Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sore Loser Rex on Education Funding

He didn't win his bid for governer, not even close. Now he's leaving office as SC's Superintendent of Education. You noticed how much it improved on his watch, didn't you?

Jim Rex has been quite vocal in recent weeks regarding the shortcomings of those who won. Today's latest gripe was about losing federal funds.

As one SC senator pointed out, we need to clean up the mess created by miserably written bills passed in the Congress. Did they read them before voting? Probably not.

You lost, Jim. Give it up.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Preparation Essential to Burke's AP Success

At Burke High School's much-touted AP Academy, only one of 103 AP exams resulted in success last year. Very sad for the students, but hardly surprising.

Preparation for Advanced Placement classes starts in middle school if students have a hope of being successful in gaining college credits. Say what you like about the faults of Advanced Placement, the fact remains that no amount of bluster and spin by local superintendents can sway the results: either the students qualify according to this national standard, or they don't.


Why the Charleston County School District's efforts at creating the AP Academy at Burke High School should have cost $200,000 is something of a mystery. Are these expenses for additional teachers, new books and materials, or training for teachers? Thanks to CCSD's lack of transparency, we'll never know. However, it is not a mystery why only one out of 103 tests were passed.


The number of dollars dedicated to AP will not guarantee success. No amount of money will compensate for poorly prepared students facing the rigors of such courses. Not the most inspired teaching and/or dedicated studying will compensate if students are too poorly prepared entering the course. No books or materials will make up the gap between what should have been learned prior to the course and the actual AP course content.


Poorly prepared students will learn in the AP course, just not enough to qualify on a college level. Success on the AP exam does not require brilliance; it requires a certain level of competence entering the course and rigor and student dedication during the course. With more than a dozen years of AP teaching under my belt, I speak from experience.

CCSD for its own propaganda purposes started at the wrong end of the horse with Burke High School's AP Academy. At the latest AP prep should begin in the seventh-grade at Burke's feeder schools. Such preparation will require a Pre-AP track (gasp!), an anathema to the politically correct like Superintendent McGinley.

Then the question becomes, does she want a successful program at Burke or one just for show?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Refurbish the Taj While Teachers Furlough?

As if we didn't know where the priorities stand at 75 Calhoun, the Charleston County School District offices, Superintendent McGinley made it crystal clear Monday night with her request to double the amount being spent on renovations with another $135,000.

Do you think she's surprised at the controversy that arose? Maybe it was just a test to see how far she could push the new board members.


In other news. . . almost $100,000 per school will be spent on "surveillance and access-control technology," taking our local tax dollars and adding to them our federal tax dollars.


Does that strike you as a tad expensive? Don't you wonder who gets that contract?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vagueness on High School Diploma Credits

Instead of ranting against the reporters at the P&C, for a change I must take issue with one for the Associated Press. Never mind that the state legislative beat remains uncovered by our local rag.

A prefiled bill for the next House session creates a two-tiered diploma for South Carolina. One track would require 24 credits for those planning on college, and one require 20 credits for those not. Ostensibly, this is a cost-cutting measure, although it may turn out to be good policy.

So far, so good, as far as reporting goes.

But wait. Which four credits are deemed unnecessary by this bill? Nary a word. Is this a secret, or does the reporter (Seanna Adcox) show a remarkable lack of curiosity?

You decide.

Monday, December 06, 2010

75 Calhoun at Fault; Not CCSD Principals

Are they too protective of their jobs to say so?

Why should CCSD's high school principals track the movements of students who graduated from their feeder middle schools so that they can calculate graduation rates? This information should be supplied by the district administration. They are the ones who know who was in CCSD eighth grades!

Still, it is remarkable that only one-third of students from feeder schools for West Ashley actually graduate from that high school.

Funny. That was about the graduation rate for St. Andrews 50 years ago when school attendance was not required.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

CCSD: No Teachers' Advice on Test Scores

A yearly survey by the Charleston Teacher Alliance has discovered that the majority of its responding teachers do not want to be judged by a single multiple-choice test of their students. So reports the P&C in Saturday's edition.

The Charleston County School District has not seen fit to conduct its own survey of all classroom teachers whose students take such tests.

Why not?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Speaker Harrell: Transparency Starts in CCSD

What a great idea House Speaker Bobby Harrell has: require public colleges in South Carolina to post all expenditures on line--transparency!

WAIT! Doesn't that idea sound familiar?

Of course. The same was proposed for CCSD by David Engelman when he was a member of the Charleston County School Board. They were going to "look into it," although 75 Calhoun anticipated too many problems and expenses would probably be involved.

Yeah, right.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Case of the Disappearing Students in CCSD

Greg Mathis Charter School has 80 students enrolled, but last when visited only 33 were in attendance. What is the per pupil cost of running the school?

What's wrong with this picture?

Friday, November 26, 2010

CCSD's Future Virtually Empty?

Friday's P&C article on the growth of virtual schooling in South Carolina should be a quiet reminder to the Charleston County School District: maybe, just maybe, "big box" schools are not the wave of the future!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kobrovsky Appointed to State Board of Ed

Larry Kobrovsky, former CCSD Board of Trustees member and recent thorn in the side of Superintendent Nancy McGinley, has been appointed to the State Board of Education.

Kobrovsky says he's interested in seeing better discipline in the classroom.

Go Larry!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Well, Why Didn't You Ask For a Break?

The Charleston Teacher Alliance's latest survey of Charleston County teachers hits on one of the more demeaning aspects of a classroom teacher's job: lunch duty.

Anyone who has taught full-time in a K through 12 environment knows the frustrations of days spent without opportunities to visit the restroom, much less have a few quiet minutes to himself or herself for mental and emotional rearmament. What other profession requiring a college degree would accept these working conditions?

Superintendent McGinley's response can be summed up as, "Well, now that I know how you feel, maybe CCSD can do something about it."

One more little fire to put out.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Chamber of Commerce Takes Over CCSD Board

They've finally shown their true colors: electing Chris Fraser as chairman of the Charleston County School Board of Trustees guarantees that the Chamber of Commerce now controls the actions of the CCSD Board.

Chris Fraser's connections to the Chamber of Commerce are well known, as were those of his predecessor from the Chamber of Commerce. In fact, it would not be a stretch to claim that there is a seat reserved on the Board for a Chamber of Commerce representative. Perhaps Fraser's taking control was payback for the Chamber's taking the initiative to spearhead the Yes4Schools campaign to pass the sales tax increase.

What most taxpayers do not know, since it was done by sleight-of-hand, is that the Yes4Schools campaign run by the Chamber was funded by part of the $40,000 given by CCSD to the Chamber for its Education Foundation.

This was an illegal move by CCSD to fund the campaign under the radar because it was forbidden from using its own budget.

That's right. Your tax dollars at work.

P.S. The four newly-elected members have performed predictably so far, including Craig Ascue, who rapidly caved to the Superintendent's wishes when it came to a vote. Maybe he will figure out what's really going on, given time.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

McGinley Ready to Pat Herself on the Back


Fresh off her win on the sales tax increase, the Charleston County Schools Superintendent, Nancy McGinley, has decided that the taxpayers are in a spending mood.

How else to explain her adding to Monday's agenda a proposal for a $15,000 salary increase and extension of her contract? (Well, of course it could be a stratagem to see if the newly elected members will be lapdogs.)

