Saturday, December 08, 2012

Rest in Peace, Maria

No one should die of lung cancer. The news of Maria Goodloe-Johnson's death at 55 must have shocked everyone except a few family and friends. An eight-year-old child is motherless, making her early death even more distressful.

However, while there is no need to speak ill of the dead, let us not sanitize the past as the P&C is wont to do. Remember, that was Winston's job in the dystopian novel 1984. We should always try to remember the past accurately to learn from it.

William Faulkner once wrote words to this effect: the past is not over; it is not even past.

Monday, December 03, 2012

CCSD: Smoke, Mirrors, and Spin

Lexiles are good enough to show whether students' reading skills are improving. The Charleston County School District wants to obfuscate the problems by using percentiles that only the cognoscenti can translate.

That is the heart of the argument between Jon Butzon of the Charleston Education Network (CEN) and CCSD's "director of assessment and evaluation."

Jon, you know that the director must justify her six-figure salary!

In 2010 after a series of exposes in the P&C (imagine that!) the School Board voted to make literacy a priority in the district. Maybe it had assumed literacy  already was a priority?

Since then, CCSD has attempted several approaches to the problem, each inching towards success, each unwilling to take the Draconian measures needed for success, namely separating illiterate students from their peers. Moves at the sixth-grade level have been the least effective (see previous statement for effective Draconian meaure).

Now the improved statistics reported by the district do not match those provided by the new (watered-down) PASS, which shows a higher percentage below grade level at every grade. Mmm.

Butzon is quoted as saying that he doesn't "know if they were intentionally deceitful or incompetent, but . . .the data they reported to the board is bad and useless.”  The answer to his question is "yes."
How about reporting how many students improved to reading on grade level and the cost per student. That'll be the day.

“I can’t make any sense of this,” Butzon said. “I can’t argue that progress is being made, but we just don’t know how much. This is smoke and mirrors and spinmanship. I have no idea whether we’re getting what we’re supposed to get out of it.”

Donnelly said the report is a reflection of the way in which [unspecified ] educators asked that students’ progress be reported. The report has three tiers, or ranges of students scoring in certain areas, and that’s used in educators’ decisions on who is served by the literacy academies. Students in different percentile ranges receive different help.

Why the resistance to reporting what even non-educators can understand?

What we all can understand is that students reading below grade level at the end of the third grade are virtually guaranteed to become dropouts if they make it to high school.

Friday, November 30, 2012

CCSD Manipulating Lines In Mt. Pleasant

Watch out, Mt. Pleasant parents. The Charleston County School District's administration at 75 Calhoun continues to fudge the numbers.

Word has it that the numbers provided by the more expensive Ohio firm for new attendance lines vastly differ from those provided by the Council of Governments (COG). Remember that the Board of Trustees voted to spend $20,000 to use the local COG report while district officials without Board approval signed a contract for $90,000 with Cropper (and for a $160,000 extension).

Can you smell "kickback"? These officials agreed without Board approval to a single bid contract that might as well have been a no bid contract. Your tax dollars at work.

More importantly, the two reports show different numbers, one of the reasons that the district postponed a decision on attendance lines.

But wait. There's more.

The COG report shows as many as 100 out-of-county (that's county, not district) students attending Wando, Sullivans Island, Academic Magnet, and School of the Arts.

No wonder the Superintendent wishes to use the out-of-state report.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

CCSD Caught Violating Open Meetings Law

And not by the P&C, which habitually ignores such FOIA trespasses, except when its own ox is gored.

The whistle-blower is the SC Press Association, which correctly points out that public was not notified of the tour of the Rivers building where a quorum of the Charleston County Board of Trustees showed up.

The wrong-headed decision of the Board will go forward now that the renovations have been finished.

Lowcountry Tech will share the Rivers campus with the Charter School for Math and Science (CSMS).

CSMS will remain in mobile classrooms ad infinitum.

The NAACP and Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, both intentionally de facto segregated , will continue to complain that CSMS is 50 percent white. They also assume, and are determined to enforce, that Lowcountry Tech be 100 percent black.

Burke Middle High School will continue to be half empty and 100 percent black.

One bad decision after another. Decisions have consequences. Charleston County students must live with them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Buist: Ready to Fill Vacancies or Not?

The Charleston County School District proudly announces that it will add 70 slots when the new Buist Academy building opens downtown next fall. Theoretically, enrollment will stand at 480, instead of the present 410.

Apparently no one seems to care that Buist already has many vacant slots in its supposed "410" number that remain unfilled despite its much-touted secret waiting list.

When it adds the 70 students, will it also fill its present vacancies? Will it continue to allow false addresses? Will these 70 students be spread over the four "lists" or  constitute a new list? Many questions remain unanswered.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hollywood Charter School on Its Way

One of Charleston County's newest public charter schools (state-chartered, of course, since CCSD refuses to cooperate with charters) has found a different way to get a suitable school building.
HOLLYWOOD — A rural charter school slated to open next fall has overcome perhaps the biggest hurdle it will face — finding a building.

Lowcountry Leadership Charter plans to open its doors to 400 students in the space occupied by St. Paul’s Academy this year. The private school that serves preschool through eighth-graders will shut down at the end of this school year, and the new charter school will renovate, demolish and rebuild pieces of the existing campus to fit its needs.

“If we don’t have a building for kids to go to, you can’t have the school,” said Dee Crawford, who chairs the charter school’s board. “This is a huge piece of the puzzle, and the community is excited.”

Multiple efforts to reach the principal and the board chair of St. Paul’s Academy were unsuccessful.

Lowcountry Leadership Charter officials had approached Charleston County school leaders about using the former R.D. Schroder Middle campus, but they said those talks weren’t moving fast enough for its August 2013 scheduled opening.

They looked at alternatives, and they learned about a Utah-based company, HighMark School Development, that builds exclusively for charter schools. South Carolina charter schools don’t receive funding dedicated for facilities, so HighMark signed a contract with St. Paul’s Academy to buy the building.

HighMark and another investor will provide the money needed to renovate and build the new school, and the charter school will pay interest and buy it from them over time, Crawford said. Once students are enrolled, the charter school will have enough money to do that, she said.

The construction should be finished by the school’s opening. School leaders still are deciding on the extent of the work that will be completed, and Crawford declined to give a cost estimate until those decisions had been made.

The school’s mission is to develop student leaders through a project-based learning approach, and that involves inquiry- based learning or students figuring out the solution to a problem or question.

The school is accepting applications until Dec. 15, and officials say they’ve gotten a good response thus far.

Chryse Jackson is one of the charter school’s board members, and she has two school-age children she plans to enroll for next fall. She said parents in rural communities deserve the same kinds of choices as those in more populated areas.

“It’s an opportunity for our kids to attend a neighborhood school in their home community,” she said. “We’re working to not only give our kids (that option), but to give that to the community for years and years to come.”

Any South Carolina student will be eligible to attend because the school’s charter comes from the statewide district.
The new charter clearly will be much larger than the present St. Paul's community of around 50 students.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

AMHS & SOA Admissions Processes Changing

We hope they know what they're doing in the Charleston County School District--eliminating an essay and teacher recommendation at the magnet School of the Arts and using a cut-off score of 85 percent on the ACT Explore for the Academic Magnet.

Are they really going to use 85 percent? That test is not as rigorous as the PSAT and, in my experience with it over the last five to 10 years, scoring in the 85th percentile is low for honors-level students.

It should be fun to watch what happens in the coming months.

Monday, November 19, 2012

CCSD "Comes a Cropper" on Redistricting Trends

What business would pay upwards of $250,000 for statistics needed for redistricting if it could get more accurate data for $20,000?

What business would contract with Cropper GIS Consulting in Columbus, Ohio, for information that it could get more cheaply from the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments?

Why, the Charleston County School District, of course.

And they say we don't need a performance audit.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Rivers Campus at the Crossroads

When will the Charleston County School District finally stop kowtowing to the Chamber of Commerce and self-appointed spokespersons for the black community about the Rivers campus?

Against all common sense, Superintendent McGinley and the "Citizens United for Public Schools" (a misnomer if there ever was one!) insist on creating a phantom "tech" school at the newly-renovated Rivers campus in order to forestall the growth of the highly-successful and totally diverse Charter School for Math and Science. Low Country Tech will not even be a school in its own right but a series of classes with students bused in from other schools in the district!

In CCSD, absurdity has no limits when it comes to the disdain of the superintendent and the NAACP for the wishes of the community. In order to force CSMS to continue using mobile classrooms on the Rivers campus, the superintendent will leave Burke Middle High nearly half empty and spend money busing Burke students to Rivers.

Will the insanity never end? The Burke community wants the program at Burke. Only the superintendent's stubbornness prevents an obvious (and cheaper) solution to the need for tech programs in the district. Dot Scott and her crowd have been proven wrong about the supposed conspiracy to create an all-white charter school in District 20.  How soon we forget (and that goes for the reporter too) that Rivers space was provided to CSMS practically over the dead bodies of the above.
Never was there consensus on sharing the building, no matter what the superintendent's sycophants pushed through in 2007.

