1,200.00; 2/26/09 $400.00; BROOKS GROUP 2/20/09 $3,200.00
BENNIE BROWN 2/26/09 $1,920.00; 2/6/09 $1,600.00; 2/10/09 $1,600.00; 2/18/09 $1,600.00
ALPHA & OMEGA EDUC SVC LLC 2/11/09 $2,800.00; 3/2/09 $1,140.00; 2/26/09 $400.00; 2/20/09 $1,200.00
Some of these expenditures may have been necessary. Still, it reminds me of hogs at the trough. Check out the small fry too. It's a long list.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Say What You Mean About Poverty

Being poor does not make students hard to educate.

The reporter and/or the headline writer is confused. [See At Magnet School, Poverty Level No Roadblock to Learning.]

Why shouldn't Garrett Academy succeed? The one-fourth of the freshman class that washes out each year does not do so because of lack of wealth. Some are ill-prepared in academics and others in work ethic and motivation. None of these major contributors are the result of lack of money. According to the news article,

"Some of Garrett's success can be tied to its ability to control the makeup of its student body. Garrett doesn't have any entrance requirements, but it does weed out poor-performing students through a continuation policy that sends students who fail certain courses back to their neighborhood school. About 24 percent of freshmen left Garrett at the end of last year because they couldn't pass their classes. [. . .] Because Garrett doesn't have an attendance zone, anyone who enrolls in the school has made a conscious decision to be there."

Of the other high schools "in the top 25 percent of high schools statewide for [their] students' poverty," how many are magnets?

Not to disparage Garrett's achievement, but surely that information is relevant!

Please don't tell us Superintendent McGinley or the current CCSD School Board is responsible for its success either. Fifteen years ago McGinley was an unknown principal in the Philadelphia school system.

Monday, April 06, 2009

John Cleese Has Met Superintendent McGinley!

Or was that Dot Scott? From John Cleese's recent essay in The Spectator:
"Interesting ideas often emerge from the world of management. One useful concept is that of the ‘articulate incompetent’. This is a person who speaks clearly and cogently and persuasively about something, without actually understanding anything about the reality that their words are intending to describe. Such a person is dangerous to an organisation because they can sound very persuasive, despite the fact that they have absolutely no clue what they are talking bout."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

CCSD's Oplinger Shows True Colors

I'm shocked, shocked to find out that there's cheerleading going on in this School Board. From Saturday's P & C:

"I want to set the record straight regarding a recent letter [i.e., Sandi Engelman's] to the editor about the "25 Worst Performing Public Schools in the U.S."

"Of the 25 schools listed (actually 24, because one was removed from the list), 10 are in South Carolina and nine are charter schools.

"Of the four schools listed in Charleston County, two are charters, one is being closed and one is being restructured.

"I would like to add that our Academic Magnet High School is one of the top 10 high-achieving high schools in the United States, and that Charleston County received an excellent improvement rating on the state report card, a first for our district. That tells me that Dr. Nancy McGinley is doing an excellent job and that we should be doing everything we can to support her.

Ann Oplinger

Smoke and mirrors again.

  • We have an improvement rating resulting from counting students differently.
  • "Two are charters"--yes, the ones originally supported by the School Board and encouraged by 75 Calhoun for its own purposes. They aren't charters that arose naturally out of the community.
  • And I sincerely doubt that the Academic Magnet believes Supt. McGinley is responsible for its success. They're still waiting for the other shoe to drop after they move in with the School of the Arts.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pap Finn Could Be Out There, Boys

What happens at Belle Hall Elementary when students are absent? Are parents called if they haven't notified the school of their illness?

It does not appear so from the P & C's story on the flight of two 10-year-old boys to the woods. According to the report,
"The boys, neighbors in the Belle Hall community and pupils at Belle Hall Elementary School, didn't go to school Tuesday morning, Police Sgt. Steve Meadows said. He said that when they didn't show up at home after school and their parents talked to their friends, they learned the boys had planned to run away."
Let's get this straight.
  • The boys did not attend school at all on Tuesday;
  • Their "friends" attended school all day and knew the boys had run away;
  • Their parents were blissfully unaware of the boys' status until school was out.
What, the little darlings weren't going to rat on their friends? The school's staff was too busy all day to call the parents?

I don't like this story. Belle Hall shouldn't either.

"Water Is Wet" News Update

Children attending Fraser Elementary are uncertain about CCSD's changes. [Students' Voices Heard on Fraser Elementary]

"College of Charleston junior Tristan Evans didn't know much about why the school was closing, but she knew that students' voices often are lost." Lost by whom?

Did she ask them how it might feel to move twice?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Proposed School Uniforms for Middle Grades

Well, it is April Fool's Day.

School Choice Poll Suggests Support

Readers of the Charleston Business Journal appear to support school choice, although they are evenly divided on whether state support should come through Sen. Ford's plan or vouchers. So says a recent poll in response to the brouhaha produced by Ford's recent remarks. See Readers Favor School Choice for further details of the poll.