Friday, December 30, 2011

Choice of 14 CCSD Board Candidates Down to 6

Apparently, the opportunity to sit on the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees is a coveted one. How else to explain the plethora of individuals willing to serve out the unexpired term of Mary Ann Taylor? Maybe some of these individuals would like to serve but not to run for election.

Recommendation #1: Any candidate not planning to run for election when Taylor's term expires should not be appointed. Rationale: The district doesn't need a bench-warmer who will take most of the term to figure out what his or her responsibilities are and what's going on in the district--if that's possible.  That eliminates Brian Moody, who actually volunteers just to warm the seat, not that we need any more Chamber of Commerce lackeys on the Board--it has enough clout already!

Recommendation #2: The Board needs members with business or financial experience who can question the budget process. Bringing transparency and public confidence to the district's finances should be the candidate's first priority. That eliminates a few more: Luther W. Seabrook, who doesn't state his background but is retired from education; Jan Roberts, also retired from educational administration; Susan Milliken, non-practicing attorney of unspecified legal speciality; Deborah Bootle Ducker, retired teacher and principal; Rew "Skip" Godow, Jr., retired from Trident Technical College administration; Craig H. Jelks, middle school history teacher; and Trent Kernodle, practicing attorney specializing in products liability and construction law.

We have six candidates who have business experience in some form.

As we all know, there's business experience, and then there's business experience. What would prepare the individual for the task at hand? Remember those outside directors at Enron? (see previous posting)

Memory Lane 2010: Burke's AP Academy

This time last year, I blogged concerning the poor results of AP testing at Superintendent Nancy McGinley's much-touted AP Academy at Burke High School.

Has anything changed (i.e., improved)? It's too much to hope that my recommendations were followed!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Think Differently on CCSD Board of Trustees

It's time for serious thought on the duties of school-district boards of trustees.

Scandals at Enron, HealthSouth, Tyco, and Worldcom point to the problem of outside directors not knowing enough about the corporations' accounting practices to fulfill their duty as watchdogs of management. What past corporate managment sought was directors of outstanding achievement in fields not directly related to its business whose names would look good on the masthead and who would feel "honored" to serve as figureheads. We have suffered the end result. Perhaps with Sarbanes-Oxley directors will treat their duties as more than honorary.

You may already have spotted the similarity to the Charleston County School District and its Board of Trustees. When school districts were small and handled what CCSD would consider "chump change" now, having trustees (i.e., "outside directors") who viewed their positions as honorary or believed that finding problems within the "system" would hurt the community or were hand-selected by the superintendent (i.e., "management") to run for "election," were relatively harmless in the damage they could wreak. Not so today.

It is past time for the CCSD Board of Trustees to grasp the enormity of their duties. The last element needed in a newly-appointed member to the Board is sycophancy, nor will the presence of an additional dilletante ameliorate a difficult situation. Think of the responsibilities of Superintendent McGinley as gravely as those of Enron, if you like. Hundreds of millions of your tax dollars spew out of 75 Calhoun every year, affecting every corner of the district and your taxes. If its Board of Trustees is as ignorant of how this money gets directed and spent as were the outside directors of Enron, it must share the liability when the bubble bursts--and it will at some point, just like Enron or the housing market.

For Maria Goodloe-Johnson, the bubble finally burst in Seattle last March. We have no reason to believe that her management style, nor McGinley's, was any more effective during her tenure in Charleston.

Maybe, just maybe, Seattle's board took its role as watchdog more seriously, especially in regard to finances and auditing.

*ALERT* Goodloe-Johnson Sighting in West Ashley BI-LO

Yes, it's true.

Let's hope former Charleston County School District Superintendent (and now-embattled Seattle Superintendent) Maria Goodloe-Johnson is merely visiting her in-laws.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Some Needed Common Sense on SC Education Grants

Round up the usual suspects--the tax-and-spend party rallies against Republican State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais.

Why? Because Zais refuses to apply for federal grants that then turn into unfunded federal mandates.

His opponents don't see anything wrong with that.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Fraser and Four Others Sit Rotting in CCSD

Finally the P&C has done a follow-up of students affected by Superintendent McGinley's school-redesign plans of two years ago. Remember, closing five schools was going to improve the progress of these students (and was not merely a way for the Superintendent to improve her statistics?).

What do the results show? McGinley complains that those parents who chose which school the child would attend didn't always choose high-performing schools! (Yes, Nancy, maybe parents without reliable transportation of their own didn't want their children bused to the back-of-beyond!). It's the parents' fault that their children's scores haven't improved since they chose the wrong schools.

What a minute. If some schools are "wrong," why are they still open for business? Her defense is logically ridiculous. McGinley can argue that lack of progress is mainly the parents' fault, but their real choice of schools is the one they were not given.

Five forlorn school buildings sit vacant and neglected. If past performance is any measure of the district's care, soon they will be unuseable. Why have they not been leased?

Meanwhile,  McGinley can point to her own statistics that received a major bump when she closed the five neighborhood schools. It's all for the children, don't you know?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

CCSD's McGinley Promises Future Transparency

Oh, sorry! That was the caption for the Onion story!

How about "McGinley Promises More Self-Satisfaction in 2016"?

To anyone familiar with shenanigans during Nancy McGinley's opaque reign as Superintendent of the Charleston County Schools, her periodic op-ed commentary has become its own joke. In fact, her words are almost impossible to satirize, given their ludicrous background.

This caveat in mind, I hesitated for twenty-four hours to read McGinley's latest public relations ploy that appeared in Friday's P&C. I'm glad I did because reading that in January and February she will invite the public to "public engagement" meetings to "finalize" her goals for 2016 would jeopardized my breakfast.

McGinley has already set her goals; the meetings will merely publicize what she already has determined behind closed doors. Really, the "Vision" of McGinley's remaining as superintendent until 2016 should be enough to put anyone off. By then she will have eliminated every neighborhood school in the district and achieved 90 percent of students being bussed the length of Charleston County. The budget for gasoline (a state secret) will pass the cost of teachers' salaries, and the cost of her two dozen associate superintendents will pass even the bus budget. Further, every school built prior to McGinley's arrival in Charleston will have been razed to the ground in the name of earthquakes.

How's that vision for 2016?

Monday, December 12, 2011

CCSD Letter Missing from News Report

Where's the letter?

The workers outsourced by the Charleston County School District when it decided to save money on the backs of its poorest-paid employees will get more money after all. Why? Depends on whom you listen to.

According to CCSD "school leaders," those workers received a "poorly written letter" at the end of July and were so stupid (implied) that they misinterpreted the amount of severance they would receive. The P&C has no idea who wrote the letter, apparently being afraid to ask Mike Bobby, the district's chief financial officer, in case he might admit that he either wrote or approved it before it went out. The P&C was also afraid to ask for a copy of the letter to verify where the confusion lay.

So, out of the goodness of its heart (strings, please), CCSD will pay out to those workers what the letter appeared to them to promise.

In its relentless quest to present both sides of the issue, the P&C interviewed one custodian who was outsourced but still works at Drayton Hall Elementary.

Hellooooo. What about the former employees who brought suit against the district?
Their lawyers? Those who weren't rehired by the companies now running custodian services?

Nary a whisper.

How about: CCSD admits it goofed in its promises to these workers and, facing a lawsuit it was sure to lose, chose to put the best face on its deficiency.

Makes you wonder what other "letters" and contracts were "poorly written."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is Brian Hicks Naive or Ignorant?

Following the party line?

So it seems with P&C columnist Brian Hicks in his latest column on the support of Charleston County's charter schools for Henry Copeland's appointment to replace Mary Ann Taylor on the CCSD Board of Trustees. Hicks echoes an article published earlier this week attempting to suggest those schools were illegally pushing for Copeland.

Has he been paying attention? Hicks goes so far as to suggest, based on her affirmation, that Superintendent Nancy McGinley is pro-charter.

Excuse the horse-laugh.

Maybe Hicks needs to visit a few public schools during school board elections. Oh, that's right! No politicking goes on there!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

McGinley-Meyers Candidates for CCSD Seat

Pay attention.

The P&C has not only put forward the obvious candidates--Seabrook, Moody, Miller, Copeland--for the recently-vacated seat on the Charleston County School Board. It has leaked the plans of the McGinley-Meyers nexus.

The long arm of former Board member Gregg Meyers has reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out the name of William L. "Sam" Hiott, who the reporter mentions formerly served on the District 23 constituent board.

And now the rest of the story.

Meyers recruited Hiott to run against Sandi Engelman in the 2006 school board elections. After all, Hiott thought Engelman was "too divisive."

We all know those code words.