It's time to face facts in CCSD. Low Country Tech does not exist. CSMS does and is thriving and outgrowing its facilities. Why can't the district allow success to succeed?

Monday, November 05, 2012

CCSD School Board Recommendations

Pay no attention to this posting if you are satisfied with the administration of the Charleston County School District and its schools.

On the other hand, the Board of Trustees needs a majority of members who are independent thinkers and actually come to the district with some knowledge of it.

West Ashley (2 seats): Bullet vote for Henry Copeland; he knows more about how the district runs than the superintendent and will be a voice for independent auditing.

Downtown (1 seat): Write in Todd Garrett. He's an ex-Marine (that counts for something with me) and has at least one child in the school system. He was also appointed by the legislative delegation to fill the vacant seat, if that means anything.

North Charleston (2 seats): Chris Collins, the only incumbent and one who looks out for the students independently. If you must vote for a second, make it Tom Ducker, who at least is a native of North Charleston and in favor of charter schools.

Ignore this nonsense about how "we all have to get along." That's code for "we all must follow whatever the superintendent wants."



 
Remember, if CCSD were a private company and the largest employer in the county, would you want its CEO selected and advised by a bunch of ignorant sycophants?

Thursday, November 01, 2012

McGinley's Recommendations for CCSD School Board

Straight from a Taj Mahal office worker:

**Miller, Barter, Ducker, Lecque, and Weinstein**


'Nuff said.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why Deerin's Gang of 4 Hates Charter Schools

The Gang of 4: Barter, Garrett, Lecque, and Ramich

The Super PAC controlled by Ginny Deerin and the Chamber of Commerce is plastering the names of the Gang of 4 all over Charleston County. These are supporters of Superintendent Nancy McGinley and her policies, handpicked for their ignorance of what really goes on in the district. Their qualifications? All will support the superintendent come hell or high water.

Anyone who believes in charter schools and in establishing new charter schools in the county should shun these candidates. Their goal is to tamp down wherever possible any spark to "go charter."

The reality is that the majority of Charleston County's voters want charter schools. Charter schools, unlike those run by the superintendent and school board, must meet certain standards or go out of business. Parents like competition. Superintendents do not.

We have nine charter schools in Charleston County in spite of virulent opposition from this superintendent and her predecessors. The superintendent and her lackeys would rather see students stuck in failing schools than fhriving in charters that she cannot control. Opponents even suggest that charter schools are not really public and cherry-pick students. Nothing could be farther than the truth.

The success of the Charleston School for Math and Science is a case at hand. Despite the handwringing of the NAACP and CCSD, the school has thrived with a diverse student body achieving high standards. In fact, that school is the only one on the peninsula without admissions testing that has a diverse student body.

CSMS is making CCSD look bad. Deerin's Gang of 4 will make sure that charters field no more competition to CCSD's iron control.

There's one more public forum at the College of Charleston Wednesday night: ask the candidates.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Special Interest PAC Denied by CCSD's Gang of 4

Fireworks burst near the end of the East Cooper School Board candidate forum Wednesday night, but lack of time prevented the spectators from full enjoyment.

Some politically incorrect audience member questioned the independence of the four candidates--Barter, Ramich, Lecque, and Garrett--from Ginny Deerin's slate. Denials sputtered as the moderator called for closing remarks.

Where does the money for the Deerin slate come from? Much of it from the Chamber of Commerce, which has controlled the board for the last few years. With the election of these four, it will maintain control into the future.

Whose board is this, anyway?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

J. Sanford's Plan for SIES

Jenny Sanford (and her fellow signers of her P&C letter) does make a few good points about the acrimony surrounding the building of the new Sullivan's Island Elementary.
  • "For elected leaders of a community roughly the size of a high school to be engaged in serious legal battles on two important issues surely something is amiss."
  • "The school [at Stith Park] would be west of Middle Street in the center of town, keeping related traffic in the business district and out of the more residential areas."
  • "Because of the better flood zoning for Stith Park, the school would not have to be as elevated, thereby saving significant taxpayer monies and alleviating residential concerns on scale and aesthetics." Not to mention what might not happen when the next major hurricane hits.
  • "We would ask our elected officials specifically and friends on all sides of this debate, including the Charleston County School Board, to please thoroughly consider this alternative with an open mind before moving forward."
Poor Jenny. There she goes, being naive again. The CCSD Board isn't going to consider anything that goes against the superintendent "with an open mind."

Lawsuits it is.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kusmider on Small Schools Points to Buist Academy

Funny how the Charleston County School Board of Trustees can't see its own irony and hypocrisy as shown in the following letter from Ted Kusmider, a District 20 parent, that appeared in last week's P&C:
      "Charleston County School District says they can’t rebuild an elementary school at Sullivan’s Island with a capacity of less than 500 students.
      "Funny. CCSD is rebuilding Buist Academy, serving kindergarten through eighth grade, in my backyard with a maximum capacity of 410 students.
      "To date, it is still not filled to capacity, despite hundreds on the waiting list. Yet there’s still no plan for expansion. When are the parents of Charleston County going to unite and say “enough of this nonsense”?
Maybe a few more lawsuits will focus its attention.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Closed-Minded Meyers Pontificates for CCSD's McGinley

We need a little communication once in a while to realize why it's such a relief that Gregg Meyers no longer sits on the Charleston County School Board. Recently, Meyers boasted in the P&C that Superintendent McGinley's long tenure has provided "continuity," a "new idea" in the district

Yes, continuity, but at what cost? McGinley's has been the least transparent and most ineffective tenure of all time. Her skill consists of puffing herself up at the expense of principals, teachers, and students. She even brags about how a lower percentage of schools are failing when she artificially created the drop by closing neighborhood schools. McGinley promised to track the affected students and show how the change benefitted them.

Seen any data yet?

McGinley has new ideas all the time--remember the A+ academy at Burke? These dazzle the public briefly, just like a firecracker, and then fizzle with little fanfare.
Keep in mind that Meyers opposes charter schools, despite his comments in the P&C that "charter schools have added helpful options for parents." He was behind the moratorium the district. In fact, years ago Meyers used his clout on the Board to create Buist and the Academic Magnet for his own children; who cares about everyone else's--let the rest of the chips fall where they may.
Meyers thinks candidates running for the school board should be asked if they support Dr. McGinley. Actually, I agree. Anyone new to the Board who mindlessly says "yes" is a potted plant and should be voted down.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Addressing Sexting & Cyberbullying In Schools

Anyone who teaches in a school knows that cyberbullying is the new rumor mill, especially in middle and high schools. Combined with pictures, it can crush those both in and out of the "popular" crowd. Just as with cheating, students refuse to tell those in authority or ask for help. This attitude needs to change. Such treatment on an ongoing basis can, and has, pushed the vulnerable over the edge to suicide.

Do preteens and teens know that such messages fall under "Internet Crimes Against Children"? Only if they hear it from school presentations or parents. Google and Facebook aren't going to tell them.

However, as an article in last week's P&C reported, all students know such agression goes on in our community, and most have been touched by it in one way or another.

The problem of "sexting" becomes even more serious. It is appalling to suggest, as one recent article in the P&C did, that "they're going to do it, so let's show them how to do it safely." What planet does the author live on? There is no "safely" with pictures that can live forever and attract the attention of adult predators.

Ask yourself why a preteen boy would text a girl to send nude pictures of herself and why she wouldn't tell her parents about the request. Every parent or guardian should be vigilant in monitoring media use by his or her child. It's not a joke any more.

And don't think it doesn't happen here every day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

CCSD Candidates in Person Wednesday Night

Here's your chance to ask the candidates some hard questions about the  Charleston County School District.
  • What about moving the site of the new Sullivan's Island Elementary School?
  • Is Nancy McGinley an effective superintendent for the community
  • Is Vision 2016 more than a public relations ploy?
  • Should financial deliberations of the school board be more transparent?
  • Why do CCSD schools continually change principals?
  • Oh, you can think of many more!

North Charleston City Hall

2500 City Hall Lane

7:00 p.m.

The event also will be streamed live at www.lwvcharleston.org , and rebroadcast on Comcast Channel 60.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Disgrace at Ashley Ridge Assembly

Given what happened at Ashley Ridge High School last week during a junior assembly, people must be wondering if the school has any effective discipline.

Imagine jeering and critiquing (loudly and inappropriately) a speaker whose goal is to save lives! Not only that, the speaker speaks from personal experience with drunk driving, experience substantiated by her severed left arm and many scars.

Sarah Panzau travels the country for Anheuser-Busch telling teenagers about her near-fatal decision 10 years ago to drink and drive.

About 20 percent of the class was so disruptive that after 45 minutes, she finally quit speaking when one obnoxious student "mocked her appearance." Some students laughed at the joke.

Dorchester District 2 schools spokeswoman Pat Raynor reported that "one male student" is facing disciplinary action.

So where were the proctors? teachers? vice-principals? Afraid to step in?

Ask yourself: what mentality mocks those who are maimed? Chilling, isn't it?

