Monday, December 11, 2017

What's "Conservative" About Berkeley County's School Board?


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Does our local paper call the Charleston County School Board or any other "liberal"? 

In your dreams.

So why does it persist in calling the school board of the Berkeley County School District "conservative"?

Puzzling, isn't it, since what the board has accomplished over the last year or so should be called "competent." Maybe competent school boards are conservative? Food for thought.

"Conservative Berkeley school board faced, overcame many challenges in 2017" reads the headline.

Now that the indictments against its former chief financial officer "for fraud, embezzlement and money laundering" are public, its "conservative" ways have been vindicated?

“'This board was faced with issue after issue and in each case did the right thing for the school district and the students,' said Terry Hardesty, a former board member who has been critical of past boards. 'Their swift action of terminating an employee under criminal investigation was proper and a stark reminder of the waste the previous board heaped upon the taxpayers. I am sleeping much better at night.'”

“'We took swift and decisive action as a board in a time of crisis and saw each one of those situations corrected,' [board member] Michael Ramsey said. 'That has made this feel like it’s really been worthwhile. I think it’s getting to a point where we can finally start focusing on moving the district forward as a leader, setting the pace and example for the state.'”

If this is what a "conservative" board does, let's have more of them! 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

SC Public Charter School Oversight All About Money


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"South Carolina's virtual schools have cost taxpayers more than $350 million since 2007 and have produced poor academic results, including some of the highest dropout rates in the state."

Shall we contemplate why a student would enroll in a virtual school? Some are aspiring professionals in athletics or the arts whose schedules require flexibility. Others are ill or avoiding bullying. Still others have done poorly in classrooms and hope to gain diplomas on line. Why wouldn't there be a high drop out rate? How can such a diverse group be held to the same standards as those enrolled in classroom instruction?

The S.C. Public Charter School District Board of Trustees in its wisdom thinks they should be. That was the rationale put forth for refusing oversight of three virtual schools to transfer to Erskine College. The question remains whether the state board itself provides the support these schools need.

"Representatives from several of the schools said they would like to use Erskine's school of education for professional development. 'The opportunity for student teachers, professional development and continuing the promise to parents are the main reasons we’re highlighting,' a representative from Oceanside said."

"Most of the Public Charter School District's decisions Thursday were unanimous or near-unanimous. One board member, Beth Purcell, voted to let all nine schools leave for Erskine. 'All of our virtual schools serve a virtual tough demographic. I appreciate and applaud your passion for serving these students who would otherwise not be served,' Purcell said during a hearing for Odyssey Online."

"Purcell is the newest member of the board, appointed in the fall by S.C. Senate Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman. She previously worked as president of publicschooloptions.org, a Washington D.C.-based organization that advocates for the expansion of charter schools, including virtual schools."

Pointing out her background alone is somewhat disingenuous. What bias do other board members bring? 

What are their backgrounds, and why were they appointed to the Board? The governor makes most of these appointments. 

Interesting questions.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

CCSD First-Year Teacher Pay Bump Should Crown Successful First Year


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Here's the puzzling question regarding teacher recruitment in South Carolina: why doesn't South Carolina produce enough first-year teachers to fill all vacancies at the state's schools? Evidently, we don't, since CCSD Superintendent Postlewait thinks it essential to recruit graduates from other states. Or is it that graduates from South Carolina's Schools of Education aren't desirable as hires?

Inquiring minds want to know.

What we do know is that the Charleston County School District has for many years discriminated against hiring experienced teachers from other states. And the state does not observe reciprocity with teacher certification gained in other states. Makes you wonder.

Far be it from me to suggest that teachers are paid enough, but what is "enough" as long as teachers are not treated as the professionals they are, discipline falters, and parents (and sometimes administrators) blame teachers for all students' problems. 

The descriptions of the suggested first-year $4,000 pay bump's effect on the entire pay scale are murky as presented by our favorite fish wrapper. The pay scale for those who enjoy the first-year bump will necessarily reflect that amount's addition continuing to the end of their careers. What about those faithful teachers who've hung in there so far without the bump? The year after the first-year raise has gone into effect, will teachers who are second-year teachers be making $4,000 more per year than third-year teachers who didn't get the pay bump the first year they taught? One lower scale for experienced teachers and one higher scale for those lucky few?

And what about the first-year teacher who fails at teaching that first year? Paid an extra $4000 for what?

It's a puzzle.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Partisan Bickering overr Ending Education Funding Lawsuit


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Everyone has talking points. That's why no one listens any more. That's the state of affairs on both the national and state level. Wouldn't it be stupendous if all sides could imagine something new?

According to supporters of SC Supreme Court oversight of the funding issue, the SC General Assembly has done nothing right during the decades of court oversight and will continue to do nothing right now that the oversight is gone.

Those who are glad oversight has been lifted claim that everything possible has been done and that continued oversight "would be a gross overreach of judicial power and separation of powers." Hundreds of millions of dollars have been thrown at the problem of rural schools' facilities and programs. 

The SC Supreme Court really wants the state to abandon its "over-complicated, piecemeal system" of funding education, "what justices [have] called the state's antiquated, fractured funding 'scheme.'" 

