Monday, December 26, 2016

SC Must Fund Busing for Charter Schools

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A bird's-eye view on any given school day will show yellow school buses crisscrossing the streets, highways, and bridges of Charleston County. What it won't show is buses for CCSD's charter schools, with the exception of the Charter School for Math and Science (CSMS), the most integrated school in the entire district. Perhaps there's no magic to CSMS's distinction, merely that provided by busing.

Let's get real. The Charleston County School District must provide busing for all public school students, both charter and non-charter. They're all attending public schools, after all. 

In the poorer neighborhoods of Charleston County, parents and guardians frequently have no recourse to cars or taxis to transport their children to the wide selection of charter schools that they might hope to attend. 

It's time to end this discrimination that imprisons them in failing schools. 

Little wonder that Charleston County has the most segregated schools in the state!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Hope for Change at US Department of Education

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Freedom of choice heads the agenda of the newly-nominated head of the US Department of Education. Betsy DeVos wants parents in charge of where their children get educated. 

What a thought! Zip code won't determine whether a child receives a good education!

As columnist Paul Greenberg has noted, "Who knows, it may just be the beginning of a bright new era in American education instead of the end of one." 

Why, if zip code doesn't matter, even segregated housing patterns might change. 😮

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Time for CCSD to Fix Jane Edwards Elementary, After Apologizing

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A last-minute rescue from the chopping block has energized folks on Edisto Island to think bigger for Jane Edwards Elementary in hopes of saving it permanently. The disgrace is what previous Charleston County SchooI District administrations have done, or should we say, not done, to get the school where it is today. 

Wonder why it's not attracting more students?
"Jane Edwards doesn't have a real gymnasium, so students take physical education in an empty classroom filled with some basic equipment. Their baseball field desperately needs repairs. One volunteer described the pre-school playground as "a disaster." 
"The school doesn't even have a teacher for every grade after the district changed its staff allocation formula. This year, two teachers are charged with managing "combination classes," one for second- and third-graders, and another for fourth- and fifth-graders. Until last fall, with Edisto resident Jack DiLuna's help, Jane Edwards hadn't fielded athletic teams for years.
The Friends of Jane Edwards, led by Paul Oakley, have some great ideas. We wonder why the school district hadn't come up with any of them:
"stronger academics, gifted and talented programs, and investments in early childhood education, including Head Start and on-site child care. For teenagers and adults, they propose literacy, GED, English for Speakers of Other Languages and virtual high school programs.
"They also want to form partnerships with Trident Technical College, College of Charleston, businesses like Boeing and nonprofits like the Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society. They want to redraw attendance lines and add middle school grades to boost enrollment. And they want programs other elementary schools in the county take for granted, such as after-school sports and extracurricular activities.[italics mine]
Now it's your turn, CCSD.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

SC Educators Oppose Schools' Being Graded

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If North Carolina and Georgia can do it, why can't we? In fact, 17 states now rate schools on an A through F grading system. They use that because "non-educators" readily understand what it means. South Carolina educators say we can't do that! We want a grading system that's not so transparent.

Well, actually district superintendents, state Department of Education officials, and teachers' representatives avoid using the word "transparent." Instead they have told the Education Oversight Committee that "grades are subject to interpretation."

Unlike in other states, don 'cha know.

Instead, a spokesman for the Department of Education wants "rating how schools perform in each category with phrases ranging from 'exceeds expectations' to 'fails to meet expectations'--without giving a cumulative rating."

There. That'll confuse everybody. Furthermore, if our expectations (non-specified) are low enough, we'll never need to use the lowest category.

The Education Oversight Committee hopes to replace the present system with one that's "simple to understand and more informative."  

Good luck with that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Give Charleston County Residents the Edge for Popular Magnet Schools!

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The statistics speak volumes: Berkeley and Dorchester County residents have figured out that they can take advantage of Charleston County's Academic Magnet and School of the Arts without living in the district. 

One third of Academic Magnet's ninth graders did not attend Charleston County public schools.

One quarter of the School of the Arts sixth graders did not attend Charleston County public schools.

What those statistics prove is that many Charleston County students have been frozen out of these selective schools. Why must CCSD put up with it?

Yes, we know that out-of-county students can become eligible with parents' owning as little as $300 worth of county property. That's bad enough, but it's the law. Even if the number were raised to $30,000, these students most likely would still be eligible to take places from county residents. 

There must be a way to improve CCSD's students' chances in addition to improving its academic standards. Surely all the talent at 75 Calhoun can propose a plan that will meet legal requirements.

Time to get to work! Make Emerson earn his keep.

Monday, December 12, 2016

CCSD Takes Top Honors as Most Segregated in SC

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In case you were under the illusion that the Charleston County School District, consolidated in the 1970s to force integration, actually is integrated, one look at the latest state statistics should disabuse you of that chimera. Of course, students need not fear being shut out of Wando because they are black; they simply live in other parts of the district and go to high schools that are de facto black. Those who do live in its attendance zone or whose parents know how to work the system win the lottery.