Monday, October 01, 2012

P & C Editorial: On the One Hand, On the Other Hand

If voters are looking to the editors of the P & C for guidance concerning the school board election in November, FORGETABOUTIT.

Monday's editorial lays out the territory without making the case. What other multi-million dollar institution in Charleston County allows voters to determine to whom its CEO answers? Despite appearances to the contrary, the voters elect the Board of Trustees hold the Superintendent responsible for district administration, not to rubber stamp the superintendent's recommendations without having all of the facts.

The editorial writer forgot to mention that the CCSD Board of Trustees regularly violates the Open Meetings Act by deciding behind closed doors what its members should discuss in open session. Imagine the frustration of the minority of Board members over that and the manipulation of the Board's agenda to suit the superintendent's purposes.

At present Superintendent McGinley answers to no one, a dangerous situation for the voters and taxpayers of the county. She would like to keep it that way, and thus the "Gang of Four" comes forward.

And we wonder why the district has so many failures. Really.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Feckless CCSD Board Chairman Has Tantrum

Frustrated because the superintendent never told him there would be days like that, Charleston County School Board Chairman Chris Fraser walked out on the board members' discussion at Monday night's meeting.

Fraser has struggled to cope with his ignorance of, and inability to apply, Robert's Rules of Order from the beginning of his term. He has no executive presence.

When, if ever, will Fraser comprehend that elected members will sometimes disagree with his (i.e., Superintendent McGinley's) agenda for the district? What does he think should happen to members who actually perform due diligence on matters facing the Board? Apparently, they should remain quiet in their ignorance as other members do, or even absent themselves altogether in the name of harmony, as member Ann Oplinger does frequently.

Furthermore, why is the Board meeting about contracts that should have been approved before the school year began? Only one more instance of mismanagement by the administration.

If you want to blame anyone, Chris, blame your boss.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why No College Summit in CCSD?

Cross High School. Berkeley County. Eighty percent free or reduced lunch. Students from the small communities of Cross, Ridgeville, Pineville, Pinopolis and Sandridge. Forty seniors this year.

Where am I going with this one? Not where you would expect.

Named one of America’s Best High Schools by U.S. News & World Report in 2010.

Maybe its participation in a program named College Summit contributed to that recognition. To quote the P & C,
  • At Cross, college planning starts in earnest during the spring of junior year, when students are encouraged to take the SAT or ACT. That way, they can meet early decision deadlines, which is Oct. 1 for many colleges.
  • Most of the 40 seniors at the school have submitted at least one [college application by now].
  • The seniors got a jump on the process thanks to a program called College Summit, a class they all take.
  • “We lay out for them how to get into college,” said Seay, who teaches the College Summit program and is chair of the social studies department. “We want them to have a post-secondary plan, but this community is not a wealthy community and we find that some of them will turn down college to go into the military or get a job.”
  • For that reason, all of the students also take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, the military’s admission test, and attend an annual career fair with local industry.
  • “One of the things I love most about College Summit is that they are very persistent in making sure the students get what they need,” Davis said. “Although not all of the students wind up going to college, it has created a college-going culture here.”
Well, amen to that. Why not Burke or North Charleston High Schools?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

CCSD by the Numbers: AMHS, NCHS, and Garrett

Just in case you were wondering what ever happened to all those vacancies at the Academic Magnet last year, they grew.

The latest statistics for the 2012-13 school year show that AMHS has 76 vacancies, up from the 70 that it had at the beginning of the prior year. Talk about a tin ear. No doubt the Charleston County School Superintendent will claim that no where in the county could students be found who wanted those seats and would be successful. Don't you believe it. That's a vacancy rate of 11 percent.

Think how valuable those empty seats are.

In addition, Garrett Tech's enrollment is also falling. For now only 676 students fill 896 potential seats; that's a 25 percent vacancy rate.

Not to be outdone, North Charleston High School, recently remodeled to hold 1000 students, now holds 467, a vacancy rate of 53 percent. In other words, the building is half empty.

While NCHS's poor reputation and availability of alternative schools can explain the vacancies there, what is to explain the drop in enrollment at Garrett, a school with a good reputation, and the vacancies at Academic Magnet, where we are told students are lining up to get in?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

NAEP Writing Results Undermine PASS Statistics

If, as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, writing test results just announced show that across the nation 73 percent of K-12 students do not have standard or advanced results, what does it say about the PASS, South Carolina's new assessment of its students' writing skills, that it finds 75 percent of CCSD's students meet or exceed its standards?

That's 73 percent failing to meet NEAP standards in the United States.

That's 25 percent failing to meet PASS standards in Charleston County.

Wow, CCSD must be doing something right? We should share our good news with the rest of the world. The P & C did just that by publishing PASS scores for the NAEP story.

How dumb does it think its readers are?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Deerin's Group Shills for CCSD's McGinley

You think that seats on the Board of Trustees are non-partisan? When did you fall off the turnip truck?

In a thinly-veiled attempt to stack the Charleston County School District's Board of Trustees with supporters of the status quo, especially CCSD's Superintendent McGinley, Ginny Deerin, long-time Democratic Party operative, has cobbled together Citizens Working Together for Great Schools, or CWTGS.

CWTGS' main plank is pro non-charter schools, or to put it another way: anti-charter schools. Anti parental choice.

Deerin recently attended the Democratic Convention in Charlotte as a delegate along with her close friend, Mayor Riley. Let's not kid ourselves. This slate is an overt try to elect Riley supporters, and thus McGinley supporters, to the School Board, no matter what Deerin claims.

Two of the slate, John Barter and Jim Ramich, will be delighted to vote, if elected, on the Kiawah TIF desired by Riley: both of them own homes, if not reside year-round, on Kiawah itself.  Chris Fraser, present Board Chair and another TIF supporter, already is congratulating them for running.

Mattese Lecque was defeated for the Board in the last election but hopes the "second time is a charm" by joining the Democrats' team, so difficult for her, since she is a former officer of the Charleston County Democratic Committee. Also, as a Charleston County employee she knows on which side her bread is buttered.

Todd Garrett, the fourth member of the team, already has the political edge given to him by the Charleston County legislative delegation: they appointed him to fill Toya Hampton-Green's empty chair for a month. No politics there. We wonder if Garrett knows he's being used.

Too bad the Post & Courier is on the mayor's payroll. The taxpayers at large will never know what's going on, if the local rag can prevent it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Kandrac: CCSD's Uppity Woman

If there is one thing that makes Brian Hicks see red , it's an uppity woman. In particular, an uppity woman on the CCSD Board of Trustees. Who could disagree?

After all, Elizabeth Kandrac had the insolence to sue the Charleston County School District over racist treatment she received as a teacher in the district! Other teachers would have faded away quietly because they didn't have the money to sue. Then Kandrac had the temerity to accept the monetary damages when she won the case (by trickery, no doubt). Why, she should have immediately turned the cash over to the superintendent "for the children."

How infuriating!

Then, Kandrac, assuming the role of uppity ex-teacher, ran for a North Charleston seat on the CCSD Board of Trustees. Talk about adding insult to injury! Ex-teachers should know their place, after all, and these Board seats are the honorary purview of the rich, not the hoi polloi! Teachers don't know any more about education than members of the Chamber of Commerce!

It only goes to show, as I'm sure Hicks would agree, just how ignorant and red-necked the residents of Charleston County are, given that Kandrac was actually elected to that seat. Why, she wasn't even endorsed by the Democratic Party!

Suitable to her low status, Kandrac should have followed the more experienced members of the Board and learned to "bootlick, be seen and not heard" or, even better, "bootlick, be not seen and not heard," since they know that the Board trustees are mere figureheads serving in an honorary capacity. Ask Ann Oplinger or Toya Hampton-Green.

This misunderstanding on Kandrac's part led to her ridiculous attempts to attend as many training sessions and meetings as possible to educate herself on how school boards (and districts) should run. Why does she think trustees should have opinions? Why doesn't she understand that what the administration of the district says doesn't need challenges?

Hicks must be greatly relieved that his headache named Kandrac isn't running again.

But wait. . .

Has he noticed Elizabeth Moffly (see, they even share the same name!), who's developing another case of not knowing her place in the hierarchy?

Stay tuned.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Burke Middle/ High: Becoming a Basket Case

On the seventh day of classes this year, enrollment at Burke Middle/High stood at 467.

Harvey Gantt, Burke High graduate and former mayor of Charlotte, originally designed the new campus for 1800. While changes in configuration have brought the capacity closer to 1300, even at that number enrollment is a joke. And the school sits prominently on the state's list of failing schools.

How did this once proud high school reach this nadir? It didn't happen overnight. Parents in District 20 deserve better. Will the Charleston County School District ever provide the leadership to climb out of this abyss? Why is the NAACP so quiet?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

McGinley Wants Closed CCSD Meeting on Kiawah TIF

What's going on behind the curtains? Maybe just a little man playing the mighty Oz?

In this case, its the chair of the Charleston County School Board of Trustees, who doesn't move a muscle without the superintendent's permission. Even though the County Council met in open session on the question of granting a Kiawah TIF, McGinley/Fraser has put it on the agenda for closed session.