What has the superintendent done besides raising our sales taxes to merit an increase?
  • She has read the paper and discovered that CCSD suffers from a lack of literacy;

  • She has played hopscotch with principals and assistant principals until no one is sure who's at what school any more;

  • She has closed five schools so that she can brag about improving the district's track record in meeting NCLB;

  • She has increased busing exponentially and eliminated neighborhood schools;

  • She has consulted with Chicken Little and discovered that the San Francisco earthquake is coming to Charleston; and

  • She has stonewalled a proper audit of district spending or the transparency of putting district expenditures on line.

For this we already pay nearly $200,000 per year. What a joke.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

CCSD Voters Snookered Again

When the Charleston County School Board raises your property taxes during the next six years (and it will), at least you can console yourself that you weren't stupid enough to vote for the sales tax increase!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vote in CCSD: Ascue, Moffly, & Taylor



Now that the P&C has followed my lead and reported that the Charleston NAACP does not support the sales tax increase (albeit in the quietest and least read part of the Sunday edition), it's time to get out the vote against the tax.

First of all, CCSD has put every conceivable project into its proposal, including the kitchen sink, in order to pander to as many groups as possible--it just hasn't worked with either the Charleston NAACP or GOP (Imagine, those two on the same side of an issue!).

Second, no guarantee exists that the new CCSD School Board will not pass a property tax increase on top of the sales tax if it does pass. It's also not clear that threats to impose a rise in property taxes as an incentive to vote for the sales tax are legal. One thing for sure: the sales tax falls most heavily on the poor.
Superintendent McGinley's manufactured seismic issues are the laughingstock of other neighboring districts. We don't need to follow the lead of the existing School Board, which, like a bunch of sheep, ratified changes trusting that the money would come from somewhere.
Finally, in the Board races where opposition exists, for whom do we vote? For those who dislike like the drift of the current Board or suspect Superintendent McGinley does not walk on water, the choices are poor, but obvious. Remember, we all vote for candidates in all districts!

In Mt. Pleasant,
  • Craig Ascue, who will probably kowtow to most proposals but at least is a native of the Lowcountry, attended CCSD schools, has served on the constituent board, and withholds judgment about the Superintendent; and

  • Elizabeth Moffly, who flopped in her run for S.C. Superintendent of Schools with some weird ideas but is the most likely not to lap up the Superintendent's words like a cat laps cream.
In West Ashley,
  • Mary Ann Taylor, who, as a retired CCSD teacher, knows the inside of CCSD better than anyone else in the race and opposes the sales tax increase.
In North Charleston,
  • None of the Above: Why bother to cast a vote here? Coats runs unopposed and spouts rhetoric that sounds like it was written by McGinley.

Friday, October 29, 2010

P & C Favors Higher Taxes over News

The Post and Courier wants you to vote "yes" on raising sales taxes in Charleston County. In fact, the news, not just the editorial page, has weighed heavily in that direction for the last week.
  • Item: Editorial explaining why readers should vote for the new sales tax.
  • Item: Prominently displayed Letter to the Editor by Joe Riley, Jr., praising the new sales tax.
  • Item: P&C reports that the NAACP is challenging cut-backs in CARTA service but withholds bigger news that the NAACP rejects the new sales tax.

Think that CCSD doesn't have the P&C in its back pocket? Think again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

CCSD Superintendent's Hubris Is Showing

It's snowing down south. That's what girls said to each other when a slip was showing below a girl's skirt, back in the dark ages when girls wore slips.

Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley's slip, or to put it another way, her hubris, is showing. Such is the conclusion to be reached by her latest power grab in CCSD. While everyone else pays attention to Yes4Schools and potential new board members, McGinley quietly has asserted that she has the power to reschedule School Board meetings to suit her fancy.

What ever happened to the idea that the Superintendent serves the Board and not vice-versa? Does this mean that she now has the power to change meetings whenever she pleases? Will the Board change meeting dates to suit Board members' schedules in the future?

We're headed down a slippery slope. The Board needs to reassert itself and do its job as previously scheduled.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fun and Games at 75 Calhoun

They're laughing it up at the Taj Majal these days. It seems that Charleston County School Board member Elizabeth Kandrac sent in her evaluation of the superintendent by mail. Strangely, 75 Calhoun reports it was never received, so Kandrac's comments could not be used for the superintendent's evaluation this year. These would have been the only negative comments. The minions at the office suggest that she should have phoned to make sure it arrived.

Yeah, right. Blame the Post Office.

Word of advice to new board members, whoever you may be: if you disagree with the superintendent, sent everything by registered mail.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"CCSD Is on a Roll"--Downhill?

The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce (CMCC) wants you to pay more taxes.

In fact, it wants you to pay more sales taxes, rather amazing considering that paying more sales taxes drives local customers more and more to the Internet. Probably we can assume the CMCC doesn't care about small businesses, just those standing to benefit from the massive construction projects supported by the Charleston County School District.

Such is the case with the op-ed commentary from Yes4Schools supporters J. Ronald Jones, Jr., and Patrick Bryant, a bankruptcy attorney based in Berkeley County and a video production services manager. They actually believe the propaganda put forth by Superintendent Nancy McGinley and her minions. What else could explain their opening statement that "Charleston County Public Schools are on a roll. Almost every day there are reports of impressive progress."

Gag me with a spoon. Surely they don't run their businesses with as little critical thinking.

They assert that "the buildings targeted by the referendum are on average 60 years old." Wouldn't you love to see the math on that one? Meanwhile, the list of schools needing major renovations and/or replacement includes Wando, West Ashley, and Academic Magnet High Schools.

Holy Toledo! When was the Academic Magnet building completed? West Ashley and Wando are how old?

If new school buildings were as closely correlated to student achievement as this duo suggests, Burke High School would be a model of progress today.

Meanwhile, nothing can stop the Charleston County School Board from voting to raise property taxes to cover district operating costs even if the sales tax passes. The sales tax won't pay for the district's most pressing concerns.

What turkeys.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CCSD's Sales-Tax Advisory Committee

Confident that the taxpayers will be stupid enough to pass an additional one-percent sales tax in two weeks, the Charleston County School Board has approved the creation of a Citizens Advisory Committee to "monitor and oversee the spending of money generated by the sales tax." According to the Board, this move "will build trust and credibility with the voters."

Sorry, I just fell off my chair laughing.

Sales tax or the threatened property tax if it fails: how about a serious audit to improve that trust and create some credibility?

Ask school board candidates for their views.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bait-and-Switch Wording on CCSD Referendum

Several years ago Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley promised to develop Lowcountry Tech at the old Rivers High School campus in order to stymie plans for the Charter School of Math and Science. Even weeks ago, McGinley reaffirmed this plan, though the success of CSMS has made potential quarters tight. She had to; otherwise, her sales tax push would have lost the endorsement of the NAACP.

Lo and behold! As the P&C has discovered, part of the referendum on the ballot next month indicates the "Renovation of and additions to the Rhett building at Burke High School campus for Lowcountry Tech Academy." Now McGinley is calling "Lowcountry Tech" a "catch-all term."


In truth, money for the renovation of the Rivers building for Lowcountry Tech has already been set aside. Not enough room exists there to hold all of the proposed tech classes as well as CSMS, which is adding a grade per year. By using Burke as well, McGinley ends up doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Parents at Burke have clamored for more vocational classes for years.


But it is a case of "bait-and-switch" to use that wording on the ballot!

