"Imagine my surprise when I turned on my computer recently to the AOL Web site and read the national news article about the "25 Worst Performing Public Schools in the U.S." and saw that four of them are here in Charleston County. The Web site shows that Brentwood, Charleston Developmental Academy, Youth Build and Morningside are listed as among the worst.
"This superintendent has sold the taxpayers, students and teachers a bill of goods. It is time to send her packing and give these children an opportunity for a good education.
"The Post and Courier education reporter recently called Elizabeth Kandrac and Arthur Ravenel the board members who cause dissension. But they are simply asking the hard questions.
"I think school reporters should be asking the board majority why they continue to give the superintendent a blank check to run this district as she sees fit. It's time for new leadership in our Charleston County Schools.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Gee, some of my favorite hypocrites were there. Isn't that NAACP President Dot Scott shoving her way to the microphone? Better step aside. And I think I glimpsed the Rev. Joe Darby, too. Too bad it was during the school day, or the Fraser parents could have been there to ask Scott and Darby their opinions on the peripatetic Fraser students, or ask why schools being closed are almost entirely black.
But, then they apparently don't know that. They had the colossal nerve to suggest that Sen. Ford's plan would segregate Charleston's schools.
Are they living in some parallel universe?
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Here is a sample of blog comments regarding CCSD's discipline:
"A change in special education law must occur - fat chance - it would be political suicide for any candidate who took that on. The vast majority of violent acts in school are committed by kids who have IEPs. They have rights that supercede any wishes and desires the administration may have to expel. The Charleston area greatly lacks resources worth their weight in salt to assist kids and parents who fall into this category. Kids need it to learn how to properly socialize and handle anger, etc., while parents need it for, well, parenting special needs kids! And how to work WITH the school, not ARGUE with them when your child is a disruption, distraction, or unfortunately, dangerous."Is this the dirty little secret of the discipline problems in Charleston County? Here is a comment from the recent discipline survey taken by the Charleston Teacher Alliance:
"I strongly encourage any teacher or parent that is or has a child assaulted by one of these IEP kids to file a police report regardless of what your principal may say; there are jails full of folks that had IEPs at one time or the other."
"I believe the overuse of IEPs is a direct reflection of our current society as a whole. People look for a label or reason why their child acts out or struggles in a certain subject and an IEP is their answer."
>"In my 30 years of teaching, the most significant negative impact to public school education has been the . . . policy on NCLB. These displaced children enter new school environments as unfamiliar to them as a foreign countries. The discipline adjustment alone is a key factor for their success and/or failure.
"In addition, 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.
"In many cases the students become disposable kids dropped off in early morning hours and left unsupervised on school grounds. Principals lack the resources to monitor behavior as many hours as parents would wish. Too frequently, no matter what my principals have done to try to uphold discipline, their actions become undermined or overturned after a board meeting or through process steps of an "intervention" involving multiple staff titles and offices from an educational governmental hierarchy.
"So a student who has been a repeat offender, an arsonist--who so wanted to be apprehended that he left incriminating evidence linking himself to the fire---is likely to return to the very school in which he ignited the fires. It is a serious problem for us as a school, but even more for us as a nation. How many disturbed kids will we pass through the system? At what point do the problems escalate enough to attract attention and concern? Is it only when a Columbine or Virginia Tech tragedy occurs that our nation looks?
A Philadelphia teacher provides a comparison [See Teachers Count]
"At my school Individual Education Plans mean a student with an IEP has the right to roam the halls at will, molest children, and assault children.
"As I drink my morning coffee I see I brought home a suspension slip for a student. This student was touching a girl inappropriately. He did it last year as well. The teacher told me about it because the girl was afraid to complain and did not want him writing a pink slip on the offender. It seems she made the same complaint last year and actions taken only made the matter worse. I have the victim’s older sister in my class. I told her and she told her parents. Her Dad came down and at least got a result for two days.
"Another student just runs the halls all day. By the afternoon he is walking in and out of classrooms, knocking on doors, yelling into classrooms. It’s all on film and I’ve pink slipped him eight times in the past ten days. I could go on and on with examples but that is not the point.
"By and large most IEP students are well behaved and easy to work with. But for those exceptions, I have to question why administration is so disinclined to take action. We are told it is because of their legal rights: but regular education students have equal legal rights to a meaningful and safe education. In a case of competing and equal rights, why is it necessary for courts or politicians to intervene? Why can’t administrators do their job and insure each child is in the best possible learning environment?
