Thursday, June 15, 2017

Teachers Seen, Not Heard, in Charleston County Schools

There's no secret about it: any teacher who voices an opinion in the Charleston County School District does so at her own peril--of her job. That's policy. 

It's also no secret that the responsibility for whether students learn or not now falls on teachers instead of parents. What a thought! How could parents be responsible for little Henry's lack of vocabulary, incorrigible behavior, and vulgar language? Hence, the value-added factory-widget-production-line mindset of educrats. If only that teacher had correctly taught poor little Henry, his test scores would have soared.

Yeah, right.

Every single assistant superintendent, principal, and assistant principal should be teaching in a classroom as part of his or her job description. Not only would teacher shortages be relieved, but experience on the front lines would speak more loudly to them than any "listening session"! 

Ah, yes. When pigs fly.Image result for teaching memes funny

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

CCSD's Postlewait Suffering From TMB*

Anybody noticed a communications gap in the Charleston County School District lately? If you haven't, go back to sleep.

The rest of us should recognize the disease for what it is: *too much bureaucracy (TMB).

Time to slough off the layers of assistant superintendents and associate superintendents and all those other positions remaining between principals and the superintendent. How about the super's actually supervising the principals directly? Could it be that perceived lack of communication directly results from her distance from the classroom?

Monday, June 05, 2017

Always Hope for Sanders-Clyde

Image result for sanders clyde elementary school charleston

Here is a Charleston County elementary school where not a single student reads at grade level or above. Did you think that was even possible? The history of Sanders-Clyde is fraught with problems, not the least of which was the massive fraud in test scores perpetrated by a principal about a decade ago. 

No one can accuse the Charleston County School District of old or neglected classroom space here. This school belongs on a different "Corridor of Shame," an academic one.

What interventions can force this failing school to succeed? Surely one should be continuity in leadership! The school has run through five principals in the last seven years. Roshon Bradley, who took over the school as interim in March and now has the official position, needs all the help he can get. One "help" should be at least a three-year stay. 

This native New Yorker has many plans to address the problems that poverty brings to the school: a parent resource center, a beefed-up student clinic with a clothing closet, a new program (ROOTS, LLC) headed by colleague Christopher Cuby, and support from the Charleston Promise Neighborhood. Supplying basic needs for students is, well, basic. However, one need is to prevent the teacher burn-out that has produced one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the state. Teacher support and encouragement should be near the top of Bradley's concerns.

Students who cannot read well cannot succeed in high school or in life. Kudos to Bradley and his team for accepting what has often been a thankless task.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Does Anyone Else in CCSD Have This Much Common Sense?

Maybe others hold similar opinions. Maybe each is afraid to speak out for fear of losing a job. Maybe. For sure, the present Charleston County Superintendent of Education isn't one of them. 

Educational experimentation has stalked victims for decades. We've had teaching sets instead of multiplication in elementary math; allowing misspelling without correction, even dropping phonics entirely in reading and grammar in writing. As Jody Stallings explains, experiments have taken on a whole new dimension.
Teacher to Parent - Generation Guinea Pig
By Jody Stallings Special to the Moultrie News May 31, 2017  (0)

Q. I see a lot of things that concern me about my child’s education. Things seemed to make a lot more sense when I was in school. How is it different for Generation Z, and what is their prognosis?
A. This generation could end up as the smartest, most successful generation in our history. Or it could end up in a grotesque disaster of epic proportions. It will be a long while before we find out. That’s because today’s students are being treated as subjects in one risky experiment after another, and no one can know where it will all lead.
A more appropriate name for Generation Z might be Generation Guinea Pig. Consider just a few of the experimental shifts in education during the last decade:

Schools sink billions into the latest screen technologies like iPads as substitutes for traditional teaching methods. Coupled with loosening the restraints on Smartphone usage during school hours, this has caused an explosion in the amount of time our children interact with screens. While providing zero evidence of an increase in learning, a stream of deepening research warns of dire consequences for students in our rush to screen proliferation.
School districts are rolling back the use of meaningful consequences for bad behavior. They are opting for untested replacements like “Restorative Justice,” which mandates that disruptive children remain in class, teachers apologize for their role in student misbehavior, and students psychoanalyze their actions in group therapy. More motivated by the desire to avoid lawsuits from the Department of Education than concern for children’s welfare, districts have no idea what impact this will have on the education and character development of students.
An obsession with data has led to Generation Guinea Pig being being perhaps the most tested generation in world history. As a result, Big Education companies are churning out experimental programs in a race to inch the data upwards even a fraction, and districts are buying them up like snake oil. What effect this will have on our children is anybody’s guess.
We continue to experiment with drugs without sober consideration of the possible repercussions. Millions of children are prescribed pharmaceuticals to control hyperactivity, often without trying other methods first. Though the CDC assures us this is safe, they also warn of possible long-term side effects like addiction, abuse, and an increased risk of heart and psychiatric problems. Many of the drugs haven’t been in use long enough to know their ultimate impact. Meanwhile, schools rake in revenue acquired as states rush to legalize marijuana, exposing children to an approving culture of cannabis-infused lollipops and Gummy Bears, all while science cautions that in adolescents it likely increases the risk of schizophrenia, lower IQ, addiction, and behavior disorders.
In the past, students who failed through lack of effort were required to go to summer school, retake courses, or, occasionally, even repeat a grade. Students of Generation Guinea Pig, however, are often promoted from one level to the next without inconvenience until they reach high school. By that time, failure has become entrenched, and rather than hit the books to earn their diploma, many drop out. What long-term impact this learned failure will have on our society remains to be seen.
But I’ve barely scratched the surface. Think of all the other experimentation today’s students are exposed to. Are we confident that personalized learning and flipped classrooms are doing more good than harm? Do you know if your child has been helped or hurt by the elimination of fact-based learning, cursive writing, keyboarding, civics, industrial arts, or health? Do you have any idea if Common Core standards, data-based questioning, or RIT Band instruction is aiding your child? Are you confident that PBIS, the Lucy Calkins Project, Edgenuity, or Springboard is preparing children for a successful future? Do we really know if specialized magnet and charter schools are improving or hurting our children’s education? Were you even aware that your child will be subjected to many if not most of these experiments at some time in their k-12 experience, usually simultaneously?
Good grief, where does it end?
Innovation and experimentation are hallmarks of progress, and probably many of the things I’ve mentioned are good, but how can we tell? It feels like we’ve reached a point where experimentation is so prevalent that there’s no possible way to know which innovations are working and which ones are killing us.
By all means, we should continue to search for something better, but experimentation in education, like in any of the sciences, ought to be targeted, methodical, and evaluated. We shouldn’t binge indiscriminately on novelty like a pack of lost, starving wolves.
Loving our children should demand care and deliberation in how we teach and reach them. G.K. Chesterton wrote that education is “the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” If that’s truly the case, then it may be time to do some serious soul-searching. 
Jody Stallings has been an award-winning teacher in Charleston since 1992. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Someone Knows Who: Fire Set in Charter School Bathroom

