Monday, March 29, 2010

Unintended? I Have a Bridge for Sale

What's wrong with the P&C's reporting on education? What about the lead on Monday's article, Fewer Schools Likely to Offer Transfers?

According to Diette Courrege, "An unintended result of the state using a new testing system could mean fewer students will have the ability to transfer to higher-performing schools next year under the federal No Child Left Behind law."

I wonder if she's in the market for a bridge in Brooklyn? [By the way, "the state's using a new testing system," eds.]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Go, Marvin!

In case you don't read Brian Hicks's column in the Post and Courier, try Wednesday's:

"Marvin Stewart says Charleston County is not educating its children.

"He believes the curriculum in our public schools is not challenging enough, is uneven between "good" schools and "failing" schools. Many students who graduate from Charleston County schools aren't ready for higher education.

"Stewart says the district spends too much on gimmicks that don't work, such as partial magnet schools or arts-infused elementary schools.

"He says the district makes itself look better on paper by simply shutting down failing schools -- Brentwood, Rivers, Courtney -- instead of putting in the hard work to turn them around.

"For that reason, he's skeptical about the district's plan to shut down many downtown schools because of earthquake concerns, and questions whether those schools will ever reopen.

"These are strong charges -- charges the district disagrees with. But some community folks say the same things.

"The most amazing thing about these charges is that Marvin Stewart is not simply a mad parent; he is chairman of the downtown constituent school board.

Not a hypocrite

"Constituent school boards usually toil in obscurity, working directly with parents on transfers and the like. They rarely speak up. Stewart is the exception.

"A former high school teacher, he says his eyes were opened when his oldest daughter asked to be transferred out of her high school. He was shocked -- it was his alma mater, and she was doing well. But she said she wasn't learning anything. Stewart insisted his daughter be admitted to Academic Magnet.

"She now has a Ph.D.

"Stewart says these days there are school staffers who work at one school but send their kids to others. He doesn't blame them -- he did the same thing -- but then, he is not claiming that failing schools are actually succeeding.

"You shouldn't endorse a product you aren't using," he says.

A whistleblower

"In his 12 years on the constituent school board, Stewart has been vilified by some. A few officials aren't pleased that he praises the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science while criticizing district-generated programs.

"He saw the result of that ire when he ran for the county school board a couple years ago. The establishment came down on him hard.

"Stewart is unsure how much longer he can hold on to his constituent board job -- the entire board is up for re-election in November.

"The only reason I stay on the board is because I've helped 1,000 parents get their children out of District 20 schools," he says.

"He doesn't claim to have all the answers, but says the district needs a CEO and an external audit, as well as an outside consultant not swayed by local politics. But mostly, he says, there needs to be a consistent and challenging curriculum throughout the district.

"Whether you agree or not, one thing is certain: Marvin Stewart cares about schoolchildren. And for that reason his concerns deserve a listen."

Amen to that!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Scare Tactics in CCSD

In Tuesday's P & C [see Board Commits to Finding Funds]:

At its latest meeting, the Charleston County School Board of Trustees "unanimously agreed to either ask voters to pass a sales tax or property-tax increase later this fall." [Sorry, Diette--parallel structure alert: "to ask voters to pass EITHER a sales tax OR property-tax increase"]

In this economy tax increases should be really popular. The Board's message to the public will be that, without tax increases, children will die.

Take the left-over capital funds and design upgrades to the seismically-challenged buildings. The plans can rest on the same shelf with all of the ignored redesigns of District 20.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Budget Process: Two Years and Counting

Saturday's story of the Charleston County Council's idea for posting the salaries of officials that make $50,000 or more got me to remembering. See Council Divided on Posting Salaries.

From my posting in April of 2008:
"No one in the community will trust the budget process until CCSD's expenditures are transparent. Here is CCSD's opportunity to begin regaining trust by starting, as a reader has suggested, with a truly independent forensic audit of the entire financial operation. Not only does the District have the need, it's the perfect time with a new Chief Financial Officer just come on board.

"Several years ago the last one, limited just to cell-phone usage, saved about a million dollars in the first year by plugging the holes in the system allowing expensive and duplicate contracts while being unable to prevent abuse of the equipment by some CCSD employees.

