Monday, January 29, 2018

Hate Towards Calhoun Statue Reveals Educational Need

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John C. Calhoun never plotted to kill blacks, either slave or free. The same cannot be said of Denmark Vesey, who planned to murder as many whites as possible. Yet no one seems to be offended by Vesey's statue here in Charleston. The murder of innocents was justified?

Michael Trouche's Letter to the Editor on that subject this month reveals Brian Hicks's own ignorance on the Calhoun topic. Hicks's self-satisfied smug attitude towards those who wish to continue to honor the only South Carolinian ever Vice-President of the United States reveals Hicks's own lack of education.

But, more importantly, what are students in the Charleston County School District taught about Calhoun? Not much, judging by comments by locals wishing to put the statue "in context." Actually, Calhoun thought that slaves were better off in America as slaves than those abolitionist racists who were determined to send them back to their black slave masters in Africa. Can you blame him?

Given the present political climate, it's hopeless to expect that the true context of Calhoun's remarks on slavery will get a hearing anywhere except in arcane academic circles. Emotion, not logic, rules the day. What if we took Lincoln's remarks on blacks, many of which are racist, and used them to judge Lincoln, forgetting about the rest of his accomplishments?

This brouhaha is merely another facet of South-bashing perpetrated by hate-mongers and the media.

"He was the driving force behind the Monroe Doctrine and the Missouri Compromise, spearheaded improvements in national infrastructure and banking, and reorganized the military with a model still used today. He also founded the Bureau of Indian Affairs and negotiated dozens of treaties intended to make native tribes more self-sufficient until those treaties were broken by later administrations."

"Anyone who reads the full text of Calhoun’s 1837 speech defending slavery will see that there was no racial hatred in Calhoun’s heart and that he showed more compassion for others than the columnist does for those with another point of view." --Michael Trouche

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Dyslexia Support Begins with Parents


Retired special education teacher Robin Steinberger writes in Lowcountry Source about a parent support group that all parents of dyslexic students should know about: Decoding Dyslexia SC.

"Decoding Dyslexia SC is a network of parents that support each other. They can ask questions and participate in a private discussion board. Their motto is Educate, Advocate, and Legislate. The South Carolina group is part of a larger network of parents from other states. They communicate and in particular help each with legislation."

In case you're wondering, as I did, if children inherit dyslexia, Steinberger's example makes that clear. It's interesting, though, that boys are three times as likely to inherit it than girls. Maybe some day we'll know why.

Meanwhile, although schools provide special reading programs for these students, it's imperative that parents keep tabs on their child's progress. Yet, as Steinberger reports, "Parents often find navigating the school system to get help for a child having learning difficulties frustrating and intimidating." 

"Parents whose children are struggling [must] get educated and learn to be advocates for their child. No one will advocate for your child the way you will." 

Parents again. The most important component in a child's success. If only we could mandate their attention!


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Replacing SC School Buses Spotlights Promises Unfilled

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Do the math: if replacing South Carolina's entire fleet of school buses every 15 years requires an annual expenditure of $30 million, how many years will it take to replace it if we spend $5 million every year? (Which, by the way, we have been doing regularly for the last decade.)

Here's hoping that doesn't mean every 90 years!

What condition is your 1995 car in? Or your 1993? What! You mean you traded those in years ago? Why on earth would you do that? 

Either the 2007 legislature was just kidding, or our representatives have mastered kicking the can down the road. 

It's been a long time since the 2008 recession. In fact, it's been a decade, and our state legislators can no longer blame a failing economy. 

How many children of these legislators ride school buses slated for the junk heap years ago? 

Not many, I'll bet.

After overriding McMaster's veto, this year we'll spend $20 million. Continue that spending, and replacement will take around 25 years. 

Do our legislators drive 25-year-old cars? 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Black Newspaper Takes Gloomy View of CCSD

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After interviewing CCSD's Anjene Davis and Michael Miller, the Charleston Chronicle concluded that little change lies ahead for black students in the Charleston County School District.