See, we have strange anomalies such as Memminger Elementary, the school closest to the wealthiest white neighborhoods on the peninsula. It's also de facto black. According to a spokesman for the State Department of Education, "Charleston is a strange anomaly. I think Charleston, of any of the districts, has the largest discrepancy between, I guess you would say, rich and poor. You have some of the wealthiest of the wealthy and the poorest of the poor, and they're not that far away from each other." The richest are white; the poorest are black.

When was the last time attendance zones changed in the heart of the district? What prevents the attendance zone of under-utilized Burke High (another segregated high school) from extending across the Cooper to take in older neighborhoods in Mt. Pleasant? Please don't say distance, not when thousands of students are bussed hither and yon all over the district every day.

Part of the problem is lingering racial attitudes. Part of the problem is low academic and behavioral expectations in historically black schools. Part of the problem is housing patterns. Part of the problem is historically black schools' wishing to keep their identities. 

If you're looking to turn over a new leaf in 2017, surely these obviously segregated educational patterns are the place to start.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

CCSD's Minnie Hughes Students in the Great Outdoors

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It's a relief to see that collaboration does take place between the College of Charleston and the Charleston County School District. Some of us have wondered why the district does not partner more frequently with C of C. A case in point is the recent project on 18th-century naturalist and artist Mark Catesby at Minnie Hughes Elementary. Included in the project is SCETV, all working under the aegis of the Catesby Commemorative Trust. 

The C of C Education Department developed the project's parameters, and C of C education professors help its implementation. Early this month second-graders of Minnie Hughes visited Dixie Plantation, also owned by C of C, to practice Catesby's methods of first drawing from nature and then filling in more scientific details. 

Needless to say, these students were thrilled to be out of the classroom and in a natural setting for their project. One professor suggested that, "Some of these children had never been in 'real' nature before. They were amazed."

I'm also amazed that students who attend a school that most Charlestonians would consider in the "boonies" have never experienced "real" nature.  No parent or caregiver has ever taken them out into the woods, fields, and marshes practically within sight of Minnie Hughes? 

That's just plain sad.

Friday, December 09, 2016

West Ashley High Reveals Progress in Gender Equality

This week's cafeteria brawl at West Ashley High School succeeded in setting a new high (or low) in equality of the sexes. Probably after an incendiary social media post, staff had to break up a fight, and 10 students were suspended.

What's new about that, you ask?

Girls. That's 10 girls who were suspended. 

Got 'cha, didn't I?

Thursday, December 08, 2016

CCSD Should Resign Itself to Including a Charter School at Burke

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Does anyone else remember the building war over space for the Charter School of Math and Science? It seemed to be never ending. Now that CSMS enjoys its place as the most integrated school in the entire Charleston County School District, voices are quiet over its use of the former Rivers High School building.

How about Allegro? Steve Bailey's op-ed this week lays down the gauntlet to the school district over providing space at Burke for this up-and-coming charter school.  Burke's enrollment at 95 percent black on a peninsula that has been majority white for decades and its largely empty building are emblematic of what's wrong in CCSD. What will it take to break the logjam and create another integrated high school downtown?

Bailey states, 
"Burke and Allegro together may be able to do what Burke could not do alone. “They have an opportunity to make a community that will serve everyone,” says Pete Lawrence, who was captain of Burke’s football team in 1967 under legendary Coach Modie Risher. “It cannot be a school for just one segment of the community."
"The Charleston County School District — and thus Burke — didn’t want to talk about any of this. A host of people didn’t want to see this in print. But tell me this: If we can’t even talk about what divides us, how are we ever going to make it better?
See the rest here:

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

CCSD Must Step Away From the Edublob

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Just in case anyone has forgotten, let me remind you that the Charleston County School District suffered an $18 million shortfall not too long ago. The chances that the district will soon ask for a tax increase are overwhelming.

Wouldn't you be curious to know why the Lastinger Center received a $350,000 contract to retrain CCSD's literacy coaches "as part of the district's planned literacy overhaul"? Since 2002 this start up from the University of Florida has gobbled up millions of dollars from the State of Florida as well as the US Department of Education. Now it believes that the State of South Carolina should follow its lead by implementing Algebra Nation at a cost of $1.5 million. Really? I hope our state legislature has more sense.

Perhaps Superintendent Postlewait does. She suggests a pilot program combining CCSD with Berkeley and Dorchester County School Districts.

While South Carolina's oversimplification of end-of-course tests for Algebra lulled parents into a false sense of security, the low scores on the national college-ready benchmark ACT stripped off the mask. If only one-third of juniors met the mark, how did 89 percent pass the Algebra exam?

Rather than sending millions to Florida, let's look in-state for solutions.

Forget the edublob.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Johns Island Residents Seek to Integrate Public Schools

I know. The newspaper's headline reads "improve area schools," but that's not the true goal. 

Some white residents who have moved to Johns Island are tired of sending their children to school elsewhere. However, Johns Island's CCSD elementary schools need to "improve" in order to integrate. The devil is in the details. Concerned white parents will tell you the schools fall short in many areas. What they don't say is that it will take a major effort among white parents on Johns Island to overcome the reality of de facto black schools. 

Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait encourages the formation of a "diverse community board or panel to help govern the school" instead of the formation of yet another charter school. That's all very well and good, but the devil is in the details as usual. Who will have the authority--the administration, the school board, or the community board?

To "honor the history" of Angel Oak Elementary, a school that has "historically served black students" without removing its black culture will destroy attempts to integrate. White parents are happy to have a diverse school as long as it doesn't come with a black culture. What they desire is the color-blind, middle-class culture found in truly integrated schools. The community board and CCSD must recognize that fact, or the effort will be doomed from the start.

It's taken decades for the Charleston County School District to achieve its de facto segregated schools. 

These parents need all the help they can get.

Friday, December 02, 2016

CCSD Can't Afford Tax Dollar Giveaway

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Does anyone remember an $18-million-dollar shortfall in the Charleston County school budget? Certainly, the reporter failed to remind us in a recent article about the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) now approved by the county for an area of West Ashley. Oh, yes. The CCSD School Board compromised and gave up only 45 percent of revenues from the TIF for the next twenty years or so. 

This maneuver should be called "go along and get along." The developers who carry so much power in Charleston County want to grease the skids. Pressure on the school district brought about this agreement. It stinks. 

If common sense reigned, the district would refrain from draining its revenues. 

Go figure.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

CCSD Teacher Discovers Gullah Dialect!

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Sometimes you wonder what the administration and school board trustees know about the students of Charleston County. I state this because I remember only too well that after an expose in the local rag, the Charleston County School District discovered that reading was important, launching into a plethora of reading catch-up programs as a result.

Now we have, thanks to teachers at Baptist Hill High and board trustee Michael Miller, a sudden focus on the facts of language in the district, namely that rural students, mostly black, don't sound like they're from Ohio. Instead, their speech patterns reveal heavy influence of dialect, namely Gullah. Who knew?

[insert sarcastic comment here]

English teachers constantly deal with all sorts of nonstandard language in the classroom. They always have. Native speakers from Thailand don't know the use of articles (a, the). Students from the Caribbean write in syntax confusing to Americans. Students taught in India reveal long, involved sentences produced previously for British-English teachers. The syntax a baby learns to use remains the default for life. The nonstandard language spoken regularly by parents is a problem only if the teacher makes it one. The way all people speak and the standard English needed for writing are two different languages, if you like.

Your parents and friends (and even the TV announcer) say, "Where are you at?" That's acceptable these days in most contexts, but "Where are you" still remains standard.

"Kids, get off of the sofa!" may be what students hear at home, but "Get off the sofa" remains standard in writing.

I'm using these examples to show that all students need instruction in standard English, not just rural blacks, not just southerners. K J Kearney's comments that "In Charleston if you sound like you're from Charleston, people automatically think you sound stupid" reveal that he hasn't lived outside the South for any length of time. K J--the reality is that outside of the south if you speak with even a southern accent, forget dialect, people assume you are stupid! The only people in the Lowcountry who think blacks (and whites) are stupid because they talk "southern" moved here from New Jersey, Ohio, and [fill in non-southern state here].

Is it possible that schools heavily laden with Gullah-influenced speakers need teachers who grew up in the Lowcountry, South Carolina, and the south? Perhaps culture shock would not then be a problem.

Meanwhile, learning about the fascinating Gullah dialect would be far more useful to teachers than ESOL. These students don't speak a foreign language. They speak a recognized dialect of English!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Who Lectures to CCSD Elementary Students Anyway?

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Every time the Charleston County School District tries a new teaching method, it trots out the same old strawman as an example. For those of you not conversant with logical fallacies, the strawman involves ". . . exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone's argument, . . . to present your own position as being reasonable, but this kind of dishonesty serves to undermine honest rational debate," as one website puts it.

Such is the case with the presentation of new methods in springfield-elementary-tries-out-gifted-and-talented-teaching-for-all/.
"When we first started the training, it was an eye-opener," Nell said. "As teachers, we realize that we’re just facilitators of learning, so we’re not just up there giving lectures and giving all the answers to students and telling them that there’s only one way to find the answer to a question."
Wow. The rest of CCSD's elementary schools use the methods of 100 years ago. Who knew?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

All Agreed: SC Needs Appointed Secretary of Education

How much power will the South Carolina State Senate really give up to the governor if he or she has the power (as in 37 other states) to appoint the Secretary of Education? Even our local newspaper editors think appointing, not electing by popular vote, is a move that is long overdue. 

Ask yourself if you hold the state's governor responsible for improving education in South Carolina. Every candidate running for governor promises to improve what is an abysmal record that leaves South Carolina at or near the bottom of most educational statistics. Yet the governor essentially has no power over that cabinet position and often represents the opposing political party. 

The state senate will retain its power over the education budget if voters make the change. Come on, guys. You will still have more power than the governor!

We could have voted for this reasonable change years ago, but the senators have blocked a vote. It's time for a change. 