What do they hope to hide from the public?

We hope enough Board members refuse to play into this scheme.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Only Two of Five CCSD Wannabes Real

The disgrace of District 20 representation in the Charleston County School District continues.

District 20 is located on the Charleston peninsula. Erstwhile resident and Board member Toya Hampton-Green, once the darling of the Riley administration, has moved to Columbia and vacated her post. Not a great loss, since Green didn't care to represent District 20 and had no mind of her own.

But worse, neither of two District 20 candidates' petitions qualified for the November ballot for the downtown seat. Now five residents wish to be appointed for Green's remaining, hardly two-month, term.

Both Todd Garrett and Tony Lewis at least had the energy to attempt to get on the ballot to be elected to Green's slot. Why should a bunch of politicians (and Niki Haley) appoint one of the three others (Jo Cannon, Bruce Smith, or Lewis Weinstein) who couldn't be bothered with petitions but now see an easy way to get a seat and then run a write-in campaign from a position of strength?

Let Green's seat remain vacant for the remaining meetings of the old Board. We'll hardly be able to tell the difference between her being absent while she's on the Board and being absent while she's off the Board.

Appointing anyone else besides Garrett or Lewis doesn't pass the smell test.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

CCSD's Sullivan's Question Not Going Quietly

How big should the new Sullivan's Island elementary school be?

The Charleston County School Board of Trustees (slavishly following the lead of Superintendent Nancy McGinley) has ordained that the school as it exists is too small to be viable; therefore, CCSD plans to bus in hundreds of students from the Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant to create the standard 500-student elementary school that it finds so desirable.

The Sullivan's Town Council was snookered into going along with this plan before really considering the wishes of residents of the island; hence, unrest among the natives, threats (and realities) of lawsuits, and bad tempers all around.

Never mind the undeniable fact that spending millions on a school on a barrier island subject to the vagaries of hurricanes remains a quixotic idea.  CCSD and the Sullivan's Town Council have a tiger by the tail.

It's hard to drum up sympathy for them in their war on neighborhood schools.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Unfairness:CCSD Principal Versus Teacher Bonuses

Three-year contracts for principals at North Charleston and Burke High Schools do make sense. However, who is really on the front line at these schools? Whose daily efforts will make or break these schools' performances in their attempts to become "average"?

The principals are receiving tens of thousands of dollars extra per year for leading these at-risk schools. Are such bonuses paid to the teachers who agree to teach there? If the schools meet the goals (set by administration) over the three-year contract period, why do the principals, not the teachers, get the bonuses? Why wouldn't sharing be fair?

This is educrat-think at its worst.

Friday, August 24, 2012

P & C Silly Headlines Collection

Perhaps the P & C has a new headline writer; perhaps this person has a sense of humor. In any event, over the last few days, several headlines have been unintentionally humorous.

Yesterday's example:

"Tropical storm bears watching"--a previously-unknown breed, we presume, but whom are they watching?



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stopped Clock Right Again: Wando High School

Brian Hicks is right about a second high school for Mt. Pleasant. How did we get to such a stage that even Hicks can see what needs to be done?

Poor planning, plain and simple. Within a year of its opening, Wando High School was adding trailers for additional classrooms. Imagine: millions of dollars spent on a high school that was immediately too small. You would think the lunatics have been running the asylum. Well, in a sense, they have.

Superintendent McGinley (and Goodloe-Johnson before her) persuaded her lackeys on the Charleston County School Board of Trustees that Mt. Pleasant should have only one high school. Never mind that the school would be twice (and now three and one-half times) the size of the optimal climate for students. Never mind that the monster school would create monster traffic jams. The fiat came down. In fact, McGinley is planning to add to the traffic with another 600-student installation at the same location.

The result is the largest high school in the state (not something to brag about, by the way) that has twenty-five trailers, practically another school in itself, coping with the overflow. Of course, no one could have predicted the growth of Mt. Pleasant, or, to put it another way, no one could have predicted that the sun rose today.

Swails says, "You build the schools where the kids are."

Actually, McGinley has never considered that. She builds hubs so that thousands of students can be bused out of their neighborhoods to larger schools. Old Wando High School has been there all along, used by CCSD as "swing" space. Heaven forbid they should use it as a high school. Why, it might divide the town!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hampton-Green's "Service" Easily Forgone

In the beginning, Mayor Riley recruited Toya Hampton-Green, a District 20 resident, to run for a downtown seat on the Charleston County School Board of Trustees. She appeared such a promising candidate--a young mother with an interest in her local community and a law degree. However, as Green leaves the Board six years later, only the most ardent supporters of Superintendent McGinley mourn her going.

The most that Green ever accomplished on the CCSD Board was to get her children into Buist, a perk for Board members that mysteriously appears by lottery . Green made it crystal clear to her constituents downtown that she didn't represent them! District 20 was left without its voice on the Board. Seemingly, Green represented Green.

That the S.C. School Boards Association should hire Green as "director of policy and legal services" says more about the deficiencies of that organization than it does about Green's qualifications.

The P & C noted that she "often ended up in the same corner as [McGinley]."  That statement is false. Green never voted against any proposal from administration. Her mantra appeared to be "how high should I jump?"

Such slavish bootlicking will not be missed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Unexpected Comments from P & C Editorial

Imagine my surprise to see the following comments in a Sunday editorial, after all the praise Superintendent McGinley has received in its news columns:
  • What is surprising — even galling — is that the number of low-performing schools here is growing instead of shrinking.
  • And what is equally distressing is that the number of Charleston County high school freshmen who read at a fourth grade level or below has grown since last year.
  • What is most baffling is that students whose reading skills are so poor are able to master subject matter enough to be promoted to the next grade. How do they learn history without reading well? How do they write papers? How do they work word problems in math?
  • The fact that they pass eighth grade raises a question about whether general academic requirements are rigorous enough.
  • Doesn’t the district have a policy against social promotion?
  • . . . there are dynamic alternatives the Charleston County School District hasn’t tried. And when the status quo continues to add schools to the Palmetto Priority Schools list, and when reading progress slips, it is time for more dramatic changes than we’ve seen proposed.
  • There is likely no silver bullet to fix high schools whose students failed to receive adequate elementary school educations. And certainly schools serving children who live in poverty have a more difficult job than those whose children don’t face challenges that come with being poor.
  • But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to shrink the number of low-performing schools. It just means deciding that failure is not an option, and taking the necessary steps to deliver all students an adequate education.
Is this school board up to that challenge? this superintendent?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

School Bureaucrats Compile Meaningless Statistics, Again

The State of South Carolina is touting that its Class of  2012 broke the record in "scholarship" money awarded by a total rising above $ 1 billion.

If you want to know why the statistic is meaningless, read the article carefully or go back to some of my previous postings. This craziness goes on every fall.

How much time and effort that could be directed productively is wasted on such drivel?

Friday, August 17, 2012

CCSD Pulls Plug on Registration Debacle in North Charleston

It was supposed to streamline data for the Charleston County School District, data on students attending its schools in North Charleston.

Someone in administration (Mike Bobby, Director of Finance, Nancy McGinley, Superintendent?) forgot to ask the principals involved if their plan was a good idea. Early days at the two centralized registration centers (at North Charleston HS and Northwoods Middle) were chaotic. Principals at the various schools were worried that untrained personnel at their schools would create more chaos.

Fortunately, level heads finally prevailed, and registration of students has returned to the individual schools, although Bobby puts the best face on the mistake by saying, "“Many of the outcomes we were seeking we achieved. We’d want to come back and see how to make better use of idea next year.”

"We'd want to" but we're not going to? That's what Bobby implies.

One principal pointed out that
"The only drawback he saw was families not being able to see the physical school facility, which is new and a point of pride, he said. Once school started, it also would’ve been difficult not to have a data clerk on site, and parents would’ve had to make an extra trip to the registration site then to the school, he said.

Uh, someone should have thought about that before now.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Murky Hiring at Northwoods Middle Not Encouraging

Perhaps Dan Conner really will be an effective principal for Northwoods Middle; however. Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley has some 'splaining to do.
  • If Conner was such an effective principal at Stall High School for four years, why did he leave, and why did Stall just make the list of lowest performing schools in the state?
  • Why did Conner feel the pull to become a principal in Iowa? Why was his tenure there so stormy?
  • Are jobs as principal in middle and high schools really so interchangeable?
  • Why was Conner  named interim at Garrett when he came back from Iowa (presumably with his tail between  his legs), and why is Garrett's popular band director now out of a job?
  • Why wasn't Northwoods Middle allowed some consistency by keeping on its interim instead of naming Conner in August, just at the beginning of the school year?
Does this situation sound like mismanagement to you?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Principal Tic-Tac-Toe in CCSD

Why has Dan Conner been principal of three schools since 2009, the latest being his appointment to Northwoods Middle?

Monday, August 13, 2012

CCSD Setting Reading Goals Too Low

While the Charleston County School District laments that the percentage of entering high school freshmen who read below the fourth-grade level has crept upwards this year, the rest of us wonder what percentage can actually read their high school textbooks.

