Friday, June 28, 2013

CCSD's Lights in the Darkness: No Tax Increase and IB at Memminger

It's happened. The Charleston County School Board of Trustees has voted twice for changes not proposed by district administration. Perhaps we've turned the proverbial corner in thwarting Superintendent McGinley's    headlock of her bosses.

Kudos to member Todd Garrett, who managed to ask enough questions and wade through a sea of obfuscation to reach the goal of finding flab in the superintendent's proposed budget-with-tax-hike, thus providing a viable alternative to blind acceptance of higher taxes.

Kudos to the majority of Board members who approved the implementation of the IB program at Memminger despite being attacked from all sides by those who have no stake in improving the school, either hoping to keep the school as it is (!) or fearing it will become a mouthpiece for One Worlders. (Teachers don't need IB to do that if they so desire.)

Now if we could get the essay quarrel settled.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cut in CCSD Priorities Shows Hypocrisy of Seismic Policies

Remember the great earthquake that caused the Charleston County School District to declare Memminger and Buist schools (among others) as needing retrofitting and/or rebuilding? No, I don't either; nor does anyone alive. 

Such a happening in the last decade would have explained the haste to tear down schools that were good for more years of use, rather than the cynical thought that the Superintendent wished to keep contractors busy.  Now that the initial set of "earthquake-proof" schools is almost on line, the rush to fix others has disappeared,

At least that seems to be the case with the cash-flow problem presented to CCSD by a shortfall in the 1% sales tax for schools. Seismic evaluations will be postponed or even not done at all.

Come on, Nancy. At least be consistent.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

School Improvement Grants Nor Taxes the Answer to CCSD's Failing Schools

Friday's lead editorial asks the right questions:

"The district should be able to explain how [federal] money helped Morningside Middle and St. John's High schools improve, but failed to have a similar impact on Burke, North Charleston and Stall."

"And how could Hursey have made significant progress without the money?"

With these results, how is Superintendent McGinley to convince the CCSD Board of Trustees that her proposed tax hike will make a difference? Well?

There's more at work than money here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Deja Vu on CCSD's Failing Schools

Burke. North Charleston HS. Stall HS. Sanders-Clyde. Burns.

"No Berkeley or Dorchester County schools were in this group," according to today's newspaper. Really? Don't you wonder why CCSD has the honor of five schools located on the peninsula and in North Charleston that have achieved the notoriety of the Palmetto Priority List? (Why, the list doesn't even include all of the failing schools that district administration has shuttered instead of improving over the last few years!)

Despite her training at and assistance from the Broad Institute, Superintendent McGinley has now proved she doesn't have the qualities and wisdom to "fix" the problem. Who else remembers the glory days when Sanders-Clyde made great strides in its test scores? Why, McGinley was so impressed that she made its principal head of two schools simultaneously. She supposedly had no clue regarding the scandal that finally came out of the closet--organized changing of answers on the tests. And the principal was allowed to escape to a district in North Carolina. Isn't it lucky?

What McGinley has managed to accomplish is new and/or expensively remodeled buildings that should be showplaces for learning. The building program has also been a boon to construction firms. Not to teachers.  Not to students. If a state-of-the-art building could fix these schools' problems, we would not be talking about them now.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

CCSD Snubs Affordable Care Act

Buried deep within Saturday's article about the Charleston County School District's desire to outsource teacher substitutes to Kelly Services, the reader encounters another example of the law of intended consequences.

Think about it: How could the district cut costs in next year's budget by continuing to pay subs the same amount and paying Kelly's fee for each placement? Simple. By using Kelly, the district frees itself from providing health care insurance for any of these subs. Kelly Services, in its stead, will make sure that no sub works more than 29 hours per week, so that Kelly is also not required to provide insurance.

The district has made the calculation that adding subs to health care insurance will cost more than Kelly's fee for providing subs.

Somehow, I don't believe this was the desired end of the law. How many other businesses are cutting costs by limiting workers to 29 hours per week? We'll find out soon enough.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

CCSD's Self-Created Lawsuit

It started with a Tweet, a truly insensitive and juvenile one to be sure. The Tweeter was white; its target, black. For Tweeting the n-word to her classmate, School of the Arts senior Ashley Patrick served a five-day suspension.