Right. No doubt local school districts all over the state will be happy to give power over funding to the general assembly. In fact, they are all begging to be relieved of this chore. Why don't our elected state representatives respond to their pressure?

By the way, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

Monday, December 04, 2017

SC's Comical High School Graduation Rates Exposed


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In the "Might as Well Laugh" department, the following Letter to the Editor:

"I read The Post and Courier in the morning over breakfast. I always read the comic section first because there is usually more common sense and even wisdom there than anywhere else in the paper.

"Here’s what I found in the Nov. 16 “Grand Avenue” comic. A “teacher” who is grading his students’ papers comments that he will need “more coffee” to get them all done.

"A student, hearing this, suggests that he could just give everyone an “A” and be done with it. The teacher replies he could also just give everyone an “F” and be done with it. The student grasps the point of the lesson and brings the teacher a cup of coffee.

"After reading the comics, I went to the front page of The Post and Courier and was a little surprised to find another joke about schools. This joke goes like this.

"Last year the S.C. Department of Education (SCDE) lowered the minimum passing grade for high school graduation from 70 to 60. The punch line — the SCDE is now congratulating itself on the highest ever high-school graduation rate.

"Yeah, I don’t think it’s funny either. I only wish it was a joke, and I hope every parent in South Carolina who cares about the future of their kids is letting legislators and local school board members know just how desperately unfunny it is.

Terry W. Ryan
Captiva Row
Charleston

Friday, December 01, 2017

Zais Better Represents SC Than Haley


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What is this liberal groaning over the nomination of former SC education chief Mick Zais to the number two job at the US Department of Education under Betsy DeVos? What, she should work with liberals?

At least our local rag recognizes that Nikki Haley's being passed over for Secretary of State is a blessing. For us, dopes, not her!

"The former Newberry College president regularly feuded with teacher groups and members of the state Board of Education. He spent extensive time grappling with federal bureaucracy. Supporters and critics alike say Zais was never able to fulfill some of his biggest ambitions for the job."

"Now, the 70-year-old ex-Army general is coming out of retirement for a chance to ascend to the second-ranking role at the U.S. Department of Education. This time he'll get to link arms with like-minded proponents of smaller government in an effort to pursue the changes he always wanted. In keeping with a trend across the Trump administration, Zais would serve as another high-ranking official inside a Cabinet agency who has battled with that same agency in the past, lambasting what he views as federal overreach."

More power to him!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

CCSD's Collins Misunderstands Rules of the Game


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Captain Renault: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" – From the classic Casablanca. 

See, everybody's participating in the gambling, but no one will admit it exists. 

Sort of like the Charleston County School District and how its friends and children of school board members magically enter its magnet schools.

Today's expose on school board member Chris Collins's misbehavior is a case in point. First of all, you must read well past the front page to learn that Collins was trying to get his son into the School of the Arts from the waiting list. Second, we'll give the reporter the benefit of the doubt. He probably is ignorant of the background to Collins's request, namely the years of scamming the Buist lottery that saw the children of the chosen winning 100 percent of the time. 

Of course, he also knows that Mayor Summey's grandson won the lottery into Buist not long ago.

And does anyone believe that strings aren't pulled at the Academic Magnet to lure professional hires from off with promises of a great free high school education? What turnip truck did they fall from?

No, Collins's problem isn't that he wanted preference on the waiting list; it's that he didn't have the right friends who could pull the strings sub rosa. And then his enemies attacked.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Goose Creek School's Illness: Where's the Rest of the Story?


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Remember Paul Harvey? His stories on the radio left us hanging until he would return with "the rest of the story." Where is he when we need him or his ilk today?

A couple of weeks ago Westview Primary in Goose Creek sent nearly one-fourth of its 700 or so students home sick. "Mass vomiting" was the reason. While the Berkeley County School District promised to disinfect the school over the weekend, the cause remains unidentied by the press. Perhaps the district knows, but it's keeping its cards hidden. The school's announcement underplayed the incident by saying that, "there were an unusual number of absences today with several students sent home with vomiting." Over 100 counts as "several"!

Dare we mention the phrase, "food poisoning"? Supposedly "it came on very fast." If you've ever had food poisoning, you know the difference!

Follow up suggested that the outbreak was norovirus caused, and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control promised test results last week to determine if that was so. "The Berkeley County School District never released an official count of how many students contracted the disease." 

The lack of an announcement of testing results raises suspicion. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Proving SC's Education Lottery a Tax on the Poor


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It's high time to acknowledge that, from its beginnings, the SC Education Lottery has been a tax on the poor. Some of us knew that from the start. Now, facts reveal that the high per capita gambling in poor counties doesn't pay off in lottery scholarships.

Golly. Who would've thunk it!

Since fewer students from poor backgrounds even attempt college, the lottery scholarship has become a perk for the middle and upper classes. As politicians know well, once you've given the taxpayers something, it's political suicide to admit it was a bad idea and take it back.

We're stuck with transferring most of the education lottery's proceeds to the middle and upper class. 

Bummer.

