Thursday, March 29, 2018

Steel Drum Honors and Aerospace in Charleston County Schools

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In the old days we used to joke about Underwater Basket Weaving as a "crip" academic course. Hadn't used that slang in years, but the word came to mind reading that Stall High School will offer honors-level courses next year in Steel Drums and Percussion 3. 

That brings to mind my little brother using pencils to drum on every surface in the house. 

No doubt my thoughts offend those conversant in steel drums, but is it realistic to award academic points for this proficiency? Perhaps the Charleston County School Board tried to even the playing field with its other high schools offering a plethora of honors courses in languages, history, and science. Maybe its stats for percentage of black students in honors courses was too low. Who knows?

At least Boeing's 2013 mural at Stall will be joined half a decade later with more courses preparing students for the aerospace industry."Starting this fall, students at Stall High in North Charleston can take Honors-level courses in Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Aerospace Engineering and Intro to Engineering Design."  

"Stall's North Charleston campus isn't far from where Boeing assembles its 787 Dreamliner jets, and Stall has offered aerospace-themed classes since 2013. Its students were among students from seven district schools who earned spring internships with Boeing in 2017."

Not too many years ago school districts were abandoning honors courses as discriminatory. CCSD will be adding 24 new ones next year. 

They're back! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

James Islanders Should Vote Out CCSD Turncoats

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It's amazing what making decisions in secret will do for a School Board: no messy objections from those affected are heard. Such is the case with the recent vote by the Charleston County School Board regarding the James Island bus lot.

Of course, if you don't live on James Island, you aren't waiting with bated breath to hear what will happen in this latest bait-and-switch performance. Briefly, many months ago CCSD decided to create a bus lot beside James Island Elementary. The locals revolted. 

"The district originally recommended building the new $3.3 million bus lot next to James Island Elementary, but nearby residents complained about the potential for air pollution, traffic and obstruction of scenic views. [about 30 buses are involved at present] The board relented. It voted in June 2017 to relocate the parking lot to a site beside the former W. Gresham Meggett School on Grimball Road — but residents and preservationists rejected that idea because of the school's historic value. The board abandoned the site due to zoning problems."

"At meetings and listening sessions through]out the past year, James Islanders turned out in droves to voice their displeasure about the plan. Chief Operating Officer Jeff Borowy said he reviewed 37 potential sites for the lot, but most would not work because of their size, zoning or purchase price. [Purchase price? CCSD can spend $50 million on two football stadiums!] "On Feb. 26, Borowy presented a new idea: The district could rent a warehouse on Signal Point Road to park its buses while Camp Road Middle was under construction, then build the lot elsewhere. The board asked district staff to look into the idea."

We call this a "red herring." 

"On Monday night, after meeting in executive session, the board voted to scrap the warehouse rental idea and build the lot at James Island Elementary."

"No James Islanders spoke at Monday night's meeting. The agenda mentioned a decision about the "District 3 Lot Lease," and Collins argued that residents did not have a chance to weigh in on the evening's abrupt reversal."

No kidding, Chris. We call this one "bait and switch."

Yet another split vote with four black members voting no against five white. 

Not good. Not good at all.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Third Rail of SC School Consolidation? Dorchester County

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The Charleston County School District is at a major disadvantage when it comes to Dorchester County. You see, the stats from Dorchester District 2 (basically Summerville) are so much better than those from CCSD. 

Families moving into the area who can't afford high-priced housing in Mt. Pleasant frequently settle for a house in DD2. Teachers fed up with CCSD administration and its policies head for DD2. Why, DD2 must have some secret formula that makes it so much better than CCSD.

Even Brian Hicks, that master of bloviation, when writing of the pitfalls of consolidating smaller school districts in the state, avoids the third rail of Dorchester County. 

What is DD2's secret? Why, Dorchester District 4, of course. Consolidating these two districts is the third rail of school politics. Never mind that the students in DD4 don't begin to have the resources available to those of DD2. 

It's 28 miles from St. George to Summerville, apparently a daunting distance for a consolidated district. Of course, it is 46 miles from Awendaw to John's Island. 

See what I mean? Something here doesn't add up. 

It's that old bug a boo called desegregation. Are you going to be shocked to learn that DD2 is mostly white and DD4 is overwhelmingly black? If you are, you haven't been paying attention to what goes on around here or, should we say, in Dorchester County. 

Would it be less expensive if these two districts were consolidated?

You betcha!

Monday, March 26, 2018

CCSD Schools Weakest Link for Boeing Workers

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"Our public schools are the weakest link when Boeing and other plants need to find educated and trainable workers."

According to the SC Aviation Association, our SC General Assembly has dropped the ball supporting efforts by Boeing to train local students. ". . .the S.C. Coordinating Council on Workforce Development, created by the General Assembly in 2016, had only one industry representative named in the 2017 annual report — Michelin. In contrast, the nine other members are public sector administrators, most without any direct industry experience."