"Dangerous behaviors unacceptable by societal standards are not typically manifestations of a child’s learning disability. If violence/aggression is a learning disability or a manifestation of one, then that individual child cannot be safely integrated into a larger population. Children in Philadelphia learn the dangers of snitching in schools. Other students learn that inappropriate behaviors are okay. I am told this past Thursday another boy grabbed a girl in a molesting type manner. Reportedly he was told he would be suspended if he does it again.
"The hidden curriculum in Philadelphia is dangerous to society and it shows up in our criminal statistics.
Perhaps, Charleston, like Philadelphia, we have a problem.
Friday, March 27, 2009
But WAIT--thanks to an unheralded amendment, that's the carrot part of the legislation.
According to a press release,
Senator Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) introduced an amendment, which was overwhelmingly supported by the Republican majority and added to the flexibility bill, that requires school districts to place all expenditures over $100 on the Internet [italics added]. Senator Bryant’s amendment calls for more spending transparency and helps ensure that more money in spent on classroom instruction instead of wasteful bureaucracy.
“Teachers are already dipping into their own pockets for classroom supplies. We have to ensure that every single possible dollar is being spent in the classrooms to help our teachers and students,” Senator Bryant said. “This bill gives taxpayers more transparency and shines a bright light on wasteful spending.”
Senator Bryant’s amendment requires school districts to place expenditures on their website. If they do not have the capabilities to do so, they can utilize the Comptroller General’s website and resources for free.[in other words, no excuses]
David Engelman may be gone from the CCSD Board, but his spirit lives on!
Let's see them wiggle out of this one.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Anyone following the shenanigans of the Board recently (and its henchmen at 75 Calhoun) knows only too well its delay-linger-and-wait /dagger-in-the-back attitude towards the establishment of more public charter schools in CCSD--a certain elementary school in West Ashley waits on the front lines of this struggle; a certain District 20 charter high school engaged the enemy on many battlefields in order to exist, and its skirmishes with the enemy continue. The present Board won't even send a representative to the SC Association of Public Charter Schools conference being held on its doorstep.
McGinley's half-baked partial-magnet (that's a magnet that attracts on one side and repels on the other) schools represent the Board's attempt to stave off the inevitable. The illegal moratorium on new charter schools in CCSD is the other half of the attempt.
So, here comes Sen. Robert Ford. [Ford Pushes School Tax Credits] His ideas ought to be CCSD's worst nightmare. Let's see--a Democratic candidate for governor who wants school tax credits versus a Republican candidate for governor who wants school vouchers.
Nancy, Gregg, and Toya--that's called a lose-lose situation for you.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The idiots expected some other outcome?
So that explains CCSD's Board of Trustees 5-4 vote against funding $300 for a member to attend a conference in North Charleston. The majority certainly want to appear careful in spending those shrinking tax dollars!
But, if it's such an obviously frivolous expenditure, why was the vote so close?
Ah, the rest of the story. . . . The four "big spenders" are Board members Collins, Kandrac, Toler, and Ravenel. Gee, what issue would cause these four to unite?
Support for charter schools, of course. The fee was to attend a conference of the South Carolina Association of Public Charter Schools. [See Fraser Parents Protest Closing for further details.]
Thus, we have transparency on the thoughts of the five against (Green, Meyers, Oplinger, Fraser, and Jordan) concerning public charter schools, not that we didn't know already. Mention this vote the next time Meyers and Green wax poetic on their support of charters.
Meanwhile, we'll believe the five are serious about saving money when they rescind Superintendent McGinley's windfall transportation increment, the one based on $5-per-gallon gasoline. Come to think of it, this month's windfall could finance the $300.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
"District Chief Academic Officer Doug Gepford presented a policy amendment to the board's policy committee that would've enabled [magnet] schools to verify only 5 percent of students' addresses annually instead of checking every students' [sic] address. Parents still would be required to submit the same documents."I bet that the District 20 Constituent Board would check Buist addresses for free.
"'This is labor intensive, and there are shrinking dollars,' he said."
"Board Vice Chairman Gregg Meyers said he'd be inclined to give parents a number of opportunities to bring in the documents and then tell them that they can't re-enroll in the school the following year [italics mine] without that information."