Time to put some pressure on your state senator. Here they are. Go for it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

CCSD School Board Votes by Secret Ballot?

After its most non-informative coverage in recent memory of candidates running for the Charleston County School Board, our "award-winning" newspaper has decided to hide the votes of present school board members on important issues. What next? A blackout of school board meetings?

At its meeting recently the Board voted down the proposal for a TIF (tax increment financing) covering part of West Ashley. Mayor Tecklenberg heartily endorsed such a TIF to help revitalize the area. For the TIF, the district would give up 25 years of taxes. Gee, why might that proposal not be received warmly in a district just adjusting to an $18 million shortfall?

After member Michael Miller spoke against the proposal, the Board voted 6-0-2 (that's two abstentions) against the proposal. Presumably Ducker was not in attendance, but who knows, since the absent member remained anonymous. 

Who were the two abstentions? Doesn't the public have a right to know how its elected representatives vote? Evidently, not if reporter Paul Bowers has anything to do with it.

Reporting sinks lower every day. Even the website has become unfriendly.

Friday, November 04, 2016

P&C Editors Desire Defeat of CCSD's Chris Collins

For what it's worth (and it's not much), the editors of our local paper finally decided to stop ignoring Charleston County's school board races. Is it really too much to ask that information about candidates be reported completely and candidates be questioned on their ideas about hot-button topics such as taxes and Common Core? 

For our local sleuths, the answer is "yes."

Four days out from election day the paper endorsed five of the candidates. Notably absent was any mention of incumbent Chris Collins, who is running for a third term. Cowards. They can't even say why they didn't endorse him. The other two incumbents running--Garrett and Miller--both received the favor. 

Just like the Obamacare fiasco, we'll have to wait to see what's in their minds and what real abilities they possess.

Here's a link to the endorsements:

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Quality Education Project Charleston's Opinions of CCSD School Board Candidates

For what it's worth. Sorry I can't make this larger.

Monday, October 31, 2016

P&C's Pitiful Information on CCSD School Board Candidates

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Here's a way to learn nothing of value about this election's Charleston County School Board candidates!


Saturday, October 29, 2016

CCSD School Board Candidates Endorsed by Chamber of Commerce

For what it's worth, here are the Metro Chamber of Commerce's picks for Charleston County School Board:

"These five candidates include Todd Garrett, from downtown Charleston, Kevin Hollinshead and Russ Patterson, both from North Area, and Priscilla Jeffrey and Gary Leonard, both from West Ashley. The Charleston Chamber PAC endorsed these individuals because of their fiscal conservatism and their ability to comprehend the structure of government."

See charleston-chamber-pac-endorses-five-county-school-board-candidates?

Friday, October 28, 2016

CCSD School Board Candidates Answer League's Questions

As our local paper continues to ignore important local elections. at least the League of Women Voters has provided us with some minimal information.  Reading candidates' answers may help voters make decisions but may not. 

What makes someone qualified for the position? 

Remember that you vote for candidates from all areas of the county. 


Thursday, October 20, 2016

SC's Proposed New Textbooks to Review Locally or On Line

As part of its textbook adoption process, the South Carolina Department of Education has made available copies for review at two Charleston County sites--at the libraries of the College of Charleston and Charleston Southern University. Starting October 21 publisher-provided links can be reached at ,

Among others, texts for AP English, algebra, and several sciences are up for review.Image result for magnifying glass

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Scarey Headlines Will Not Solve Berkeley School District Problems

"ARE STUDENTS SAFE IN BERKELEY SCHOOLS?" screams the above-the-fold front-page headline. Are you kidding me? They're as safe there as anywhere else and maybe more so.

Anything to sell dying newspapers.

Each of two teachers at Cane Bay High were spending time alone with a student behind closed doors. 

What planet does its principal live on? Any teacher of either sex who spends time alone in a room with a student of either sex begs for trouble. The only question the reporter should have asked is why the high school doesn't have an "open door" policy drummed into the heads of its personnel.

These are sad stories about incidents that should not have happened.The remaining question is what qualified ex-Mt. Pleasant police officer and Assistant Principal Paul Jette Herman for his job.

See berkeley-county-schools-face-scrutiny-for-handling-of-sex-abuse-cases   

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Education Not Timely Topic for Presidential Candidates, Focus Locally!

How do the editors of our local rag select letters to be published? Timely? Controversial? Well-written? Expressing the editors' opinions? Surely they're not selected on the basis of general platitudes!

The lead letter in Sunday's edition fits the latter description. A "retired school administrator" wants the presidential candidates to provide vision that will erase the country's educational deficiencies. We can assume that Brooks Moore did not specialize in political science or even history. Education has never been the bailiwick of the federal government. Oh, yes. We know that there exists a U.S. Department of Education that tries to prove otherwise, but as recently as the 1980s its existence was under fire. 

What could either Trump or Clinton provide besides the usual expected shibboleths? Education must improve. It must be better funded. It must "enhance equal educational opportunities" (whatever that means). You can read the following letter and not disagree with a single sentence, but what then? 