Maybe he or she had an exam this morning. Let's hope someone who loves his or her school has the guts to tell who set the fire at the Charleston School for Math and Science. The little miscreant could move on to bigger and nastier pranks.
Intentionally set fire breaks out in Charleston Charter School for Math and Science bathroom  By Jack Evans

Toilet paper dispensers in two bathroom stalls acted as fuel for a fire Tuesday morning at the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science, officials said.

The fire was set intentionally, Charleston Fire Department Deputy Fire Marshal Rick Anewalt said. Crews responded at about 10 a.m. to the school, located at 1002 King Street, and extinguished the fire.

An evacuation was already underway when crews arrived, and no injuries were reported. The incident is still under investigation.

Though the fire was contained to the bathroom, Anewalt said water from the sprinkler system caused more serious damage when it overflowed the bathroom and went into the second-floor hallway.

Anewalt said he didn't want to speculate on the financial extent of the damages, but "it's definitely going to be more than $10,000."

Except for one area damaged by smoke and water, the school was reoccupied and remained open for the rest of the day, according to a Facebook post from the fire department. Fire investigators, along with school officials and the Charleston Police Department, are reviewing the incident.

Mary Carmichael, executive director of the Public Charter School Alliance of South Carolina, said in an email statement the school will be open Wednesday.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Make It Stop! CCSD's Postlewait Misjudges Community Reaction to Change

No one, least of all yours truly, denies that the Charleston County School District has a fraught load of problems that the sainted previous superintendent left for her successor. During Gerrita Postlewait's short tenure, she had seemed to understand how to proceed without getting stuck in the mud. No more.

What caused the superintendent to behave as she has is unclear. Certainly, the abysmal scores on an unbiased national achievement test (the ACT) may well have been a factor. Her initial request to the Board of Trustees to hand her the power to hire and fire principals passed with barely a discussion. The new meeting regime with only one per month meant for the public at large displaced input from the community but calmed the waters. Now her efforts to change the educational climate in some failing schools have blown up in her face. You could almost feel sorry for her--until you remember that she's paid over $200,000 per year to steer our schools in the right direction.

Who would want to be a teacher in Charleston County? Perhaps a glutton for punishment! So many flaws have appeared in the value-added system of teacher evaluation that most districts have already abandoned it. CCSD has come late to the party. What schools need is effective leadership from principals. Any teacher worth her salt knows that the principal makes or breaks the school climate. Question: is CCSD's system of assistant superintendents allowing its principals to do their jobs?

We might as well have a value-added system of parent evaluation, for all the good it would do.

Data driven? 

How about common-sense driven? 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

CCSD's Early College High School on Palmer Campus

"Applications are being accepted for the Charleston County School District's new Early College High School, which opens in the fall and will let students take college-credit courses through Trident Technical College.
If students stay on track, they can graduate high school with as much as an associate degree completed.
Kinda surprised that the NAACP hasn't accused the Charleston County School District of trying to take good students away from Burke. Still a good idea.
“We are looking for those kids who are hard workers and have the ability to get the work done,” said Kim Wilson, the school district's executive director of secondary learning.
“They just need some support in place to help them be successful at whatever they decide to do, whether it’s a four-year college, two-year college, they go in to the workforce right after high school or they join the military.”
The school will accept up to 100 students for the ninth grade only. It will add grades 10 through 12 in the coming years.
Modeled after a similar Horry County program, the school will be housed on Trident Tech's Palmer Campus in downtown Charleston. Students will take high school courses from a small staff while pursuing college-credit courses at Trident.
According to the school district, the school is "designed to encourage student groups who are underrepresented in post-secondary education, such as students of color, English language learner (ELL) students, students from low-income families, and prospective first-generation college students." 
The district has budgeted $647,000 for Early College High School to cover its costs, including administrative staff, transportation, supplies and one teacher each in English, math, science and social studies. That funding will also cover tuition for Trident Tech courses.
The district will provide transportation to the school, and students will be allowed to participate in arts and athletic programs at their neighborhood schools.
To apply, go to and click on "Early College High School Application" under the Quick Links sidebar. Applications are due June 1.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Prosecute Former Estill Principal Over Sex Activity in Middle School

What happened in Estill Middle School four years ago should make every parent and taxpayer angry. We should especially be really, really enraged that no one has held an adult  responsible for activities that harmed the students under the school's care. Who was in charge of the school, the principal or its preteen students?

The school may have the worst physical environment, the highest percentage of free-lunch students, and be nearly 100 percent black. None of that matters if the adults in charge are in fact doing their jobs. Annoying as it is, we can understand that prosecutors could not bring a strong case of criminal conduct against the preteens; however, the same is not true of the principal and teachers. Universities may have abjured in loco parentis, but middle schools do not have that choice. Clearly, this activity was allowed by negligence.

You have to wonder, as I do, how much the activity of the previous school resource officer, now convicted of sexual assault of a student at the school, contributed to overall problems. No one was paying attention to his suspect activities either. Quintina Moore, the school resource officer who replaced him, at least had her head on straight and reported what was happening around her. She must be incredibly frustrated that no action against anyone concerned has taken place.

Well, perhaps one action happened. The principal of four years ago is now the assistant principal. 

