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.