Moore calls for making education a top priority in local elections as well. Perhaps the editors should pay heed. Here we are weeks away from local elections for district school board positions and constituent school board elections. 


It's a secret apart from their filing information. The P&C would never actually demean itself to focusing on local candidates. Voters are left in the dark.

That's a more promising place to begin.
Letter: Education is the most important issueOct 16 2016 One of the key issues of the 2016 presidential campaign should be public education. From the start of the primaries to the general election neither candidate has publicly shared a vision for how to improve, fund and enhance equal educational opportunities for all our citizens.
At the foundation of a strong nation is a strong public educational system. Everything from our quality of life to our national defense is predicated on how we educate our children. Education has been and still is the main catalyst for improving one’s economic status and broadening one’s understanding of how our political and democratic processes work.
Education provides the broadening of one’s mind and generates an understanding of other cultures. At the core of tolerance lies education. As a retired school administrator, I have seen firsthand how public education has enhanced the lives of young people. If we want to improve our economy, reduce crime, provide better health care and reduce poverty then it’s time to make public education a top priority, not only in presidential contests but in the state and local elections as well.

Brooks P. Moore
Blue House Road

Sunday, October 02, 2016

HaLevi's Letter Shows Inconsistency in CCSD Policies

Remember all of the hoo-ha over Clark Academy's ex-Principal Andrew HaLevi's treatment of the dress code at that school? Some unstated factor must underlie the recent disparity in treatment received by Principal Ryan Cumback under similar circumstances--disparity in treatment by both the Charleston County School District and the editors of the P & C.

But HaLevi himself should explain the situation, as he does in this Letter to the Editor:
Letter: Varying support
Oct 2 2016  
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Charleston County School District (CCSD) has supported Principal Ryan Cumback after a recent dress code controversy at Moultrie Middle School.
Not only did district representatives release a statement supporting Mr. Cumback, but a spokesperson also appeared on radio and other media outlets to defend him. It must be nice to receive such support. 
As the former leader of Clark Academy, the CCSD’s program for overage and at-risk high school students, I faced a similar dress code controversy in April. 
Instead of receiving support, the district was silent, opting to replace me despite internal district documents that supported my account of the episode and an unblemished eight-year record of leadership in one of the district’s most challenging schools. 
While genuinely happy for Mr. Cutback, I am utterly perplexed by the district’s inconsistent and incoherent responses to such similar episodes. 
I am further perplexed that The Post and Courier covered the recent Moultrie Middle School controversy with an online article only (Facebook Post about Moultrie Middle School student’s skirt goes viral, Reignited dress code debate, Sept. 23), while the Clark episode has been covered in four front-page articles over the span of four months 
Apparently The Post and Courier news division and the CCSD media relations department got the same memo: Mount Pleasant school principals deserve more support than administrators from other parts of the district.
Andrew HaLevi, Ph.D.
Wesson Avenue
Hello! The student HaLevi supposedly mistreated is black. When race enters the equation, equal treatment flies out the window in CCSD. Our local rag just follows its lead.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Vetting Candidates for Charleston County School District's Board of Trustees

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Once upon a time school board candidates were known to the whole community of voters. Before the consolidated Charleston County School District emerged, pre-existing school districts voted for their own trustees, also known to those smaller constituencies. When CCSD forced candidates to run district wide (that is, county wide), constituencies lost their knowledge of the candidates: what voter living in Awendaw could vote intelligently on a candidate from North Charleston's Park Circle? 

The nonpartisan status of the positions meant that local political parties would encourage their adherents to run but did not necessarily mean those candidates went through any vetting. The abysmal weakness of our local rag to provide information on school board candidates has only exacerbated the problem. Apparently its editors see no reason to provide voters with information.

Most voters are left with names, pictures, incomplete biographies, and rumors. 

If CCSD were a small business, perhaps voting blindly wouldn't matter so much. Yet it is one of the largest employers in the county and provides jobs for thousands more maintaining, repairing, and building its infrastructure. 

More importantly still, CCSD must educate all of the county's children. Some will suggest that it is doing the best it can under difficult circumstances. 

Look around you. Should a county thriving as Charleston is have some of the worst schools in the state? There's no excuse.

Lack of knowledge about school board candidates makes problems worse. There must be a better way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

CCSD's Ducker Too Dumb to Remain on School Board

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We know we set the bar low to qualify citizens for the Charleston County School Board of Trustees, but member Tom Ducker's actions have made the others look brilliant. Perhaps he confused the low standard for being eligible for Buist's lists (owning property in the district) for his own standard to remain on the school board.

See school-board-members-eligibility-questioned-as-governance-vote-looms

He could have continued to live in two houses, one inside the district, and remained eligible if he had kept his voter registration at the old address. Then he would legally be a registered voter in the district. It's not like he was pressured into changing his voting address. Now he's a registered voter in another county.