He had difficulty finding enough signatures for his petition to be valid, so the Taj Mahal found some more for him. Despite Meyers's plans, Ruth Jordan won that election.

No doubt Hiott has the common touch, since he made over $18 million dollars in 2009 in his last year as executive vice president of the Bank of South Carolina. He won't need to worry about this "salary" business. Now that he's semi-retired, he can mingle with the hoi polloi.

At least he's from the Low Country's "front porch."

Such cannot be said for McGinley's choice, Rew A. "Skip" Godow, whose Facebook page sports a 25-year-old picture, reveals no family, and states his interest in women.

The College of Charleston and Trident Technical Center employ this native of Chicago (well, Oak Brook, its tony suburb) in various administrative capacities. Who better to take McGinley's side than another member of the edublob? His Ph.D. in the Psychology of Philosophy (or is it the Philosophy of Psychology?) should come in handy on the Board.

Godow has served and continues to serve on multiple boards of directors--the Chamber of Commerce, the United Way, the Charleston Education Network, the Education Foundation, and even the Community Advisory Committee to CCSD.

You get the picture. Just the type of bureaucrat McGinley wants--can be counted on to show up for meetings and not ask too many questions.

Let's see if the Charleston legislative delegation has any common sense.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

CCSD Needs Voice for Taxpayers

As the editors of the P&C have correctly stated, the newly-appointed member to the Board of Trustees (to replace the resigned Mary Ann Taylor) should be a person who reflects Taylor's views.

In fact, it makes no sense to appoint either of her opponents, Miller or Seabrook, to the Board because the voters have already rejected them once in favor of Taylor.  Nor does it make sense to allow the Chamber of Commerce another seat on the Board in the person of Brian Moody. After all, the Chamber already controls the Board in the person of Chris Fraser.

No, the most feared appointee will be one who can read financial statements and ask intelligent questions, one who will guard the interests of students in the district by guarding the wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars. That attitude alone will put that person in the voting minority--at least until the next school board election.

Do we really want another go-along-and-get-along member as the superintendent's salary and those of her close administrative staff reach for one million dollars a year? 

Yes, Henry Copeland, has locked horns with the Taj Mahal over wasteful expenditures, uninforced policies, backroom decisions, and lottery shenigans. He sounds perfect.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Douglas Endorses Copeland for CCSD Board!

Former Charleston County School District Board of Trustees Chairman Hillery Douglas has endorsed Henry Copeland to fill the vacancy on the Board produced by Mary Ann Taylor's resignation. According to the P&C Douglas said that Copeland "would be the no. 1 person district leaders wouldn't want."

Of course, Douglas is well-known for his penchant for using reverse psychology to get his way. Those of us with longer memories of the CCSD Board Follies can call to mind Douglas's well-honed statements on such entities as charter schools and the Buist lottery.

Remember, he said he favored more charter schools and then voted against them?

Reverse psychology. In his heart, he knows he wants Henry.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

OPM Spent on Ron McNair Questionable at Best

Since the Charleston County School District's much-touted Sixth Grade Academy silently folded its tents and faded into the night last summer, embarrassed by its failures, the Ron McNair building (formerly used while Orange Grove Elementary Charter School was being replaced) has stood vacant, a silent spectator of a wasteful building program in the district.

Never mind that Chicora Elementary, also in North Charleston, has suffered for years the slings and arrows of every heavy rainstorm that arrives. And they do.

In a masterful display of planning in advance, CCSD has now determined that Chicora's environment is so bad for its students that the school must move midyear to Ron McNair.

But wait. . .  

The district plans to spend $700,000 of OPM to ready the Ron McNair building for the influx. No mystery.

The San Franciscan's buddies are at the controls again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Taylor's Irresponsible Resignation

While I have the greatest respect for now former Charleston County School Board member Mary Ann Taylor, I must also respectfully disagree with her decision to resign from the Board over the salary issue.

Perhaps Taylor just didn't understand fully when she ran how nasty and vindictive CCSD's administration can be. Certainly she has gone several rounds with them previously. But Taylor was one of the sane voices on the Board of Trustees. Whoever replaces her is unlikely to know as much about the inner workings of the district or to have as level a view.

Having said that, what does Taylor want for the Board? Perhaps we need a ballot initiative: should only rich people serve on the Board of Trustees? Will anyone take a Board seriously that basically is treated as "volunteer" and paid gas money? A board that supposedly oversees a multi-million dollar enterprise with a "CEO" that packs away more than a quarter of a million dollars per year? Are the districts in Columbia and Greenville simply spendthrifts for the salaries paid to their trustees, or do they simply take their trustees more seriously?

The Post and Courier only added to the confusion by its outrageous headline today. Should we pay the county or city council members only $25 per meeting?

Think about it!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Tale of Spending OPM*: The Sky Is Falling

*Other people's money.

Imagine this scenario.

A business has existed in the same building, built especially for its purpose, for 80 years, a building now considered an architectural landmark. One day a visitor from San Francisco arrives and asks the owner if his building is earthquake-proof.

"Why on earth would you ask me that?" the owner replies. "No earthquake has occurred here during my lifetime, my father's lifetime, or even my grandfather's lifetime. In fact, only one earthquake has ever occurred in this area, and that was more than 100 years ago. Scientists think there might be another some day, but they have no evidence that any earthquake ever occurred in the area except for that one. We're not on a fault or the edge of a plate the way San Francisco is."

"Yes," the San Franciscan replied, "but there might be an earthquake. I can make your building safer from an earthquake if you will give me $5 million dollars."

"Five million dollars!" the businessman screamed. "You must be joking!"

"It's no joke. Listen, I have a plan. We can use OPM and I can make a buck or two while providing jobs for all my friends."

One day, a few months later, neighbors watched in disbelief as the San Franciscan removed and trashed a perfectly good slate roof that had sheltered the business for 80 years and would have done so, with a bit of care, for another 100. In its place the San Franciscan's buddies put plastic tiles, guaranteed to last at least for 20.

"Wait a minute," a bemused bystander interrrupted. "How does removing those beautiful slate tiles make the building more earthquake-proof?"

"Silly," the San Franciscan replied, "if we ever have an earthquake, one of the slate tiles might fall off the roof and hit someone on the head. The synthetic tiles aren't as heavy."

The bystander gaped for a few minutes, watching the carnage, then walked away shaking his head.

"What businessman in his right mind would make a decision like that," he wondered.

"Ha!" the San Franciscan mused as he looked at the headlines. "Mine is only the second-biggest job of its kind on the entire east coast of the United States. Those people up in Maine and New York City and Washington, DC, and New Jersey need to take some advice from a San Franciscan. I wonder why they haven't."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Finding 14 More Miscreants in CCSD Magnets

Some parents of students at the Academic Magnet and School of the Arts in the Charleston County School District actually took the district at its word when their children applied for admission. They provided the documents as requested.

Fast forward to October 2012: how silly they were to imagine that requesting the documents meant that the documents were required! Or maybe documents were required for all except the special few that received consideration from the Superintendent and her lackeys.

The fact remains that at least 30, not 14, students at the two magnet high schools do not live in the district. Those are slots denied to 30 families who play by the rules.

The district deserves to be sued by those who have been on their waiting lists.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

FOIA Reveals McGinley's Duplicity--Too Late

While the five Charleston County School Board Trustees celebrate their narrow victory extending the superintendent's tenure, the natives continue to be restless, especially on Sullivan's Island.

After a five-and-a-half month delay (gee, we wonder why) smaller-school proponents on Sullivan's Island got a look at the "supposed '1000 Signatures'" held up for show and tell by Superintendent McGinley at a recent school board meeting.

Are you ready? Can you guess what's about to come?

Of the "just Sullivans Island signatures" (McGinley's words) only 372, a bit more than one third actually had Sullivans Island addresses, some of those addresses being island restaurants.

Checked against current voter registration lists for SI, the number dropped to 265. Of those, 71 later signed the petition for a town referendum for a smaller school.

That leaves potentially only 194 signatures in favor of McGinley and Lewis's plan--and 277 registered voters have signed the petition for a referendum.

No wonder the district sat on the FOIA request for so long. It needed to get past the superintendent's evaluation before releasing it. Nuff said.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wrong Referendum on Sullivan's

Those who want a smaller elementary school built on Sullivan's Island have the sympathy of many others who have been steam-rollered by Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley and her hand-chosen Board of bootlickers.

We have no difficulty understanding why a referendum has been organized to put the community on record as supporting the smaller outcome.

Problem is, the Sullivan's Island town council has signed off on the larger school, having been bamboozled by McGinley and Bill Lewis. Furthermore, the hoodwinked voters in the last election validated the McGinley-Lewis plans for a larger school (and no second high school in Mt. Pleasant) despite community opposition.

