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.