Davis complained that there is "not enough planning or implementation to move the district toward progress." He pointed towards bias in responding to constituent concerns on the part of administration in regard to closing Garrett Academy. However, Davis did not admit that, unlike "some 200" white constituents who marched on the Taj Mahal, black ones did not appear in such numbers to support Garrett.

Davis also pointed to poor academic results for black students, but he did not suggest either causes or remedies.

Michael Miller agreed, noting that "some 50 percent of Black students don’t read at grade level." By pointing out the disparity in black teachers versus black students, he seemed to imply that if the percentage of black teachers in the district equaled the percentage of black students, reading levels would improve.


After several key 5-4 votes on the school board with five white members in the majority, Miller hopes that the balance will change at the November elections. As he stated, "in the five years he’s served, new years and new board members have not brought new vision. Change will not be imposed by rhetoric, but by action, he said." He did not specify what that action should entail.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

HaLevi''s Just Lawsuit Against CCSD

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Andrew HaLevi finally gave up on the Charleston County School District. His story is too familiar to those who have put all their waking hours into making CCSD's schools better. What a waste!

After criticizing the district's principals in an op-ed in 2006, HaLevi, founder of the Charleston Teacher Alliance, was transferred from his ten-year teaching post at Burke to the district office as a disciplinary hearings officer. Payback?

By 2013 HaLevi was praising progress made in the district under Superintendent McGinley. With that to his credit, he became director of Septima Clark Academy, a district school for troubled teens.

Three years later he had the absolute gall to write a Letter to the Editor criticizing our local rag's coverage of the minor dress code flap as front-page news reading as a CCSD press release, which it probably was. He must have known perfectly well that teachers and staff peril their jobs when they criticize CCSD. That's why we never hear from them.

Here's the other side of the story, taken from my blog of August 26, 2016:
An investigator with the district’s Department of Employee Relations interviewed HaLevi on April 25, according to the report. But HaLevi said all he was allowed to do was review a written statement he had already given.
“I was not presented with any evidence, did not have the opportunity to challenge any accusations and was not allowed to appeal the decision,” HaLevi said.
Steve Liverani, who worked alongside HaLevi for five years as a student support specialist with Communities in Schools, was one person who spoke to the investigators about the incident.
“I can’t stress enough that I never once saw an inappropriate interaction between Dr. HaLevi and a student,” Liverani said in a phone interview Thursday. “I was really impressed that he could remain calm when literally everyone else around him was not.”
He also said that after news of the accusations made it into the media, he reached out to district staff wanting to provide more information.
“I never got a response back on that request,” Liverani said. 
HaLevi’s personnel file, which he provided to The Post and Courier to review, includes only one reprimand from 21 years of service. In June 2014, an associate superintendent wrote to express “disappointment” that HaLevi had not punished students who were suspected of making racist comments and threats toward HaLevi. According to HaLevi, he had found an unsigned note in the trash calling him a “dumb Jew” and saying, “I hope the Nazi’s Come for you.” 
In a written response to his supervisor, HaLevi said that while he had spoken with three students about the note, there was “not enough evidence” to prove their guilt.
“My written response, included in the personnel file, reflects my deep commitment to fairness and due process,” HaLevi said. “This is a commitment that the district has failed to show in my case.”
The disrespectful student's uncle, who happens to be on a constituent school board, demands that CCSD fire HaLevi. That student was both verbally abusive to HaLevi and irresponsible for not returning the slacks nor explaining the situation before the trouble occurred. Her uncle need to reprimand her for her lack of respect to one who has earned it. Perhaps the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Now the rest of the story.

"Since the district reassigned HaLevi, the S.C. State Board of Education concluded a separate investigation and found "no evidence of inappropriate or unprofessional conduct," according to an order signed by the board Sept. 12, 2017.

"The state board wrote that the testimony of a school resource officer "corroborates that HaLevi could not have seen the complete attire of the student from his vantage point at the front of the bus."

Go for it, Andrew!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Stress on Apprenticeships in CCSD Long Overdue

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As reported by Lowcountry Source, last week CCSD Superintendent Postlewait met with a representative from Trident Tech and a constituent board member from Mt. Pleasant at Panera Bread in North Charleston. Under discussion was the need to focus on "career readiness" for district high school students. 