Monday, October 18, 2010

CCSD's Seismic School Workshops

District 20 taxpayers: mark your calendars.

According to a notice sent from the Charleston County School District administration to the Board of Trustees and the District 20 Constituent Board members, the project team for the four downtown "seismic schools" will meet with "City Staff members" Tuesday and Wednesday of this week at the Civic Design Center at 85 Calhoun. No time given.

Community meetings for these four schools are scheduled for October 26 and 27 "to get feedback from the community regarding their issues."

They want to hear "issues"? Please give them an earful.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wilcox: McGinley Cheerleader for CCSD Board

Second in a series on candidates for the Charleston County School Board of Trustees. Craig Ascue was profiled earlier this month.

Everett Wilcox knows Charleston County as well as you can expect of someone who retired and moved to I'On in 2003.

As a lawyer for IBM, Wilcox specialized in outsourcing after a long career as a corporate attorney. He and his wife have been involved with nonprofits as early as the Atlanta Olympic Games and with Democratic politics at least since his early support of Jimmy Carter for President in 1976. Though of the generation that saw service during the Vietnam War, Wilcox avoided the draft by remaining in school throughout the period from 1962-66 (Bachelor's degree), 1966-68 (Master's degree) and 1968-1971 (law degree).

Evidently, Wilcox is a product of the schools of Clearwater, Florida, has never had a child in CCSD (or in any public school that we know of), and never showed any interest in CCSD until "friends" encouraged him to run for one of the Mt. Pleasant seats on the Board.

While none of the above disqualifies Wilcox from a seat on the Board, you have to wonder just what viewpoint he will bring to the table. Thanks to the P&C's softball questions last month, you don't need to wonder: McGinley Cheerleader fits the man nicely.

Here's a sample:
  • "Dr. McGinley is doing an excellent job after inheriting a district with financial constraints, facility issues, and years without superintendent leadership." Was there ever a district without financial constraints? Did McGinley create her own "facility issues"? Is Wilcox slamming Goodloe-Johnson or merely repeating what one of his "friends" has said?
  • "Decreased federal and state funding make it more difficult to catch-up previously underserved students." What decreased federal funding?
  • "Much of my time as an IBM executive was spent dealing with substantial budget cuts because of the economy" Yes, but outsourcing is unlikely to solve this problem.

Gregg Meyers's doppelganger.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

CCSD's Meyers: Never Saw a Lottery He Didn't Like

Hold onto your seats. Exiting Charleston County School Board member Gregg Meyers has determined to leave his mark on the admissions process for every magnet school in CCSD.

Academic Magnet High School: this means you.

Meyers, meeting tomorrow, will railroad his CCSD Policy Committee into confirming a lottery process for any students in excess of capacity of any magnet program. With stars in his eyes and at one fell swoop, Meyers creates a Buist-style lottery for every popular magnet program in the district. No more merit-based admissions.

Remember? the old smoke and mirrors game for the favored few?

But wait! There's more!

The new policy will promote racial diversity by allowing the use of zip codes rather than race as criteria.

Let the jockeying for position begin.

You may now understand why Meyers has chosen to leave after this term. You may also understand why CCSD continues to violate open-meeting laws as it considers these changes.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Ironic PE Grants to Charleston County Schools

The Charleston County School District has been awarded $825,ooo over the next three years to develop better physical education programs at eight of its more impoverished schools. [See Schools Awarded Federal PE Grant.]

Despite delight at welcoming our own tax money back (minus bureaucratic overhead), let's remember what physical exercise CCSD chooses not to promote, namely, walking to school. The timing of announced grant drips with irony, since this week is "Walk to School Week."

Given its policies over the last decade involving transfers, magnets, and mega-school buildings, not to mention chicken-little policies regarding earthquakes, CCSD has done its part to see that as many students as possible ride a bus to school. Local developers and city councils have cooperated by avoiding the expense of sidewalks. In many cases, students would take their life into their hands to walk along well-traveled roads without sidewalks, even when the distance is short.

Believe it or not, walking to school is good exercise too. It doesn't take federal tax dollars, either.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Suspicion About Excess CCSD Books

Surely someone besides me wonders if the 15,000 books being used have any value still in the classroom:

See A Monster Pile of Books in Tuesday's P&C.

Does this beat piling them in the dumpster?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Craig Ascue, CCSD School Board Candidate


It's not accidental that Ascue's Paint and Body Shop sits near Charlotte Jenkins's Gullah Cuisine restaurant on Highway 17. That excellent caterer and chef happens to be Craig Ascue's aunt.
Ascue is one of three choices voters have in November for the two East Cooper seats on the Charleston County School Board of Trustees. Ascue's small business was begun by his father and passed to Craig as manager in 1996. Craig himself has a B.A. in Marketing from South Carolina State University.
Now, 14 years later Ascue aspires to move from the East Cooper constituent board to the "big time."
It's worth taking a closer look at Ascue's responses to the P&C's softball questions in its September 22th article on the school board candidates.
First of all, Ascue, unlike one of his opponents, Everett Wilcox, chooses not to grade Superintendent McGinley before being elected to the Board. Instead Ascue states, "At this time, I am not in a position to rate the superintendent." Politically saavy, perhaps, but a bit weasely.
Not surprisingly, Ascue hones in on "literacy" as the biggest problem facing the district, but his suggesting that having 43,000 students as its "biggest asset" doesn't make a whole lot of sense. How about its tax base, its buildings, its administration, its teachers?
For his goal if elected, Ascue echoes other candidates who all say, one way or another, that they will "work to ensure that all children have an opportunity to obtain a quality education." How about some specifics?
Let's face it. Not much in this article tells the reader whether or not to vote for Ascue. Does he approve of public charter schools? Is he, for example, in favor of the six-year one-percent increase in the sales tax to fund the building program? Would he vote for a property tax increase if it fails?
How about, would he support a full-scale audit of CCSD's books?
Now, these answers would be of real interest to the voters. Too bad the P&C is too chicken (0r too corrupt) to ask them.
Remember, everyone votes on the East Cooper seats, not just those living in that area.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blackmail for the Board from Lewis

Sorry to say that my home computer has a nasty virus. Feel free to leave your comments on Bill Lewis's shenanigans and the Board's threats of property tax increases until I'm up and running again.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Like a Stopped Clock--Right Again

Check out Brian Hicks's Friday column on CCSD's proposed sales tax increase: Tax Hike? Good Luck with That.

A sample:

"They want a one-percent sales tax increase -- calling it a penny tax is so underhanded -- for six years to raise $450 million to build 14 schools, fix up athletic facilities and other various projects.

"It feels a little like a bait and switch. This all started with five schools in danger of collapsing in an earthquake. They probably could have gotten support for that. But while we had our wallets open, they asked for another few hundred million.

"Bundling critical needs with the district's regularly scheduled building plan, in this climate, is lunacy.

"But it's not going to cost them, just us.

Friday, September 24, 2010

One Win for Jordan in CCSD

Don't you wonder how many other problems lurk in the Charleston County School District's procurement process?

CCSD Board member Ruth Jordan asked a simple question--why did one tree service receive all the district's business without a bidding process. She was assured that municipalities required its use.

What? Not true.

See District Gave Contracts Without Bids in Friday's edition of the P&C.

And they want to raise our taxes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Truth or Consequences for CCSD Taxpayers

Sometimes interesting tidbits appear on the P&C's website, this time appended to the latest article on CCSD's proposed "penny" sales tax increase [Penny Tax Hike Now Up to Voters ].