What to do now? Please resign and save us from this embarrassment.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

CCSD's Stono Park Finally Gets Its Just Deserts

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In the six years since the Charleston County School District announced its list of winners in the "We Get a New Building" contest, Stono Park hung on patiently till the end--until the district said, "Oops, we didn't really mean that." 

The 65-year-old building suffered the same fate as that of Lincoln High--since enrollment declined, the district chose not to upgrade. Soon parents weren't sending their children because of classroom conditions--bugs, mold, all the usual suspects in a subtropical climate. 

Fortunately, the uproar of parents and community leaders, as well as lobbying by school board members, finally gained traction this month. Stono Park Elementary will get a new building as long as it redraws its sending boundaries to include more students. Couldn't boundaries have been changed years ago to stem the decline? 

Here's a thought. 

The district changed its mind due to pressure. Once the school board gives up its powers, will pressure to fulfill the community's desires even be possible? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Elected to Give Up Powers? CCSD Board Forging New Ground

While the Charleston County School District's Board of Trustees has sometimes acted like the gang who couldn't shoot straight, the new governance plan proposed by outside consultants appears to strip them of almost all responsibilities. And they are the only voice that taxpayers have in the district.

"Appears to strip" because so far the proposal has so little detail that no one could make a judgment whether it is good or bad. 

See charleston-county-school-board-could-redefine-its-role 

The most obvious question is where the Board gets the authority to change its role in the district. Citizens did not vote for board members based on their vows to give up responsibilities to the superintendent. 

How does giving up responsibilities affect the role of constituent boards, also elected? Do they give up powers also? Was this the vision contemplated when the Act of Consolidation became law so many decades ago?

Voters should query this year's school board candidates: do yon plan on giving up responsibilities to the superintendent?

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

CCSD's Charter Schools Not Creators of Racial Disparities

Finally paying attention to the racial disparities in the Charleston County School District, our legislative delegation held a forum for CCSD Superintendent Postlewait and local by-invitation-only activists (presumably) Tuesday night. 

See legislative-panel-highlights-racial-disparities-in-charleston-county-schools

Why it was even necessary for anyone to "paint a dismal portrait" of how black students fare in the system remains a mystery. Perhaps they thought someone hadn't been paying attention. No, the real question is why the district has schools that are de facto segregated, a mystery that has puzzled me since I began this blog more than a decade ago. See, while I lived in other parts of the country, I just assumed that the city's schools were desegregated long ago. Silly me.

While Charleston County has a sizable portion of black students, the percentage doesn't begin to approach the 90 to 98 percent found in so many of the county's schools. The short answer is, when Charleston County's schools desegregated and consolidated decades ago, those in authority made a mess of it. We live with the results.

Only the most dense could disagree with Jon Butzon: 
“We cannot have a productive, effective, honest discussion about public education in this state without talking about race. It has to be front and center,” said John Butzon, former chairman of the Education Network. “If you doubt that, just look at the numbers. Look at the data. Get out of the opinion business and look at the data.”
Publicity surrounding the ACT results of the first time all SC students took the test has brought racial problems to the forefront. Since many of Charleston County's black students are poor, it's hardly a surprise that they attend schools full of poor students, given housing patterns in the county. Demanding low-income or Section 8 housing in, for example, Snee Farms or I'On hardly seems likely to succeed.

Yet the lack of veteran teachers and access to more varied curricula should be addressed more fully. Rep. Gilliard's claim of being "up against a different type of monster here" and statement that someone deliberately "designed" the lack of academic success among the county's black students, falls into the unfortunate category of race-baiting. It may sound tough to some of his constituents but sheds no light on solutions.

Rep. Limehouse, on the other hand, dismisses the disparities too lightly as not "all doom and gloom." The problem is not that all students should be college bound (although too many politicians think so) but that they at minimum need to be prepared for jobs available locally. Having CCSD "offer advanced manufacturing courses for students as early as middle school" would not only help the local economy but also help students to stay interested in school.

Board members Miller and Coats at least had proposals that the legislative delegation could address, unlike some other comments. Both loan forgiveness for new teachers and flexibility in allocating funding are within the purview of the legislature. 

No discussion would be complete, however, without mentioning the NAACP's war on charter schools. In fact, according to Joe Darby, such schools are the cause of de facto segregation in the district. Actually, they are a result and a symptom of failure. Darby seemed to call for demolishing all magnet schools such as Academic Magnet and School of the Arts. Not going to happen, Joe.

Although the legislative delegation plans another meeting in January, a rehash of CCSD's problems hardly seems productive. What will the delegation do in those six months? 

Will there be an accounting in January or simply hot air?  

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

With Waldorf, Charleston Reaches Critical Mass of Progressivism

Image result for waldorf school curriculum chart

With tongue-in-cheek, the Atlantic four years ago titled an article, "Is This Grade School a Cult? (And Do Parents Care?). See  Is This Grade School a Cult?

It's a weird charge to make regarding an elementary school that has branches all over the world with trendy parents fighting for places in progressive capitols such as New York. Yet if you read the background to this granola-based educational method, you can easily see the reason: it originally drew inspiration from a form of theosophy. Think communicating with the dead.