High school materials are available to assist students reading at the sixth-grade level, at least for some courses, such as biology.  Therefore, what statistic would really reveal what percentage of entering freshmen potentially will drop out because they can't read their textbooks?

Sensibly, CCSD should publish the statistics for ninth-grade students reading below the sixth-grade level.  A student reading at the fourth-grade level in the ninth grade faces a virtually impossible task in deciphering his or her textbook. Further,  the subject teacher faces a virtually impossible task teaching specific subject matter and must teach reading instead.

What about comparing the reading scores of tenth-graders with their reading scores entering the school?  How about the reading scores of seniors? Are any of them still reading at the fourth-grade level, or have all reading-deficient students dropped out prior to senior year?

"Chipping away" is not solving the problem; it requires major intervention in those high schools where non-readers (and that's really what we're talking about) constitute more than a quarter of the entering class.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Why Hunley Park Elementary?

Someone please explain to me why an elementary school on an Air Force Base would have a majority of free and reduced lunch students. Is CCSD not counting free housing and medical care for the military?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Thinking Outside the Box on Stall and Greg Mathis

Sadly, both Stall High School and Greg Mathis Charter are on the list of Palmetto Priority Schools, those South Carolina schools that are failing so badly that the state has taken a special interest in them. The Charleston County School District now has nine out of the 35 schools on the list. Is that the most of any school district in the state? Probably.

The administration and boards of trustees of CCSD have brought us to this sorry place over many decades of problems. No one has any reason to believe that somehow Charleston County lacks the resources that other districts have to be successful. Perhaps we go to the top of the list in our excellent facilities, but we go to the bottom in academics.

The upcoming school board election is another chance to fix the problem by electing trustees that actually know how the district works and can hold administration accountable.

Principals at Stall and Greg Mathis have their hands full, but tweaking the lessons taught by teachers, as one suggests, is not the answer. Greg Mathis is a charter school; therefore, why should its charter be renewed if it is failing? Stall has a beautiful new state-of-the-art building. Now, if Superintendent McGinley allows its administrators and teachers to use experience and common sense to address its problems, perhaps they will arrive at solutions that state "experts" couldn't possibly imagine. One might be to throw out edublob thinking.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

CCSD Tourism Runs Amuck in North Charleston

“Go tell that man we ain’t a bunch of trees.”
“Ma’am?”
“I said to tell that man to get away from here with that camera.”
Anyone who has read Toni Cade Bambara's "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird" might chuckle over the Charleston County School District's attempt to show new teachers North Charleston "communities where their students live." In fact, administrators at the Taj Mahal might benefit by reading the story themselves.    

However, the tour is not funny. How would you like it if a bus rolled through your neighborhood in order to show how "the other half" lives?  Condescending, to say the least.    

How I wish Mr. Cain had showed up to request that these intruders leave.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Miracle on Calhoun Street

While I was vacationing, a miracle occurred on Calhoun Street:

According to the new system of measurement enacted this year, Charleston County's failing school system received a "B" . In fact, the mediocre unsung schools of the whole State of South Carolina received an "A-" !

Surely these grades will dazzle any newcomers to the state and CCSD into believing how excellent our schools are.

On the other hand, despite educrats' best efforts, the Charleston County School District still falls below the average for the state. What could that mean?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Fire Academic Magnet Principal!

After all the accusations, recriminations, lawsuits, and rumors circulating about out-of-county cheaters at Academic Magnet High School, Principal Judith Peterson "forgot" about the August 1 deadline for new students to provide proof of residency.  That means over 40 percent of its incoming freshman class have yet to show their papers.

Compare that to the statistics for the School of the Arts, only a stone's throw away: three of 225 students, or about one percent, have yet to comply.

Outraged yet?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Short Notice to CCSD Board

What personnel matter could be so pressing that Superintendent McGinley gives the Charleston County School Board of Trustees only a 24-hour notice of a special telephonic meeting?

Mmmm.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

CCSD Wants to Drive Private Pre-Schools Out of Business

Melanie Balog, columnist for the P&C, wants all preschoolers in the Charleston County School District to attend public preschool.

That idea became evident in her column praising the Meeting Street Academy for its achievements. As Balog says, "Maybe it’s time to look at universal preschool, or at least better state support for early learning."

Now, in times of great budget distress, she believes is the time. She points out that having a mere 1900 in preschool in CCSD at present needs to change:
"Charleston County public schools have about 3,000 kindergartners, but only about 1,900 preschool students, according to Dr. Lerah Lee, the executive director of the Early Learning Community for Charleston County School District. One of the district’s Vision 2016 goals is to make sure they serve all eligible preschoolers, Lee said."
Is Vision 2016 planning to drive all private preschools out of business? I don't remember McGinley's promising that.

Friday, July 27, 2012

F for SC Transparency? How About CCSD?

Rating agency gives South Carolina an "F" in transparency in government, indicating how difficult it is for the ordinary citizen to obtain information from government agencies.

Can you imagine what the rating would be for the Charleston County School District? It would take a new grading scale, A to Z perhaps, with CCSD's rating a "Y." Why?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

P & C Editorial Skirts "Poor" Issue at Meeting Street Academy

Mysteriously to some, State Superintendent Mick Zais unintentionally insulted parents at Meeting Street Academy by suggesting that the school shows that the children of the poor can succeed academically in the right school climate. Apparently, the parents are not poor.

In Wednesday's editorial, the writer suggests, "MSA parents can’t afford private school tuition, but that doesn’t mean they’re poor. They are, rather, very proud of their children’s achievements."

Classic non sequitur.

Remaining  unclear is that Meeting Street Academy has any means or residency tests. If not, why does this private school have a special deal from the city, renting the land for $10 per year?

Curiouser and curiouser.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Joe Riley's Giving Up on CCSD

An appropriate reminder from February 2009. Questions remain unanswered.

According to Tuesday's P & C (which provides precious little information on the principals in the deal), Charleston Mayor Joe Riley plans to go into the school business. [See Deal for School to Benefit City.]

How else to explain the City of Charleston's spending almost $5 million to put a private school on the upper peninsula? The "deal" for local taxpayers goes something like this: we pay almost $5 million for a property now owned by SCE&G; then we rent the land to a private school for $10 per year for 50 years.
"Riley said the ultimate cash cost could be much lower because the city hopes to arrange land deals with the utility and to find sites in Charleston for needed sub-stations."
"Could be"? "Hopes to"?

Why, this efficient use of taxpayer dollars is breathtaking in its simplicity! Maybe Riley can find more million-dollar properties to purchase with our money and rent out to other private schools under similar contracts! By 2060 the taxpayers will have reaped the rewards. Yes?

Wouldn't you love to see the business model for Meeting Street Academy? It must be a real winner. After all, so far the school's been in session with "about forty preschoolers" for a total of six months. Further, do we dare ask where the $9 million estimated to build the school will come from? One hopes that also won't involve "a unanimous recommendation by [City] council's Real Estate Committee."

You know, it's strange, but I could have sworn that the City of Charleston already had a school system. Perhaps Mayor Riley plans a District 20 overlay?

The kicker? "Sherman Financial Group, the school's backer, is a company that buys distressed debt." That's right--debt collectors, big time and not always on the up and up. On second thought, I guess we know where the $9 million will originate.

Try Googling.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Raising Teach for America Questions

Is Charleston County School District's Sanders-Clyde Elementary unable to fill its vacancies with graduates having teaching credentials? If so, filling vacancies with Teach-for-America (TFA) graduates is appropriate. If not, their two-year employment at Sanders-Clyde and other "failing" CCSD schools raises troubling questions.

Why not fill vacancies with graduates of colleges and universities who do have teaching credentials? Given the economic climate and constraints on hiring new teachers, many new teaching graduates must be scrambling for any other kind of job they can get. On the other hand, TFA graduates presumably either do not intend to remain in the teaching profession or did not plan ahead.

Today's P&C highlighted the enthusiasm of a recent Charleston Southern University student who will work for TFA. CCSD will pay her salary and benefits and another $4000 per year to Teach for America. Why wouldn't CCSD simply hire a Charleston Southern graduate who has a teaching credential instead?

Makes no sense to me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Foot-dragging on Audits in CCSD

No doubt the average taxpayer in the county will be surprised to learn that the Charleston County School District has never had a comprehensive audit. The state requires audits of the procurment departments only. That may have worked in the days when procurment was where the money was, but today's multi-million dollar capital programs and general operations deserve to see the light of day.

For two years members of the Board of Trustees have pushed for a performance audit strongly opposed by the administration and the Board Chairman, Chris Fraser. The struggle continues this summer as four trustees attempt to get the item on the meeting agenda.  Fraser has reneged more than once on his promise to put it on the "next" agenda.

Also, no system exists to review responses to even the minor audit taking place now. For example, the auditors selected and tested 40 credit card purchases to determine if they were being managed in compliance with the District's own stated policy; nearly half were not in compliance. Over 23,000 transactions were made. Has the District corrected this sinkhole or not? Who knows?