Is it true:
"If the voters reject the sales tax, the district apparently already has enough borrowing authority remaining within their statutory 8% limit to complete the seismic repairs. To exceed this 8% constitutional limit would require them to pursue a voter referendum."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Same Old Excuses on SC's SAT Scores

I'll bet you folks are scratching your heads and wondering why South Carolina beat Maine in this year's SAT contest.

Usually we can thank the great States of Mississippi and Alabama (as well as Washington, D.C.) for preventing us from being dead last. [See State SAT Scores Drop in Tuesday's P&C.]

According to outgoing State Superintendent Jim Rex,
"More students taking the exam often leads to lower scores, and state educators need to figure out how to boost SAT scores while that happens, he said. Sixty-six percent of the state's students take the exam, making it the 14th-highest participation rate in the country, and its overall national ranking is 49th, ahead of Maine and Washington, D.C."
Well, Mr. Rex, how did the other 13 "highest participation rate" states fare? Better than South Carolina, no doubt, at least for 12 of them!

On the other hand, Maine requires every high school senior to take the SAT, so its rate must be approaching 100%.

Try to imagine how low SC's scores would be under that circumstance!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Softball Questions for CCSD Candidates

These are the best that the P&C can dream up:
  • What grade would you give the superintendent for her leadership?
  • What is the biggest problem in Charleston County School District? What is its biggest asset?
  • If you're elected, what is one specific goal that you plan to accomplish?
[See Q&A with Charleston County School Board Candidates in Saturday's edition.]

Anybody see at least one glaring omission?

How about

Do you support the sales tax increase for the schools on this November's ballot?


What about

If the sales tax increase fails, would you support raising property taxes?

And

If elected, would you call for a forensic audit of CCSD's books?

I'm sure some readers can add to the list.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What's CCSD's McGinley Afraid of?

An important tax proposal is on the ballot in Charleston County this November: a sales tax increase planned to expire after six years. CCSD's Superintendent Nancy McGinley has thrown her full support behind the passage of this proposal to raise money for the district, and yet. . .

She refuses to appear with Richard Todd on a local radio station to answer the public's questions about her pet project.

McGinley-watchers know full well how she manages to dodge and manipulate the public whenever the slight possibility arises that someone might ask a question about the Charleston County Schools who won't be jeopardizing his or her job by doing so. One such question might raise some more even more embarrassing questions.

Who knows where that might lead, like to a forensic audit of the district.

And we all know she's planning to fall back on a property-tax increase anyway, so why answer questions from taxpayers?

Monday, September 06, 2010

No School Safe When CCSD Policy Committee Meets

Is it true? Is the Policy Committee of the Charleston County School Board about to pull a fast one on the Academic Magnet (AMHS)?

It's a well-known phenomenon that when something is working really well politicians want to tinker with it. Scuttlebutt has it that Gregg Meyers, knowing how well using his law office address worked to get his own children into Buist Academy on the District 20 list, now wants to create a similar structure for entrance to the Academic Magnet.

This marvelous system, virtually guaranteed to be finagled in like fashion to Buist entrance in days of yore, would use zip codes instead of four lists as Buist does. It would also use a lottery.

After all, why would we want only the best students to go to AMHS? Some of them should linger in other high schools to beef up their stats for Superintendent McGinley. Just think of the possibilities.

Meanwhile, Meyers has scheduled the next meeting of the Policy Committee for the last day of Rosh Hashanah, guaranteeing that any observant Jews will not interfere with discussion and offering to take the minutes himself while chairing the meeting, since the committee's secretary will not be there.

Love it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mysterious Surge to S.C. Charter District

A burgeoning mystery is mushrooming right now in South Carolina.

More and more parents are trying to sign up their children for charter schools approved by the South Carolina Charter District, or, as the P&C phrases it, "Parents are virtually beating the doors down to get their kids into the poorest school district in America."

See Poorest District Fights to Survive in Monday's paper.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Improving Stats, Not Student Achievement

Now that the first results are in for the hundreds of students displaced by CCSD's closing of five schools, Superintendent Nancy McGinley urges patience. [See Little Progress for Students in Sunday's P&C.]

McGinley, who promised improvements when the schools were closed now says, "'I think any conclusions that are being drawn after one year are premature because children did not fall behind in one year, and they're not going to leapfrog ahead in one year,' she said." Holy cow! She even suggests that "The trauma of moving to a new school may have affected some students."

Maybe moving to another school also rated worse that average was a factor, Dr. McGinley? Maybe getting up earlier and arriving home later because of busing was a factor? Maybe lack of parental involvement because children were scattered away from their home neighborhoods was a factor?

Nevertheless, as she bragged earlier this summer, the Superintendent can now state truthfully that there are fewer failing schools in the district under her administration.

Too bad she can't say that there are fewer failing students.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

SC: Last in Eduspeak as Well

Poor South Carolina State Department of Education. Twice rejected for federal education grants. [See Education Officials Perplexed in Saturday's P&C.]

But wait! It appears that the writers of the grant proposals neglected to stuff a quorum of educational jargon into their text:

". . .The Hechinger Report, a New York-based education news organization, reported that winning applications hit on key education buzzwords more frequently than losers did.

"The words mentioned more often were professional development, data-driven, charter, evaluation, rigor or standards, assessment, accountability and online or e-learning.

"[Deputy Superintendent ]Poda said the department didn't make a concerted effort to include particular words in its application.
We must really be out of the loop.

I wonder why Jim Rex wasn't the spokesman for this report. Not.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CCSD Should Welcome Independent Audit

If the administration at 75 Calhoun and the Charleston County School Board wish votes for a sales tax increase, then . . .

Audit. Show us some transparency about where the money has gone. [See Kandrac Calls for School District Audit.] And don't get the usual suspects involved in doing it.

According to the P&C, "Board member Chris Fraser said the discussion about transparency is a good one, but he said he didn't want to burden district staff with more work, and he wasn't sure how the audit would fit in with existing audits."

Translation: A new forensic audit might uncover hanky panky with the old ones.

Monday, August 23, 2010

McGinley the Spin Doctor

Tenure or no tenure, many punishments can be imposed on teachers who disagree with administration in CCSD--banishment to a "failing" school coming at the top of the list or, worse yet, days of in-services to fix the "problem."

Even so, as Many Teachers Don't Feel Valued in Monday's P&C reveals, Superintendent McGinley's district survey of teachers that was supposed to show that the Charleston Teacher Alliance, which took its own survey, is composed of a bunch of complainers and whiners revealed
Of the 2,041 respondents, only 53 percent said they strongly or somewhat agree with the statement: "As a teacher, I feel valued by Charleston County School District." The district employs roughly 3,500 teachers.
District administration took the results so seriously, in fact, that it had sat on them since last May, despite many queries from outsiders. (Oh, how familiar it all sounds!)

Another finding:
One such area involved the support staff for schools, such as learning specialists and instructional coordinators, and whether they contributed to improving classroom instruction. Only 59 percent of teachers thought so, while only one-third of those surveyed by the alliance said those positions benefit the classroom.
So will McGinley finally rethink some of her bureaucracy from this additional result? Not going to happen.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Riley's Lapdog Attacks Kandrac

With permission from his master, Jon Butzon of the Charleston Education Network (CEN) (the what? you ask), has joined the attack against CCSD Board member Elizabeth Kandrac. [See Thursday's tirade : Letters to the Editor]

Readers of this blog may recall several postings on Butzon and his curious privileged position vis a vis the School Board. You may want to try for yourself to get any specific information on the organization at this web address: http://www.charlestonednet.com. See any references to how it is funded? Learn who its members are? Of course not.