Yes, you read that correctly. You can't make this stuff up. Why has Hampton County District 2 allowed Synetria Hawkins to continue supervising the students she failed? Must be related to Mr. Big.

No one can be held responsible for all of the ways in which preteens can hurt each other. However, providing a climate and lack of supervision that allows them to do so without repercussions should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. Ms. Hawkins loses her certification for life? Good.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Let's Go For It: Trump Admin Plans to Promote School Choice

Image result for school choice memes

People who don't support school choice have never faced sending a child to a school where discipline is poor and learning just about impossible. So my theory is that they wish for poor children to be stuck in those schools where they won't be seen or heard.

We have our own schools in Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester Counties that parents dread--or would dread if they knew what really comes down. 

Any push for school choice is a push for equity in educational opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged. All children can achieve given the right environment for learning.

And while we're at it, make sure that those students have access to transportation to schools of choice. Without transport, there is no choice.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

CCSD's Delay, Linger, & Wait on Lincoln HS Replacement

Wasn't it a done deal? Who else in Charleston County thought that the school district was all ready to build a new high school on the land it identified for us as an alternative to the now-closed Lincoln High School? Haven't various members told us just that for almost a year?

So it came as a shock to learn that the district has now retreated to square one because the land--which apparently was never purchased--consists mainly of wetlands. Too bad we're not playing a board game here.. Someone could roll the dice to jump to the patch of land that would be adequate. 

Why did it take so long to identify the property as useless? Why is the present property owner's name top secret? Why has CCSD treated that end of the county in such a careless manner?  It takes years and millions of dollars to build a new high school. 

There'd better be a Plan B!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Time for German in Charleston County Schools?

Spotted on Palmetto Commerce Parkway
in North Charleston

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reducing Federal Meddling in Local Schools

What lasting effects the latest education executive order issued from the White House will achieve, only time will tell. However, most reasonable adults agree that edicts from the US Department of Education for too long have shoved one-size-fits-all down citizens' throats. So it is heartening that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos must "identify areas where Washington has overstepped its legal authority in education, and modify and repeal regulations and guidance" not compliant. 

We can hope such actions will decimate the number of bureaucrats now working in the Taj Mahal on Calhoun Street but don't place bets. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

CCSD's Academic Magnet Knocked Out by Charter Competition

Image result for "basis scottsdale" high school

Actually  the Charleston County School District's Academic Magnet dropped out of US News & World Report's 10 best public high schools. It's all a numbers game, folks, so don't take the news too seriously. Nothing suggests that AMHS is headed downhill.

However, of note is the reason that AMHS fell to No. 11: public charter high schools run by an Arizona for-profit organization known as BASIS. BASIS high schools seem to be both proliferating and performing. Amid their successes are the usual complaints pointing to high dropout rates and under-representation of minorities. Anything sound familiar?

Friday, April 21, 2017

One Historian's View of American Public Education: True?

"The main function of American public education is to make sure that the talented poor do not get a good education and are not able to rise and compete with the class that can afford private schooling, a class noted for its sterling verbal commitment to egalitarian public education."--Clyde Wilson

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Stallings Hits Another Educational Home Run

Jody Stallings has been an award-winning teacher in Charleston since 1992. He has served as Charleston County Teacher of the Year, Walmart Teacher of the Year, and CEA runner-up for National Educator of the Year. He currently teaches English at Moultrie Middle School and is director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance. This column is from the Moultrie News.

Teacher to Parent — Hold students accountable for their own learning
"Q. Recently I’ve heard of different districts using test scores as part of teacher evaluations. As a parent, I don’t see anything wrong with this. Why shouldn’t teachers be held accountable for test scores?

"A. I guess it sounds good on the surface. If a patient dies, it must be the doctor’s fault, right? Seems legit.

"As a teacher, I can tell you the one data point that wildly fluctuates more than any other is student test scores. As research (and any teacher) can tell you, a teacher whose scores are in the top 25 percent this year is very likely to be in the bottom 25 percent the next. Same teacher. Same curriculum. Different results. Weird, huh? How can this be? It’s almost as if student achievement has more to do with students than teachers. But I kid.

"Anyway, the idea of using test scores for evaluations has been thoroughly discredited about a hundred times for about a dozen years. The most notable study was an Economic Policy Report in 2010. That was seven years ago, but we’re still trying to ride the crippled horse. Why do districts keep coming back to something that is so problematic? I don’t know. Maybe because some elected leaders don’t have any better ideas and it seems like a quick and cheap fix. Or maybe it’s supposed to be motivational or something. You know, like “We’re going to throw one hostage off the plane every hour until we get what we want.” That sort of thing. As if teachers are just sandbagging it, saving their energy to bask in their money baths after school like Scrooge McDuck.

"A better approach — at least from a teacher’s perspective — would be to put policies in place that actually help us do the tough job of trying to educate students. If this were to happen, then maybe you really could hold teachers responsible for test scores because we would actually have the support we need to teach effectively. At a minimum, that would be these four things:

"1. Hold students accountable for their own learning. Teachers are often pressured to pass students who fail, and students who do fail are sent up to the next grade anyway. Each year this problem is compounded. There’s not even summer school anymore. How can you hold teachers responsible for educating students who have been groomed to believe there are no consequences for failure?

"2. Implement a discipline plan that works so teachers can concentrate more on teaching and less on classroom management. How can you hold teachers responsible for educating students when classrooms are out of control and teachers have little power to ensure that the focus is on learning?

"3. Hold parents accountable for supporting their children. They have vastly more influence on their kids than teachers ever will. Some leaders laud the success of charter schools, but they overlook the fact that those charter schools mandate parental support, and if it isn't given, those students can be removed from the school. How can you hold teachers responsible for educating students when their own parents don’t make them study, read, do homework, behave, or even show up?

"4. Give teachers more autonomy. It’s ironic when districts denigrate teachers for getting bad results when it was the districts that came up with the teaching methodologies to begin with. To paraphrase a famous coach, districts want to hold teachers accountable for how the meal tastes, but they don’t want to let us pick the recipes or shop for the groceries. How can you hold teachers responsible for educating students when, in many cases, their techniques, materials, textbooks, technology, pacing, and strategies are all mandated by someone else?