"The Policy Committee was not receptive to the change. . . ."
We can imagine how the 5 percent would be selected at Buist.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
District 20 Neighbors,
Please join our community in support of Fraser parents and students on Monday, March 23, 2009 in front of Fraser Elementary on Columbus Street. We will begin meeting at 3:00 pm to organize and march to the school board meeting at 75 Calhoun Street. The plan is to begin walking around 3:45 pm in order to allow plenty of time for people to sign in to speak at the board meeting.
Whether you agree with Dr. McGinley's decision to close Fraser or not, certainly we can all agree that moving the Fraser students to the Archer building in August 2009 and then again in January 2010 to the new Sanders-Clyde building is not in the best interest of our children. As a community we should stand by each other on these issues, even if they may not personally affect us. I am asking you to please join our peninsula neighbors in the Fraser community in supporting their request for Fraser students to remain at Fraser for the 2009-2010 school year. Dr. McGinley has already denied their request to remain at Fraser until January 2010 due to the conflict it would create with teacher contracts.
"Camellias create a unique culture. Every variety of the flower bears a name, from those honoring people (for the perfume mogul who fancied Magnolia, there's Elizabeth Arden Blush) to the more esoteric monikers (Pink Perfection, one expert said, is the flower that grows at every grandmother's front door). Each name takes a spot on the International Camellia Registry."--Allyson Bird, Romancing the Camellia in Saturday's P & C.
Now, that's an expert!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
During the 1950s and 1960s in Charleston County, principals were former football coaches, a phenomenon apparently justified by the idea that the principal oversaw a team, since it certainly was not tied to academic prowess. Strangely enough, the one exception that I'm aware of was the revered Bernard Hester at St. Andrews High in West Ashley. I've often wondered how a person with his talents got the job.
Because of the AIG-bonus fiasco, now questions are raised in retrospect regarding bonuses paid to the CCSD principals above (click on picture for larger view). These are signing bonuses agreed upon during contract negotiations. [See Principals to Receive Bonuses in Thursday's P & C.] According to the article, "The district [. . .] has offered bonuses at some below average and unsatisfactory-rated schools to recruit the best applicants." The bonuses derive from a state fund referred to as "intervention and assistance money" and are perfectly legal.
The yearly bonuses amount to about $20,000 over and above the usual principal's compensation. They are not, however, tied to on-the-job performance. The practice suggests that today's principals refuse difficult jobs without extra compensation, afraid that lack of success will damage their careers.
Do teachers, the ones on the front lines at those same schools, get bonuses?
Maybe Charleston can't lure principals from other states without paying higher amounts. What, they don't want to come here just for the sea breeze through the palmettos? Who needs them?
These contracts can't be reneged. However, "Two of the principals who began receiving a stipend three years ago, Charles Benton at Burke High School and Dan Conner at Stall High School, received a one-year extension earlier this year because of the progress their schools have made." Who made that extension, and what was its basis? Those principals may very well have deserved the extension, but unless specific standards are in place to make it, the process smacks of cronyism.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
- Thanks to the Charleston Teacher Alliance (CTA), a consistent advocate for classroom teachers, opinions stifled by fear of repercussions from district staff and administrators have been gathered and analyzed.
- CTA's recent survey of teachers reveals that CCSD is making progress, albeit slow, in addressing its discipline problems.
(CTA's recommendations [verbatim] based on its survey and teachers' comments):
- 94% of teachers surveyed believe strict zero tolerance policies need to be put in place so that students know they will be automatically kicked out of school for serious violations. Based on teacher feedback there have been cases of students bringing drugs and weapons to school yet they are allowed to return. There have been cases of teachers’ lives being threatened, attacked verbally, and/or attacked physically and the students were allowed to return. It is imperative that schools be a safe haven if learning is to take place. Teachers cannot focus on teaching, and students cannot focus on learning when weapons, drugs, and violence are tolerated.
- 96% of teachers surveyed believe minor infractions need to be strictly enforced so that the right tone is set and larger problems can be avoided. This theory has been proven in the fields of education, sociology, and law enforcement. If students know that there is a serious consequence for “sucking teeth” at a teacher, they would be mush less likely to curse or threaten a teacher.