You see, you've been had. Even if the parents and staff of Sullivan's Island Elementary decide at this point to take the school the charter route, you're going to end up with the monster building.

What to do? Can you remember this debacle long enough to vote out the town council members who approved the plan? Will your memories stretch long enough to throw out the CCSD Board of Trustees members who jump as high as McGinley and Lewis ask?

History says you won't, and McGinley and Lewis are counting on your faulty memories.

Prove them wrong.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

CCSD's Fraser Putting the "Fix" on It

Farce: An empty or patently ridiculous act, proceeding, or situation. (Merriam-Webster on-line)

Having proven time and again his complete slavishness to the Charleston County Schools Superintendent, Chris Fraser, chair of the CCSD Board of Trustees, is creating a spreadsheet to "average" the rankings given to McGinley by the Board members. Never mind that her receiving an overall standard high enough to get another $25, 000 bonus already is guaranteed by the way McGinley herself designed the performance evaluation.

Who's watching Fraser? Should we question his objectivity since he avidly supports the superintendent?

Or should we simply assume that the Superintendent controls the Board and not the other way around? A casual viewer of Board meetings just might draw that conclusion when he or she sees McGinley sitting next to the Board Chair at the public meetings--and hears her call sotto voce for the vote when members are raising questions.

Not a bad deal, really, for someone who controls one of the biggest employers in the county and makes more than the governor or any other state official. Writes her own evaluations. Dictates publicity to the news reporters. Raises her own salary.

Crony capitalism, indeed.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Report Card Design for McGinley

Can you imagine what your child's report card would look like if you let him design it? Then why would the Charleston County Schools Board of Trustees allow the Superintendent whom they are evaluating to design her own report?

It's report card time for Nancy McGinley over the next couple of weeks, but she need not worry. The report-card deck is stacked so much in her favor that even if all members of the Board vote against her, she still gets a passing score.

But they won't all vote against her. Approval will follow the 5 to 4 pattern established since the last election. Watch while they give her a raise, too. In fact, the Board is stacked with bootlickers recruited by her cronies, who when asked to jump, respond, "How high?"

Only another election with candidates who represent taxpayers' interests instead of McGinley's will settle this farce.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

McGinley's Selective Hearing

Perhaps the Superintendent of the Charleston County Schools District needs Miracle Ear? Or reading glasses? Or maybe she needs to be fired.

The town of Mt. Pleasant in 2008 in meetings with CCSD officials voiced its overwhelming support for a second high school to be built on the old Wando campus in Mt. Pleasant, a more centrally-located and accessible building.

You could look it up--even in the P&C!

Now the Superintendent wonders why community members haven't signed on instead to her middle-college at the new Wando, pushing traffic in the area beyond its limits. Doesn't it seem ridiculous that many students will be on the road for 40 minutes or more in a town the size of Mt. Pleasant? McGinley has pushed the promised second high school "down the road."

Board member Elizabeth Moffly correctly points out that North Charleston has four high schools with a total population that doesn't even begin to approach the 3,400 students already at Wando. And no one has evidence that bigger high schools are better for students; in fact, the opposite is true.

So, what gives, Nancy?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

McGinley's 482 Excuses

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

Several weeks ago after what the Charleston County Schools District described as elicited under great trials and duress, CCSD announced that 15 out-of-county students are attending two magnet high schools, the School of the Arts and the Academic Magnet.

Only 15. But wait.

Only 482 students slipped the Superintendent's mind when the announcement was given to the reporter. Those are the 482 who are missing at least one part of the documentation required to prove they live in the district. And they were allowed to enroll anyway.

Really, you can't make this stuff up. No one would believe it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

McGinley Proposing Mt. P. Traffic Nightmare

When did the taxpayers of Charleston County indicate that they wished for 5,000 student high schools? Never.

Now we have a superintendent who is proposing that a new building for a middle college be built on the Wando campus, a campus where its now 3500-student body already causes traffic nightmares. Imagine the future.

Where is the logic in putting all of Mt. Pleasant's students into one high school? Since 1000-student high schools by all measures are better for the students, the district should be thinking in the other direction. In fact, where is the logic in having all of these students at one end of Mt. Pleasant, not easily accessible from the older parts of the town?

There is a perfectly good campus located at the old Wando High School. Why not build a middle college there? Why spend $56 million to create traffic jams? Where are the plans for middle colleges at the other high schools such as Burke and James Island?

McGinley is determined to push this stupid agenda at the October 10th meeting. Contact your board members ASAP!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

CCSD's Minutes Take Months, Not Days

What is the roadblock to posting the minutes for the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees? Incompetence? Conspiracy? Too busy counting out-of-county magnet students? Someone not know how to operate a computer?

Whatever the excuse is, the district is flouting state policy that calls for minutes to be posted within 10 days.

The latest minutes posted on the CCSD website are from August 15.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Zais's Proposals a Mixed Bag

While irate teachers may focus on the loss of the National Board Certification bonus, (highest in the nation, by the way), South Carolina's state superintendent of education, Mick Zais does have a few ideas that sound sensible. Some focus on local school boards.

One proposal is that school board meetings must be posted on the district's website at least 48 hours prior to the meeting, a change from the 24 hours now required.

A more interesting proposal is that the minutes of such meetings must be posted there within five days, not the present 10 and posted on the district's home page.  Interestingly, the most recent minutes posted on the Charleston County School District's website are from mid-August.

My personal favorite is the proposal that districts that don't post on their websites the cost of administration will be punished, perhaps by withholding state money.

Zais also feels the need to propose that districts transfer state money to the charter schools within their districts more quickly. Gee, I wonder why that proposal is needed.

Monday, October 03, 2011

No Justice for CCSD's Outsourced Workers

Four private contractors now handle the maintenance business of the Charleston County School District, thanks to a policy that outsourced these workers purportedly as a cost-saving measure. Who negotiated their contracts? Why, financial officer Michael Bobby without the input of either the employees or the school board.

Fine. Now Bobby should be on the hot seat for the continuing problems caused by his actions. Despite silence on the part of the P&C, this transition has been anything but painless. Some paychecks were delayed up to five weeks. Hours of work during the final weeks at CCSD were not counted. Would anyone believe that these problems would not be a severe hardship on workers who are making a hardscrabble living in the first place? We're talking home evictions and car repossessions.

Now CCSD is taking action against those workers who have dared to speak out. Despite assurances from Board Chair Chris Fraser and member Coats that no retaliation would take place while these problems were being resolved, Service Solutions fired one of these workers last Friday. The others, whom Michael Bobby and Superintendent McGinley have attempted to isolate and prevent school board members from supporting, wonder who's next.

Several workers have filed a formal complaint with the SC Department of Labor concerning their last paychecks. Thanks to the superintendent's policies, the school board can no longer hear complaints from classified employees. They are at the mercy of McGinley.

I don't know about you, but that's not a place I'd care to be. It's time for our state representatives Ford and Gilliard to step in.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

CCSD's Intimidation and Corruption Nexus

Hit the little guy. Why? He doesn't have the resources to hit back.

Here we have a perfect description of the modus operandi of the Charleston County Schools District administration. Such is the case with the day porters who were outsourced to save the district money.

Well, the district does need to save money. Some of us would like to outsource administrative services, starting with the superintendent and continuing with the chief financial officer, Michael Bobby.

Of course, outsourcing the business to retired CCSD employees, cronies of the present administration who could make a buck or two off this mess, was part of the deal.

One employee reported by the P& C has questioned whether his last paycheck was correct. You may have wondered why the article also reports that "he doesn't feel comfortable meeting one-on-one" with Bobby.

Behind that statement is a superintendent who was enraged to learn that several day porters (presumably including 27-year-old Jess Ballard) were meeting with Bobby along with one or two members of the Charleston County Board of Trustees. She forbid the Board members from being there.

Now retaliation against those who have complained to Bobby has begun. Same old, same old in CCSD.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CCSD's Top Cheater Story, No Letters

Fifteen out-of-county students will continue to attend the Academic Magnet and School of the Arts without paying tuition. One is a senior. Cheaters win again. You just need to have money to beat the system.

Aside from either lying about their addresses or school administrators' looking the other way, don't you wonder if any money or favors changed hands in CCSD? Who are these people who believe they are entitled?

After all, especially at the Academic Magnet that education should be worth at least $20,000 per year. A great deal for residents of Berkeley and Dorchester Counties, isn't it?

And, if you believe that not a single resident of Charleston County has written a letter about this cheating to the P&C in the last week, I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Concealing CCSD SAT-Score Drop

Yet again the P&C has proven itself not a news paper but a cheerleader for the area. Maybe we should call it the Pollyanna & Cheer?