In particular, Traci Combs of Trident Tech's Continuing Education and Economic Development program stressed that guidance counselors must make parents more aware of "the opportunities available in manufacturing, with local companies like Boeing and Volvo paying very high salaries for production workers.  The TTC Continuing Education department has placed more than 100 current students in apprenticeship programs.  Many of them will will wind up getting hired by the companies they apprentice for after they have completed their training."

Present numbers of apprenticeships are discouraging. Postlewait reported that "In August 2017 before the current school year began, 25 CCSD students signed letters committing them to pursuing apprenticeships, although only six were from high poverty schools.  Garrett, the district’s vocational magnet school, only had one student enrolled in an apprenticeship program."

Those disgraceful numbers wouldn't be lower if students had to seek out those programs for themselves! 

"Roger O’Sullivan, a board member for Constituent District Two schools in Mt. Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island, . . . suggested a partnership with the Dorchester Career and Technology Center in Summerville.  Internships, apprenticeships and job shadowing are required to be offered to high school students according to the state Education and Economic Development Act (EEDA)."

Whatever works.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"Sins of Fathers/Mothers" Retard Educational Outcomes in CCSD

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Charleston, we have a problem. 

The responsibility for raising children lies with parents, not with the school system. As fewer and fewer children enjoy intact families, the task of breaking the cycle of poor education becomes Herculean. 

"Just as a reminder of our academic record for students [from our CCSD Board of Trustees]: Despite many teachers’ hard, sometimes heroic efforts, only half of our students, of all backgrounds and races, grow by a grade level each year. At only a handful of our elementary schools are a majority of students meeting state standards in reading and math. Our bottom five elementary schools have only 7 percent of their students reading on grade level." 

If you're thinking, "So what? It's not my problem," you're living in a fool's paradise.

"Those failures ripple throughout our entire community as a majority of local CCSD grads find themselves unable to compete in the workforce and not ready for college upon graduation. That affects Boeing and Volvo. It affects your home value. Most importantly, if you have children in CCSD, it likely affects your child."

The next time you're watching the local news reporting the local mayhem, which it does every day, ask yourself if the perpetrators can read, have graduated from high school, and enjoy the presence of two parents in the household. Sensible people know the answers.

The three goals set by CCSD for dramatic improvement target important facets of education: "We should focus on three strategic objectives: ensuring every student reads by grade 3, developing and retaining talent, and more equitably distributing resources across the district."

Darby, Mack, and Garrett go on to state that "Today, students of color and poverty are the least well served by our schools. Pulling these students up to proficiency and readiness is something that we know how to do and should do now."

Herculean. Without the participation of at least one parent or caregiver for each child "of  color and poverty," the task becomes impossible. When will black community organizers realize the importance of intact families to their goals?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Fiscal Woes in CCSD Predicted in 2006

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In 2006 as home values were rocketing upward, the South Carolina legislature made a stupid, stupid decision. People whose home values had risen dramatically over the last decade wanted their property taxes reduced because they couldn't afford to pay them.

Well, that's what they said. 

I'm no tax lawyer, but even I could figure out how to pay the taxes on my multi-million-dollar home beachfront on the Isle of Palms or fronting White Point Gardens.

If you think the tax burden for schools was shifted from property taxes to sales taxes to help the little guy, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Skip to twelve years later. Finances are going from bad to worse in the Charleston County School District. The average taxpayer doesn't understand that the fancy school buildings now dotting the county used sources of revenue not available for the district's operating costs of the district.

In other words, CCSD can continue to build gorgeous schools while being unable to fill them with well-paid teachers or to pay the electric bills. What caused this problem?