- School wide/district wide consistency is the key to successful discipline plans. Consistency was the most common word found throughout the teacher comment section. Teachers who reported no discipline problems said that teachers, administrators and parents were consistent with enforcement of rules and actions of discipline.
- Parents should not be allowed to override discipline decisions made by the teachers or principals by complaining to district leadership or board members. This was a reoccurring [comment]. This not only lets students know they can do whatever they want, it also demoralizes teachers and makes them look like the bad guy. Leaders can not be hesitant to stand up to parents if it is what is best for the rest of the students, teachers, and schools as a whole.
Let's face it--these are all common sense. Let's use a little.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday's P & C contained yet another CCSD apologetic from its award-winning education reporter, Diette Courrege. As usual, the reporter parrots CCSD's absurd decisions and assertions regarding the old Rivers High School with nary a second opinion from the community. [See Rivers Middle School Sits Vacant.] You would think that Rivers dropped from the sky in 2005 in order to become "racially divisive and political."
Here's a bit of reading between the lines:
"The Rivers building and its use has been a racially divisive and political issue since the district closed the school"--only because the administration at 75 Calhoun and the CCSD Board of Trustees have made it so.
"and moved its students to the Burke High campus in the fall of 2005."-- a move desired by no one in the community except the bigwigs in CCSD. And just look at how those transfers have benefitted former Rivers students--not.
"The community fought for months about what should fill the space"--that would be years, actually. The reporter can't subtract properly. CCSD had no use for the building, but it didn't want a public charter school to use it either. During the almost two-year hiatus CCSD's official vandals wrecked the inside of what had been a usable building [see previous damning pictures on this blog].
"and the board agreed in the fall of 2007 to allow the charter school to share space with a new, yet-to-be-created school, Lowcountry Tech High"--practically over their dead bodies, actually. Of course, no progress has been made on this chimera, nor is there likely to be any in the first half of this century.
"Later that fall, the board received an engineering report that showed the building would collapse in a serious earthquake."--A ha ha ha ha ha. Excuse me, I was just caught by a paroxysm of laughter. The timing of this doomsday report was purely coincidental, of course.
"District leaders decided that no one should occupy the building until its seismic problems are addressed."--I want to see the seismic report on 75 Calhoun. I'll bet it too would collapse in a serious earthquake. When are the offices moving into trailers?And so we have more red herrings thrown before the taxpayers of Charleston County. The Charter School for Math and Science would have been perfectly willing to accept the building at 2005 condition. Problem is, the Board plans that CSMS will occupy that building on a cold day in hell.
It's all about power, not academics.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Thanks to FOIA requests, District 20 residents are finally able to see what 75 Calhoun has tried to keep secret, as a reader reports:
"Once again, six vacancies are shown to exist [at Buist], including 3 in the upper grades, despite the extensive waiting lists CCSD maintains for admission to this school.
"This problem was pointed out [. . .] in each of the two previous years. It appears this was never corrected. Why have
these seats allowed to remain vacant again this year? [ . . ] One Buist classroom is over subscribed by one student. As other schools have been required to make sacrifices in the name of budget cuts, it would make sense for Buist to be asked to do the same.
"Please respond to a suggestion that Buist classes, during this period of economic limitations, be expanded to include at least 2 additional students per class beyond the kindergarten level. This would raise the primary school's classes from 20 to 22 students. The middle school's classes under this plan would be increased from 25 to 27. Considering that other CCSD schools have been asked to increase their class size to as many as 35 students, this would be a relatively small inconvenience.
"I understand the Buist admissions policies will be on the board's agenda in the very near future. Please give me your explanation of the two discrepancies which were identified over the weekend and your response to how Buist will be addressing its own budget cuts considering what other schools are being required to make."
Friday, March 06, 2009
It turns out that the State of South Carolina did just that. Now in the budget crunch confederate bank notes are for sale on eBay, proceeds to assist the S.C. Department of Archives and History. [S.C. eBay Item List] What would Christopher Memminger think?
Here's the background, courtesy of the Charleston Business Journal:
"The canceled $4 bill includes a picture of Fort Moultrie in the center; on the left is former U.S. Sen. Robert Hayne, elected in 1823 to represent South Carolina; and on the right is Langdon Cheves, an S.C. resident who in 1814 became the ninth speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and was later a judge in Charleston.