Here's what I wrote back in January of 2009:
Jon Butzon--the executive director of the Charleston Education Network--sounds impressive, doesn't it? I'm impressed with how much he takes home (must be up to $80,000 per year by now) for attending CCSD School Board meetings and writing two or three op-ed pieces per year. And his qualifications for that are what? And what is the Charleston Education Network (apart from being part of the edublob)? [See entries for CEN and Butzon on this blog.] Who pays his salary? Who calls the shots?

Here's what a commenter wrote back in July of 2007 (just a sample of a heated conversation):

"The waste and inequities that CCSD has forced on Dist. 20 are common issues that unite both white & black downtown public school advocates. Butzon & CEN have been noticeably absent on all fronts. A united downtown is a scary prospect to some. It would seem that all the special interest groups that live off the crumbs that CCSD throws them, from Dot Scott to Jon Butzon, the NAACP to the Chamber of Commerce (what a strange mix), none can afford to have a bunch of loose cannons downtown calling for public school reforms."

My nominee for controller is Joe Riley.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hicks: Focus on Source of Funding Problems!

Quote from Brian Hicks: "So there's the first lesson of the 2010-11 school year: They're going to make you pay, one way or another." [See Remember When 'Public' Meant 'Free?' in Wednesday's P&C]

Well, I couldn't agree more, Brian, but the headline above your column is just plain wrong. Let's hope you didn't suggest it.

Public schools in South Carolina, and particularly here in Charleston County, have never been free. You're living in a poor state; this isn't New Jersey or Massachusetts where the population as a whole is much more affluent. And SC had a much poorer tax base in the past.

We rented our schoolbooks--yes, we did. And if we didn't have the lunch money, we brought what we could scavenge from home. Not to rain on your parade, but CCSD does not verify that students need the free breakfasts and lunches that we pay for, apparently with the excuse that, if the parents say they need them, they won't provide proper food or lunch money even if the parents have it.

Fees have been charged since the beginning of public schools in South Carolina. And they fall most heavily on the poor, but maybe in ways you haven't considered.

Take the case of the cheerleading fees that you complain about ($250). That doesn't include the cost of the previous gymnastics classes and training that parents have financed for years out of their own pockets. That phenomenon means that girls (and boys) whose parents couldn't afford those classes never made the squad. Not fair, but surely you're not suggesting CCSD foot that bill?

Schools in the better-heeled communities that have vibrant and energetic parent organizations have always raised money on their own to put into non-academic activities. Again, nothing new there.

So what has changed, Brian?

Simple: our stupid, stupid, stupid change to funding operating expenses based on sales tax revenue! Anyone with half a brain (including yours truly) predicted when the change was made, this day would come. Now, thanks to the tax structure, districts like CCSD can spend multi-millions on new buildings in which they can't put a proper supply of paper.

And CCSD is getting ready to do it again.

The ordinary taxpayer doesn't understand the funding split between capital and operating expenses. All he or she sees is that the district appears to be unable to manage its money. What else but incompetence would explain brand-new buildings equipped with the latest technology and no paper for their copiers?

Catch-22: the district can't raise taxes for operating costs, but it can for capital costs. And it will.

A forensic audit of CCSD will show that sleight-of-hand deals have shifted capital monies into operating costs for years, not merely during the present economic climate.

Brian, you would be more helpful to the public by explaining how the broken tax system doesn't work instead of complaining about fees and shortfalls from the state.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Flash! Literacy Efforts Work in CCSD

Focusing on reading helps more students to read better! Who would've thunk it?

[See Tuesday's article for the full story, Reading Initiatives Post Strong Results.]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

CCSD Board Member Training Expenses

Regarding the yearly training expenses for the Charleston County School Board [See District Critic Is Board's Top Travel Spender]:
  • Kudos to those who are so wealthy that they need not be reimbursed;
  • If the reporter had taken the trouble to provide a table showing each of the Board members' total expenses for the past three years, the public would have a clearer picture.
  • In that case, the article would have displeased the Superintendent, who wishes to discredit her most vocal critic.
In fact, since the district didn't provide them, that would have meant that the reporter needed to find the reports for the previous two years by herself.

How hard could that be?

Wouldn't you like to see the training expenses for all of our associate superintendents year by year?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why the CCSD School Board Is a Joke

More amusing tales from the Charleston County School Board's meeting: [See Board to Seek 6-year Sales Tax Hike for the full effect.]
  • Nancy McGinley's staff increased its estimate of how much money the sales tax would bring per year; the Board then decided on the basis of the estimate that six would be better than eight years. Maybe we could come up with a higher estimate and have the tax for two.

  • The School Board is grateful to the Chamber of Commerce for volunteering to manage the campaign for a sales tax. 'Nuff said.

  • The Board entertained the results of "a survey by the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Institute for Livable Communities at the College of Charleston that attempted to gauge voter support for a tax increase. Results showed voters preferred a sales tax hike to a property tax increase. It didn't ask whether voters preferred a five- or eight-year plan." And I'll bet there was no category for "none of the above" either.
They're determined to ram a tax through while they still have a majority of turkeys on the Board. I say, vote down the sales tax because you know it will last at least six years. The turkeys will then hit you with a property tax increase.

Vote them out. It won't take six years.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Good News; Questions Linger for CCSD

Have all boats risen on this higher tide? [See Student Test Scores Improve in Saturday's P&C.]

Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley touts the good news that the district as a whole surpassed its performance on the PASS last year, the first year the new test was taken. Finally, we can compare apples to apples, and the news is good:
"Charleston's strongest scores were in English language arts and writing. The district outscored the state average for its percentage of students scoring 'met' or 'exemplary' at every grade in those subjects. And for the second consecutive year, the district overall did better than the state at every grade and in every subject for its percentage of students scoring 'exemplary.'"
The question that lingers: does that performance indicate that schools (and individual students) across the system have improved, or is it a result of the "good" schools getting better while the "failing" schools are not?

Only data for individual schools will tell that tale!

Meanwhile, aren't you curious about the results of the Sixth Grade Academy in North Charleston, especially since the district is now replicating its structure in the rest of the county?

The proof is in the pudding.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Tomfoolery in CCSD, Part II

Thursday's headline:

Board to consider two tax options

McGinley supports 6-year option for building projects

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Tomfoolery Behind CCSD's Scenes

At its last meeting the Charleston County School Board voted to place on November's ballot a sales tax for the next eight years. It changed the number of years from five to eight, at the suggestion of member Arthur Ravenel, Jr., so that the replacement or super-outfitting of every structure in the district could be completed during Bill Lewis's tenure.

Now it appears that the Board is backtracking because the Chamber of Commerce and its ilk have objected to the lengthening of the five-year tax they agreed to prior to the official vote. [See Little Enthusiasm for 8-year Tax in Tuesday's edition.]

"The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and Charleston Trident Association of Realtors had given the district their endorsement for putting a five-year, one-penny sales tax increase on the November ballot, but neither group has decided what it thinks about the longer-term sales- tax increase.

"'I don't know what the chamber leadership will decide on this issue,' said Mary Graham, the chamber's senior vice president of public policy. 'We had sound reasons for supporting the five-year over the eight.'"