Yet here's an opportunity to alleviate this situation. Since benchmarks for earning one of these scholarships needs must be raised, thanks to our ill-advised 60 as passing, let's go further and make this a benefit for true scholars. Raise the grade-point average and the SAT score so that fewer students qualify in the future.

Then spend that saved lottery money on elementary education where it is needed most, such as in the Corridor of Shame!

This solution is just too common sense-ical to ever see the floor of our state legislature!

Monday, November 27, 2017

CCSD's Gresham Meggett HS Deserves Rescue


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While France's Marie Antoinette famously said, "Let them eat cake," the Charleston County School District's mantra is more aptly put, "Let them rot."

"They" are all the unused CCSD school buildings scattered around the county. Fraser Elementary is a case in point, as its expensively updated (for then!) deserted campus asserts near the old cigar factory on the peninsula. W. Gresham Meggett School on James Island is another. When will the district comprehend that allegiance to its schools builds upon history? Good question.

Meanwhile, some forward-thinking community residents actually have made plans for the building. Imagine that! Helped by the Historic Charleston Foundation, they have nominated the building for the National Register of Historic Places.  "The equalization school was designed to provide separate but equal education to black students. It's representative of the consolidation of smaller rural black schools during the 1950s and 1960s, and it also was James Island's first high school for black students."

CCSD's best idea for its use was as an adjunct to a bus lot.

"Meanwhile, the school's alumni hope to make some plans of their own. Wilburn Gilliard of the nonprofit Heritage Development Corp. said the group hopes to convince the school district to sell the property. The nonprofit would like to see it become a community center and a museum to historically black public schools."'

"'We really want to tell the story about equalization schools,' [Charleston County Councilwoman Anna] Johnson said. "A lot of people aren't aware of them. I didn't know the history of them. I was just a kid going to school here.'"

"While the county had several other equalization schools, Gresham Meggett may remain among the most intact, as far as its physical form."

"'We just don't want to see it waste away.'''

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fake News? SC's Inflated Graduation Rates


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Isn't it marvelous? 

Why, South Carolina has really improved its schools. Not.

Saying that our graduation rate is nearly 85 percent is akin to trumpeting the fullness of your mug of beer after adding another half a can.

Lest anyone fail to fathom what I mean, consider that 60 is now a passing grade. Makes you wonder if schools shouldn't retroactively award diplomas to those who failed to walk the stage because of grades below 70.

If you glanced at the percentages of students who the ACT results demonstrated are not college (or even work) ready, you might wish to ask what percentage of the year's graduates could read their diplomas.  Too many students failing to graduate? Lower the standards. Why don't we lower the standards so that 100 percent graduate.

That wouldn't be much more meaningless.

""Instead of changing the fundamentals of 'Why isn’t education working?' and doing the hard work in that, they dumb it down and claim victory,' said attorney Larry Kobrovsky, a former State Board of Education member and current chairman of the Charleston County Republican Party. He predicted last year that the graduation rate would spike, and now it's happening."

We are rapidly reaching the point where a high school diploma merely represents how much time a student has spent in classrooms.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Lowcountry Food Bank at CCSD's Stall High Addresses Illegal Immigration


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In case you wondered what a "staple" is, here's the relevant definition from dictionary.com: "a basic or necessary item of food: She bought flour, sugar, salt, and other staples."

That the Lowcountry Food Bank set up a pantry filled with staples at Charleston County School District's Stall High in North Charleston suggests an interesting intersection of poverty and law. "'We understand that some students struggle with food insecurity, and we really cannot bear the thought of them going home for the weekend and perhaps going to an empty cupboard,' Lowcountry Food Bank CEO Pat Walker said at a grand opening ceremony Thursday. 'So we wanted to partner with you to make sure that those students you teach every day ... have the nutrition that they need to do that.'"

"Since opening on Oct. 20, the Food Bank reports that the pantry has served 25 families and distributed more than 1,200 pounds of food."

Would you like to comment? 

About 75 percent of students at Stall are eligible for free or reduced-fee breakfast, lunch, and after-school snacks. That's over a thousand students, yet only 25 families need staples. Even if each family had four students, it's still a smidgen of poverty at the school.

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad the pantry is there for those who need it. 

"Rachel Allison, child hunger programs coordinator for the Lowcountry Food Bank, said she works closely with Erica Schmitt, Stall's bilingual family services advocate, to provide healthy options that students will actually eat. 'If she says rice and beans, we're going to bring rice and beans. If she says fruit, we're going to bring fruit,' Allison said."

You were assuming these were black families, but those don't need a "bilingual family services advocate." 

Makes you wonder if any of the 25 families are black. Probably so, but what are the chances that the majority are Hispanic? And why do they need staples? Could it just possibly be that many of those families live off the grid as illegal aliens?

Naaah.

Yes, there are those parents who swap Food Stamps for drugs or gambling, but then another contingent comes from a much larger problem: illegal immigration. Its effects reach into every corner of our lives.

Kudos to the late "Elizabeth B. O'Connor, a local woman who requested that her estate be used to alleviate hunger," who has made the In-School Pantry possible.