"I wouldn’t file any of these solutions under “Innovative.” I’d put them in the dusty, long-lost file labeled “Common Sense” that somewhere along the line fell behind the cabinet. Maybe it’s time we picked it up, dusted it off, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work.

"Wait a second. Common sense? Hard work? Hmm. Maybe it’s innovative after all."

Does anyone else wonder why Stallings's columns don't appear in the Post & Courier as well?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Early College High in CCSD's District 20 to Compete with Burke?

According to the P & C, "A new high school offering courses for college credit is set to open this fall in Charleston County, possibly at Trident Technical College's campus on the East Side of downtown Charleston."

Possibly? Isn't there a rather large totally renovated high school building barely in use only one and a half miles away? You know, the elephant in the room?
"Charleston County School District leaders say the planned Early College High School will put students on track to graduate high school with an associate degree or industry certification. Graduating with as many as 60 college credit hours already earned through Trident courses, students could save money on college tuition or head straight into a career."
"Basically we're blending high school and college into one," said Richard Gordon, executive director of Career and Technology Education. . . . The school could open in August with as many as 100 ninth-grade students attending classes at Trident's Palmer Campus. The school plans to add grades in subsequent years until it serves grades nine through 12. 
"Modeled after similar programs in Horry County, Berkeley County and Dorchester District 2, the Early College High School aims to attract first-generation college students and students who score between the 40th and 60th percentile on eighth-grade standardized tests. . . .Gordon said he would begin to "recruit like crazy" in middle schools as soon as the board gives the school and its location final approval. 
Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait said she hopes to expand the program eventually.
"Ultimately, it would be our goal to have an Early College on each of Trident Technical College's campuses throughout the district," Postlewait said. "I hope that we think about it as the first effort, not to exclude anyone."
The idea sounds great, but--are we giving up on Burke High School? Won't this program entice away those remaining students reading on grade level? Let's hope someone has thought this through completely.

Monday, April 17, 2017

CCSD's Suspension Stats Don't Tell the Tale

Image result for how to lie with statistics cartoons

What difference does it make if one Charleston County school has recorded more suspensions than another? Are we to assume that the fewer the suspensions, the better the discipline, or what? Meeting Street Schools programs suspend more students: does that statistic mean that its students need more discipline or that discipline at those schools is Draconian? If there were no suspensions at North Charleston High, does that mean there was no discipline either?

Let's put this another way: would statistics matter if Mt. Pleasant Academy had a much higher suspension rate that Meeting Street @ Brentwood, or vice versa? Why?

Trying to make an issue out of suspension rates is a red herring. What really matters is learning. If "sweating the small stuff" leads to a better learning environment, who's to quarrel? Adherents can massage statistics to support almost anything. Keep in mind that old book, How to Lie with Statistics. It should be required reading for all.

Or as Darrell Huff puts it, "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Friday, April 07, 2017

CCSD Needs New Evaluation of Principals, not Teachers

Evaluating teachers on improvements in student test scores will never work. Some states have already discovered that truth. You might as well plan to grade parents on their child's improvement. In fact, that might be a better measure!

Students are not widgets and schools not factories. The sooner school districts learn those facts, the better.

On the other hand, Charleston County School Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait cited some problematic causes of student non-achievement: "Some teachers have given all of their students As, even those who failed the End-of-Course tests, she said. Entire schools, including the now-closed Lincoln High, had an unwritten policy of never giving a grade below a 60." 

At Lincoln High a principal-who-cannot-be-named set a policy regarding grades. Teachers had no choice but to follow it. Our glorious past superintendent allowed the policy to continue or, more likely, with her horde of associate superintendents never knew what went on. Whose fault is that?

Teachers giving all of their students As have given up. Who are the principals-who-cannot-be-held-responsible who allowed this travesty of education to occur? Does CCSD employ principals who believe that everybody deserves an A regardless of achievement?

No one should wonder why the shortage of teachers continues to grow. When teachers have respect both in and out of the classroom that will begin to change. Of course, teachers need evaluation and advice. Apparently, on the front lines in CCSD principals have dropped the ball.

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Lowcountry's Glorified Remedial High School, Trident Tech

No one doubts the necessity of Trident Technical College. Its programs from nursing to policing are essential to the tri-county area. However, the failure of tri-county's high schools to educate their graduates has forced TTC to become what it was never meant to be: a remedial high school. 

The shocking statistic that ninety percent of high school graduates entering TTC must take remedial math should shake up our local school boards. That percentage doesn't even count the graduates who don't meet TTC's low entrance requirements! 

Where's the outrage? 

These students, who by and large come from the lower economic rungs of our local communities must now pay for classes to learn what they should have learned in high school for free. 

How about a class action lawsuit against the school districts of Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley Counties? Where are the PI attorneys when we need them? These students must shell out dollars they probably have borrowed and delay entering the work force, with accompanying delay in wages, to make up deficiencies their high school diplomas promised they wouldn't have.

Don't kid yourselves. It's our loss as well as theirs. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

CCSD's Hollinshed and Caesar's Wife

Image result for caesar's wife

A decade ago when chairman of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, current Charleston County School Board member Kevin Hollinshed used his county credit card to pay for an upgrade to first class and Indianapolis Colts tickets. After an Ethics Commission investigation cleared him, partly because the commission had no written policy on credit card use, you would think that he would be extra careful not to run afoul again. Not so.

Hollinshed's excuse for not filing his financial information in his 2016 campaign for School Board is that it's the computer's fault. Somehow all the information he entered on line did not appear in the records kept by the State Ethics Commission. However, no campaign reports from Hollinshed were ever received. You can miss a "button" to click once, but if you miss it every time, something else is wrong. If the school district had never notified him of his non-compliance, would he ever have reported?

No one is suggesting Hollinshed had nefarious contributions for his campaign. Slipshod records are more likely. That doesn't bode well for his oversight of spending as a board member. 

Keep in mind what's going on next door with the Berkeley County School Board. Its members had no idea, no idea what was happening to funds over the course of several years. It's not a pretty story.