The article reporting the drop in 2011 SAT scores for the Charleston County School District actually was headlined, "Berkeley County Sees Rise in SAT Scores." Clever.

It's the third year in a row that CCSD's scores have dropped. We can identify multitudinous causes for decline. However, it's the trend that should worry the School Board.

For how many years has Superintendent McGinley been responsible, either as academic officer or superintendent? When does the buck stop?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spiked CCSD Story, Letters to the Editor

You might just get the impression that the P&C really wishes the story about out-of-county residents attending Charleston County magnet schools illegally and tuition-free would just go away.

First, Newsless sits on the McSwain ruling regarding money's buying a seat at the Academic Magnet; now, it appears from its OP-ED page that no one cares enough about the issue to write a letter to the editor.

Yeh, right.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Just CCSD's Math, But What Does It Mean?

Seems rather startling, doesn't it?

According to the news emanating from the latest meeting of the Charleston County Schools District Board of Trustees, nearly one-third of all 2010-11 seniors did not graduate last June. Quoting from the P&C: "Charleston County graduated 67.9 percent of its seniors last school year."

If this sentence is to be believed, we are in far worse shape than we thought because the district isn't even counting those students who dropped out in the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh grades.

Say it ain't so, Joe!

Or maybe the reporter misstated the facts?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

P&C Spikes CCSD Residency Problem

More CCSD lawsuits costing taxpayers more money.

A Berkeley County parent believes that her child should attend CCSD's Academic Magnet, tuition-free, and the district should be glad to have her. The parent deliberately purchased property in Charleston County so that her child could "qualify." However, attorney Gayla McSwain must not have the correct political connections, for CCSD told her that she could not pick which school in Charleston County her child could attend. Months ago, a Circuit Court judge agreed with McSwain.

Why did the P&C sit on this story? Good question, having everything to do with nefarious practices going on in the Charleston County School District for decades. Perhaps now that Janet Rose has retired she can be the goat.

Should we laugh at CCSD's attorney John Emerson when he says, "school leaders were aware before the start of this school year" that non-county residents attended magnet schools? How long before that, John? We could drag up Buist Academy and those residency shenanigans, I suppose.

Does the Academic Magnet turn away qualified students who live in Charleston County? Yes.

There is the answer to McSwain's suit. If her daughter wants to go to North Charleston High School in the district where the property is located, so be it. Meanwhile, magnets should be for Charleston County residents only. Period. This excludes all residents of Hanahan, Goose Creek, and Daniel Island, who all live in Berkeley County. Any students now in the magnet high schools from other counties who own property in the district should be charged full tuition. Future non-residents should not be accepted. If attendees move out of the district while at the magnet, they should be charged tuition.

You could almost be sympathetic with these no-good parents if they were poor, or even lower middle-class. Such is not the case. They're rich (i.e., McSwain) and well-connected (well, not McSwain!). They give money to the campaigns of Board of Trustee members who will see to their interests.

Who's going to stop them?

Friday, September 16, 2011

CCSD's Rose Doesn't Smell So Sweet

If the P&C was looking for empathy with retired state employees on pension in the great "how-are-we-going-to-pay-our-obligations" scandal here in South Carolina, it shouldn't have posted Janet Rose, retired CCSD "executive director of assessment and accountibility," above the fold. Why not a retired policeman or city employee?

Rose should be considered the poster child for cronyism in CCSD. Under her watch CCSD crafted its oh-so-transparent Buist lottery process and promised parents living on the peninsula that they could move away from District 20, the list their child was admitted on, as soon as their child's number was "picked."

Furthermore, the reporter thought it too embarrassing to ask Rose what her actual pension is. Far from the $19,000 per year average--which probably reflects many former police and firefighters. Of that you can be sure. Rose says that her pension is "only about half of what she earned." What she earned, unlike the poor peons who actually are in the classroom, was over $100,000 per year.

That means that she's getting more than most experienced teachers make per year or have a hope of getting in a pension.

This is the educrat responsible for allowing students who do not even live in Charleston County to attend CCSD magnet schools without paying tuition.

But we shouldn't be surprised to see her sob story on the front page. After all, these are the educrats favored by the editors of the Post and Courier.

Monday, August 29, 2011

CCSD's Taylor Speaks Truth to Power

Speaking truth to power is perhaps the oldest and, certainly, one of
the most difficult of ethical challenges because to do entails personal danger.
From the day humans descended from our ape-like ancestors until only very
recently, tribal leaders, clan elders, kings, and just plain bosses were men who
ruled by force. To question their decisions was to risk death.--
James O'Toole

Fortunately, in the Charleston County School District these days, speaking truth to power risks defamation of one's character, not death!

The latest attack perpetrated by Superintendent Nancy McGinley (with the total cooperation of the P&C) on a duly elected member of the Board of Trustees, Mary Ann Taylor, is the case in point. Imagine that a retired teacher with 27 years of experience in the classroom would dare to disagree with a graduate of the Broad Institute! What is this world coming to?

In a four-page letter to the superintendent, Taylor expressed her views concerning the role of the local NAACP chapter in running CCSD. Naively. Why, she actually assumed that the content of a private letter to the superintendent would not be bandied about the offices of the Taj Mahal at 75 Calhoun, handed directly to Dot Scott, or excerpted for the P&C! Strangely, Taylor assumed that McGinley was an honorable colleague who had the best interests of CCSD's students at heart.

We've seen two or three paragraphs from the letter so kindly reprinted by the P&C. Don't you wonder what the rest of the content concerned? Whatever it was, it wasn't good for slander.

Now Taylor has hired a lawyer versed in school board law to defend herself against Chris Fraser's additional ill-conceived and false accusations, which to this day McGinley's minions are distributing.

Clearly, McGinley's goal is to hound Taylor off the Board or shut her up. Not going to happen, Nancy.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

P&C HIt Job on CCSD's Taylor Coming

The P&C had to figure out just the right angle from which to attack CCSD Board member Mary Ann Taylor. That must explain the long delay in its reporting what has been in the wind for several weeks. The attacks on Kandrac and Collins over, on to discrediting Taylor!

The on-line teaser put out on Sunday hints at malfeasance without providing the least amount of information--how typical. As character assassination, the editor believes being a Republican is enough.

Fortunately, Taylor has been wise enough to hire a lawyer with expertise in the field.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In Case You Missed P&C Attack on Collins

The P&C sees its mission as deflating the influence of anyone disagreeing with CCSD Superintent McGinley's policies. It might hurt Mayor Riley's re-election, doncha know?

As we learned last week, Chris Collins, an elected member of the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees, simply isn't deferential enough to Superintendent Nancy McGinley and her hangers-on. As a result, the P&C deemed it appropriate to publicize late rent payments that Collins's church owed the district.

Just in case you didn't read the first article, the P&C has a follow-up that the rent has been paid. Wow, inquiring minds want to know.

Such coverage coheres completely to the attitude Melanie Balog (a Brian-Hicks wannabe) expressed in a recent hatchet job on elected CCSD Board member Elizabeth Kandrac. (Kandrac isn't deferential enough, either.) Balog ignorantly follows the P&C line.

You might wonder why attacks have not been leveled at Elizabeth Moffly and Mary Ann Taylor. Ask the editors of the P&C. Moffly and Taylor will not hesitate (and have not hesitated) to call in their lawyers when drivel erupts from McGinley's lapdog Chris Fraser, Board Chairman.

Too bad Collins and Kandrac don't have access to equal resources.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

CCSD Tax Dollars at Work

Pictures the P&C couldn't bother to print.

Why, some old busybody who had nothing better to do snapped these pictures of perfectly good office furniture awaiting the garbage hauler! Shame on them! Where? Behind Wando High School, of course.

When notified, Diette Courrege quickly tipped off CCSD for damage repair. PR hack Elliot Smalley contacted Wando Principal Beckham, who "salvaged" a few useable items.

Whose head rolled for putting them out there? No one's, of course.

What percentage were really usable? Why do I think more than Beckham admitted. Her standards may be higher than a struggling nonprofit.

How would Beckham know they were useable or not? It's not part of her job. But CCSD does have a clear policy regarding trashing furniture. It wasn't followed. Are any schools following it?

Here's why the public doesn't trust the district when it says it needs more money.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rogue NAACP Wants All-Black Schools

From the comments of local NAACP President Dot Scott, people should logically conclude that Scott hates integrated schools; she hopes for all-black ones.

Scott happily supported Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley as long as McGinley kept appointing blacks to administrative positions. Now she is outraged that two high schools--Garrett and Stall--will have white principals. Someone should ask her: where is the tipping point? If the school is 49 percent black, should it have a principal who is half white and half black? If the school is 51 percent black, should the principal be black? Just plain silly.