Something tells me this particular cause of hunger never even occurred to her.

Friday, November 17, 2017

CCSD Desires Professionals in Classrooms Without Professional Pay


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At least it's going in the right direction! Pay for substitute teachers, that is.

If you've ever subbed in a classroom, you know how demanding a job it is. You earn every penny of the meager sum doled out for hours of stress. In addition, since subs must be assumed to be brainless and incompetent, whatever lesson plans you have require no professionalism at all. In fact, mostly subbing = babysitting, whether the students are 7 or 17.

These conditions result from the low pay and even lower requirements to be a sub, the latter being a result of the former. Truth to tell, most school districts still haven't learned that college-educated women now can look forward to careers other than teaching and certainly other than subbing.

So it's some relief to see that the Charleston County School District is showing signs of understanding reality. A shortage of substitute teachers directly results from low pay. 

Duh.

A new proposal suggests that "Uncertified substitute teachers would see their pay rise from $64 a day ($8 an hour) to $96 a day, or $12 an hour. Certified substitutes would receive $112 a day ($14 an hour), up from $80 a day currently."

Get that? What other certified professional would accept $14 per hour?  

Accountants? No. 

Lawyers?  Please stop joking. 

Plumbers? Stop that.

And CCSD's bus drivers get $15 per hour. 

Bus driver? Certified teacher? What's the difference? Bus drivers are more valuable.

"While the proposal could increase [costs] by $2 million, [Board member Todd] Garrett said district officials still are working on an estimate of its financial impact for this budget year. He said it likely will be 'minimal,' because of savings from unfilled vacancies and from a rate reduction by Kelly Services, a staffing firm that works with the district to provide substitutes."

The effect on education will also be "minimal." Paying professional babysitters $14 per hour. Here's an example of why teachers and their substitutes get little respect from the general public.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Lake Wobegon in Dorchester District 2


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"Well, that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."--Garrison Keillor

You may have imagined Keillor's marvelous place to be somewhere in the Midwest. Not so. It's taken root in Dorchester District 2. 

The Palmetto and Life scholarships were designed for deserving above-average graduating seniors who had a B average or better, a B, of course, defined as "above-average."  It turns out that in Dorchester District 2, over half of its seniors, nearly 60 percent, are above average and thus eligible for these scholarships.

There's one minor hitch in this rosy picture: results on the ACT show that only 35 percent of those seniors are "college ready."

These same students take tests poorly? Then why do they have B averages?

Right. Parents are happy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Allendale Takeover Should Call In Meeting Street Schools


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As a former speech and debate coach, I remember well attending meets at Allendale-Fairfax High School not long after the first state takeover was lifted. The buildings were well kept, if spartan and well-seasoned. The students and coaches were enthusiastic and hard working. Teacher coaches admitted that the 1999 takeover by the state had made little difference. Everyone involved wanted to succeed.

The second time around is unlikely to be a charm. Too many factors work against well-meaning professionals. Nevertheless, help is essential.

One aspect that needs serious thought is the existence of these rural districts with few students. Next door to Allendale are Bamberg County Districts 1 & 2 (dividing an incredibly small student population) and the Hampton County District (another small student population). While rural distances must be accounted for, it still appears that having four school districts in an area of three counties where the total student population hovers under 5,000 is just plain ridiculous. And the other three districts aren't doing much better than Allendale.

You see, the Charleston County School District's low-performing schools would feel right at home in Allendale, or Bamberg District 2, or Hampton. They share a problem: how to educate the children living in poverty-stricken homes whose adults also are poorly educated. 

In Charleston County, the answer seems to be Meeting Street Schools.

I know, that's extra time and money. Isn't the state already spending those?

Sometimes endemic problems call for drastic measures. While those attempting to pull Allendale out of the mire should be commended, we are still just fooling around with the edges.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sign of the Times: Virtual School in SC and CCSD


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Flexibility is its middle name. 

The Richland I school district (Columbia) offers "'home schoolers, teen parents, and the academically gifted student, as well as aspiring professional dancers, artists or athletes who must train or practice during the day,'" access to a high school diploma. "'Students who work after school or during the day, as well as those working in family businesses, would be ideal candidates,'" 

Different here is that "In Richland 1, prospective virtual students must submit a questionnaire and an application that includes an essay, transcript, report card and four written recommendations from educators or coaches." Such requirements should ensure that this program will succeed where other virtual schools are failing in the state.

Locally, the Charleston County School District does not put forward such a possibility. Extolling the virtues of a piecemeal approach, Deputy Superintendent of Learning Services Cindy Ambrose said, "Perhaps they want to take a class they cannot fit into their schedule, or there are not enough students seeking to take a class, which would prohibit a particular school from offering that class. There are so many unique needs, and to better meet our students' needs, we are considering a virtual school program."

Maybe CCSD needs to take another look at Richland I. Those partial programs aren't doing so well.

Friday, November 10, 2017

P & C Sides with Postlewait on Moffly's Complaints

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Some of us wondered when the P  &C would get around to reporting on former school board member Elizabeth Moffly's complaint to the State Board of Education. It turns out that reporter Paul Bowers's instructions were to show Moffly in the worst light while attempting to answer her complaints.  

