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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Funding Another TIF Not Wise for Charleston's School Budget

Haven't you ever wondered about the willingness of the Charleston County School District to forgo income in order to revitalize parts of the county? Well, I have and wrote previously of my doubts. Now Steve Bailey has weighed in as the school district looks to sign up for yet another TIF to revitalize West Ashley.

Don't get me wrong, I grew up in West Ashley and would love to see it blossom again the way it did in the 1960s and 1970s. However, Bailey's figures should give anyone pause. As he stated in his op-ed earlier this week, (see education-champion-rittenberg-would-not-have-approved  )
Take the Charleston County School District. It currently participates in six TIFs in Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant. The district by far “invests” more in the TIFs than the municipalities that use them to promote growth. [italics mine] 
According to Mack Gile, the county budget director, the school district deferred $10.8 million in tax revenue for operations and $2.8 million for debt in the fiscal year 2016 alone. Leave the meter running for years and it adds up to real dough. You will recall this is a school district that had a budget shortfall of $18 million last year. 
Mount Pleasant’s TIF produced $12.6 million in fiscal 2016 to fund or pay off debt for infrastructure improvements. Of that, $7.8 million in operations and debt revenue came from the schools; the town and the county kicked in about $2 million each. 
North Charleston’s four TIFs netted $9.6 million in 2016. The city deferred $3 million and the county $1.4 million; the school district about $4.8 million.
"A million here; a million there: pretty soon it adds up to real money." 

Don't you wonder if the School Board members really understood the financial loss with their participation in these TIFs? 

Monday, August 15, 2016

CCSD Must Replicate MSA@Brentwood's Good News

Imagine a Charleston County where the poor entered middle and high school reading as well as or better than the rich. What a huge difference that would make in schools known for their top-heavy loads of students reading below grade level and dropouts.

Imagine: almost all teenagers would be able to read their own textbooks!

If the Charleston County School District knew how to bring this phenomenon to fruition, it would be criminal not to do so. That's why the early results emanating from Meeting Street Academy @ Brentwood are so important. While some find any private-sector involvement in public schools suspect, the latest test results from the takeover of Brentwood, a notoriously failing school, should give them pause. The results give the rest of us hope.

If the  two years of reading scores from MSA@Brentwood hold up to scrutiny, the school will become one of the highest-achieving in the district. These are not "selected" students but those who live within the designated district lines. As a recent op-ed pointed out, 90 percent of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch, yet its kindergarteners scored in the 95th percentile for schools nationwide. Those students have always been under the management of MSA. The first-graders, who also have been under the aegis of MSA for two years, scored in the 92nd percentile. The third graders, who began school under CCSD's program and then switched two years ago to MSA's, ranked in the 78th percentile.

If these figures continue to hold up, CCSD must face a decision regarding the least among us. Let's hope that it's the right one.

Friday, August 12, 2016

CCSD's 4:43 AM Bus Stop: Really?

In the midst of all the evidence that teenagers need to get more sleep, the Charleston County School District has contracted with the Durham Bus Company to pick up middle and high schoolers headed for Baptist Hill Middle High at quarter to five in the morning.

You can't make this stuff up.

It's true. According to the latest bus schedule from CCSD, Route 803 begins every day at 1643 Highway 174 on Edisto Island at that time, then meanders its way through more than 30 stops, picking up its last students at 6:21 am, an hour and 45 minutes later, for a school that begins at 7:10 am.

We hope they get to sleep on the ride!

Other high schools? West Ashley and St. Johns fall into the before-eight category; the rest begin at various times until 8:30.

Obviously, Charleston County's shape is long and narrow; it's a long way from one end of the district to the other. Theoretically a car takes less than half an hour on this route.

Would you want your child on the highway in practically the middle of the night? There's got to be a better way. Too bad the folks concerned don't have more clout.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

C of C Prof. Robert Dillon, Hero to Those Who Hate Pushing Paper

The College of Charleston has removed a long-time biology professor for his refusal to comply with writing specific "learning outcomes" for his course syllabus. Biology Professor Robert Dillon had been teaching at the college for 34 years! 