Fraser and Superintendent McGinley will continue to delay, linger, and wait because they know they have a five-member majority to push through any idiocy they wish and defeat any attempt at more transparency. After, it's OPM.

Ask your school board candidates where they stand on this issue.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Behind CCSD's IPAD Revolution

One small "post office" store in West Ashley has packaged and shipped over 100 damaged IPADs to the manufacturer for repairs or replacement. The cost is about $5 per pad. The customer is CCSD.

Don't you wonder where these costs are hidden in the budget?



Monday, July 09, 2012

Burke's and NCHS's Failures McGinley's Fault

Regardless of her credentials from the Broad Institute (or maybe because of them), Superintendent Nancy McGinley of the Charleston County School District simply does not know what to do with Burke and North Charleston High Schools. If it weren't for NCLB, she wouldn't even care. As it is, that embarrassing time has rolled around once again: the threat of a state takeover.

Incompetence can be defined as tinkering with the edges of a poorly-understood problem and calling that success. Thus, in her latest statements McGinley points out how she has cut the number of failing schools in the district. True, by closing them. What does that prove?

Back in mid-June, McGinley gushed in an op-ed about how these two schools were really "dream-making 'opportunity centers."" She complains of the short-sightedness of those who think schools with unconscionably high dropout rates should be labeled as "at risk" or "failing." After all, she points out, some students do achieve and graduate!

Later in the month, NAACP vice-president Joe Darby echoed this drivel in a similar op-ed. He and the NAACP should be ashamed of themselves.

McGinley has had plenty of time to turn around these high schools; obviously she doesn't know how. If it weren't for CCSD Board members who follow her in lockstep, the Board would have voted her out of her position long ago. 

The person most responsible for the poor performances of both schools is the Superintendent. Prior to reaching that position, she was chief academic officer. Once named superintendent, she has appointed the district supervisors and the principals. They are her responsibility and she has blown it.

Whether the state takes over the schools, a private organization such as KIPP is called in, or these schools go charter, McGinley has shown she should not be trusted with the education of the students in and headed for these schools.

But of course Wando, Buist, and the Academic Magnet continue to do well. Apparently that is all McGinley supporters care about.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

CCSD? You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

One hot topic across the nation is the idea of performance pay for teachers. Does anyone dispute that a great teacher can make more of a difference in a child's learning than an IPAD or a brand-spanking-new classroom? Of course, the devil is in the details: how does a school district or principal measure teacher performance fairly when so many variables affect student achievement? Educrats from Arne Duncan to Mick Zais are struggling with implementing such programs.

But wait! Superintendent Nancy McGinley of the Charleston County School District has a totally new answer for them: instead of performance pay for teachers, CCSD proposes performance pay for administrators!

Brilliant thinking outside the box, Superintendent! Why hasn't anyone else thought of this approach; after all, it seems so obvious. She even managed to persuade the majority of CCSD Board members to vote for this plan. Unfortunately, only 43 directors can be "incentivized" in this fashion, but it's a start.

Let the peons (excuse me, teachers) do all the work improving student achievement; then let their masters (oops, inhabitants of the Taj Mahal) reap the results! What could be fairer? Why didn't Arne Duncan think of this? Maybe McGinley should be Secretary of Education instead.

As I said, you can't make this stuff up.

Monday, July 02, 2012

IPADS, not Teachers? Blame the State Legislature

When will reform come to the funding of school districts in South Carolina? Apparently when hell freezes over.

Thanks to almost unlimited ability to spend money on capital improvements (that would include IPADS for every student in his or her Taj Mahal of a school building), the Charleston County School District must search for ways to spend capital funds.

Someone who doesn't understand how salaries are funded will ask why CCSD doesn't create smaller classes instead or pay teachers higher salaries.

Isn't it time for a change? Where is Mick Zais on this issue?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wanted: Copy Editor for P & C

Newspapers are dying. The internet is taking over, and on-line news is the future; for some, even the present.

Teaching students how to distinguish an authoritative website from one that is uninformed includes checking to see if spelling, grammar, and usage are correct. Another way to distinguish a bad source is its inclusion of misinformation. In the last few days, the P & C has failed on both counts. Blogs don't have copy editors; newspapers must.

For example, it was discouraging to read in Tyler Simpson's article, "Juneteenth feted in N. Charleston: Brief history": "On Sept. 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all the slaves in the country." Really? Even Wikipedia, hardly an unchallenged source, states the slaves were freed "in the ten states in rebellion."

Recovered from this disappointing ignorance of history and  reading Charleston Scene in Monday's paper, I discovered ignorance of grammar as well.
  • On the German biergarten: "There also was beer school classes, cornhole, a photo booth and more." "There" is never a subject; clearly the subject is plural and the verb must be plural in agreement.
  • On the Carolina Billfish Classic: "And with the fishing comes parties." "Fishing" is the object of the preposition, not the subject, which is "parties."  Thus we have another example of incorrect subject-verb agreement.
I'm sure there are readers of this blog that will think that such mistakes don't matter, After all, they would say, we know what they meant.

My students ask, "Does spelling count?" Only if you want to be taken seriously.

Copy Editor needed ASAP.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

CCSD Run on Soviet Model

Authority rules with an iron hand. Elected oversight committee members bend to will of unelected leader. Those who report problems or abuse of any type face inevitable retaliation. The reputations of those who ask unapproved questions are smeared. The organization approves one ephemeral five-year plan after another with little accountability for progress.

We thought we'd left such institutions behind after the Wall came down in 1989, but expensive billboards advertising "Vision 2016," devoid of further content that might legitimize their use, remind us that the discredited Soviet model is alive and well in the Charleston County School District.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Buist Waiting List Housecleaning Overdue

Buist Principal Sally Ballard has retired. Now the housecleaning begins, especially in regard to its much bally-hooed waiting lists. CCSD Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Fraser has put forth the idea that perhaps methods of maintaining waiting lists for the districts' county-wide magnets should be standardized. Buist's bloated list stands out like a sore thumb.

Funny, isn't it? While Ballard remained principal no questions were raised, at least by McGinley supporters. Fraser does what McGinley asks him to do; therefore, Superintendent McGinley now wants to straighten out what has been a disgrace ever since Ballard took over the magnet school.

Makes you wonder what favors Ballard had granted McGinley.

At any rate, Buist's 2000+ waiting list is a mirage. Ballard's idea of how to fill vacancies is a joke: the old "delay, linger, and wait" routine. If waiting lists were not purged and parents did not need to apply again after kindergarten, don't you wonder what Ballard did with students who moved into the district afterwards? Added them to the end of the list? Not likely. The whole process was inept, tainted with cronyism, and corrupt.

Let's hope that while changing its method of keeping waiting lists Buist also sheds some light into the dark corners of how it fills spaces and why some spaces remain vacant.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Unintended Consequences at North Charleston High

Brian Hicks's column Friday outlines the basic problems at CCSD's North Charleston High School. Never mind that merely 88 of a potential 251 graduates made it to a diploma: the school's problems have been exacerbated by district leadership over the last decade.

First of all, any parent of a student reading at or above grade level has wisely chosen to enroll that student (if at all possible) at one of the many magnet schools that are in--wait for it--North Charleston. Total enrollment at NCHS has dropped by half in the last few years.

Second, in her wisdom, the superintendent has been unable to keep her hands off the principals she has appointed. Grimm is new to the job this year--why? Because McGinley took a principal who had good rapport with the NCHS community and appointed her to oversee Head Start. Go figure.

Third, the district claims that the percentage of non-readers (i.e., reading below the fourth grade level) has dropped from 20 to 12 percent. Wouldn't you like to see the actual numbers of students involved? Not many. We should be asking what percentage read below the sixth grade level (the lowest level for which high school materials are published).

If it weren't for NCLB, district administration wouldn't even bat an eyelash at the dropout rate at NCHS. The statistics keep the superintendent honest. We wouldn't be hearing about the school from Hicks except that under NCLB rules, after all else has failed, the school faces a potential state takeover.

Here's the reality. Following the same model of schooling used for other high schools does not work in a dire situation. It's time for the superintendent and the state superintendent to "think outside of the box." Keep a section of students reading more or less on grade level, say sixth and above, to follow the traditional curriculum. Make sections of the rest based on reading ability and teach them to read. They may take five years to graduate or more. Maybe once they can read, they can catch up with on-line courses in the summer. Maybe someone else has a better solution. I would suggest to start by asking the teachers at NCHS what would work.

Chances are that they know and would love to do what ever it takes.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dump Feckless Fraser First, CCSD

Seriously. Seriously? Charleston County School District Board of Trustees member Cindy Bohn Coats wants to hire a parliamentarian to referee future Board meetings?

Coats should focus on the core problem: Chris Fraser's ineptness in chairing a meeting.

Dump Feckless Fraser first. Maybe he can gracefully resign so that someone effective takes over.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

CCSD Friday Night Document Dump Fizzles

Whenever a business, organization, or individual doesn't want much attention paid to important information that must be disclosed, it uses the Friday Night Document Dump. Even better is the Friday Night Document Dump before a major holiday weekend.