Click the link for details
http://www.postandcourier.com/news/ex-school-board-member-seeks-to-remove-charleston-county-schools/

School Board Chair Kate Darby and Moffly are probably not friends. The reporter quotes Darby as saying, "'Education leaders in Charleston County often say that if it weren’t for the self-serving adults, we could educate children.'" 

Ouch. Careful, Kate. People exist who might put you into that category!

However, Darby [no relation] remains unable to justify Henry Darby's serving simultaneously on the County Council and as the principal of North Charleston High. As reported, "Moffly alleged that Postlewait broke a state law by hiring Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby as principal of North Charleston High. State law prohibits County Council members from holding 'any other office of honor or profit in government.'"

Well? Some wondered about the appointment at the time.

Clearly, the editors wish to blame Moffly's concerns and the 900-signature petition on those nasty Republicans. They're merely annoyed that they didn't break the story first.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

The Computer Ate My ACT Score in South Carolina


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Could technology problems cause 62 percent of high school juniors to be unprepared for college in English? How about 78 percent unqualified in math?  Molly Spearman, State Superintendent of Education blames low scores on computer glitches.

Never before had all 11th graders taken the same test. For those knowledgeable regarding national tests, the results put more blame on the education students have received in South Carolina rather than suggesting low aptitudes. You see, the ACT actually measures what students have learned.

Never again will all students take the same test. In the future some will opt out for the SAT instead. Spearman can then show improved results. At least, we hope future results improve.

Nor has anyone explained why South Carolina had such difficulties in giving the on-line test. Somehow it's hard to fault the ACT folks; they do this all the time.

Could anyone in the state department of education or in the local districts, such as Charleston County, have dropped the ball?

Naaaah.

Eight percent ready in all STEM subjects? Actually, that sounds about right.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

SC School Funding Quarrels About State Versus Local


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We know this much to be true: middle-class and wealthier parents can move into school districts with better schools; poor parents, especially in rural areas of South Carolina, are stuck with poorer schools. This situation exists from one end of America to the other, but it's particularly noticeable in South Carolina where rural schools are also frequently all black. 

Basically, Democrats wish to end local funding and create a state school system. Even if they don't admit it, they want to destroy local control of schools, their reasoning being that local control has produced severe inequities in places such as the so-called Corridor of Shame.

Republicans mistrust the idea that bureaucrats, be they in Columbia or in Washington, know what's best on the local level.  Many also remain unconvinced that lack of money has perpetrated district inequities. Whether or not the justices of the state supreme court should dictate solutions continues to be a bone of contention.

Despite our local rag's attempts to portray the last quarter century as stagnant on these issues, much has changed. For those who wish state control, no other measures will be enough.

"Legislators point to recent laws and hundreds of millions in budget increases as evidence they're addressing the problem."

"GOP leaders, including then-Gov. Nikki Haley, have accused justices of not taking into account the "Read to Succeed" law passed months before the 2014 ruling, which, among other things, required reading coaches and summer reading camps. It also called for eventually expanding statewide a full-day pre-kindergarten program for at-risk 4-year-olds, an initiative long pushed by Democrats. Three years later, 64 of 80 districts are eligible for the program created in 2006 as a limited pilot for suing districts."

"Changes since the ruling include a new allocation for districts with the highest teacher turnover. About $7 million was distributed last year to 30 districts, used primarily for training and salary stipends. A college loan-forgiveness program, which could eventually erase up to $35,000 in student debt if teachers stay in a high-turnover district, became newly available this school year."

"And 51 districts are splitting $56 million this school year for building improvements. A bill to borrow up to $200 million a year for dilapidated schools is awaiting action in the Senate."

"But legislators have yet to tackle the antiquated, fractured funding 'scheme' justices faulted in its 2014 order as the key problem." [italics mine]   

Nowhere does the state constitution imply that the judiciary has the right to decide how schools are funded.

There's a further flaw in current thinking. Apparently many believe teacher turnover in rural districts is purely a product of lower salaries. 

"A separate Senate panel, appointed in May, will issue recommendations before the Legislature returns in January, focusing on what it will take to attract and keep quality teachers in rural schools, said its co-chair, Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden."

"That's a central part of addressing the court order. As shown at trial, teacher turnover is especially high at rural districts that pay thousands less than their counterparts. Filling slots involves long-term substitutes, international teachers and those teaching outside their field." Virtually guaranteeing more turnover!

That "separate Senate panel" would do well to interview present and past teachers in the districts concerned to discover what teaching conditions would make them want to stay. 

It's not all about the money, folks!

Back in the dark ages a century or so ago, districts actually provided housing for teachers. That's not necessarily an answer, but it's past time for some thinking outside of the box!

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Military Magnet Completes 20 Successful Years in CCSD


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Led by a retired Airborne Ranger Infantryman for the past 16 years, the Charleston County School District's Military Magnet has successfully educated middle and high school students for 20 years. Despite the low achievement of black students in other CCSD schools, this one has managed to best state averages and measure up to the rest of the district. 