Seems straightforward so far, doesn't it? But then district administration got involved. Patrick was sentenced to finish her senior year at Twilight, a computer-based district program for serious offenders. Put Patrick with those out on bail and/or violently disrupting the classroom.  

Maybe her continued presence in her classes would be disruptive, maybe not. Apparently the majority black constituent board didn't think so. Its considered decision was to institute strict probation limiting extracurricular activities.

District administration (notice we don't have a name yet) rejected the advice of the constituent board, appealing it to the CCSD Board of Trustees. Needless to say, the matter was discussed behind closed doors. The Board upheld the constituent board's decision, unwisely interpreting that Patrick would also not "walk the stage" at graduation or go to the prom. This interpretation later was dropped, but Patrick must serve 20 hours of community service and write an essay,

Really, the penalties for the Tweet are not the problem. No, the problem is conflict of interest on the part of district administration. The target of the Tweet just happened to be the daughter of Associate Superintendent Lisa Herring, who oversees CCSD's behavior and discipline programs. Did Associate Superintendent Lou Marten reclassify Patrick's offense to a more serious level because of Herring's position? Did Herring recuse herself because her daughter was involved?

Could CCSD have avoided another costly lawsuit? The plot thickens as Patrick's attorney is the husband of former CCSD Board member Toya Hampton-Green and a protege of Mayor.Riley.

You can't make this stuff up.

Monday, June 10, 2013

CCSD's McGinley: All Hat and No Cattle

Blaming the CCSD Board of Trustees for not approving the International Baccalaurate program for Memminger Elementary is only the latest in Superintendent Nancy McGinley's cover stories. Anyone who has kept tabs on the Board over the last few years knows that its decisions have been controlled by the superintendent and not vice versa. The super says "Jump"; the majority of her hand-picked Board say "How high?"

No excuse exists for the district's failure to follow through with its program of "global studies" as a partial magnet instead of the community-supported IB program. The idea was a sop to the community that never materialized.

Having a mostly black elementary school on the majority-white peninsula is a result of district policies extended during the reign of this superintendent. Could it be possible that McGinley has promised the NAACP its own all-black schools in District 20? If it walks like a duck, etc.

Laughs, please, for the misnomer "Renaissance" schools. Those are schools that must be reorganized under NCLB guidelines because of poor performance over a period of time. Memminger has sunk to that level. Meanwhile, two-thirds of its students do not live in the sending district, and when its new multi-million dollar building opens in the fall, it will be almost half empty.

Maybe it's time for the superintendent to listen to the community and relent on the IB program. Why should the present students whom Collins and Miller worry about not have the opportunity to learn in a rigorous program with a diverse student body? 

Truly, McGinley will not listen to what the community desires until she has tried everything else. Memminger is living proof.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

P & C Geography Lesson Needed

Today's print edition contains all graduating valedictorians in Berkeley and Dorchester Counties, or so it claims.

Um, do they realize that Bishop England is in Berkeley County? Must be the same people who think Academic Magnet students from Daniel Island are residents of Charleston County.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

CCSD Asleep at Switch of Navy Base

The most startling aspect of the Charleston County School District's legal fight for its right to the Naval Base property formerly used for the Academic Magnet High School is its claim to have spent millions renovating the building. Anyone who visited the school during its use would have wondered where the millions went!

Not so startling is the district's inability to keep up with what was happening to the property as it was sold to Clemson six years ago. Its claim that North Charleston "agreed" to give it the property without putting that in writing is pitiful. Not keeping tabs on Mayor Summey's wheeler-dealing is pitiful.

Is there any reason to believe that the district had a right to the property once it stopped using it for "educational purposes"? Wouldn't that have been a condition of the 50-year lease?

And, in hindsight, wouldn't it have been smarter to allow a charter school to use the building?

Monday, June 03, 2013

James Simons Construction Delays?

It's June. Now what excuse does the CCSD superintendent give for lagging construction on the new James Simons building?

Sunday, June 02, 2013

CCSD Board Members Finally Get It

Glimmers of hope on the horizon. Despite CCSD Superintendent McGinley's handpicking of cheerleaders for replacement Board of Trustee members, some new members actually are questioning her desire for a tax increase in the district.

Their question is the same as ours: in this economy with a $23 million increase expected without a tax increase, why must we have one? McGinley has been challenged to reveal (gasp!) why extra taxation is needed.

As Alexander Pope wrote, hope springs eternal.