Wonder what ever happened to academic freedom? He does.

Every teacher who has grimly faced the task of keying lesson plans to such objectives roots for him to succeed in his lawsuit against the College. Dillon even had the temerity to include a Woodrow Wilson quote on his syllabus! How subversive.

Let's see: does this lesson include LO5.a and 7.b, or should it be classified as LO10.c?

What's wrong with college today?  Where to start? Perhaps here, where the accrediting agency will care less whether Dillon inspires students and provides a solid course than whether the outcomes exist on paper. No one has suggested that his classes are sub par.

When you hear of outrages occurring in college classrooms, not handing out student learning outcomes is hardly at the top of the list.

Shame belongs on those college bureaucrats, not Dillon. 

ousted-biology-professor-suing-college-of-charleston-after-syllabus-fight  and


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

CCSD: Where Should It Cut If Not Arts?

If you have a personal budget shortfall, you cut back on nonessentials. Maybe you use your library more frequently instead of ordering books from Amazon. Perhaps you put off buying a new TV or eating in restaurants every week. What you don't cut back on is paying the rent or replacing a refrigerator.

If your shortfall is $18 million as it is in the Charleston County School District, any cut to any program or school is guaranteed to bring out those who care. Cutting the arts is a perfect example. 

Back in the bad old days, St. Andrews Parish High School offered only two years of foreign language study (Spanish, French, Latin) and not a single art class. Those students like me who loved languages and loved art were not happy, but we survived. At least we had the required basics for college admission, and STA also had a "commercial" track for those who weren't headed there.

Of course it matters that low income students lack arts opportunities; however, if low enrollment at Sanders-Clyde doesn't justify the arts magnet status, then why in this budget crisis should it continue?

Those wailing over arts cuts must tell us what unnecessary programs the district should cut instead. Otherwise, complaints will not effect any change.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Charleston County Schools Must Get Parents on Board the Discipline Train

New superintendent. New school year. New discipline plan. All aboard!

We wish!

If you grew up in Charleston County in the 1950s and even the 1960s, you never saw police inside a school. The 1917 "disturbing schools" law was unknown to students, maybe even to teachers. It was also a time when troubled students usually dropped out, even in the early grades. Students who remained through graduation had supportive parents and usually understood that teachers and school staff deserved respect. Parents blamed their children, not the teachers, when problems occurred. 

Let's face it: our society no longer respects authority in that way. In fact, in our society in many ways we don't respect each other either. The respect that begins at home does not exist in too many families. The troubled children who used to drop out remain in school and somehow must learn to respect the learning environment if any student's learning is to take place. In too many cases, teaching self-discipline has become the job of teachers who must fill in what parents of all backgrounds have neglected. 

Students thrive on consistency. CCSD's new discipline plan promises to be consistent, yet until parents fully engage in the discipline process, it will be doomed to failure. The time to figure out how to involve parents in every aspect of the process is past due. Until they get on the train, unruly and disruptive behavior will continue to challenge the ability of every child to get the education he or she deserves.

Monday, August 08, 2016

CCSD Cafeteria Workers and NAN Impatient Waiting for Results

If the National Action Network led by James Johnson had its way, there would be no investigation of bias within CCSD's Nutrition Services Department. Walter Campbell would have been fired as Executive Director last spring. The handful of protesters led by Johnson has nagged Superintendent Postlewait all summer, threatening a boycott of car dealerships (!) at one point. 

Despite the ongoing investigation, Johnson makes no bones about his conclusion:“We’re going to continue protesting until he’s out of there or they transfer him someplace else,” Johnson said.

Some of us can sympathize with the glacial processes of the district; however, convicting before the investigation concludes has no place in a school district. NAN should not be calling the shots on whoever is hired or fired.