Here's an explanation from the current CCSD Board:

Due to Act 388, our ability to increase our revenue is capped, preventing the district from being able to keep up with rising costs. Charleston sends $1 to the state and gets back 34 cents. When Act 388 was passed, the idea was to eliminate property taxes for homeowners and replace them with a 1 percent sales tax, but the money given back from the sales tax (34 cents on the dollar) was never enough to replace the money taken away with the elimination of property taxes for homeowners. School districts were to be allowed to make up lost revenue by increasing local taxes by a capped amount (consumer price index + increase in local population for the district). Our ability to raise local commercial property taxes is limited to 2.9 percent on average. However, commercial property taxes only make up 60 percent of our revenue. Because 40 percent of our budget comes from sources that we don’t control, we are only able to increase our total revenue by 1.7 percent annually (2.9 percent increase x 60 percent of revenue = 1.7 percent increase on total revenue).

It’s not hard to see that when costs grow by 4.6 percent, 5.6 percent, and then 6.3 percent and revenue grows by 1.7 percent, you’re going to lose every year.

For 2018-19, we are projecting a $498,000 deficit.

In 2019-20, we are projecting a $18.5 million deficit.

In 2020-21, we are projecting a $43.5 million deficit.
Of course, if we could get the educrat pigs out of the trough, finances would improve, but the chances of making up the deficit in that manner are slim.

It's time for our legislative delegation to face the music.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

How Did Lowcountry Recruit Sex-Crazy Teachers?

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Sometimes you wonder what goes unreported.

Is anyone else mystified when seemingly normal certified teachers become sexual predators in the classroom? 

First we had CCSD's example of the female Burke teacher accused of sexual contact with a male high school student last December. Now we have a DD2's female Oakbrook Middle School teacher accused of sexual contact with a 12-year-old female special education student, sending texts, no less, that showed her intentions!

No one would believe you if you made that up.

No doubt those desiring to prey on children want jobs that make proximity possible. Is this the stage we have reached in recruiting teachers? 

Heaven help us if sexual predators are a growing proportion of those desiring teaching degrees!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Teacher Pay Letter to Editor Reveals CCSD's True Problems

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Will paying teachers more solve retention problems in the Charleston County School District? Only if starting salaries enter the six-digit range, writes Peter Smyth, former math principal of the Charter School for Math and Science.  Even then they may leave for districts where teaching conditions are more conducive to learning. As Smyth says, " Low pay is just part of a culture that has become more and more unattractive."

What do teachers want? Here are some of his thoughts.

  • Teachers need to know that those in charge get that the student-teacher relationship is the most important building block of what schools do. In schools, teaching is built on that personal connection.

  • Teachers want to teach in places that actually support teaching. Support at the least means that those in charge have teachers’ backs.

  • Teachers need administrators who understand good teaching and what that takes to pull off. Administrators need to act on this understanding.

  • Teachers need resources and especially time to build, reflect on, and polish lessons. Good lessons, like good teachers, are created, not born. It’s a hard job, and teachers need support to create and own those lessons.

  • Teachers need meaningful opportunities to build and refine their craft. Teachers need to be allowed to grow in their profession and should be rewarded for that growth.

  • Teachers need those who evaluate them to be expert, or at least (minimally) competent in evaluators’ own teaching, not expert at checking off boxes.

  • Most of all, teachers need leadership that asks “What can I do to help your teaching?” Sadly the answer from teachers is too often “Get out of the way.” District and school leadership has a sole mission: to support good teaching. “Support” is an active word.

Time to bring back the original meaning of "Principal." That was the "Principal Teacher." Preferably, that person should have taught in that same school, not in some district in Massachusetts or Arizona.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

CCSD's Bizarre Decision to Keep Schools Closed Wednesday

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Maybe the bus drivers wanted another day off.

What other reason could cause the Charleston County School District to cancel school for students on a day when quite obviously all danger of icy roads had passed? They didn't believe the weather report? 

Please find me a picture taken Wednesday morning of an icy roadway or icy driveway to a school. Not likely.

Clearly, the decision makers made a mistake for Tuesday morning road conditions, but closing schools the next day when everything has melted looks like hysteria.


Monday, January 08, 2018

FOIA Results Show Darby's Starry-Eyed Crush on CCSD's Superintendent

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She's perfect, at least according to marks given by CCSD Board of Trustees Chair Kate Darby. At least Todd Garrett pretended objectivity with one grade of 3 instead of 4.