"Caesar's wife must be above suspicion." Let's hope Hollinshed takes notice that he now has two strikes. What will people think if there's a third?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Berkeley County School District Soap Opera Continues

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We now learn that BCSD's former treasurer's brother-in-law's firm was financial advisor to the district. Thomas continues to cooperate with the FBI. He hid cost overruns in the building program by dipping surreptitiously into reserves. And no one knew. They are shocked, shocked!

Well, someone knew. Cost overruns or kickbacks? And why did it take persistent FOIA requests to uncover the dirty deeds? Does not the school board have some fiduciary responsibility?

We haven't heard the last of this iceberg. Inquiring minds still ask, "Why is it the FBI and not the IRS leading the investigation? Money laundering? Interstate transfer of funds? Kidnapping?

All we need next are sex, lies, and videotape.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hold SC Governors Responsible for Education

Have you ever seen anyone run for governor without promising to improve the dismal state of education in South Carolina? Me neither. That focus is the result of voters wishing to see improvement, what else? The reality is that the governor of South Carolina has little authority, if any, over our state's education.

However, again this year our state legislature has the opportunity to give the governor more power. Why would it want to do that? So that whoever is governor can take responsibility for the state education department by appointing its superintendent. What possible advantage derives from a superintendent independent of the state's governor?

Right now, the state superintendent of education runs independently for office on a party ticket the way the lieutenant governor used to do. That process makes the superintendent beholden to political supporters who may not support the governor's agenda. Yet the voters still believe the governor has the responsibility for what happens.

The governor should appoint the state superintendent as is done in 36 other states. It's time to modernize our statewide political system.

Image result for responsibility cartoon images

Monday, March 20, 2017

CCSD: Capital Sales Proceeds Should Not Fill Operations Budget!

Image result for archer school charleston sc

The Chicora "Graded" School building deteriorated for years while owned by the Charleston County School District. That was then. The present CCSD administration actually pays to maintain unused buildings, or at least, it gives that impression to taxpayers. A case in point is the Archer campus downtown, claimed to cost $18,000 per year to maintain. 

Have you ever driven past that building? Built in 1936 for black elementary students, it has undergone renovations for use as "swing space" as the district spent its way into multiple new buildings unhampered by lack of capital funds. Now CCSD hopes to sell it and the city block it occupies. The sale of the Laing School property in Mt. Pleasant for $12 million has the administration salivating for more. 

Just a simple query before the district starts devouring itself: into which budget did the $12 million go? In the past, such windfalls (if you can call them that) ended up in the operations budget. How about this one? In other words, is the desire to sell off surplus buildings seen as a money-saving gesture or as a way to build up the operations budget?

As any savvy investor knows, living off capital leads to disaster in the long run.
Image result for snake devouring itself cartoon

Friday, March 17, 2017

Shame on CCSD and North Charleston over Chicora

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The building rots while politicians twiddle their thumbs.

How did the deterioration of Chicora Elementary School happen? Who dropped the ball and allowed thieves to scour all copper from the building? Who allowed the building to deteriorate to its current dilapidated state? Why has nothing happened to secure the building since the City of North Charleston took possession from CCSD?

No one should evince shock over the Charleston County School District's allowing the building to crumble. That's the modus operandi of CCSD regarding older schools. However, why has the City of North Charleston allowed the building to sit as "an eyesore and a threat to public safety" in the middle of one of its neighborhoods? Apparently Mayor Summey has other priorities, such as golf courses.

A reputable organization has proposed a plan to renovate and reuse the almost century-old building, when no one else has come forward. And the City delays.

Do we really need more foot dragging?

How to Spend $40 Million on Charleston County Schools

Gerrita Postlewait may rue the day she asked administrators for ideas on spending an almost $40-million-dollar "windfall" due the district after the termination of a special TIF. It's bad enough that one educrat proposed hiring the district's own "journalist." Now Luther Seabrook's Letter to the Editor points out that after saving $18 million by closing an all-black school, the district feels no compunction to address the needs of black students with the much larger $40 million. He points out that the district caused hardship for the affected students.

Actually, the Charleston County School District causes hardship for every black student stuck in a district school with lower expectations for achievement. These students enter high school doomed to fail if standards are raised there. Seabrook's suggestion for spending the millions on "reading and learning" laboratories in each of CCSD's failing elementary schools should rank high on the Superintendent's list of priorities. 

Shouldn't it?


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Berkeley County School District Puzzles

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New Jersey's evenly-balanced political-party split used to provide so many political scandals: as power switched sides, opponents threw corrupt politicians to the wolves. Now I'm beginning to wonder the same about the Berkeley County School District.

Its battle over the Yes4Schools fiasco has played out in the courts for several years. Now we are treated to the resignation of the BCSD chief financial officer, who somehow forgot which account was designated for several hundred thousand dollars. Oops!

But wait!

Its financial officer, who also oversaw capital expenditures, seems to be cooperating with the feds. He hasn't been charged with anything yet. And it's not the IRS that's unhappy: it's the FBI! 

Gets stranger, doesn't it?

Does anyone in Berkeley County believe the recent resignation of its school superintendent is not connected with these financial misdoings? 

This scandal could have occurred in the Charleston County School District, if forensic audits proposed over the last decade had gone forward. Instead, multiple players were let off the hook. Maybe they knew where the bodies were buried!

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Let's Hear from CCSD's Board Members Who Support Garrett

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One man stands alone, or so it seems from the silence surrounding Todd Garrett's call for action in the Charleston County School District. Are the rest of the Trustees too cowed to speak? Are they, as the following Letter to the Editor suggests, merely "cookie-cutter" members happy to keep the system running as poorly as it does?

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

CCSD's Garrett Throws Down the Gauntlet to Administration

What is the current definition of insane? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results? Well, Charleston County School Board member Todd Garrett has asked that insanity to stop,

His message? Why do we still have so many failing schools and "At graduation, only 3.7 percent of our black students and 38.6 percent of our white students meet the Gold Work Keys level that Boeing requires to apply for a position" or attend Trident Tech. Why after so much money has been spent in the district?

Garrett holds the district's feet to the fire: either produce different results or let an outside organization take over those schools. 


Go get 'em, Todd!

Friday, March 03, 2017

Will CCSD's New "Journalist" Present More Fake News?