Really? What were they? They're probably planning at the end of the period to support some other tax to replace it--and now that tax must wait an additional three years.

Who's running CCSD--the School Board or the Chamber of Commerce, the Realtors' Association, and the Trident CEO Council? All of these organizations hope to sock you with at least a five-year sales tax.

But if we vote it down, doesn't the Board have to vote to raise property taxes every year? And run for re-election?

Hmmm.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Start the Day with a Laugh from CCSD

Turn first in your morning copy of the P&C to any article touching on the Charleston County School District; otherwise, you may miss a good laugh. Monday morning's meets that expectation. [See Bar Rises Higher for Schools.]

Wait for it.

"Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley said she's pleased with the district's overall results, particularly in terms of the decreasing number of schools that must give students the option of transferring elsewhere. That number has been cut in half in the past three years, and she said that's a positive for those schools and the receiving schools that might have been overcrowded. Taxpayers' money also won't have to go to transportation costs for those students, she said.

"'The investments we've been making in some of our highest-poverty schools are starting to pay off,' she said. 'And we think our focus on literacy is paying off.'"

As you can see, McGinley's goal (and that of the new PASS) is to cut transportation costs for busing students and avoid sending them to schools that don't want them. [horse laugh here] Of course, those savings can be used for transporting others from "seismically deficient" schools, or at least mask the true costs of that decision made last spring.

Now, how has the number of failing schools required to offer busing to others "been cut in half"? [horse laugh #2]

Could it be that a number of schools have been closed in order to make this claim? Nahh. We all know every decision is made "for the children." Not.

Include as well the schools that made the grade because the categories in the new PASS were changed and you see the reason for laughing.

We can count on CCSD to provide entertainment at the expense of its residents.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It Begins in CCSD: Taj Mahals for All

First, they'll hold hostage all those students being bused out of "seismically-deficient" schools, guaranteeing that they'll never set foot in those buildings again unless we pay more taxes.

The copious list of capital projects guarantees that Bill Lewis's cronies will eat at the public trough until every school and bus lot in Charleston County is state-of-the-art.

And why is fixing the woefully deficient athletic field at Burke held off until the end of the projects?

The most expensive schools for all and miserably deficient academics for most should be the new motto.

See School Board Plans to Ask Voters for Eight-year Sales Tax.

Well-timed, isn't it? Along with new state taxes and who knows what else on the federal level.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Need for Noblesse Oblige in CCSD

Noblesse oblige is "the moral obligation of those of high birth, powerful social position, etc., to act with honor, kindliness, generosity, etc." Evidently, it is one standard yet to be met in the Charleston County School District.

Here are the facts: On April 1, 2010, MUSC announced that Etta D. Pisano, M.D., the Vice-Dean for Academic Affairs at the UNC School of Medicine for the last four years would become MUSC's new dean of the College of Medicine. Dr. Pisano "also [had] been active in the community, holding the presidency of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools' PTA council," according to a UNC alumni publication. In a July letter to MUSC's University News, Dr. Pisano related the following:
On a personal note, I am pleased that my husband, Jan Kylstra, is also joining the MUSC College of Medicine family as a retina surgeon in the Department of Ophthalmology. Our daughter, Marijke, the youngest of our four children and the only one still at home, is very excited to move to Charleston, to start school at the Academic Magnet School as an 11th grader, to get her South Carolina drivers license, and to become a South Carolinian.
No one could question that Dr. Pisano has outstanding qualifications for her new job, nor that it is great that her husband will work at the same facility. Every family with two professionals knows how difficult such tandem job switches can be to accomplish.

No, the problem concerns the application of her daughter to the Academic Magnet.

Given the timing of her appointment (April 1, 2010), it is reasonable to assume that
  • her daughter did not apply to AMHS by the April 1st cutoff for juniors or
  • applied but did not complete the on-campus writing sample required by April 1st, or
  • if she managed to do both, was not a resident of South Carolina, much less Charleston County, by the application deadline of April 1st.
I submit that Dr. Pisano did not know of these requirements when she announced that her youngest would attend AMHS. At least, I would like to believe that.

But, as a condition of her accepting the job, there is every reason to believe that she was told that her daughter could get in. Remember Tinker to Evers to Chance? This was an MUSC to CCSD to AMHS double play. Someone picked up the phone at MUSC, asked Superintendent McGinley, and was told "of course."

Judith Peterson, Principal at AMHS, has spent her entire career in CCSD; she knows how things work. Her response when queried about the residency requirement was that she takes a "common-sense approach" to policies and rules.

That must be the same approach used for District 10 residency requirements for entrance to Buist. You remember that.

According to Peterson, no student was displaced because AMHS has no waiting list for the 11th grade. What about Charleston County residents who didn't make the deadline? Should they now apply? How about other residents of North Carolina? or Summerville, for that matter?

AMHS waiting lists, of course, a la Buist, are top secret, so we'll just have to take her word for it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What's in a Name? Moultrie

Saturday's Letter to the Editor concerning the correct pronunciation of "Moultrie" [How Do You Pronounce 'Moultrie'? brings another question to mind: what ever happened to Moultrie High School?

It suffered the same fate as St. Andrews High School. I suppose St. Johns is next.

Evidently, when rebuilding high schools, past school boards in CCSD determined to wipe out any references to history--with the exception of Burke High School which, because of its history, was allowed to keep its name and even have a middle school with the same name.

Did the Board in its wisdom deign the name of a Revolutionary War hero too divisive? Was it concerned that Ohioans couldn't pronounce it? Did it ever occur to it that the many graduates of Moultrie might be more apt to support a school of that name than one named after a river? Did they really believe those graduates would be happy with a middle school of that name?

It's a mystery. Maybe someone who was living here at the time can justify the change.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Toler's Right on This One

The Charleston County School District continues to pay Superintendent Nancy McGinley compensation for gasoline that costs $5 per gallon when its price has stabilized around $2.50.

So CCSD's attorney justifies his salary by suggesting that the flexibility that hourly (or classified) workers have in taking their one-half-hour lunch break and two fifteen-minute daily breaks be taken away. How much do you want to bet that John Emerson has never been an hourly worker (sorry, billable hours as a lawyer don't count!)?

CCSD Board member Ray Toler has experienced this type of job and knows how difficult life can be for the underpaid and under-appreciated staff that keep the system operating. That explains his vote against the majority of members who again rubber-stamped something they know nothing about [see School Perk Stopped].

Since it took at least three readings of the above article to figure out what the fuss was about, the reporter perhaps needs to walk in the shoes of one of these workers for a day. The elephant in the room? Workers were taking one-hour lunch breaks and sometimes taking the two 15-minute breaks as well and no one was keeping track. Pathetic.

I'd like to see McGinley and Emerson each be limited to these breaks. Then maybe they'd see that in the course of daily life sometimes a worker needs an hour to make a bank deposit, pick up a child, you name it. And 15-minute breaks are not exclusively used for smoking cigarettes.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Prepare for Tax Hikes in CCSD

Surely the reason that incumbent CCSD Board of Trustees up for reelection this fall are en masse not running for reelection, not even eminence grise Gregg Meyers, also occurred to you.

Oh, yes. They all gave differing reasons, just not the real one: thanks to their votes during this last year, taxes in the district will rise. [See Schools Work on Seismic Solutions if you don't believe me.]