What Scott should be outraged about is that CCSD policies have produced a pattern of schools that are 95 (or more) percent black! Instead, her goal is de facto segregation. The NAACP (and Scott) will control the public schools only if they are no longer integrated. Appointing principals based on race should put the icing on the cake.

No wonder the local NAACP has the lowest percentage of white members of practically any chapter in the country! Measured by Scott's statements, it's composed of a bunch of racists.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

P&C Sits on Taylor-Fraser Confrontation

As if.

As if it weren't enough to print press releases from 75 Calhoun as though they are news reports, or carry out the wishes of the CCSD Board Chairman to disparage only members who disagree with his high-handed attitude, now comes the clincher.

What justifies the Post and Courier's sitting on the blockbuster news of an illegal threat of removal made to Board member Mary Ann Taylor by Chris Fraser?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Machinations in CCSD

Do you believe in fairy tales?

If so, you must be one of the few readers of the P&C that believe the assertion that Chris Collins's failure to pay rent to the Charleston County School Board as been widely publicized as a public service and not as payback for challenging Chris Fraser's miserable performance as an independent CCSD Board chairman.

You must also believe that Elizabeth Kandrac's continued opposition to the proposals of the majority of the Board of Trustees has no connection whatsoever to the P&C's "expose" of her training expenditures. The P&C clearly believes that only rich people like Chris Fraser should be on the Board, and then they wouldn't bill CCSD for their expenses.

Of course, Chris Fraser himself is low spender because he doesn't need to attend any educational classes; he takes his orders straight from the superintendent and then asks how high to jump.

Or so it seems to many observers.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One More Try at AP Proficiency in CCSD

Over the next three years the Charleston County School District will receive nearly $2 million in federal tax dollars to prepare for and improve Advanced Placement classes at five high-minority and high-poverty middle and high schools in North Charleston. Since CCSD's policies of placing so many magnet schools in North Charleston have drained achieving students from these schools over the last decade, the news should be welcomed.

The College Board's Advanced Placement program does indeed have much to recommend it, not the least of which is that the exams are not locally graded; hence, no dumbing down to get the desired results as so happens with state testing. A solid background that begins at least as early as middle school (and preferably in elementary school) must precede the rigorous requirements of high school AP courses. One need look only to Burke for the poor results in its AP academy, caused not by its teachers, who do yeoman service, but by the weak backgrounds of students entering such courses.

If CCSD uses its dollars wisely (always questionable), such a large sum of money should go a long way towards alleviating discrepancies with other areas of CCSD. Why, even Superintendent McGinley has suggested that "she also would like to identify more gifted and talented students in elementary schools, so they can take more accelerated classes."

Does she really mean what she says? Taking children who are on or ahead of grade level and separating them from the majority of students who cannot read well? That would require--horrors--tracking. Educrats of the last two or three decades would roll over in their graves.

Of course, having a First-Grade or Third-Grade or Sixth-Grade Academy amounts to the same, just in different schools. Maybe the old ways weren't so bad after all.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

CCSD Board: Trust, Not Verify

Monday night the Charleston County Board of Trustees voted on an evaluation instrument for Superintendent Nancy McGinley. The Board members did not receive a final copy of the evaluation form on which to vote. Shame on you, Chris Fraser. You've had nearly two months to straighten this out.

Yet the effervescent form claims to be virtually identical to last year's instrument, the one designed by McGinley for herself! You can't make this stuff up.

The way the evaluation works statistically, it is virtually impossible for the superintendent to get a failing grade. Wow. Sounds like some of our students' social promotions.

All this drama precurses another salary increase and contract extension for McGinley. Considering the economy and her performance as judged by the community at large, let's hope she can't cow the present Board into either.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Common Sense in P&C Editorial on NCLB

"And if the Adequate Yearly Progress reports remind educators of how crucial it is for schools to educate all students, they have served a worthy purpose."

So ends the lead editorial in Monday's P&C. Since I so frequently criticize the P&C's coverage of local education, I find it only fair to compliment this writer. When NCLB was adopted into law, everyone knew that the targets would be difficult to reach and more difficult as time marched on, due to increasing expectations for every year. The rationale behind such Draconian measures was that the students presently in school couldn't afford to wait for decades for the schools to improve.

Nothing's changed except increasing cries of outrage that the goals are too tough. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is worried that 80 percent of American schools "could face penalties" unless standards are lowered.

Penalties? You would think we were talking about walking the plank! The penalties, as we in CCSD well know, involve required tutoring, allowing students to transfer to non-failing schools, and after several years of failure, restructuring of the school. Horrors!

The editorial writer is correct in assessing that students with disabilities have for too long been pushed to the sidelines in terms of attention. And CCSD has students with many differing degrees of disability that have not been challenged properly despite the heroic efforts of special education teachers.

Despite its flaws, NCLB tries to live up to its name.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Bragging About Financial Need

In a yearly ritual that should have died out with black-and-white TV, school districts around the country have finished toting up a meaningless statistic usually referred to as "college scholarship earnings." Thursday's P&C touts the setting of a new record by the Class of 2011.

Who will break with tradition first and shout, "The emperor has no clothes"?

I have blogged on this nonsensical practice previously, so I won't bore you with the process of how the sausage is made. Suffice it to say that the monetary total is not earnings, will not be received by the student, and frequently has nothing to do with scholarship. Oh, yes, the student will enroll at one college and receive its financial aid package, usually a combination of grants and work-study, all based on demonstrated financial need. The only "scholarship" involved is that the student was accepted to the institution.

Forget the overall totals. Every year someone who usually performs valuable service is set to work to gather all the numbers for publication, thus taking away time that could be spent usefully. We haven't always done it this way, and I haven't had the interest to find out when the practice started and spread like a cancer.

It's time to stop and gather statistics that are actually useful, starting with how many students who graduate from the high school in question have graduated from college four or five years later.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

South Carolina Discovers Reading

Maybe the P&C should pat itself on the back.

After all, the Charleston County Schools District discovered reading only when it ran a series of articles on how CCSD students can't. Former academic bureaucrat Nancy McGinley took up the challenge when she discovered through those articles that reading was important to students' scoring well on tests! Imagine that.

Now State Superintendent Mick Zais wants the news to spread to all districts in the state, to let every district superintendent know that reading is important. Golly.

Unlike Superintendent McGinley, Zais believes that, with a bit of flexibility, districts can improve reading skills without getting extra money.

Who invited him to the edublob?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

This Too Will PASS

For the 2009-10 school year South Carolina instituted a new state-wide test that supplanted the PACT. Developing the PACT cost five and a half million dollars; we can assume developing the PASS was likewise costly.

Now the state must drop the PASS by the 2014-15 school year, due to the adoption of the Common Core Standards. That means that the now obsolete PASS will have cost a million per year to develop. Did you ever sense that the developers of such tests are like pigs at the trough?

Another "homegrown" test for the Common Core Standards will surely cost as much to develop as the PACT did. Why would the state even consider developing its own when others are already in the works. Let's be comparable for a change!

Despite worries about giving up control of curriculum, Common Core Standards make sense. It's the CORE, stupid. South Carolina can add whatever it wants to supplement the core, as undoubtedly other states will do. The days are gone when all students stayed in the same school system or even in the same state for K-12. Not having a Common Core hurts them.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cook or Crook? Or a Bunch of Crooks?

From reading the P&C's Sunday edition, we can be sure of one fact: former CCSD Board of Trustees Chairwoman Nancy Cook doesn't give a damn about veterans. Yoga. Candles. Right.

Venial people exist around us, but they can't take their venality to such lengths without the complicity of others. Let's start with former CCSD Board member Gregg Meyers, who is attempting to defend Cook's actions as nothing out of the ordinary. Undoubtedly Meyers knew some of the details of Cook's behavior while she was still on the CCSD Board; I guess her vote was safe for his projects.

The VA's problem is that Cook wasn't a big enough player in terms of dollars for them to spend their limited resources researching her behavior more fully. Therefore, it had to depend on the directors of the men's shelter to keep finances in line. Joke. That was a joke. They appear to have treated their positions as honorary rather that real.

Cook should be prosecuted for misappropriation of funds and insurance fraud.

The Board of Directors should be prosecuted for not doing their jobs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Literacy Progress or Not in CCSD?

This fall 332 rising ninth-graders will be reading on a fourth-grade level or below in the Charleston County School District. Wouldn't you love to know how they managed to pass the eighth grade?

This number represents a reduction from last year's challenge: in the fall of 2010, 342 rising ninth-graders read at the fourth-grade level or below.