“The notes were supposed to be destroyed in the 1880s but they were not,” Lesser said.
"As to why they were not, Lesser said he doesn’t know.
"This is the second time department has sought to sell the Civil War-era currency. Last year, as the state looked for ways to tighten its belt, the department decided to open its vault and sell off these state artifacts.
"The department raised about $200,000 in an auction, he said. Under state law, the money must go toward the protection of the state’s historical collections.
Lesser can't figure out why the notes weren't destroyed? Must be a Yankee.
However, it is Goodwin's comments about conservation of resources that CCSD really intends to ignore. Goodwin (shock and awe!) believes it makes more sense to update the AMHS campus on the old Navy Base instead:
"We have learned that the most serious mold, heating and air problems can be corrected for less than $50,000, and have verbal pledges to cover this expense. Moreover, all of the problems cited in Thursday's op-ed can be corrected for a small fraction of the cost of a new building. If the roof leaks, most people fix the roof; they don't build new houses.
"The same economies apply to bringing state-of-the-art technology and instructional resources to the existing building, as is evidenced by others schools that have achieved similar improvements through the efforts of dedicated parents.
"Reuse and recycling are key principles of environmental design, and there are many examples of exemplary green building based on renovation of existing facilities. A green rehab of the existing AMHS building would provide many of the amenities of a new building, cost less than new construction, and provide a shining example of environmental stewardship as well as economic prudence.
But, Mel, when did CCSD ever navigate using common sense? Why, Bill Lewis is shaking his head because you aren't engineering for the effects of the next major earthquake!
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Dissatisfied with a whopping 6-2 majority, long-time Board member Gregg Meyers, whose influence put puppet Toya Hampton-Green into place as chairman, feels the need to insult those who disagree with him and his carefully written agenda. [See Dissension a Challenge for Board.] He's found out that he can't cow Arthur Ravenel, Jr., with the usual Greggisms (think of a gnat trying to annoy an elephant), so he's decided to try them out on Elizabeth Kandrac.
Mistake. Maybe you'd like a do-over on that one, Gregg. We all sense your exasperation that a Board member actually knows what's really wrong on the front lines and that all your posturing about excellence as the goal of school redesign isn't going to fix it.
Anyone who's taught for, say, ten minutes tops, knows that the most learning takes place in a classroom where behavioral expectations are clear, enforced, and supported by the principal. Why, even academic studies have proved it! Imagine that.
Kandrac's remarks should be taken very seriously:
Kandrac said the school district has way too many schools that aren't improving, and she cited the increasing number of at-risk ratings on district schools' report cards, from 22 to 24 this year.
"I think they want to fool the public," she said. "I think it's intentional. I think they want people to think we're getting better" because they're spending nearly a half-billion dollars. She said some board members refuse to admit the real problem in schools, which is discipline. Staff members are afraid of children, and that's the reason students are not excelling, she said.
So Meyers thinks this is a personal agenda? More fool he.
Monday, March 02, 2009
It's all over now, no use in stallin'. . .
Where were you when I needed you?
Where were you when I wanted you?
That's what parents at the five schools slated for closure should sing to Dot Scott, NAACP President, who has finally broken her deafening silence concerning CCSD's School Redesign plans. [See School Closings Spark Race Questions]
Ignoring Scott, as we all should at this point, let's notice instead that this sorry state of affairs has been caused by years, in fact, decades of CCSD's decisions regarding these schools. The P & C's numbers are stark:
- The five schools that will close enroll nearly 1,600 students, 72 percent of whom are black.
- Fewer than 75 white students attend the five schools that will be closed.
Here are the statistics that CCSD refuses to provide:
- How many white students zoned for these schools attend CCSD schools outside of their attendance zone with CCSD's permission?
- How many black students zoned for these schools attend CCSD schools outside of their attendance zone with CCSD's permission?
- How will closing these schools affect CCSD's performance on the next round of NCLB benchmarks?
The discussion around school closures should be about what the plans are to improve education for those students, Bloomfield said. A lousy professional baseball team can improve its record by trading its players, but that doesn't mean its former players got any better, he said. The same is true for schools.
"School closure doesn't necessarily guarantee success," he said. "It just guarantees time for the district leadership."
Exactly. Take a gander at the sorry underside of Superintendent McGinley's plans "to help the children."