What should citizens take away from the results of this year's evaluation of Charleston County School District's Superintendent Postlewait? 

First, why was it necessary to stonewall a Freedom of Information request for weeks? Previous evaluations have always been released. Evidently, Miss Biggity, CCSD staff attorney Natalie Ham, decided disclosure should end. It was "in absolute disregard of the law," according to Jay Bender, attorney for the newspaper. 

Second, past comments on the evaluations have been released to the public. Not so now, it seems. Are they protecting Postlewait's rights or hiding information the public should know?

Third, and most troubling, is this Ham-handed [sorry, couldn't resist the pun] action designed to hide racial tensions in the district? For sure, the Board's four black members gave the superintendent her lowest marks.

The instrument used to evaluate the superintendent was created by former Superintendent McGinley at a previous Board's urging. The way it is set up, it's almost impossible for any super to get a failing grade.

What will happen if a future Board has a majority of five black members?

Friday, January 05, 2018

CCSD's Archer School Building: Rotting 17 Years & Counting

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While the city reveled in a hot real estate market over the last decade, the Charleston County School District in its wisdom chose to keep the historic Archer School building at Nassau and Jackson Streets a derelict eyesore. Just what the East Side needs. 

In reality, CCSD has forked over more than $300,000 to "maintain" the building with "air conditioning, outdoor lighting and surveillance cameras" during 17 years of letting it sit vacant. Chump change.

Although the School Board did vote to sell the property, it still is not publicly listed. "Real estate agent Miles Martschink has a contract to sell the district's vacant properties." While the investment to revitalize and update the building may be daunting, other old properties downtown have prospered. Why the private listing? Is Martschink doing his job? 

Well, it's only blighting the East Side, so it doesn't matter, right?

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Blatant Embezzlement in Berkeley School District Merely a One-Off?

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Former Berkeley CSD Chief Financial Officer Brantley Thomas used a $90 thousand special-education grant to purchase a lot in Tanner Plantation. He also took the district's money to prepay his daughter's college education. In fact, he now faces 14 counts of embezzlement and one count of forgery from the state plus more than 20 more federal charges. That's after a plea agreement! He appears to have reimbursed the district for about half of his ill-gotten gain.

Thomas was a busy man over the last sixteen years. SIXTEEN YEARS. And nobody was the wiser?

Meanwhile, audits of the district showed no wrongdoing. When will we hear about the auditor's punishment?

Those of us who've had qualms about the financial affairs in the Charleston County School District over the last decade must continue to wonder.

Are there  any more Brantley Thomases out there?

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Surprise: SC Obama-Appointee Judge Hendricks Fears School Prayers

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Isn't it ironic? A federal judge is worried that school prayers in the Greenville County School District violate the "constitutional right to freedom of religion."

You can't make this stuff up.

Somehow US District Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks, a Charleston native, has confused freedom of religion with freedom from religion. That's the gist of her worries over student-led prayers in the Greenville schools. 

The plaintiff, the American Humanist Association, named Barney Frank as Humanist of the Year about the same time as this fight began.

Nuff said.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Is Random Drug Testing in High School Coming to CCSD?

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What happened in Myrtle Beach's schools that caused Horry County School District administrators to suggest a study of random drug testing of students?

It's expensive. Do they have money to burn?

Many studies suggest it's not effective in reducing overall drug use. Would that be the goal?

"Students at high schools around Horry County could face drug testing as soon as next year if they participate in a sport, club or drive on campus. Horry County school officials will spend the coming months studying whether the district will randomly drug test some students.The district will create a committee to study whether testing should be implemented, which would not happen before the 2018-19 school year."

"Drug testing is already in place in Beaufort County schools, Anderson District 5 and Lexington District 1. Rock Hill is exploring the idea."

In its three years of drug testing, Anderson District 5 has identified a total of 10 students using drugs  "ranging from marijuana to heroin to steroids." That's about three students per year. Anderson's representative failed to mention the cost of the program or how many students had been tested at random.

Far be it from me to encourage drug use, but surely there's a better way.