Ten fewer. That's 10 fewer after all of the hullabaloo about improving literacy skills in CCSD. Miracles do not happen overnight, obviously, but maybe just getting private tutors for the bottom 20 readers would have cost less.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Cheating in Atlanta? Who Copied Whom?

Teachers and administrators in Atlanta are facing criminal charges for changing student answers on standardized tests over the last decade in order to show improvement and gain the rewards. Why does the story sound so familiar?

Can anyone say "Sanders-Clyde"? How about MiShawna Moore, darling of Superintendent Nancy McGinley, who escaped to North Carolina? McGinley put her in charge of two schools because of the rocketing scores at Sanders-Clyde, and then came. . . the fall.

According to the media, NCLB "made" them do it. Please.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Uneven Results in CCSD Literacy Programs

Every time I read statistics put forward by Superintendent Nancy McGinley of the Charleston County Schools I remember the title of a mathematical classic, How to Lie with Statistics. as true today as it was when first published in 1954. Its author states, "The secret language of statistics, so appealing to a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify."

One reason that such tactics are so successful is that the majority of Americans, and that includes reporters, by the way, are incapable of interpreting them.

Take the latest statistics to emerge from CCSD's mandated literacy interventions (a result of actual investigative reporting from the P&C). At least McGinley does state that the "overall" report is encouraging; the reporter apparently couldn't figure out where the weakness in the program endures.

You tell me: does the following statement make any sense? "49.6 scored in the lowest percentile in the fall." See what I mean? Perhaps quintile? I don't really know.

Putting aside the shambles the reporter made with the statistics, several aspects stand out.

  • Focusing on literacy in the early grades does indeed pay off. That does raise the question of why it wasn't a focus previously, but whatever.

  • Except for the Third Grade Academies, the large majority of students receiving special attention were not on the pre-fourth-grade level of reading (two-thirds of first grade; one-half of third grade; and three-fourths of sixth grade)

  • Notice anything? Well, I did. The most successful programs had a larger percentage of students in the lowest category of reading! Someone could take a hint from this phenomenon!

Buried at the end of the article is the reality that the Sixth Grade Academy is failing to succeed in its mission--and it is the oldest of the bunch. To improve from 24.5 percent in the fall to 22.2 percent in the spring means that seven of the 298 students reached the fourth-grade level or better. While any advance is an improvement, this is something like an elephant laboring mightily and bringing forth a mouse!

Dare we ask what happened at the Sixth Grade Academy to the scores of the students who were already reading above the fourth-grade level? Why do I surmise that some of them regressed?

It should be obvious: to focus on the poorest readers means putting only the poorest readers together. Duh.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Grimm's CCSD Future Predictable

Let's cut through the racist rhetoric of Dot Scott and her buddies of the Charleston NAACP (all five of them): the problems facing the newly-appointed principal of North Charleston High School, Robert Grimm, concern his lack of authority.

Make no mistake: Grimm is Superintendent McGinley's choice; the Board of Trustees was merely convinced to go along with it by a 6 to 3 vote. Apparently, in order to get those votes, McGinley decided to undercut Grimm's authority on the night of his appointment by agreeing to place some of it in the hands of Associate Superintendent James Winbush, former principal of Lincoln High School in McClellanville. Of course, we don't know what went on behind closed doors, but reading tea leaves and comments suggests that Grimm's record of enforcing good discipline at C.E. Williams probably garnered Elizabeth Kandrac's vote.

Was the Superintendent unable to find a qualified (according to the search committee's own parameters) applicant? Or did she decide by putting in someone who has never been principal of a high school of any size she was guaranteeing his failure, and, therefore, undercutting his authority made her long-term plans all the more possible.

Make no mistake about it. McGinley plans to combine Stall and NCHS as soon as it becomes politically correct. Such a merger will allow her record of eliminating failing schools to look that much better.

Still the mystery persists as to why McGinley decided to move former NCHS principal Middleton to the Early Head Start program. Did Middleton simply want out and desire a larger salary? Or did she comply with McGinley's wishes to stay on the superintendent's good side? Clearly, removing Middleton and putting Grimm in her place does not appear to be a move forward.

Grimm should be having second thoughts about taking the position; however, knowing McGinley's tactics, he may have no choice.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Playing with Principals in North Charleston

  • A principal-selection committee for North Charleston High School, made up of CCSD district and school employees, interviewed applicants with no experience as principals and selected one of them as a finalist.

  • Some interviewees seemed to have seen the committee's questions in advance.

  • Poor, overworked Superintendent McGinley has taken on "an associate superintendent's job"to speak to employees and supervisors of the remaining finalists.

  • NCHS has had seven principals in the last 10 years. No wonder.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hicks's Opinions Not Front Page News

How often do Congressional hearings take place in the Low Country? Once every decade or so? And how relevant might hearings on the new Boeing plant be to the future of the area?

Yet the news articles about this event, thanks to the P&C's editors' deliberate choice, landed on page 10A.

Instead, readers can revel in (or revile) the half-baked opinions of an unqualified, provincial pontificator named Brian Hicks, deliberately placed on the front page above the fold. Don't you wonder how the two reporters who actually wrote the news reacted to this travesty?

The News and Courier becaume the Post and Courier when it combined with the Evening Post. Finally we understand the symbolism of its name change. The placement of Hicks's column equals putting the lead editorial above the fold and pretending it's not an editorial.

It's one decision to play up local instead of national news on the front page. It's a horse of a different color to replace news with opinion.

Saturday's hard-copy edition proves that the P&C is no longer a newspaper.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cook-Meyers Duo in the News Again

What do former chairmen of the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees do for an encore? Perhaps the same behavior they exhibited when on the school board.

Attorney Gregg Meyers filed a lawsuit for Nancy Cook (don't you wonder what she has on him?) as a preemptive strike in a suit brought against Cook for taking advantage of monies she received from the Veterans' Association as director of a men's shelter in North Charleston. Among other items of interest, Cook doubled her salary to $130 thousand per year.

Quite a profitable nonprofit for Cook, wouldn't you say? Who knows what additional shenanigans occurred at 75 Calhoun when the two of them were in office? Someone does.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CCSD's 70-Employee Cut in Your Dreams

Most discerning readers would assume that cutting 70 jobs in the Charleston County Schools District means 70 fewer employees. Wrong.

The P&C's headline reinforces this error: "School District to Cut 70 Jobs." Sounds Draconian, doesn't it? And Michael Bobby points out that "the district doesn't have much in the way of extra administrative and overhead costs." In which alternate universe?

You see, cutting 70 jobs is not the same as cutting 70 employees. In fact, those who read past the headline find out that practically all of those 70 employees whose jobs were cut have found another position in CCSD.

Sleight of hand: now you see them; now you don't.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Where Is Stall's Celebratory Article?

Stall High School in North Charleston has been taken off life support, thanks to its progress in meeting NCLB standards. It is the one school in all of the Charleston County School District that the State Superintendent has removed from the Palmetto Priority Schools Project due to its improvement.

So where is the front-page article extolling Stall's success?

Funny, Superintendent McGinley usually touts every little improvement in the schools. Could it be that she hasn't fed the information to the P&C because she doesn't want Stall's success to be widely known?

Well, if she's still planning to combine Stall and North Charleston High Schools, the reason may be just that. The so-called committee of interested community persons to discuss that plan still hasn't met. Hmm.

Time for a little investigative reporting, Diette.

Monday, June 06, 2011

McGinley Article Well-Meant But Flawed

Summarizing Charleston County Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley's decisions and lack of them should be a service to the taxpayers who do not usually follow the twists and turns at 75 Calhoun. Yet--why do articles such as Monday's "Flexible or Flawed" inevitably sound as though they were written by McGinley herself?

I leave you to ponder that thought.

Meanwhile, a piece should follow that analyzes the effects of her decisions and non-decisions on the students involved and the community. Too often McGinley prizes appearance over reality. She has seven years in the district, seven years that should show some progress. The reporter needs to find out if the progress cited by McGinley is real and, in addition, if any progress results from the superintendent's policies or from outside factors.

That piece would be a community service.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Warning: CCSD's McGinley Puff Piece Monday

You may want to skip reading the P&C with breakfast Monday. Courrege has planned a McGinley profile explaining how the superintendent wisely makes her decisions.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Chief Academic Officer Out in CCSD

Not only is Doug Gepford retiring as Chief Academic Officer of the Charleston County Schools District, he's not being replaced.

It's a start--one layer of bureaucracy removed. How about the rest?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

CCSD's Grad Rates Are Your Fault!

Are you feeling guilty yet?

Yet again you have failed the Charleston County community by not raising high school graduation rates. Yes, we are all being blamed by Superintendent McGinley's mouthpiece in the P&C today. As Diette Courrege so coyly puts it, "Everyone shares a piece of the blame."

