Saturday, November 15, 2014

Editors' Campaign to Rehire CCSD's McGinley Falters on Moffly's Facts

Saturday's op-ed by outgoing Charleston County School Board member Elizabeth Moffly sums up the former superintendent's disdain for what communities want:

Building program at heart of district-board dispute
Nov 15 2014 12:01 am
I want to share with my community lessons learned as your representative over the past four years serving as a Charleston County School Board trustee. This position allowed me a greater perspective to understand how decisions were made.

The elected school board employs the superintendent. The superintendent is accountable to the board and responsible for day-to-day decisions and upholding policy.

One would think that the board's and the district's primary focus would be student achievement, instructional quality and graduation rates. With the passage of the one-cent sales tax referendum in 2010, however, we functioned more like a "Board of Construction" rather than a "Board of Education," overseeing a $500 million building program.

This action is where the problems began. Whole communities were divided and thousands of students displaced.

The first divide started when the district told the Sullivan's Island community, with only 268 students in its attendance zone, that it had to accept a 500-student school or nothing.

All the while the district was building smaller schools on the peninsula. James Simons Elementary had 110 students, but the district built a 400-student school. Memminger Elementary had only 70 students from its attendance zone, but its new building was designed for 400 as well.

The island remains divided on the issue.

While Sullivan's Island was getting more than it needed, we knew North Mount Pleasant was bursting at the seams with over 2,200 students in its K-5 elementary schools. I thought the $27 million should be spent to address a more pressing issue of overcrowding. Sullivan's Island Elementary enrollment was secured in the old Whitesides campus, with plenty of room for enrollment expansion. A front-beach school, elevated 10 feet on stilts and the size of the Yorktown, just didn't seem like a smart decision when real overcrowding in north Mount Pleasant was being ignored.

Then there was the second East Cooper high school debacle. Wando had grown past capacity with over 3,600 students in a building designed for only 3,100 students. The town and the citizens had expected another stand-alone high school since 2005. The district hired a consultant and held a community engagement where three district options were presented and voted on by the community.

Option A, a middle college aka center for advanced studies (a longtime vision of the superintendent), received 25 percent. Option B, a ninth grade academy, received 24 percent. Option C, a second East Cooper high school, received 49 percent, the highest score.

The district decided this community would get the center for advanced studies, overriding the community's will. Wando is now the largest (and only) high school in the state's fourth largest city.

The most recent fiasco, Lowcountry Tech (LCT), has created more community division. The district hired a consultant in 2007 to a hold a community engagement at Burke High School. Approximately 300 citizens from downtown participated.

There were five options. The overall majority voted for the new Charleston Charter School for Math and Science (CCSMS) to occupy the entire Rivers facility.

Incidentally, in 2010 with the first sales tax referendum, voters countywide approved LCT (now called Lowcountry Tech Academy) to be constructed on the Burke High School campus. The superintendent then wrote a column for The Post and Courier in 2012 telling the public the community voted for her vision in 2007, with LTA and CCSMS sharing the Rivers campus.

The board has since directed the district to allow Charleston Math and Science to have complete occupancy of the Rivers campus so 260 children can move out of existing trailers. Lowcountry Tech would be expanded and moved to Burke where there is plenty of room. That campus was built for 1,700 students, yet it now has fewer than 400.

The district has continued to push back on this decision leaving perpetual discontent in the community. District 20's board is in complete support of the county board's decision. The administration needs to complete the directive and not subvert it.

The public recently questioned the board's integrity for holding an 11th-hour special called board vote last August to add Lincoln to the 2014 referendum. That was necessary to honor the board's original commitment to this rural community.

The board voted 5-2 on Feb. 24, 2014, to identify funding for a new Lincoln facility. The district failed to include this school on the referendum despite the board's directive.

The board was exposed to public humiliation for seemingly having acted rashly on Lincoln's behalf. Other communities were told that if the board included this project, the referendum would fail and their special projects would be lost. That was completely unfounded and disregarded the county board's explicit promise to this community.

At the superintendent's request, the district simply closed several failing schools. This policy allowed her to claim to have reduced the number of low-performing schools.

Students have been shuffled, but the achievement gap for low-performing students has grown. By closing or renaming failing schools, the district fostered an illusion that failing schools were fixed.

In reality, that posture only reset the scorecard with a clean, new start, a free pass for three years. These schools and children have not made appropriate progress.

These are just a few of the issues that the Charleston County School Board dealt with over the last four years.

I know there have been lingering questions, but I hope I have answered a few of them here.

Elizabeth Moffly is a former member of the Charleston County School Board.

1 comment:

D20 Parent said...

Not to be outdone, Bill Lewis shows his hand in a truly over the top editorial in Sunday's Post and Courier. He wants to do away with the board entirely and have the public schools governed by the Chamber of Commerce.

As you've said before, Babbie, you can't make this stuff up. If this is representative, Charleston's top level public school administrators are nuts.