"Here's the opportunity to take the same approach with the bus system, food services, concessions, facilities management, copy equipment, etc. CCSD could save many times annually what it recovered on the cell-phone system.

"A good forensic auditor wouldn't cost CCSD a dime. The auditor's work can be paid for by a reasonable and relatively small percentage of whatever money it actually recovers for CCSD and whatever is documented as saving the district in the first year after it identifies measurable waste and how to stop it.

"Okay, so that won't solve this year's problems. It's a start.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been a start. Déjà vu all over again.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

CSSD To Peninsula Parents: Trust Us

CCSD does not know where students from six peninsula schools will be sent while earthquake reinforcements are made. Nor does it know when they will return. Also, it doesn't know how the district will pay for it.

Wow, isn't it well thought-out? [See Peninsula Parents Skeptical of Move in Thursday's P&C.]

Buist parents can rest easy in their strong organizational support, knowing full well that the magnet school, if moved off the peninsula, will get what it wants. Parents at neighborhood schools such as James Simons aren't so sure--and why should they be? As one parent said,

"she came to find out why the district seemed to be pushing to relocate students as soon as possible without a plan for when they could return. She left with the same question. She said no one explained why, after decades of use by students, the buildings were now being declared unsafe, and she believes the district intends to close more downtown schools. 'I'm all for safety,' she said. 'The whole thing is, why all of a sudden is it such a rush?'"

Isn't that what we're all asking?

Meanwhile, the state legislature is planning to cut even more funds from school districts, cuts that may affect funds for busing. And McGinley's plans will demand more busing.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Math Problems in CCSD


Which is higher,
  • the probability that a 5.0 earthquake will occur in the Charleston County School District in the next 10 years or
  • that an incoming ninth grader will be unable to read his or her textbook?
[See When Do Figures Tip the Scale? in Monday's P&C.]

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Discipline for Dummies:It's the Principal

In its yearly survey the Charleston Teacher Alliance (what passes for a teachers' organization in these parts) found considerable dismay over discipline problems in some schools. [See Discipline Problems Still an Issue in Sunday's P&C.]

Pointing out that teachers always want more discipline (!), CCSD Superintendent Nancy McGinley was quick to voice her rebuttal. Her tough response to the complaints was to send emails:
"McGinley planned to e-mail all of the principals of schools where more than 70 percent of teachers cited problems with the way their school handles discipline. She said she was doing so to ensure that the principals were aware of their concerns."
Well, that should be effective!

All of these emailed principals are serving at the pleasure of the superintendent. Where does the buck stop?

Friday, March 05, 2010

In Another 10 Years of CCSD Planning

Welcome to 2020.

As you can surmise, we have decided that each of our school buildings built prior to 2010 is now obsolete and subject to earthquakes. We all know that even those built between 2011 and 2019 do not meet the rigorous new earthquake standards proposed this year by Bill Lewis, so those schools will be retrofitted as soon as we have torn down and replaced the others.

As part of the justification for raising taxes once again, we must notify the taxpayers that any school not now having a technology center will receive one under the new building plan. Of course, we forgot to include those technology centers in the schools built during the last decade, so they will be retrofitted with technology centers as well.

In addition, those schools now equipped with technology centers are outdated; therefore, all technology centers built prior to 2010 will be supplemented with new ones, necessitating the purchase of another 50 acres contiguous to the property of each of these schools. [See District Readies Land for Building Project.]

Anticipating the ongoing complaints of Burke High School parents, the district plans continue to call for the development of more advanced placement classes at Burke. We all know that Burke must not be allowed to have career and technology courses. However, the district has petitioned the College Board that it develop special advanced placement courses in careers so that those might be added at Burke. The Board is well aware that the misguided parents desiring career education at Burke must be placated in some fashion.

Superintendent McGinley and the School Board, as well as eminence grise Bill Lewis, look forward to publicizing this exciting new building program to the entire community. We are confident that once the voters understand that very lives and safety of our children are at stake, they will gladly accept another tax increase.

Further, CCSD's 2020 plans will create more jobs in the community for its many building contractors, those who have been so faithful to it through the years.

And isn't that what it's all about?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

At Least One Attractive Aspect of Sanders-Clyde

Maybe they hoped to overcome the ugliness of the building itself! [Centerpiece at New Sanders-Clyde School]