Really? If everyone is responsible, then no one is held accountable. Parents and students and schools are let off the hook. Is that really what the reporter desires? Maybe she should stop the communal guilt trip.

Parents are responsible. Unfortunately, many parents are so caught up in themselves and their own problems that little parenting gets done. That's where the school comes in. Some schools manage better than others in similar circumstances.

That's where McGinley (and her mouthpiece) should be focusing her efforts--finding out what those schools are doing right and copying it, not moaning over how "it takes a village."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Study CCSD Results, Not Decision

Landmark decisions and a landmark dissent--those are what legal experts chose to celebrate at the Broad Street courthouse Friday at a continuing-education colliquium for local attorneys.

A dissent from the Briggs v. Elliott case, according to these experts, "laid the groundwork" for the later Brown v. Board of Education case.

All fascinating stuff to lawyers, but what about the results?

Thanks to the policies of the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees, the majority of CCSD schools remain nearly as segregated as they were 60 years ago. Now it's de facto instead of de jure.

Maybe the legal experts should take up that problem.

Monday, May 16, 2011

CCSD Fox Set to Watch Head Start Henhouse

Head Start problems have been in the news for years, mainly those dealing with finances.

To solve Charleston County's problems in that area, where funds previously have been misspent, the feds are handing over control of $6.5 million to the Charleston County School District.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Pay-to-Play Contributors to Sales-Tax Campaign

It's a matter of public record. The committee titled "Citizens for Community Improvement" formed to support the now-passed ballot measure to raise the sales tax by one percent should have been called "Companies for Balance-Sheet-Improvement."

  • Of the more than $75,000 listed in contributions, the large majority are not single "citizens" but companies and vendors with long-standing relationships with the Charleston County Schools District.

  • In fact, Heery International ($2500) and Southern Management Group ($4500 and $5500) are in contention for long-term contracts related to the construction funded by the new tax.

  • Other companies and associations contributing $1000 or more include Brownstone Construction Group ($2000), Charleston Trident Association of Realtors ($5000 and $10000), Clawson and Staubes LLC ($2500), Construction Dynamics ($1000), Gilbane Building Company ($3000), Haynesworth Sinkler Boyd PA ($5000), Jumper Carter Sease Architects PA ($1000), KLG Jones LLC ($1000), LS3P Associates ($2500), Maybank Properties ($2500), McMillan Smith and Partner Architects PLLC ($2500), MWV ($5000), Roper St.Francis Healthcare ($1000), The Beach Company ($5000), Thompson Construction Group ($5000)

  • Get the picture?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Toya Green: CCSD Board Member MIA

  • Should Toya Hampton-Green resign from her position as a member of the Charleston County Schools District Board of Trustees?

  • Are other activities taking too much of her time, or has she decided her position is merely honorary?

  • We should ask these questions since Green has missed so many scheduled meetings in the last couple of months.

  • That would be at least the last three Board meetings, the most recent budget workshop, and the last two finance committee meetings.

  • As an elected official, Green owes her constituents her presence, at the very least.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

CCSD's Chump Change: $2.1 Million iPads

  • Sorry to be repetitive, but something is rotten in the state of Denmark, as Hamlet once noted.

  • Shakespeare's version involved sleeping with the enemy, but in the case of the Charleston County Schools District, "rotten" describes capital funding streams that leave Michael Bobby, CCSD's financial officer asking, "How can I get this $2.1 million off my hands and into the hands of my contractors without the taxpayers' raising questions about waste when teachers are being furloughed and staff reduced?"

  • Even Brian Hicks notes the tin ear of the CCSD Board of Trustees in his Wednesday column: "While they are facing a massive budget shortfall." "When the academic value of these gadgets has yet to be proven."

  • Two Wednesday Letters to the Editor also sum up the frustrations of the public, noting that "we played this game a few years ago with SmartBoards" and before that with computers in every classroom.

  • Where is the evidence that technology has advanced achievement?

  • Oh, sorry, I forgot. School districts don't worry about evidence; they go with the trends. They experiment on children. How many "new math" victims still have problems with basic computation? How many high school students can figure a percentage without whipping out a calculator?

  • It seems that CCSD will have so much surplus capital from its new one-percent sales tax that saving this $2.1 million for future projects just doesn't make sense.

  • That's chump change. Think about it--what else could be done with $2 million in CCSD?

Friday, April 15, 2011

CCSD Board Members Touch Sacred Cows

  • No wonder Superintendent Nancy McGinley has brought out the big guns--letters solicited from the Mayor; scolding emails solicited from the Board chair; outraged op-eds from the NAACP.

  • Now this: Four unruly Board members want to investigate what benefits the district gets for its contributions to sacred-cow nonprofits, contributions from an operating budget projecting a $26 million shortfall next year.

  • In their first swing at a cow, members Moffly and Kandrac refused to vote for $50,000 awarded to the Charleston Promise Neighborhood. Not to put too fine a point on it, Board member Toya Hampton-Green's husband heads that particular non-profit, and the Superintendent sits on its Board of Directors. Can you say, "conflict of interest"?

  • Although that particular sacred cow escaped with the cash, Board members Coats and Taylor now want to scrutinize the benefits gained from other nonprofits receiving funds from the district. Can you say, "edublob"?

  • Surely they can't be serious? Why, they might need to scrutinize the funds paid to the nonprofit headed by the Mayor's sister!

  • Long-time readers of this blog will remember the point made some time ago: nonprofit does not mean it's not profitable for someone. A good look at salaries paid to those in charge should be in order.

  • Let's not forget: the money for these nonprofits comes from the operating budget, the same one whose shortage of funds has created furlough days and staff layoffs. Now's a good time to focus on the primary mission of the district.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Darby Creates "Straw Man" to Argue for Rivers

  • In his (dare we say it?) bi-monthly column Thursday masquerading as an op-ed piece for the P&C, vice-president of the Charleston Area NAACP, Joseph Darby, uses demeaning language against Charleston County School Board members Moffly and Taylor. He also insinuates that those two Board members are racist for raising the possibility of putting Lowcountry Tech (that phantom school) at the Burke campus.

  • Darby, a non-native of Charleston, non-graduate of its schools, and non-resident of its peninsula, lectures Moffly and Taylor on Burke's history as a "place for minimal vocational training" and "'a place to supply cooks, maids and delivery boys,'" information that he has gleaned from reading about CCSD's history.

  • Carrying his arguments to their logical conclusion, putting Lowcountry Tech at Burke would be a racist action. Strange, isn't it? A program providing access to future high-tech jobs he rates in the same category as training cooks, maids, and delivery boys?

  • Darby's prism seeks out white racism at every turn, action, and word. There are no exceptions. The reality is that Darby himself is racist. Such an attitude should disqualify him from his post with the NAACP and ought to give those pause who view him as a Christian pastor.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mayor Riley Butts in on CCSD Board's Business

  • Not to put too fine a point on it, does the mayor of Charleston have any legal power within the Charleston County School District? Answer: no.

  • But that doesn't mean he can't throw his weight around, especially when the long-time support of the Charleston Area NAACP is at risk. Can you say "primary"?

  • Board chairman Chris Fraser has received a letter from the mayor, no doubt solicited personally by Charter School for Math & Science haters. Basically it says "Damn the torpedos! Full speed ahead" with plans to place the fabled Lowcountry Tech at the Rivers campus along with CSMS.

  • His letter does not address (1) what should happen to its auditorium; (2) the desire of Burke supporters to place the program at Burke; (3) the success of CSMS leading to potential permanent use of trailers; or (4) the likelihood of our seeing the fruition of the phantom program during the next decade.

  • What Riley has signaled is that he personally resents the success of CSMS. Considering how long Riley has been mayor, if he has influenced past CCSD Boards (which seems likely), the mess we have now in the district belongs at his doorstep. He can't have it both ways.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reading On-line in CCSD: Not a Kindle

  • No one should fault the Charleston County School District for spending thousands for on-line books for students to read, as reported by the P&C in Monday's edition. After all, since the money comes from capital funds, it can't be used for the operating budget, where it is really needed.

  • The issue is, are teachers being given the training to use these programs effectively? Connie Diopierala, CCSD's district coordinator for media services, says such training is in the works, but won't those funds come straight out of the operating budget?

  • Meanwhile, students enjoy reading books on-line. As one says, "'It's like they give sound effects, and they read the books for us.'"

  • Before you explode, consider that third graders are being interviewed. What's not clear yet is if such experiences raise reading ability. At present no measures exist.

  • In fact, North Charleston Elementary's media specialist says that she "hopes teachers receive the training they need so they can make the most of the expanded collection."

