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


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.