And for what? This Board has approved the hiring of five, count 'em, five architectural firms to design "new buildings for the five schools with seismic deficiencies," that list being the schools examined by the district for deficiencies in event of the San Francisco Earthquake.

Have you ever seen the old elementary school campus of the School of the Arts where Charleston Progressive is moving? Did anyone check to find out if it is "seismically deficient"?

What happened to some sensible plan to start with the building identified as MOST deficient and proceed in that order at a reasonable speed year by year to fix the rest as money is available?

No, instead it must be done all at once during the tenure of McGinley and, most particularly, her penny-pinching (not) Manager Bill Lewis.

Five firms? What is this, spread the wealth around? Would not there be some economy in hiring ONE firm?

The sales tax will be voted down. Then the new Board will raise property taxes. Gregg Meyers doesn't want to be on the Board when it does. Someone must pay for five architectural firms, readying five more buildings for temporary occupancy, and the accompanying costs for massive busing.

It's just OPM.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Churning Principals in CCSD

So what gives? Why will one out of five principals be new to the job in the Charleston County School District this fall? Check out Tuesday's list at 12 New School Leaders Hired for yourself.

Statistics that would be of interest include how many resigned "for personal reasons," since "switching schools" within the district must have been instigated by the district itself. Also of interest would be the cost of "hiring bonuses" for those heading low-achieving schools.

Most Board members found their rubber stamps to validate the Superintendent's selections. What justified ignoring, as member Kandrac put it, "a bad reference," "an incomplete application," and the committee's top choice?

It couldn't be nepotism. Maybe it's politics.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

It All Adds Up in CCSD to OPM*

* Other people's money

Kent Riddle of the Charleston Teachers Alliance revealed a telling example of mismanagement in the Charleston County School District in Wednesday's P&C. [See Charleston County District Puts Teachers in Financial Bind ]. You might say it is CCSD's mini-version of math wars.

To quote:
About three years ago the district put together a team to create a large Math Coherent Curriculum Manual the year before the state math standards were going to change.

The next year a completely new, and equally large, Math Coherent Curriculum Manual had to be created and distributed with the new standards.

Last year, the district spent millions adopting a new math series that has to be taught page by page in order to be effective. Thus, teachers could no longer follow the scope and sequence of the one-year-old Math Coherent Curriculum Manual, making it obsolete.

To top it off, the "new" math series is the same math series the CCSD got rid of five years ago.

Wanna bet this flip-flopping required the purchase of all new books and materials? Wouldn't you love to see an estimate of the actual cost of the duplicate manuals that are now useless?

Riddle has some other cogent points about why the district should not lay its financial burdens on the backs of its teachers. Too bad most of them cannot speak out for fear of losing their jobs.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oh, Duh! So That's the Reason

What would CCSD and its superintendent do without the P&C and its articles on literacy (that is, the lack of it) in the district?

Apparently, according to a story in Monday's edition, they would still be scratching their heads and puzzling over why so many students fail the state English language arts exit exam! [See Exam Illustrates Literacy Hurdles.] It seems that "two-thirds of the Charleston County high school students who flunked the state English language arts exit exam entered high school unable to read better than a fourth-grader."

In fact, according to the article,
"Of the 447 students who failed, officials could find the eighth-grade reading scores for 329 students. More than 30 percent of those students read on a fourth-grade level, while 20 percent read on a third-grade level. Twenty percent were either on a beginner, kindergarten, first- or second-grade reading level. Only 3 percent of the students who failed read on a ninth-grade level or better."
Ask yourself this question: how did more than 60 students failing the exit exam get through high school (presumably passing their English classes) when their eighth-grade reading scores showed that they "were either on a beginner, kindergarten, first- or second-grade reading level."

Scary, isn't it?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Burke's Sinking on CCSD's Rising Tide

Longtime readers of this blog will remember that two or three years ago we discovered that principals at suburban high schools such as Wando and West Ashley were encouraging their most unruly students to go to Burke High School rather than be expelled. Reports in the P&C [see Literacy Rates Show Improvement ] now show that in a gently rising tide of literacy, Burke is sinking.

CCSD uses the scores of this year's eighth-graders to predict the percentage of students entering each high school who cannot read. Notice I said "who cannot read." While I recognize that reading on a fourth-grade level constitutes literacy, it does not translate into being able to read a high-school textbook, even the ones that are written on a sixth-grade level (yes, they are out there to meet the demand).

With CCSD's loose transfer policies (the same ones that created de facto segregation at Burke), an inquiring reader wants to know how many seventh graders transferred out of Burke Middle last year in order to escape its chaos. They would be the ones who could read. How many transferred in from other middle schools who couldn't?

Until CCSD tracks each student and uses those statistics, the game as she is played will not tell the true story.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Want SC to Be Laughed at? Vote for Moffly

Hard. Soft.

That's what the choice between Nick Zais and Elizabeth Moffly boils down to. [See 2 in Schools Runoff Vastly Different]

Now, I don't know either of these candidates and actually believe that the State Superintendent of Education should be appointed by the governor. (Well, those running for governor talk about improving the schools--how are they going to do it?)

Nevertheless, some stark facts stand out when comparing these two.
  • One graduated from West Point and has a doctorate; the other never finished college.
  • One wants to improve safety and behavior in the classroom; the other says she had children in public schools for 15 years but doesn't state the reason for homeschooling them now.
  • One is interested in more transparent accounting of dollars spent on education; the other hasn't managed to file the campaign finance report that was due more than two weeks ago.
Did I say that one candidate wants to reduce the number of credits required for graduation, that is, water down SC's diplomas?

Gee, I wonder which one that could be.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

LOL: CCSD's Teacher In-Services

Unsurprisingly, the Charleston Teacher Alliance yearly survey shows that teachers in CCSD believe their taking pay cuts as a result of five furlough days has been chosen as the easy way out to cut spending. [See Teachers Don't Want Furloughs in Wednesday's P&C.]

I'm still wondering about Superintendent McGinley's extra monthly stipend received ever since gasoline was over $4 per gallon. Just pro forma, of course, but why doesn't she show her sincerity by giving it up?

Meriting the old horse laugh, however, is the preference of 60 percent of teachers surveyed who would rather take furloughs on teacher in-service days rather than on teacher workdays. They probably wonder about the sanity of the other 40 percent.

f you've ever experienced one of these in-services (covered earlier on this blog), you know how useful they usually are.

Not.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

DD2's Obfuscation of Events?

Sometimes the reported facts don't add up.

Take the case of the Summerville High School teacher who was recently charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a student at Summerville High. The salacious details of sexting have been all over the news. [See FormerTeacher Faces Charge in Tuesday's edition of the P&C.]

Apart from the mind-boggling situation with a 25-year-old's behavior, one part of the report does not ring true:
Banner had been at Summerville High for three years but had opted not to continue her contract after the current session ended, said Pat Raynor, public information officer for Dorchester District 2. The district is conducting its own investigation of Banner, she said.
Banner thus has been a "former" teacher for a matter of days, not weeks. Misleading headline.

Any teacher will tell you that no teacher in her right mind would give up a job at a school like Summerville High when she was about to get tenure. That is, this was her third year of teaching. If she were to teach there next year, she would have tenure.

Of course, we could argue that since she was not in her right mind over 16-year-old boys, she was not in her right mind in general.

We could, but the most likely scenario is that she was not offered a contract for next year.

Why? Does Pat Raynor know more than she is saying? How about a little transparency?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Languages? Go Charter!