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It was nice while restraint lasted, but what else could the Charleston County School District do when it had accumulated an embarrassingly large deficit? Now that CCSD expects almost $40 million in "new" revenue, Board Chair Kate Darby enthusiastically supports hiring its own "journalist."

Well, we all must make choices with our funds, but Paul Bowers has pointed out that's the same as the "cost of two first-year teacher salaries." 

No doubt Darby would counter with "who needs more teachers?"

Should we quibble over the definition of "journalist"? "Journalist," "PR flack," it's all the same, right? The educrat who proposed and named this position, Erica Taylor, should be fired. She already has a budget of nearly $1,7 million and 16 employees. Apparently that's not enough for her. She's even requested another $55,000 (another potential teacher) for  "Aggressive PR Efforts (complete District rebranding, town hall meetings, etc.)" and $50,000 (another potential teacher) for "Parent, Teacher, Business, Student Cabinets." 

You would assume that the district has experienced poor relations with our local rag. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The P & C has bent over backward for years to present the district in the best possible light in order to assuage the worries of potential homebuyers from out of state. Frequently it has published the district's press releases verbatim.

In case you're wondering, Taylor envisions "This person will assist in telling the stories of the greatness of our 87 schools and programs, nearly 50,000 students, 5,500 teachers and unique educational offerings." 

Taylor has further grandiose plans--creating a television show and the district's own news channel. No doubt she sees her role as big chief in charge.

Well, why not? When you ask educrats to spend money, they can always find a way. The district should be asking this overstaffed department how it can cut costs instead. As Board member Cindy Bohn Coats asked, "how many people does it take to put out a press release?"

Maybe some of that money could find its way into the classroom and actually affect students.

Nah. Silly me.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Feds Should Stay Out of Public School Bathrooms

They weren't in our school bathrooms before; why should they be now? Was there an outcry from the states asking for the feds' "protection" in bathrooms? No. 

In the past hundred years of public schooling, the feds have not entered school bathrooms unless crimes were being committed. The system worked. Getting all knotted up into a tizzy over what has been undeniable trampling on states rights, counties rights, and school districts rights is silly. Let principals and parents work things out. If parents feel their children are deprived, they can always contact the ACLU and fight it out in court.

This whole problem results from people who want to regulate our lives because they think we are incapable of doing so ourselves.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Moultrie's Jody Stallings Hits Another Home Run on Teaching Standards!

From the Moultrie News:

Teacher to Parent - Are the common core replacement standards any better?
By Jody Stallings Special to the Moultrie News Feb 22, 2017 Updated Feb 22, 2017   (1)

Q. As a a parent, I was not a fan of the Common Core Standards and was happy to see South Carolina get rid of them. Are the replacement standards any better?

A. Nope. Now, that’s not to say that the Common Core standards were good. At best, teachers were ambivalent. Some really loved them. Others thought they were terrible. So I’m not suggesting that we revert back to those. All I’m saying is that the new state standards are like Britney Spears circa 2007: they have serious issues. One of the worst is that they are a ruthlessly complex scattershot of completely incomprehensible gibberish.

In "Walden," Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify.” The writers of the S.C. Standards didn’t get that message. Most teachers believe learning standards should be highly rigorous but also simple and clear. This helps students learn, teachers teach, and parents know what the heck is going on. Overwrought complexity, on the other hand, breeds chaos, confusion, and costliness.

As an example, the state standards for my eighth-grade English class list 147 discrete learning items. For this article I tried to find the exact number of actionable phrases (things like “students will analyze poems,” “learn what a verb is,” “identify metaphors,” etc.). I got up to 192 before I stopped counting. My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that there are about 252 such standards, just for an 8th grade English class. There might be more.

Keep in mind there are only 180 days of school, and 10 of those are set aside for testing these very standards. Just when are teachers supposed to teach all of these things?

That assumes, of course, that you really want us to. As I mentioned, not only are there far too many standards, many of them are totally unintelligible. Here’s a verbatim example:

“Integrate an information (cueing) system that includes meaning (semantics), structure (syntax), visual (graphophonic), and pragmatics (schematic) to make meaning from text.”

And you thought you had trouble getting your child to pick up his socks. Try getting 120 eighth-graders to integrate graphophonics into their information (cueing) systems.

I’ve been around a while, so I happen to know that back in the day the above standard used to go by the single word “Read.” But imagine being a brand-new teacher struggling with 30 wild, wired pre-recess eighth-graders reading on a fifth-grade level, and you are charged with getting them to “integrate a (cueing) system that ..." — Oh, you get the idea.

And let’s consider the thousands of perfectly intelligent teachers who don’t have the faintest clue what that standard means. Educational administrators will say, “That’s okay. We’ve hired professionals to train teachers to learn it. Plus we’ve purchased some wonderful programs to help them teach it to their students.” You can probably hear the cash register already.

That training and those programs are expensive. Really expensive. A few years ago, CCSD alone spent $5 million to train its teachers in the Common Core standards, and those were a cakewalk compared to the new ones. This reveals one possible reason why the new standards are so plied with indecipherable jargon: Someone has to make money, and it sure ain’t teachers. (Pardon my grammar. I was just trying to be graphophonic.)

What’s the solution? Listen to Thoreau: Simplify, simplify! Our students (and teachers) are being overwhelmed by educational standards that have little practical connection to real life. We need to get back to basics. Course standards should be able to easily fit onto a single page and should be decipherable by any parent.

This would eliminate the need to spend money we don’t have on expensive consultants we don’t need to instruct teachers who are leaving the classroom in droves how to teach standards that make no sense to students who deserve much better.

The great computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra described simplicity as a tremendous virtue, “But it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better.”

Indeed it does. Much to the detriment of our students.

Jody Stallings has been an award-winning teacher in Charleston since 1992. He has served as Charleston County Teacher of the Year, Walmart Teacher of the Year, and CEA runner-up for National Educator of the Year. He currently teaches English at Moultrie Middle School and is director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance. Please send your questions to him at

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why New Principals in February, CCSD?

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Why change horses in mid-stream? 

The Charleston County School District just announced four new principals who are taking their positions this month. Shouldn't these decisions be made in the summer before school starts? It makes you wonder if somehow they forgot.