Citadel cadets visiting the school's campus earlier this month should have felt right at home. "Charleston County School District built Military Magnet's new structure to look like The Citadel, complete with a similar red-and-white checkerboard in its center quadrangle." As part of the Citadel's Leadership Day, retired Army Captain Florent Groberg spoke at MMA, escorted by visiting cadets. Groberg received the Medal of Honor in 2015 for actions in Afghanistan five years ago. 

“'Whether or not you serve in the U.S. military, you have a responsibility to be a good person,' Groberg told the cadets in a brief speech."

“'I served with our nation’s finest and I lost some of our nation’s finest,' he added. 'Every day when I get up and I brush my teeth and I shave, I have to be the best person I can possibly be to honor their memories.'”

"He suffered the loss of nearly half of his left calf muscle with significant nerve damage, a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury. Groberg spent his recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., from August 2012 through May 2015, and was medically retired in July 2015."

"Groberg is currently director of Veterans Outreach for Boeing, based in Washington, D.C. He also spoke at The Citadel and Boeing while he was in town."

Let's hope that CCSD understands the importance of this school to the district and continues its full support.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Career Education by Any Name: Vocational!


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"Definition of vocational education: training for a specific occupation in agriculture,, trade, or industry through a combination of theoretical teaching and practical experience provided by many high schools in their commercial and technical divisions, and by special institutions of collegiate standing (as a college of agriculture, a school of engineering, or a technical institute) "Vocational Education." Merriam-Webster.com.

Maybe people no longer know what "vocational" means. Certainly, bias prevents educators from ever using the word. As one put it, "'Now is the time for career and technical education,' said Tana Lee, Berkeley County director of Career and Technical Education and president-elect of the state association."

A century ago Woodrow Wilson signed the "Smith Hughes National Vocational Education Act, [which] created the Federal Board for Vocational Education to promote training in agriculture, trades and industries, commerce and home economics in the secondary schools." A century ago Congress knew that not all should attend college. Now we have calls for universal college on the same level as high school. If that ever comes to pass, it WILL be on the same level as high school.

Somehow in the last century school districts forgot everyday life and work. Now we graduate those who can't sew on a button or pick up a hammer, as though every graduate will be wealthy enough to hire someone else to do those jobs. 

Graduates lack all self-sufficiency.

Gotta love that some believe "culinary skills," "industrial skills," and "horticulture" are new offerings at the high school level. 

Um, home economics, shop, agriculture, anyone?

"For years, vocational education had a reputation as something reserved for those students who weren’t college material."

"That’s not the case anymore as students — and their parents — realize that so-called CATE classes teach practical, hands-on skills." Duh.

Think of those students convinced that college was right for them who racked up tens of thousands in student loans and now work at jobs not only not requiring college but not requiring any skills at all. 

"In the Lowcountry, school districts work with the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Talent Demand Study, which identifies where workers will be needed."

“'Working with industry, we are able to identify programs that would benefit the local areas, and we’re able to encourage the students to take courses that will hopefully meet that demand,' Lee said."

"'For example, we know that we need to increase the number of students that are coming out with an interest in general assembly and manufacturing. We know that in our area there are lots of jobs out there for those students.'”

"At the Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 High School for Health Professions, students learn the foundations of anatomy and biology, getting a head start on nursing or medical school while earning college credits at the nearby Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College."

We can only hope that the Charleston County School District does the same!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

CCSD's Boundless Arrogance on Garrett Academy's Purpose


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"'This is not your parents' vocational education anymore,' said Rich Gordon, the district's executive director of career and technology education. "It’s high-skill, it’s high-demand, and it’s high-wage.'"

BTW, he's been in that position less than a year.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that Rich Gordon is neither a racist nor a conspirator: he's merely arrogant. We won't hold it against him that he's from New Jersey. 

"Your parents' vocational education" was a success story. It lifted many students out of poverty and into the middle class. Maybe Gordon learned to disparage such studies when he got his teaching degree at Harvard. How much does he think a plumber makes? Or a mason? Are these jobs not high skill, in high demand, and high wage? Too blue collar for Gordon?

Does he know there's a building boom? 

So it's doubly frustrating that he assumes that the students at Garrett Academy don't deserve to share a campus with his favored Center for Advanced Studies (CAS). Advanced study of what? "The district currently plans to offer programs in health science technologies, information technology, pre-engineering, and arts and audio-visual technologies." Garrett students might pollute these classes?

Ask yourself, why is the automotive studies department at Garrett working on restoring a 1975 MGB roadster and not a 2005 Ford SUV?

Simple. They lack the electronic equipment to work on cars that are less than 20 years old. 

Who's the red-headed stepchild of the district?

"Garrett's career offerings have been whittled down to just nine. [. . .]"

"Many of the career programs have gone on the chopping block in the past four years. Principal Charity Summers said the school had 16 programs when she arrived in 2013, but district-level leaders decided to eliminate some — which made the school less attractive because it had fewer options."

"Some programs were cut due to low enrollment. Computer networking was the first to go, followed by masonry, carpentry and HVAC."

"The school had to stop offering popular metal fabrication classes due to a lack of funds to replace outdated welding equipment."