In the anti-tech world of Waldorf (name from a German manufacturer, not a hotel), children learn to read at eight or nine because their earlier education revolves around activities such as carpentry. Seems harmless since most of its middle-class students whose parents can pay the freight will learn from their relatively enriched environments anyway. Maybe some parents are even tuned to the "spirit" of the Waldorf.

Charleston County truly has arrived as a trendy place to live. The sole puzzle is why the school is in West Ashley instead of Mt. Pleasant.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

CCSD Board of Trustees Asked to Give Up Powers? Stay Tuned

Rumbles heard in the district that changes are coming to the governance structure of the Charleston County School District's Board of Trustees. 

Don't forget that these individuals are the only elected part of governance, so any changes may also take power away from taxpayers.

Word to the wise: Pay attention!

Monday, August 29, 2016

College of Charleston Sinks to New High Among Party Schools

Image result for charleston sc late night bar scene

Is this what going to college means today? The College of Charleston has risen to No. 15 on the Princeton Review's list of "party" schools. Say what you like about the Princeton Review, it's usually accurate.

See princeton-review-ranks-college-of-charleston-no-15-party-school-

Back in the dark ages when I graduated from one of Charleston's best high schools, St. Andrews, the CofC's reputation as an excellent small college was secure. "Partiers" looked elsewhere. There was no thriving bar scene downtown.

The law says the drinking age is 21. Most students at the College are under 21. So how did we arrive at such a thriving bar scene? 

Hint: you can't blame the tourists.

Friday, August 26, 2016

CCSD Disrespects Teachers' Role Model in HaLevi

Septima P. Clark Corporate Academy Sign

Do you have any idea of what someone like Andrew HaLevi must handle every day at a school such as Clark Academy? The insults and curses hurled at teachers in an ordinary classroom pale in comparison. Yet HaLevi succeeded as director for eight years before being dismissed over a minor incident concerning slacks loaned to a student whose dress HaLevi deemed too short.

If I were HaLevi, I would be happy teaching English at Stall instead; however, from watching his career over the last decade or so, I'm confident that HaLevi seeks out those students (such as at Clark Academy) who need help the most. 

Clark's loss is Stall's gain. Still. 

Here's the other side of the story.
An investigator with the district’s Department of Employee Relations interviewed HaLevi on April 25, according to the report. But HaLevi said all he was allowed to do was review a written statement he had already given.
“I was not presented with any evidence, did not have the opportunity to challenge any accusations and was not allowed to appeal the decision,” HaLevi said.
Steve Liverani, who worked alongside HaLevi for five years as a student support specialist with Communities in Schools, was one person who spoke to the investigators about the incident.
“I can’t stress enough that I never once saw an inappropriate interaction between Dr. HaLevi and a student,” Liverani said in a phone interview Thursday. “I was really impressed that he could remain calm when literally everyone else around him was not.”
He also said that after news of the accusations made it into the media, he reached out to district staff wanting to provide more information. 
“I never got a response back on that request,” Liverani said. 
HaLevi’s personnel file, which he provided to The Post and Courier to review, includes only one reprimand from 21 years of service. In June 2014, an associate superintendent wrote to express “disappointment” that HaLevi had not punished students who were suspected of making racist comments and threats toward HaLevi. According to HaLevi, he had found an unsigned note in the trash calling him a “dumb Jew” and saying, “I hope the Nazi’s Come for you.” 
In a written response to his supervisor, HaLevi said that while he had spoken with three students about the note, there was “not enough evidence” to prove their guilt. 
“My written response, included in the personnel file, reflects my deep commitment to fairness and due process,” HaLevi said. “This is a commitment that the district has failed to show in my case.”
The disrespectful student's uncle, who happens to be on a constituent school board, demands that CCSD fire HaLevi. That student was both verbally abusive to HaLevi and irresponsible for not returning the slacks nor explaining the situation before the trouble occurred. Her uncle need to reprimand her for her lack of respect to one who has earned it. Perhaps the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Does it make me a racist to wonder if HaLevi had been black, the outcome would have been the same? His replacement is. Based on past actions, it appears that HaLevi will continue to work diligently for the good of students.

I would call the Anti-Defamation League.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

SC's ACT Results Reveal Dark Underside of Higher Graduation Rates

Image result for groups of rabbits

In South Carolina a major disconnect exists between high school student achievement and college success. In the first year that all juniors took the ACT, only 14 % met the goals for college success, while over 80 % planned college attendance. In order to keep their classes full (and help those who lack adequate academic skills), many community colleges and other institutions of higher learning have bred remedial courses like rabbits over the last decades. 

People argue that the ACT's biases work against black and Hispanic students and the poor, but the reality is that the ACT does measure success. How many of these poorly-prepared students starting college in remedial courses end up not graduating, stuck with thousands of dollars in student loans to be paid off working at McDonald's? In fact, one recent authoritative report on remedial college courses called them "The Bridge to Nowhere."