On the other hand, perhaps the principals signal a new rigor in standards in the four schools affected--Burke High, Stall High, North Charleston High, and Northwoods Middle. Note that these schools do not dwell on the heights of success at present. 

Let's also hope that Henry Darby, who also sits on the County Council, has lots of energy. He's going to need it for both jobs.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

CCSD's Postlewait's Frank Appraisal not a Solution

What else could be concluded from the poor performance of former Lincoln High School students at Wando this year? Yes, lower expectations for poor, mainly black, students have permeated the Charleston County School District for decades.

Now what?

The superintendent has taken the first step: identify the problem. The second step should be to find out exactly how widespread the problem is. 

The third? Propose a solution.

Low expectations do not begin in the eighth grade but in kindergarten. It will be interesting to see how the district addresses the problem. If it can arrive at a solution, millions will cheer.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Let's See What DeVos Can Do

Here is a cogent voice for moderation regarding the new Secretary of Edication.

FEBRUARY 7, 2017
Statement on Confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education
It is gratifying to see Betsy DeVos confirmed as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. This is not because the federal government should attempt to push school choice—it should not, except in the District of Columbia and for families connected to the military—but because the opposition to now-Secretary DeVos was so unfair to her, and to the research on educational freedom. The reality is that research indicates charter schooling works in Michigan, DeVos’s home state, and specifically in Detroit. It shows that families of students with disabilities, rather than somehow being victimized by school choice, are empowered and immensely satisfied with it. And logic and evidence show that private school choice, rather than imposing ideas on people, frees them to get what they want for their children without forcing it on others.
It is also gratifying to see DeVos approved because she stated repeatedly in her confirmation hearing that education decisions should be left to state and local governments. Constitutionally, that has things absolutely right: the Constitution gives Washington no authority to govern or “oversee” American education, as Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) put it, which means such rights remain with the states, or with the people. And 50-plus years of increasingly intrusive federal meddling in education, with ultimately no visible academic improvement to show for it, brilliantly illustrates the wisdom of that decision.
Now let us hope that the Trump administration sticks to the constitutionally-constrained federal role—even on school choice—that Secretary DeVos has repeatedly endorsed. 

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Teachers Know Why Teachers Leave the Profession: Hint, It's not Low Pay!

The following appeared in the Moultrie News, written by the head of the Charleston Teacher Alliance. 

Teacher to Parent - Why teachers leave
By Jody Stallings Special to the Moultrie News Feb 1, 2017 

I read in a recent Post and Courier editorial about the shortage of teachers and the problems with teacher retention in our state. Is this a real problem and what might be some ideas to correct it?

I read that, too, and I thought the P&C’s editorial was welcomed fresh air for what has been a closeted matter for a long time. While it is not a burning issue in all schools, it is a serious problem in many places, and there is no doubt it is hurting thousands of students.

As director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance, I interact with teachers all over the region, and from what I hear, the primary reasons they leave the classroom come down to three critical issues:

1. Student discipline. Across the state, teachers and principals have not been given the power to enforce basic rules of behavior, and I’m not just talking about gum chewing and running in the halls. I routinely hear from teachers who have been assaulted, cursed at, threatened, and terrorized by out-of-control classrooms. Far too often the students in these situations are treated with tenderness while the teachers are blamed. Teaching in many schools has devolved by stages, from instruction to daycare to containment to survival. Until teachers and principals are empowered to get their classrooms back in control, the profession will continue to bleed talented, intelligent educators.

2. Parental support. From the moment teachers step into the classroom, they are warned that they will be held accountable for raising the test scores of all students. They are also warned that they must do so without the expectation of parents’ help. While most parents are supportive of their children’s education, too many have forgotten their responsibilities. They do not discipline their children. They do not make them study. They do not encourage them to listen to their teachers. Instead, they blame teachers and the system for failing them. Teaching is hard enough when everyone is behind you, but when the people who have the most influence on students are not supportive of your efforts, exasperation and fatigue can take root, and teachers will abandon the profession.

3. Administrative power and teacher discretion. Because districts are becoming increasingly top-heavy with administrators, teachers are being forced to implement prescribed (and usually unsuccessful) programs and teaching methods. Teaching is an art, not a science, and when you exchange a teacher’s palette and canvas with a dime store paint-by-numbers set, the effects on the teaching profession are predictable. In addition, districts continue to slam teachers with grotesque amounts of paperwork, replace instructional time with unnecessary testing, and cram more and more students into already packed classrooms.

I’m no genius, but I am a teacher, and my advice to those at the state level is that if you really want to keep teachers in the classroom, you might pay attention to why they’re leaving in the first place.

Jody Stallings has been an award-winning teacher in Charleston since 1992. He has served as Charleston County Teacher of the Year, Walmart Teacher of the Year, and CEA runner-up for National Educator of the Year. He currently teaches English at Moultrie Middle School and is director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance. Please send your questions to him at

Monday, January 30, 2017

Disparities in CCSD's High Schools: Not Teachers' Fault

Stop blaming teachers.

Oh, if only Lincoln High's teachers had been more rigorous in their expectations, former Lincoln students at Wando wouldn't be having such a hard time adjusting.

That's just plain nonsense. Forget high turnover. Forget inexperienced staff.

Faced with a classroom full of students who are already below grade level in achievement, what teacher will cause all of them to flunk? Which principal would allow that to happen? Low achievement doesn't begin in high school; it starts in kindergarten. Then it snowballs. Ask any middle school teacher. 

Two recent articles, one on these former Lincoln students and one on Prestige Academy's problems, honed in on teachers as the root problem. 

Low pay. Disrespect. No wonder teachers leave the profession.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Great News for CCSD's Laing MS; What About North Charleston?

Laing Middle School's recognition as the top  STEM middle-school in the country impresses us all. Nothing should detract from the hard work of the Charleston County School District and its administration and teachers. Great news for Mt. Pleasant, once again.

What about North Charleston? When comes the day that one of its schools gets such recognition? Judging by the present, never. 