"Summers tried to update a popular program in hospitality and tourism, which she said was training students for housekeeping work. She wanted new staff and curriculum to orient the program toward higher-paying jobs in management, marketing, tourism planning and museum work. The district dropped the program instead."

"'The funding was an issue,' Summers said." So were "higher-paying jobs" apparently.

See, if you're a conspiracy theorist, this kind of treatment makes sense, unfortunately. What was going through district's heads? "We don't want to spend money on students who aren't going to college, that's what."

Don't forget: if North Charleston wasn't sending all its sales tax revenue to Mt. Pleasant, more than enough would be available for programs at Garrett.

To paraphrase Joseph Conrad, "The arrogance! Oh, the arrogance!"

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

CCSD Trustees Special Meeting Nov. 2 Not on Website


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The siting of a new Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) in North Charleston has become a hot potato. Rumblings from dissatisfied community members have caused the Charleston County School District to postpone a decision for more than half a year. 

Today's meeting at Garrett Academy purposes a unified recommendation to the whole Board of Trustees tomorrow. Hollinshead, Coats, and Collins must be thrilled to take on this responsibility. Remember their names next election.

Too many residents of North Charleston and proponents of Garrett Academy believe that CCSD's goal is to close Garrett within the next two or three years. Not surprisingly, plans for the CAS located at another location pose a serious threat to Garrett's existence. Too often CCSD has acted sub rosa against the wishes of the communities most affected by its decisions.

Now it appears that the full Board meeting called to receive the recommendation of the committee is also sub rosa. Notice of this special meeting, called for 5 pm at 75 Calhoun Street Thursday cannot be found on the district's website. 

By law, meetings of the Board are open to the public.

Of course, the public must know a meeting is being held. 

Hmm.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Note to SC's Spearman: Teachers Not Leaving Because of Low Salaries


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How to solve a problem? Throw more money at it, of course.

That's the thought behind State Superintendent Molly Spearman's push to raise teacher salaries by 2 percent and those of beginning teachers by 6 percent. All increases are welcome in an underpaid profession, but the rationale behind her proposals is full of holes.

Other southern states have forged ahead of South Carolina in teacher pay. So? You mean to tell me that beginning teachers head for different states based on salary alone? You must be joking or incredibly ignorant. And aren't those same beginners leaving the profession in roughly the same percentage as they are here? Of course. It's not the money.

One of the disappointments concerns the flatness of the salary scale, and Spearman hopes to make it even flatter. After 25 years of teaching I'll make how much? You must be kidding! How about putting the six percent on the salaries of those who've weathered the storms for 10 years or more? They're more likely to stick around for 10 more.

Spearman needs a reputable survey of those leaving the profession, one where respondents need not fear repercussions for truth telling. It's too easy to say that the salary was too low instead of pointing out that the district's discipline policy makes teaching a nightmare or that scripted lessons from district staff insult the intelligence.

Please, throw money at the teachers, but remember that, in itself, will not solve the problem.

Monday, October 30, 2017

UPDATE: Garrett Academy in Balance: Attend Nov. 1 Community Meeting


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For those interested in what happens to Garrett Academy! This info not on CCSD website!

"Hello Community Members,

"[. . .] proposals from Kevin Hollinshead.  One is to put the CAS at the current Garrett campus and revitalize Garrett High School.  The other proposal would place the CAS and Garrett at a new campus at property located at Dorchester and Montague which is currently being purchased by CCSD (would also house the new football stadium).  Both proposals would keep Garrett Academy open and shift it from full magnet status to a partial magnet in order to prioritize zoned neighborhood access."

"There is a third proposal out from Cindy Bohn Coats that would place the CAS at Stall High School There is not a clear plan for Garrett Academy in that proposal.[. . .]"

"My information is that the Community Advisory Committee, which is led by Kevin Hollinshead, Cindy Bohn Coats, and Chris Collins, will meet on Wednesday, Nov 1, at 6:15pm at Garrett Academy.  I think that the committee members and 3 board members will vote on which proposal to recommend to the full board.  The full CCSD Board will hold a Special Board Meeting on Tuesday, Nov 2, at 5:00pm, at 75 Calhoun Street to vote on the placement of the CAS.  Both meetings are open to the public.  I cannot find official notification of these meetings on the CCSD web site."

"If you have contact info for people invited to serve on the Community Advisory Committee, please do forward this to them.  That information is not published anywhere, but I think it would be good for them to have this ahead of Wednesday evening."

Sincerely,
Kristen French
frenchkl@gmail.com
843-478-3736

Contact the above if you wish copies of the proposals.

UPDATE!