If that sounds like politicians' rewarding their supporters, you're probably right.

Why hasn't Boeing gotten the same support as BMW upstate? "BMW, the first, in 1993, of a series of automotive assembly plants in South Carolina, has about 10,000 people at its Greer plant, is successful in providing accelerated, focused education for years in, for example, its BMW Scholars program. High school graduates work as apprentices on the factory floor while completing a two-year technical college program."

Why isn't that happening in the Tri-County area?  Well, the Council named above isn't encouraging it. Boeing does what it can under the circumstances. "Boeing works with high school students in South Carolina to encourage them to learn more about aerospace theory, science, design, assembly, flight and evaluation and to be eligible for training that could lead to a job at Boeing."

Time for CCSD to roll out its Boeing Scholars program.

Friday, March 23, 2018

CCSD's Arming Teachers: One Teacher Cannot Speak for All

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"Teacher Jaime Cunningham asked the Charleston County School Board to take a stand Monday night. 'CCSD can lead the state by taking the stance that you will not support and will reject any legislation that incentives arming teachers,' said Cunningham, a teacher at Hursey Elementary who was named the Charleston County School District Teacher of the Year in 2014." For being politically correct.

"At Wando High in Mount Pleasant, the state's largest school, English I teacher Carly McRae said her heart drops every time she hears the PA system crackle to life. Ever since the school went on code-red lockdown for two hours in December, she braces for the worst. McRae and many of her colleagues say a handgun in a hip holster would not make them feel safer. Some say they'd quit their jobs rather than enter a school filled with armed teachers. 'Putting guns in the hands of me and my colleagues would not create a safer environment. It would create one of more fear,. McRae said." Well, that says something about McRae herself.

A school filled with armed teachers? Talk about setting up a straw man argument. 

These two must believe that the state should spend additional millions of dollars to place an armed resource officer in every school. The alternative leaves them cowering under their desks every time a shooter enters their gun-free zones. Even if it were possible to take every gun from every person who ever thought about shooting up a school, guns would still be out there in the hands of criminals to "make their hearts drop." 

How about a sign that says the following:

This might be a gun-free school zone.
Are you willing to take the chance?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Stallings's Common Sense on Teacher Shortage

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Jody Stallings, director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance and an English teacher at Moultrie Middle School, has more common sense in his little finger than the entire administrative staff of the Charleston County School District, its superintendent, and its school board combined.

When Stallings talks, they should listen.

Here are some important points he made in a recent column in the Moultrie News titled ".Low pay not the main reason S.C. facing teacher shortage."

"An under-reported fact is that the wage gap between teachers and other college-educated professionals widens considerably for more experienced teachers, and that presents a fundamental problem with teacher pay: whenever officials raise salaries, they send most of the money to first- and second-year teachers to aid in recruitment. Meanwhile, teachers who have been loyal to the profession for years get nothing. In most districts, once a teacher has 20 years of experience, there will be no more salary increases even if he or she puts in another 20 years of service. What one would logically expect to see under these conditions is teachers putting in a few years of service, realizing their work is undervalued, and jumping ship to more lucrative professions. In fact, this is exactly what is happening."

"However, it is difficult not to notice that some schools seem immune to the teacher shortage, yet the teachers at these schools receive the same pay as they do elsewhere. These are the schools with the fewest discipline problems, the highest level of parent support, and the highest levels of academic freedom. This is in line with the reasons teachers across the state consistently give for why they are leaving the classroom early. And it should surprise no one that bad word of mouth regarding these issues is also having a negative impact on teacher recruitment. The three reasons are as follows:"

"1. Student discipline. In too many classrooms, student conduct is out of control, and teachers have not been given the power necessary to instill order and focus. Every day teachers are yelled at, sworn at, threatened, assaulted and terrorized by their own students. They get blamed for bad behavior management while misbehaving students are rewarded. Focus is placed on the feelings of the few students who constantly wreak havoc while the rights of the hard-working students and teachers are ignored. Because teachers have so little power, teaching in many schools has devolved by stages from instruction to day care to containment to survival. Until teachers are empowered to instill a culture in their classrooms of order and focus, well-behaving students will continue to suffer in silence and quality teachers will continue to leave the profession."

"2. Parental support. Many people blame teachers when students fail to succeed, but in reality it is parents who have the greatest impact on student achievement. While most parents are supportive, there are too many who are not. They do not make their children behave. They do not make them do homework. They sometimes don’t even make them go to school at all. And when a student earns negative consequences for poor conduct or academic indolence, they blame teachers and the system for failing their child. Districts must take a cue from those charter schools that have found a way to mandate parental support. Otherwise, teachers who are forbidden from being successful by parents who are antagonistic to their efforts will search for success elsewhere."