So it happens that members of the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees received important documents relating to the pending budget last Friday night. Anyone might wonder what is in those documents that Superintendent McGinley and Chief Financial Officer Bobby would prefer not to discuss.

Strangely enough, the ploy failed. The Board instead took the budget as an information item, refusing to hurry through a vote of approval without reading everything that was in it. Unlike the U.S. Congress.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

D. Scott Admits Error on CCSD's Charter High School

Congratulations to the first graduating class of the Charter School for Math and Science!

Despite the loud objections of Dot Scott and the Charleston Area NAACP, the school has thrived and continued its racially balanced student body. Scott was convinced the school was a plot to have an all-white high school on the peninsula. The proof is in the pudding.

According to the P&C (no friend of charter schools)
The Charleston Charter School for Math and Science opened as one of the most racially balanced schools in the county, with 47 percent of its students being black and 46 percent white. It’s still among the most diverse today. Its percentage of black students has stayed the same, while its percentage of white students has grown to 52. The district average is 45 percent black and 44 percent white.
What's wrong with those statistics, of course, is that while the district average looks balanced, as we all know, the only high school that is racially balanced is this charter.

At least Scott has the grace to admit she's been proved wrong.




Saturday, May 19, 2012

Charter, Magnet--What's the Difference?

I kid you not.

Wednesday's print edition of the P&C contained an editorial congratulating the Charleston County School Board for voting to continue free transportation for charter school students in the district. There's one glaring problem.

The CCSD Board didn't vote on a proposal to continue free transportion to charter schools. In fact, CCSD does not now, nor has it ever, provided free transportation to charter schools.

You can't make this stuff up.

Here the P&C prides itself on covering the news in local  and surrounding school districts, yet the editorial writer doesn't know the difference between a magnet and a charter school! This slip, corrected hastily Wednesday morning in the on-line version, reveals an abysmal ignorance on important issues. We have claimed for years that the reporters merely parrot what the district (i.e., superintendent) hands them.

Now we have proof.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Charter: It's the Law

From the P&C:

Gov. Nikki Haley signed a charter school bill Monday that advocates say will strengthen the state’s 47 public charter schools.
 The bill enables higher education institutions to authorize charter schools, permits single-gender charter schools to operate and allows charter school students to participate in extracurricular activities at their neighborhood schools.

ll focuses on expanding high impact public school options for students across South Carolina,” said Mary Carmichael, executive director of the Public Charter School Alliance of South Carolina, in a statement.

South Carolina has outpaced national growth in the number of charter school students served during the past 5 years. Nearly 18,000 students statewide attend charter schools.
Eight new schools will open this year, 13 have been submitted for 2013-14, and more than 30 planning groups are working on applications.
Charter schools are public schools, but they aren’t governed by the county school board. They instead have separate boards to make decisions about the way they spend money and the curriculum they offer.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Charter Schools Get Some Respect


Don't you wonder why the new law assisting the formation of more public charter schools has a provision that "prohibits reprisals against district employees who are involved in an application to establish a public charter school"? Our state legislators must have met Superintendent Nancy McGinley!


Charter schools now may be single sex. Institutions of higher learning (such as the College of Charleston and the Citadel) may decide to organize their own charter schools. Charter school students who wish to play a sport not offered at their charter school can participate at the school in their residential district. Virtually everything needed has been added, except additional funding.

All of these schools take away power from local elected school boards and the edublob and give it to independent charter boards and parents. Given the bootlicking behavior of CCSD's board majority, is it any wonder that charter schools are so popular?

Between those and on-line education, expect to see multi-million-dollar white elephant school buildings in CCSD in about two decades.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Case of the Disappearing Students in CCSD

First the district disappears; now the students. Makes you wonder what  really happens in the Charleston County School District. Too bad it's not a disappearing superintendent.

In October (according to CCSD's own count) 31 out-of-county students attended the Academic Magnet and School of the Arts. As part of its consideration for charging tuition to out-of-county students in the future, the School Board learned from Superintendent McGinley this month that only 4 students at the schools live out of county. Twenty-seven missing.

Huh? When asked about the discrepancy, the superintendent had no explanation.

Remember all that construction noise at Buist at night? I have a new theory: that's where the bodies are buried.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

CCSD Eats Its Young, Part 2

The disappearing school district? Not posting land for sale on the website? Allowing one interested party to offer without advertising the sale?

No, I'm not referring to the Memminger "shadow" property. Presumably this one has its boundaries clear.

The old Charlestowne Academy/Bethune building on Rivers Avenue has an interested buyer. More capital assets being sold to finance operating costs.

And, here you thought I was going to say "Fraser." No doubt it's next.

Superintendent McGinley knows she has a majority of lackeys to agree that up is down, if necessary.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Case of the Disappearing School District

 Selling capital assets to meet operating expenses is a great idea, at least according to Cindy Coats, vice-chair of the CCSD Board of Trustees. But she probably doesn't even understand what's going on.

That's the gist of her reaction to selling part of the Memminger school property to the College of Charleston in a no-bid sale. Evidently the reporter either doesn't understand the finances or thinks it a great idea also.

Such is the case in Saturday's article on the sale. CCSD provides no reason for the sale except the cash received. The school board that approved the negotiations doesn't even know how large a parcel of the original property is under consideration. Nor does it have an appraisal (well, I guess those two go together).

The reporter doesn't question the lack of space around Memminger or the necessity of splitting the property because CCSD's administration doesn't want her to. Is she even aware that the deed of the property to the district stipulates that the land be used for public education?

With great ideas such as this, the district could gradually devour itself and disappear like the Cheshire Cat.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tea Partier Replacement a Rubber Stamp for McGinley

After months of dilly-dallying over the selection of a replacement for elected CCSD Board of Trustees member Mary Ann Taylor, who resigned in disgust last November, our Charleston County legislative delegation labored mightily and brought forth a mouse. A mouse that claimed "tea party" credentials, you know, as a mover and shaker. Our delegation looked for someone compatible with Taylor's views. Right. Chip Campsen and friends should be ashamed.

Brian Thomas, with his meek vote to support the unpublicized sale of part of the Memminger property (exactly which part only Michael Bobby and McGinley know), has shown his true colors--as a wimp.

Mary Ann Taylor should be even more disgusted. So should all taxpayers and residents of Charleston County. The Superintendent now has a safe majority of 5 to 3 made up of trusting lackeys to do as she pleases.

Thomas plans to run for election next time around. You know what to do.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Vote in Haste; Repent in Leisure in CCSD

A sloppy presentation from Michael Bobby, CCSD's chief financial officer, will push through a faulty use of part of the Memminger School property at Monday's Board of Trustees meeting. Somehow the College of Charleston was given an exclusive right to bid for the property in a secret process.

Outrageous, really:
  • failing to make the sale public by offering it on the district's website;
  • failing to have a current appraisal; and
  • not clearly defining what is being sold.
The current redevelopment plan for the new Memminger Elementary reduces the outdoor play area to about 40 percent of its original size. Who decided that? The area never was extensive; as a former student at Memminger, I know!

Surely the Harleston neighborhood and the adjoining school would benefit more from an open space or a park rather than another student dorm!

Five Board members are guaranteed to rubber stamp this outrage. Remember them next election.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Idiocy of Selling Memminger School Property

 Say it ain't so, Joe! Or should we say, Michael  (Bobby, that is)?
While Charleston County School District Superintendent Nancy McGinley promises great future enhancements ("global studies") to the District 20 Memminger Elementary campus now being adjusted to earthquake standards, the district's chief financial officer, Michael Bobby, is preparing the School Board to sell off part of the property.

Do these people talk to each other? Or is something more underhanded going on. You know developers would love to get their hands on this property situated in a prime real estate area not far from King and Broad.

Why would these non-natives in charge of CCSD care if a school named Memminger has been present on that site for over 100 years? Or that the gift of the property to the school district specifically provides for a school on the site? (see below)

CCSD has already allowed the sale of the original Memminger School auditorium after its "benign neglect" over several decades; now it will sell off the property on Wentworth that contains elementary classrooms.

Dectect a pattern?

And construction is moving so slowly. Why isn't the same construction moving slowly at Buist?


20 Beaufain St.

-- Memminger school, The first parsonage of St. Philip's Episcopal Church was built on this site about 1698. It was part of the Glebe Lands, 17 acres given to the minister of the Church of England in Charles Town and his successors in office "forever," by Mrs. Affra Coming, in 1698. The Rev. Alexander Garden, rector of St. Philip's and Commissary of the Bishop of London, opened school for black and Indian children on the GlebeGlebe St.). ln the division of the Glebe Lands between St. Philip's and St. Michael's in 1797, the southern portion, including the old parsonage, was conveyed to St. Michae's. In 1858, the Normal School, for the training of female teachers, was built on the site of the old parsonage. Charleston architect Edward C. Jones designed the large and impressive building which had an arcaded front portico and a high mansard dome. It was built by contractor Benjamin Lucas. The school was later named for Christopher C. Memminger, a leader in establishing Charleston's public school system in the 1850's, and Confederate Secretary of the Treasury in the 1860's. The City Board of School Commissioners bought the property in 1899. Memminger School remained a high school for girls until 1950, when it became an elementary school. This building was built in 1953.