As districts such as CCSD continue to focus on graduation r.ates as a measure of success, they forget the purpose of high school: preparation for college or work (increasingly requiring further education). 

What does it matter if the graduation rate is 95 percent if only 14 percent have achieved at the high school level?

See        only-14-percent-of-sc-graduates-are-ready-for-college-according-to-act

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why Is CCSD Playing Catch-Up in Mt. Pleasant School Construction?

 The design for Lucy Beckham High is being modified to allow 1,500 students instead of 1,200.

Common wisdom relates that generals are always fighting the last war. It should also teach us that school districts are always one generation behind in school construction. 

After more than a decade of massive school construction in Charleston County costing millions upon millions of dollars, why is it that Mt. Pleasant will have overcrowded high schools for the next decade?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Why wasn't construction for a new East Cooper high school on the agenda as soon as the new Wando campus opened? It's not like it wasn't full from the get-go.

Why haven't district lines been redrawn to alleviate overcrowding in Mt. Pleasant? How far away is practically empty Burke? What about practically empty North Charleston? Are they any farther away from Wando than Lincoln? 

Hasn't the district spent thousands on population studies? No one could tell that Mt. Pleasant was growing rapidly? Reminds me of the weather forecaster who doesn't look out the window to see that it's raining.

Monday, August 22, 2016

P&C Puts Lipstick on a Pig with Lincoln-Wando Story

We all appreciate "feel-good" stories. That's why the nightly news always ends with one. Murder, mayhem, the sky is falling--then let's close with what a good neighbor did for a stranger. 

That's really the tenor of our local rag's take on the integration of 75 former Lincoln Middle-High's students into the morass of 4000 Wando kids. 

See from-lincoln-to-wando-a-student-learns-to-adapt-to-her-new-school . 

We admire the grit of the featured transfer, Sharome Stafford, for her upbeat take on what her dream of senior year has become. As the article relates, "at Lincoln, Sharome boasted a 4.029 grade point average, the second highest in her class of 15 students.  She was class president, a member of Junior ROTC, a volunteer tutor and obviously college-bound." 

Now what? "On her first day of senior year, Sharome Stafford was late to every one of her classes: Drama 2. Architecture and Civil Engineering. English 4. Honors Calculus."

You really should be on the scene when classes change to get the full flavor of a 4000-student school. Talk about being lost in the shuffle! Stafford mught as well have entered another planet.

Then there are the hours. Getting up at 5 to take an hour-long bus ride? Taking another hour-long bus ride home? Let's hope she still has time for her part-time job in McClellanville. 

Yes, the district has hired an assistant to look out for these students. Yes, courses are available that the district could never have offered at Lincoln, but to be forced to go from being class president to not knowing where her second-highest average places her in Wando's hundreds of seniors must be unnerving.

Wishing her and other former Lincoln students a smooth transition.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hicks's Idiotic Comments on Teachers' Rights


Brian Hicks reads minds--or at least South Carolina teachers' minds. That's why he can assert that "they want a system that both protects then but doesn't leave them stuck pulling someone else's dead weight." Nevermind his tortured syntax.

The bee in his bonnet is public school teachers' right to a hearing if contracts are not renewed, the law meant to protect them from being fired without cause. Evidently, Hicks believes that these rules drag down public school results because public charter schools need not follow them. It's a plot, you see, that state lawmakers hatched to make public schools look worse than public charter schools!

Gee, Brian, maybe you should check under your bed while you're at it.

What is the reason behind these ancient rules protecting teaching jobs? We usually hear "academic freedom," but it doesn't seem to apply. Why don't principals have the power to fire failing teachers? Why should teachers be more protected than any other comparable worker who can be fired at will? 

Teachers' salaries are too low and working conditions often horrible. Once tenure applies, salary scales reward each equally for experience whether capable or not . You have to wonder what would happen in public schools if these old ideas disappeared. Teachers as independent contractors? Teachers treated as employees of any other business enterprise? Charter schools seem not to have any difficulty finding teachers.

Mind boggling.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

School Board System Broken in CCSD and Elsewhere

In his great wisdom (yeah, right) Brian Hicks today smirks over the vagaries of being a school board member in our local school districts. Why, six incumbents chose not to run for another term! Horrors.

See running-from--not-for--the-school-board

School districts such as Charleston have outgrown what started as a small, local enterprise. The totality of money spent by districts has burgeoned without the necessary oversight of those qualified to do so. In Charleston County we have a district that spends more money than the county government. We have a district superintendent who makes more than the mayors of Mt. Pleasant, Charleston, and North Charleston combined. She's not elected but selected. 

Who picks her? Self-nominated, supposedly nonpartisan county residents who have no specific skills that qualify them to select a superintendent or advise her concerning the district's enormous budget. They get elected countywide by those who have no idea what those qualifications should be and by a majority who don't know them personally. They need to have plenty of spare time and spare money, given that they can barely cover the expenses of meetings with what they are paid.

Ever attended a school? You must be qualified to be a school board member.

Want to run for higher public office? You must be qualified also.

Want to save the world? This probably isn't the place.