  • And that it doesn't function merely as a babysitter while the teacher attends to other pressing needs.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Six CCSD High Schools Honored

  • Garrett Academy, Wando, Military Magnet, School of the Arts, Academic Magnet, and James Island Charter: what are these schools doing right?

  • Whatever it is, it is working. All have been recognized with a Palmetto Gold or Silver award for general performance, an honor granted to only 42 schools statewide.

  • However, only one of these, Wando, is neither a charter nor a magnet school. Mmm. It's had the same principal for several years--is a lesson there?

  • Maybe the state needs two lists--one for "regular" schools and another for charters and magnets. Yet, even though the magnets have skimmed most of the "cream" from CCSD's "regular" high schools, that does not excuse the rest from not closing the achievement gap. Magnets and charters cannot be blamed for failures there.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

P& C Publishes Meyers's Rambling Whine

Would you like some cheese with that, Gregg?

  • Poor Superintendent McGinley! Imagine, some elected members of the Charleston County Schools Board of Trustees have found fault with her lack of transparency and responsiveness to questions.

  • But wait, here comes a knight in shining armor to her defense! Take that, Elizabeth Moffly. Let fly the insults! Remove the gloves! Poor Elizabeth can't even add and subtract.

  • Well, so says Gregg Meyers, former Board member and McGinley champion.

  • In his op-ed piece published in Wednesday's P & C, Meyers forays that McGinley hasn't been responsible for academics at North Charleston and Stall High Schools for the six years that Board member Moffly claims. Come on, Gregg, you know perfectly well that McGinley was Chief Academic Officer for two years before she became superintendent. That does total six.

  • The rest of Meyers's weapons don't work well either. For example, a greater percentage of schools rate as Excellent because the criterion used by the ratings changed. The district has fewer failing schools because McGinley closed so many of them.

  • Thanks to the hard work of teachers in the district, often under trying circumstances such as the new-principal-each-year phenomenon, CCSD trudges forward on the uphill track. Meanwhile, waste at 75 Calhoun and suspected fraud in building contracts continue. McGinley has done nothing to merit the affection of the taxpayers or their elected representatives.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

CCSD's Mixed Signals to Ordinary Taxpayers

  • Just when the Charleston County School District had almost convinced John Q. Taxpayer that it really is short of cash to run the district, comes the latest spending atrocity: potential I-Pads for every student.

  • Yes, you can believe your eyes: for every student. Wow, we must be a really wealthy district!

  • The insane nightmare that funds school districts in South Carolina just gets worse and worse. Thanks to how capital funds are raised, not to mention the new one-percent sales tax, CCSD is rolling in extra capital funds. How to spend them! [hand-wringing] Oh, how to spend them!

  • Why, yes! I-Pads can be paid for with capital funds. How jolly.

  • Those who keep their finger on the district's pulse know the firewall that exists between capital and operating funds, but it's useless to repeat that only the ignorant will recoil at this unnecessary use of tax dollars. Common sense itself is moribund.

  • And why does the district have $2 million lying around to use anyway? Bill Lewis's personal slush fund?

  • Would anyone like to guess what percentage of I-Pads would be accounted for and still working at the end of one semester?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Problems? CCSD's Hire-and-Spend Mentality

  • Credit card use in the Charleston County School District makes a lot of sense, but responses to various problems in its implementation reveal the usual mindset of the district.

  • Missing documentation for purchases? Lack of review by supervisors? Hire a new program coordinator

  • Not sure if purchases are relevant to ongoing needs? Buy monitoring software

  • What's the cost of the software? It's a secret

  • The new hire will be paid for by "$48,000 credited to the district for the use of the cards"?Say what? The bank is paying the district $48,000 [per year?] to use its cards? Can the rest of us get in on that deal?

  • Michael Bobby doesn't want to embarrass any miscreant, so taxpayers are left to guess if anyone has been fired over misuse of credit cards? What do you think?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Nonsense from McGinley Shill Fraser

  • "Individual members [of the CCSD Board of Trustees] have zero authority over anyone, including the Superintendant [sic]." That includes your non-existent authority over other Board members, Chris.

  • " Staff in schools or at the district offices are placed in a very awkward position when a board member directs or asks them to do something without their bosses [sic] knowledge or direction. . . their boss is the Superintendant [sic]." Now, which is it: directs or asks? Do something such as answer a question? Chris, you mean that every employee in every school and at 75 Calhoun must ask permission of McGinley before answering a question? No wonder she has so many associates.

  • "If the majority of the Board does not support an individual Board members [sic] idea or request, no employee of the District is required to do anything about it." Chris, a big difference exists between an "idea" and a "request." As a commercial real estate agent, you should know it.

  • "9 [sic] people providing different directions to any employee creates chaos and destroys the chain of command, not to mention takes them [sic] away from their [sic] primary job." You, of course, can show that all nine Board members have done just that? or are you exaggerating for effect? Or is this simply the "slippery slope" fallacy?

  • "Any ideas, complaints, concerns, etc [sic] be directed to me and I will relay them to the Superintendant [sic] as called for in the contract." Ah, the gatekeeper! It seems that Board members have fewer rights that the general public.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

No-Confidence Vote for CCSD Chair Fraser

  • First, anyone who can't spell "superintendent" should not be chairman of a school board, much less one like Charleston County's that presides over what might gently be called a "mixed bag" of achievement! Chris Fraser, Chair of the CCSD Board of Trustees, was so eager to muzzle other board members that he forgot to spellcheck the letter he sent out on his Grubb & Ellis (!) stationery. He also revealed his inability to use apostrophes, but we quibble.

  • What's much more important is that Fraser sees his role as a bulwark against the legitimate questions posed by less obsequious members to the superintendent and members of her staff. His memos to the point begin to sound frantic. Perhaps both the superintendent and Fraser sense the ground shifting under them, and no amount of seismic evaluation will save them.

  • Fraser's actions and memos have revealed that he does not know parliamentary rules and considers himself a mouthpiece for Nancy McGinley. The Superintendent plays hardball. Members who disagree with this tactic should not allow this charade to continue.

  • It's time for a vote of no confidence, not a time to acquiesce silently to his browbeating.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Common Sense Solutions to Rivers Campus

  • The auditorium at the former Rivers High School building should be saved and revitalized for the benefit of both CCSD as a whole and the surrounding community.

  • As it grows, the Charter School for Math and Science, the district's most integrated school, should be allowed to fill in any available space in the Rivers building.

  • CCSD should set up its promised Lowcountry Tech at Burke High School, a place desired by both Burke parents and the majority of the District 20 community. When and if the Lowcountry Tech outgrows Burke's capacity, CCSD should build an addition to the Rivers building to receive the then-successful program.

  • There. Community members, not merely yours truly, thinking outside of the box. KISS method.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Scott's Folly Rejects Common Sense

What folly is subscribed to by Dot Scott, President of the Charleston NAACP? Simply this: the belief that any charter school in the Charleston County School District is in reality a plot to create an all-white public school. Conspiracy theorists take note: Scott may also believe that it's a plot by the Bilderbergers to create an all-white school in CCSD. The reality is that reality itself has impinged on Scott's monomania. When the Charter School for Math and Science was just a gleam in the eyes of its well-integrated organizers, she predicted that they planned to create an all-white school. Flash forward to today. What has happened is that CSMS is the most integrated school in the entire district. Take that, Scott! Ludicrously, Scott proposes that the district not enlarge the old Rivers building to meet the demands of this highly successful school at a time when that same district has access to hundreds of millions of dollars in funds provided by the recent one-percent sales tax increase. Or, she would prefer that its iconic auditorium be destroyed. In conjunction, Bill Lewis suggests that he has "left over" funds from other building projects that might be used. Huh? They talk about Lowcountry Tech, and I do mean "talk." Scott proposes to halt the growth of a successful, integrated school or destroy an historic auditorium useful to the community for a CCSD program that doesn't exist and that parents in District 20 (downtown) want placed at Burke High School when and if ever it gets off the drawing board! Get a grip, Dot. Full disclosure: Scott doesn't live on the peninsula, nor does she now have children in school on the peninsula, nor has she ever had children there. Maybe she forgot.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Orange Grove: What Freedom Can Do

One of the most racially diverse schools in the Charleston County School System can brag about an achievement gap between black and white students of only 2.4 percent in English and 1.2 percent in Math, as compared to the district-wide averages of 20.1 percent and 26.5 percent, respectively. Close to being statistically insignificant. And the CCSD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to renew the charter for Orange Grove Elementary. Could it have done as well if the school had not been a charter? Not likely! Kudos to Principal Larry DiCenzo and his staff. He pointed to instituting a phonics-based reading program that isn't on the state's approved list and the charter's freedom to purchase and use it. Double kudos.