From: Kristen French [mailto:frenchkl@gmail.com] 
Sent: Monday, October 30, 2017 9:08 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: Update: Garrett and CAS

First a correction:  Here is the info I have on the two meetings this week: 
  • Community Advisory Committee, which is led by Kevin Hollinshead, Cindy Bohn Coats, and Chris Collins, will meet on Wednesday, Nov 1, at 6:15pm at Garrett Academy; proposals for locating the CAS with Garrett at the current location or at new property at Dorchester and Montague, or locating the CAS at Stall will be discussed.  The mission of the meeting is to come up with one recommendation for the Board.
  • CCSD Special Board Meeting on Thursday, Nov 2, at 5:00pm, at 75 Calhoun Street to vote on the placement of the CAS; The NCHS location is still on the agenda, but recommendations from the Community Advisory Committee will be reviewed first.
Also, Kurt Taylor, who is a member of the Community Advisory Committee, is happy to hear your views on these proposals.  His email is: wkt1023@gmail.com 

The word on the street (hard to confirm) is that if the CAS is not located with Garrett, Garrett Academy of Technology will be closed by 2020.  In addition, if the CAS placement is not decided this week, it is unlikely that the facility can be completed in time for opening August 2020 (according to CCSD Staff).
--
Kristen French, Ph.D.


Friday, October 27, 2017

When HaLevi Speaks, Postlewait Should Listen


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Stop disrupting; start collaborating!

"The public should ask, disrupting who, and what? Do they mean removing well- regarded principals like Lee Runyon at West Ashley High School and Jake Rambo at James B. Edwards Elementary School?

"Do they mean using test data in ways the testing company itself explicitly says it is not designed for? Even if we accept their premise that district leaders used disruptive management to make necessary cuts to the district office — a premise which does not stand up to scrutiny — the real disruption they are promoting in the district is happening in the form of incoherent and unethical management.

"Instead of celebrating disruption, board members would be wise to promote engagement and collaboration with teachers, parents and the community. Working collaboratively with teachers and school-based educators is far more likely to promote academic gains that are sustained over time.

"Engaging parents and the community in a meaningful dialogue about the educational challenges facing our community will almost certainly result in the good will necessary to carry out the change that the writers claim they want.

"Disruption as a strategy is simply “chaos” dressed up as management strategy — an excuse to make changes without a coherent plan. Educators, parents and community members know better, and we expect much more from the school board.

Andrew HaLevi
Board Street
Charleston

Thursday, October 26, 2017

State Charter Schools Quarrel All About the Money


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When you're forced to state it's not about the money, it usually is. 

Erskine College's entry into the charter school oversight game has ruffled some feathers in the SC Public Charter School District that oversees nine charter schools hoping to switch managers. Most of the quarrel concerns whether the SCPCSD has overreached its contract with the schools. 

Some of the schools, several online, are "in breach" of standards they say are bogus. Others meet all those standards but wish to change anyway.

If the exodus is all about accountability, why would schools such as Oceanside Academy in Mt. Pleasant, one that meets all standards, wish to change?

"Aside from students' academic performance, a lot of money is on the line. Two of the online schools alone, SC Virtual and Cyber Academy, received a combined $33.5 million in state tax funding last school year, with some of that money going to the nationwide private charter management company K12 Inc. And whoever authorizes the schools in South Carolina gets a 2 percent cut."

"But [SCPCSD Board Chairman Don McLaurin]said the fight over transfers has nothing to do with his district's financial interests."

Yeah, right.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

CCSD Specialist's Remarks on Teachers Par for Course


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Patronizing. Disparaging. Arrogant.

Those three adjectives characterize remarks made by Amy Winstead, part of the administration of the Charleston County School District. Although Winstead probably didn't realize her faux pas, she's absorbed the attitude of administration versus teachers endemic at the Taj Mahal. 

Teachers aren't enthusiastic enough about another round of technological change? "'Sometimes the change makes them hesitant. Once they realize it’s not going to bite them, it’s fine.'”

Not surprisingly, someone with more than six years teaching at an elementary school responded in a Letter to the Editor last week. 

[. . .]
"While there are some teachers who are afraid of new technology, the vast majority love to learn new things and are shining examples of the “life-long learners” that CCSD claims to promote.

"Most “hesitant” teachers are thinking of the time that will be required of them. Time beyond their eight-hour school day. Time beyond the things they already do on evenings and weekends, like grading papers, record-keeping, emails, phone calls and conferences with parents, collaborative planning with other teachers, and attending after school events and meetings.

"The school district expects them to spend most of their time during the school day teaching and supervising students, with very little planning time to accomplish non-teaching tasks.

"They are hesitant because they know they will not only need to learn how to use the new platform, they will want to create lessons that use the technology to its fullest potential and in a way that improves student learning.

"They will need to take all of the hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of Smartboard lessons that they recently created specifically for their curriculum, which will be unusable once they no longer have a Smartboard, and convert those lessons to the new Promethean platform.[italics mine]

"This is an example of a pervasive problem in CCSD, and maybe the entire state. There is a lack of appreciation and a wanton disregard for teachers’ investment of time.

One way to improve this situation would be for the school district to identify teachers who are proficient in the Promethean platform and pay them to create lessons specifically designed for the district’s curriculum and textbooks. These teacher-created Promethean board lessons could then be provided to teachers when they get their Promethean board (not after), allowing them to modify the lessons to suit their students’ needs.

Cynthia Smith
Pelzer Drive
Mount Pleasant

Retired teachers can respond. Maybe next time Winstead will think before she speaks.