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?