Mayor Summey needs to put pressure on the district to fix his city's failing, in some cases, almost empty, schools. More and more young families in the city choose to homeschool rather than attend their local schools, elementary, middle, and high. It's no good saying that most of CCSD's greatest magnet schools are in North Charleston. Hardly any locals get into those schools.

Can you imagine what the outcry would be if Mt. Pleasant's schools were in such disarray? So many parents in North Charleston feel the same way, but they don't have the big bucks or the powerful friends that Mt. Pleasant does.

It's time for radical change. Let's hope CCSD's school board soon focuses on North Charleston's problems.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Grown-ups Now in Charge of CCSD Finances

It's about time. 

Even mentions Michael Bobby's name. Of course, she-who-cannot-be-blamed-for-anything remains anonymous, even though in charge of the whole shebang.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sad Start to Prestige Prep: No Discipline, No Security, No Learning

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A school for at-risk boys from kindergarten through fourth grade can work, can save boys from disadvantages over which they have no control. So it's sad to see that Prestige Prep Academy got off to such a rocky start this school year. The most important question, however, is, "What were they thinking about discipline?"

To some, discipline ranks almost as a dirty word, dredging up visions of paddling, in-school and out-of-school suspension, and stultifying robot-like behavior. To dedicated teachers, however, discipline does not envision negative environments. Consistently applied, rules to follow cause children to feel secure, both physically and mentally. They stop worrying about being poked (or worse) behind the teacher's back or stop remaining silent in fear of ridicule. The classroom becomes a place where they can relax, knowing what's coming next will be positive.

Much angst occurs over the limited vocabularies that at-risk children bring to their schooling, but just as important, maybe more so, is their lack of knowledge that rules help them learn. Physical safety is paramount; comfort comes next (food, clothing, classroom), and predictability of reward or punishment comes third. These factors must be present for any group of children, at-risk or not, to achieve. 

Our hearts go out to those teachers who are trying every day to make a difference in these boys' lives. Let's pray that this much-needed school figures out the proper way forward.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Note to SC Legislature: Pay Up for Sales-Tax Shortfall to School Districts?

Is he correct? Has the South Carolina legislature failed to follow its own laws?
I see yet another article in The Post and Courier blaming the financial problems of the school district on Act 388. Section 11-11-156 of the State Code was amended by Act 388. The pertinent subsection is: (A)(6) “To the extent revenues in the Homestead Exemption Fund are insufficient to pay all reimbursements to a school district required by subsection (A) and subsection (B) the difference must be paid from the state general fund.” 
Since the state has a surplus of about $1 billion this year the funds should be available to make up for any shortfall in the sales tax as required by the act. A more thorough discussion of the issue by a legal scholar is required to fully explain the total impact of Act 388, but it appears that the act makes allowances in the reimbursement to the school districts for the number of students in poverty, and for increases in school districts’ population and the consumer price index.

David C. Cannon
Point Street

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Another Cost of CCSD's Segregated Schools: "Top Talent" Pay Bump for Teachers

The list of schools that the Charleston County School District is considering for "Top Talent" teacher pay reads as a list of CCSD's most segregated middle and elementary schools. 

"The Top Talent schools would be Sanders-Clyde Elementary, Chicora Elementary, Burns Elementary, Mary Ford Elementary, North Charleston Elementary, St. James-Santee Elementary, Northwoods Middle, Morningside Middle, West Ashley Middle, Baptist Hill Middle/High, St. John's High and Garrett Academy of Technology. Those schools would also receive additional support and professional development from the district office."

Interestingly, the cost of what used to be jokingly called (in Newark, NJ) "combat pay" will be covered by "an existing $2.3-million annual stream of federal Title II grant money." Nowhere does the reporter say how that money has been spent in the past. 

Maybe higher pay will attract the best teachers; maybe not. It's one more sign that serious changes must occur for the county's schools to be as integrated as those in the rest of the state.


Monday, January 09, 2017

CCSD's Status as Most Segregated in SC Produces Desperate Measures

Don't get me wrong: WINGS for Kids is a great organization that has positive effects on the Charleston County School District. 

Nevertheless, its latest program expansion emphasizes what's wrong in the district while attempting a cure around the edges. In order for children who attend North Charleston Elementary, Chicora Elementary, and (soon) Burns Elementary to know white children, WINGS for Kids has a special program introducing them to each other.

Sorry, you can't make this stuff up.

You've got to ask yourself, though, why these three elementary schools in North Charleston have no white students. It's not as though the North Area, as it was previously known, has no white residents or white residents with elementary-age children. In fact, the city is majority white at this point, as it has been in the past. Further, the area around North Charleston Elementary includes Park Circle, where older small houses and newer large ones are being snapped up by yuppies. It's much more complicated than merely dismissing people as racists.

So why aren't these schools integrated? Why aren't the all-black schools on the peninsula integrated?

When will we realize that the present system must be relegated to the junk heap of history?


Friday, January 06, 2017

SC's Ongoing School Bus Scandal

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SchoolBusSafety 674.jpg

Some activists believe that all school buses should be retrofitted with seat belts at the cost of millions.  On the other hand, South Carolina's legislature believes it's ok to send public school buses out every morning knowing that they are older than the students who ride them.

Now the US Environmental Protection Agency has stepped up to the plate to do what state legislators promised almost a decade ago--replace the oldest and worst of SC's buses. 

How embarrassing is that? "Under state law, the Department of Education is required to replace about a 15th of the state’s bus fleet each year with new school buses with money from the Legislature. But laWwmakers have only fulfilled this mandate twice since the law was passed in 2007." WHY?

We're Number 1: the worst polluting school bus fleet in the nation.

SC: take a bow!

About $1.1 million will replace 57 of our oldest and worst polluting buses. 


[BTW, headline writers still refuse to use spell check. "I before e except after c"?]

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

CCSD Now Hates Violins?

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Charleston County School Superintendent Gerrida Postlewait has some 'splaining to do.

Local headlines scream, "Charleston County schools eliminate elementary strings programs."

What's up with that? School Board member Chris Staubes claims the Board didn't vote on that policy. Maybe it handed over the right to do that as it strengthened the superintendent's powers?

Maybe administration decided that if all elementary schools in the district couldn't have strings programs, none would. That's about the only reason that makes sense.