(Smith & Smith, Dwelling Houses , p. 311-313; Wallace, p. 184, 464; Ravenel, Architects , p. 218; Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys , p. 91-92; McCrady, 2:245-247; Williams, St. Michael's , p. 48; Stockton, News & Courier , Aug. 5, 1972; Stockton, unpub. M.S.; Mazyck & Waddell, illus. 21)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What Lies Beneath. . . Buist?

Does history of the Charleston peninsula matter? Apparently not to CCSD's Bill Lewis and his boss, Superintendent Nancy McGinley.

How else to explain their treatment of the land upon which the Buist school sits? What if, indeed as is possible, that land reveals artifacts of early settlements of African-Americans, even of slaves?

We'll never know what history has been lost. The Charleston County School District has shown its disdain for the past from the beginning of its campaign to replace the old school building.

Nevertheless, we can ask questions. Alert observers of CCSD have plenty of them.
  1. Work on reopening Buist in August of 2013 remains on track, in fact, at "full speed, damn the torpedoes" speed while the promised replacement of Memminger, James Simons, and Courtenay has ground to "dead slow," aiming at 2014 or later.
  2. In the dead of night, residents near Buist have been awakened by noise of construction on the site. Working at night because?
  3. Perhaps the removal of truckloads of excavated soil given to a member of the public and not examined for artifacts is easier then. For all we know, graves are being removed--they would just slow down the work.
  4. Rumors abound of the pocketing of coins and even slave tags by workers involved with the pile and foundation work. No one thought there might be below-ground historical assets?
  5. On the same topic, the area was part of the city's defense lines during the American Revolution's siege of Charleston before its surrender in May of 1780. Just sayin.'
  6. If CCSD could order a seismic survey, why did it not order an archeological survey and recovery plan to be included in its original time line?
  7. Did anyone consider using the valuable expertise of staff at the Charleston Museum? Why will CCSD not release its Board-ordered archeological surveys done before the work was started? Were Final Reports even made?
Let's face it--Memminger is also in an area that begs for archeological study.

Back in the 1950s the Charleston Historical Society banded together to save architectural gems in danger of destruction. Without its efforts, the old city of Charleston would be half the gem it is today.

There could easily be as much history below ground as what we see above, but the administrative structure of the Charleston County School District echoes Rhett Butler: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."

Friday, April 06, 2012

Correction to March 10 Post: Next Year's the Second

From the P&C's Letters to the Editor:

Goose Creek

Request granted

On his recent trip to Cuba, the pope requested that the Communist government declare Good Friday a national holiday. His wish was granted.

Meanwhile, back here in the Holy City, for the first time in the more than 25 years I’ve worked in Charleston County schools, it is a regular work/school day. Too bad the pope didn’t come here!

Marsha Beach
Pine Hollow Road
Mount Pleasant

Post-Christian.



Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Dorchester 2 Follows CCSD's Lead on FOIA

The irony of it all.

If this story had concerned the Charleston County School District, the P&C would have buried it.

Teamsters request for Dorchester District 2 school bus contract gets improper fee quote• BY BO PETERSEN• Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

SUMMERVILLE — Three people who asked for a copy of the Durham School Services bus contract from Dorchester District 2 schools were told it would cost $150 — an apparent violation of the state Freedom of Information law.

The requests came over the last few weeks as Teamsters union representatives try to organize bus drivers in the district.

District officials say the fee quote is policy. One of the requesters said it was an attempt to withhold information.

A South Carolina Press Association official called the fee quote “smoke.”

Durham School Services Regional Manager Dave Brabender confirmed that “there’s an organizing event going on, and there will be a vote in a couple of weeks.”

Allyson Duke, the district’s chief financial officer, said the $150 fee was quoted for copying a 22-page document because that fee is called for under a district “commercial use” policy, and staff understood the contract was requested for the Teamsters.

“No, no. There’s no specification for that in the law. District policy does not trump state law. I think there’s smoke there,” said Bill Rogers, S.C. Press Association executive director.

The requesters are state residents and are treated the same as anyone else under the law, he said. “Above all, financial contracts are open. They should be available at minimal cost,” Rogers said.

Two of the requesters were a bus driver in the district and a bus driver from another district who is a union representative. They were told they could view the contract without charge.

Asked to assist by the Teamsters, activist Rob Groce of Knightsville pushed the district on the fee, and the contract was copied for him for $5.

Groce said he was told at first that it would take two weeks to produce the copy.

“We didn’t deny anybody. We do have to have policies in place” to compensate for employees’ time and protect taxpayers’ dollars, Duke said.

She said she would speak with the district’s attorney about whether the commercial use fee is proper.

“The fact that I had to go through such rigamarole to get information ... it’s my opinion she was deliberately trying to withhold information where my tax dollars go, and I don’t appreciate that,” Groce said.

Duke said that was not true.

The district outsourced its bus services to Durham at the beginning of the school year.

The contract copies were requested because of drivers’ concerns that they are paid less per hour to drive to extracurricular events than they are to drive routes, Groce said.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rivers: No Beauty in Eye of Beholder


CCSD is getting mismatched brick for its multi-million dollar renovations of the Rivers building. Say it ain't so!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

P&C Delays CCSD Story for Weekend Doldrums

I bet you didn't read it, either.

It took nearly a week for the local rag to publish CCSD's approved calendar for next year.

For the first time, the Charleston County School District will be in session on Good Friday of next year. That's for our post-Christian society.

Naturally, there's a conscience clause--teachers may take a personal day. Wow. We can be glad that Easter's on a Sunday.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

P&C Ignores CCSD McGinley's Power Grab

The Charleston County School District Superintendent, Nancy McGinley, has flexed her muscles. Seeing her majority on the Board of Trustees, she determined to grab as much power from the Board as possible. The erstwhile editors ( there are some, right?) of the Post and Courier don't see her legal violation of her contract as a problem, just "insider baseball." Would that were true!

Long-time observers in CCSD and the minority of non-McGinley sycophants on the Board of Trustees see matters coming to a crisis next Monday, March 12. Used to agenda sleight-of-hand, they have recoiled at the illegal subterfuges now underway to subvert the governing structure of the district. What follow are remarks from one such observer.

For a public school district as large and as diverse as this one, concentrating absolute power and decision making authority in the hands of one person, with few checks and balances in place, isn't healthy. In this case it isn't legal, either.

Board Chairman Chris Fraser and Superintendent McGinley are attempting to intervene in the the Policy Committee's selection of chairman and vice-chairman, currently Elizabeth Moffly and Chris Fraser. In spite of board policies and applicable parliamentary rules to the contrary, Fraser and McGinley have engaged McGinley's own attorney, John Emerson, to outline the case for having the full board select new Policy Committee officers.


In a separate matter, Emerson has also drafted an agenda item purported to come from the Policy Committee meeting that authorizes the Board to delegate its statutory responsibilities to hear certain appeals to the Superintendent. For example, the county school board would no longer hear certain student disciplinary hearings . Appeals will end with the Superintendent.

The plot thickens.Mr. Emerson's report on Monday's agenda implies that the Policy Committee has approved an amendment to the Student Code of Conduct doing exactly the opposite of what its chairman, Ms. Moffly, proposed.
 
In discussions involving a pending disciplinary appeal first presented last month , Ms. Moffly and others on the board moved to repeal the offending statement in the Code of Conduct which barred lawful appeals to the Board. The statement conflicts with state laws guaranteeing due process and appeal rights. McGinley was against the repeal. Emerson's report to the Board from the Policy Committee appears as a complete fabrication designed to advance McGinley's


In this tug of war, McGinley is using Fraser to further isolate elected Board members who most often vote with the minority. Through her legal counsel, McGinley is grabbing the power to set Board policy and select Board officers. She plans to set the organization on its head: the Board will serve her; she will not serve the Board.
The Post and Courier, although it has been warned, probably doesn't want to understand the ramifications of McGinley's plans. Just as it is a violation for Board members to interfere with the superintendent's job, she is required to respect limits that separate her from being involved in the Board's governing and oversight functions. By ignoring this line, she is in breach of contract. With an independent Board, she could be found insubordinate and subject to termination for cause.


A few years ago, we witnessed a systematic dismantling of the statutory responsibilities reserved to the constituent boards that have been part of CCSD's structure since its inception. Those boards are emasculated with not even the power to express an opinion in the selection of principals or the quality of teachers in their constituent jurisdictions. Even their role in the establishment of attendence zones has been taken over by--you guessed it--the Superintendent.

Centralization of power began shortly after McGinley became CCSD's chief academic officer. Erosion of the constituent boards' legal authority accelerated rapidly and aggressively when she became superintendent. Now the same process is spreading to the county board. To whom will the Superintendent be responsible in the future?

No one. Certainly not voters or taxpayers. Superintendent Czar.