Followers of this blog know how much South Carolina lags behind in the study of foreign languages, or, as they are known today, world languages. What a delight to hear that a group of West Ashley parents not only feel the same but are willing to jump through the hoops to do something about it! [See Charter School in Works in Monday's P&C.]

The success of this private preschool that hopes to transform itself into a public K-4 charter school is addressed by parents interviewed:
Parents such as Tamara Heck say they are pleased with the education their children have received and want that to continue. Heck is a member of the charter school's organizing effort, she said her 5-year-old son is reading on a first-grade level, adding and subtracting, using computers daily, and speaking in Spanish.
Why should such a good education be available only to those whose parents can afford to pay private tuition? If the established public schools won't provide these opportunities for all children, then charter schools should fill in the gaps. It's all very well to state that the present schools are improving, but that's not soon enough for the children who could take advantage of these challenges right now.

Another member of the organizing committee of the proposed school, Alicia Brown, stated, "We just want our kids to be more equipped to be able to go out in the world and to be equipped to apply for jobs locally and internationally."

Speaking from personal experience, I can assert that Brown is thinking ahead of the curve for these children. Both of my grown children, who speak several languages each, have been able to avoid unemployment in down economic times by having that extra qualification!

The Southeastern Elementary Institute of Global Studies deserves support.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Conspiracy Theory over CCSD's Fraser

Some folks believe that Fraser Elementary was closed last year because the Charleston County School District hoped to sell the campus to the city. Now conspiracy theorists should prick up their ears.

The on-line P&C this afternoon confirmed that a necessary school overlay zone for the downtown schools which predate the zoning ordinance does not include Fraser. [See Fate of Former Fraser Elementary School Building Still Undetermined]

Perhaps the plot thickens.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

No Laughing Matter to Some in CCSD

If a CEO of a private company handled her duties as poorly as Superintendent Nancy McGinley has over the seismic upgrades to schools in the Charleston County School District, she would be fired so fast it would make her head swim. Wednesday's P&C has a Letter to the Editor that lays out the dimensions of her mistakes. The letter is posted below for those of you who don't subscribe.

County school trustees face tough financial decisions to make students safer from earthquakes. They're in the hot seat, and they deserve competent support from the CCSD staff to help them make the right decisions. The staff has failed them miserably.

The superintendent should have given them FEMA's "Incremental Seismic Rehabilitation of School Buildings" report, which provides a reliable guide for prioritizing seismic safety funding decisions. It recommends starting with a seismic screening of all buildings in the system, followed by engineering assessments of those found to be most vulnerable. The staff skipped the seismic screening step altogether and squandered public funds on engineering assessments of schools they picked arbitrarily.

Bill Lewis, head of capital projects and an engineer with seismic hazards experience, should have told them about SCDOT's seismic hazards management program designed to ensure the seismic engineering safety of roads and bridges. It's based on the Virginia Tech database of seismic hazards, the most complete and advanced seismic data available for the state. If given this data, the trustees would know which schools are actually the most vulnerable to earthquakes.

Now Mr. Lewis and Dr. McGinley have convinced the trustees to commit to fund the evacuation of four downtown schools this year with no credible justification. Mr. Lewis claims the downtown schools are built on landfill, but any competent geologist can confirm they are built on the spine of the peninsula. He discounts the importance of location as a hazard factor, but the FEMA report states, "Geographic location is the most significant factor of seismic hazard."

The Virginia Tech data show that several un-reinforced masonry schools in North Charleston and Hollywood are much closer to Ground Zero, making them more hazardous than any others in the system. Mr. Lewis and Dr. McGinley aren't telling the trustees any of that.

The school board's responsibility is to reject any funding proposal that would result in gross inequities. Failure to do so can expose a school district to expensive and counterproductive legal liabilities. The board also has a responsibility to insist that public funds be spent according to a prudent plan, not tossed around arbitrarily.

It's time to step back and adopt an intelligent approach to this critical issue. What's needed is a comprehensive, system-wide planning process that first identifies the most hazardous schools and then allocates scarce public funds accordingly.

To help the trustees perform their public duty to ensure the safety of students, the CCSD staff owes them nothing less than immediate access to the best and most relevant information available.

Edwin Gardner

President

Harleston Village

Neighborhood Association

Gadsden Street

Charleston

Saturday, May 15, 2010

LOL: Where's the List, CCSD?

The Saturday P&C's last editorial echoes the previous posting on this blog yet goes one logical step further. [See School Board's Tottering State.]

The writer had a very sensible solution for resolving the Charleston County School District's seismic problems:
"Experts have told some parents that other Charleston County Schools are in more danger than the five identified. The board should produce a report, prepared by acknowledged seismic specialists, that ranks all its properties and determines their comparative risks."
That would have been a logical approach--if Superintendent McGinley's purpose had been to make all the schools seismically safe, that is.

There is no such list.

Considering the totally illogical cherry-picking of those five peninsula schools for seismic investigation, suspicious parents and taxpayers may easily conclude her true agenda.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

If the CCSD Board Thinks We're Ticked Off Now. . .

Congratulations to the Charleston County School Board and its foremost employee, Superintendent Nancy McGinley.

They have now managed to alienate virtually everyone who lives on the peninsula, whether they have children in its "seismically deficient" schools or not. [See Board Votes to Move Students]

But wait.

Wait until they raise taxes to pay for it.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Opinions Welcome on SC Supt of Ed Candidates

Many times newspapers can be useful when TV and blogs are not.

I'm writing of the large spread given to the candidates for State Superintendent of Education in Sunday's P&C. It's always better to have details other than sound-bites. [See 8 Candidates Vie to be Next Superintendent of Education]

Trouble is, without knowing the candidates personally, how do you decide whom to vote for? They all say the politically-correct words and put their best foot forward.

From the article, the best seems to be Kelly Payne of Columbia, but that opinion is based solely on her answers to the P&C, in fact, one in particular. She says,

"If elected, she said she would ensure that independent auditors would look at every budget in the state's school districts and the state Department of Education; she wants spending transparency."

Oh, yes. I like that. I suspect many people would.

Any further information on these eight candidates?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Literacy Series a Win for Courrege

Congratulations to Diette Courrege for her award-winning series on literacy and the initial effects the series has had on the Charleston County School District. [See Post and Courier's Diette Courrege Wins National Award for Literacy Series for her award.]

Reporting can make a difference. Let's all hope those effects will be long-lasting!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Even Butzon Has a Point

The message of Jon Butzon's semi-annual obligatory op-ed column in Saturday's edition of the P&C? [EnoughAlready: Pay the Price to Rescue Struggling Schools]

To Superintendent McGinley, her flunkies, and the CCSD School Board:
  • Stop putzing around. ("The Italians call it dolce far niente, sweetly doing nothing. In the Ashkenazi Jewish diaspora it's called putzing around.")
As Butzon writes,
"Burns isn't the only school that should be seriously considered for reconstitution. We can begin with the list of the other 11 schools that appeared in The Post and Courier article last week about school report cards. These are the schools with a string of single stars by their names, indicating at least four years of failure. By the way, Charleston is the only one of the four local school districts that still has unsatisfactory schools."
'Nuff said.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beg, Borrow, or Steal in CCSD?

Search this article for me, please, and tell me when or if or how the money borrowed for operating expenses will be paid back to building funds. Bill Would Aid Strapped Schools

Nary a mention.