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


Harleston Village

Neighborhood Association

Gadsden Street


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.