"3. Administrative power and teacher discretion. Teachers today have to trade too much of their instruction for meaningless testing, manage overcrowded classrooms packed with the neediest of students, and teach on nonstop schedules that barely permit them time to go to the bathroom. Mistaking bureaucracy for a solution, districts now hire almost as many administrative personnel as teachers, and this bureaucracy often frustrates the teaching process by mandating expensive and unsuccessful cookie-cutter methods. Teaching is an art, not a science, and when you exchange a teacher’s palette and canvas for a dollar store paint-by-numbers set, teachers will seek other arenas to utilize their skills."

"The picture should now be clearer. The problem isn’t necessarily that teachers are underpaid in the main, but that they are woefully underpaid in proportion to the number of daily obstacles they are forced to overcome just to teach a simple lesson. One answer to this might be, of course, to pay them enough money to stay. But if you really want to keep teachers in the classroom, perhaps a better option is to actually address the reasons why they’re leaving in the first place."

And it's less confrontational to state you're leaving because of low pay instead of the real reasons!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Your CCSD Neighborhood School Is Good Enough?

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Brian Hicks is an expert on advising parents about where to send their kids to school in Charleston County, much like his expertise in so many other matters.

His latest paean to the district points out that CCSD's neighborhood schools are so good that no one should be unhappy about attending them. This idiocy follows the district's push to get more parents to apply to magnet and charter schools and then its agony over how many thousand parents did so. 

You can't make this stuff up.

"An old-fashioned neighborhood school is also a good choice" if only any were old fashioned.  What's old-fashioned about an elementary school expected to enroll more than 900 students where practically no one walks to school? Or goes home for lunch? There are no old-fashioned schools.

As any sane parent knows, it all depends on the neighborhood. The richer the neighborhood, the better educated the parents. The better educated the parents, the better the results at that neighborhood school. So, Hicks, what are parents supposed to do that don't live in Mt. Pleasant? What if they live in the Charleston neck? How about Chicora-Cherokee? 

Oh, that's right. Those parents don't care. They didn't even apply to Buist.

As Hicks boldly says, "Having parents that care about education is a big indicator of academic achievement. And those children can succeed anywhere."

Certainly involved parents do make a difference in a child's achievement; however, it's downright racist to suggest that because the parents in CCSD's most underachieving schools don't care, a school such as Sanders-Clyde produces such low reading achievement.

Well, what if your neighborhood school is Sanders-Clyde? Hicks thinks you don't read his column.

Maybe Sanders-Clyde should offer the same program as Buist.  Maybe all neighborhood schools should follow the path of Meeting Street @ Brentwood and enjoy oversight by an "outside group."

If your neighborhood school is Mt. Pleasant Academy, not attending Buist is hardly a tragedy. But what if your neighborhood school is Dunston Elementary? 

Truly fish-wrapper advice.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What It Was Was Football: $34 Million For CCSD's North Charleston Stadium

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Charleston County School Board Chair Kate Darby wants to show the rest of South Carolina that Charleston County knows how to waste money big time. "'When you compare our athletic facilities against others in the state, we were at the bottom of the barrel,' Darby said."

That's the take-away from her comments on the outrageous expenditure of over $50 million on two football stadiums.

Think for a moment what else that money could buy.

Why is the Charleston County School Board doing this? Because they can.

"The district decided to upgrade the artificial turf, press boxes and scoreboards at the two regional facilities, which will serve multiple high schools and multiple sports. Chief Operating Officer Jeff Borowy has said the district wanted to keep up with the quality of other stadiums around the state."

Still wondering why North Charleston needs a 6000 seat stadium when most games garner 600 attendees if they're lucky. Sometimes it's 100.

Go figure. Are you sure we're not in Texas?

Monday, March 19, 2018

North Charleston Stadium Too Costly, Wrong Place, Conflict of Interest

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Nothing good can be said regarding the Charleston County School District's plans for the new football stadium in North Charleston.

Can we start with lack of input from the community it serves? "No public hearings or listening sessions took place before the Charleston County School District's recent $11.5 million purchase of a 38-acre vacant lot in North Charleston for a regional high school stadium . . . The board made its decision behind closed doors and the district did not publicly announce the site even after it made its purchase Jan. 31."

How about its awkward location, far from the centers of population it will serve? "Near the intersection of West Montague Avenue and Dorchester Road in North Charleston" equals nowhere near any of the high schools it will serve. Great for out-of-towners.

Then the intersection with Todd Garrett's old buddy real estate firm stinks. "Rushmark sold the property to the Charleston County School District on Jan. 31," making $5 million on the deal only two years after purchasing it for $ 6.5 million. That's what you might call a great return on investment. Rushmark owes Todd Garrett's real estate firm a great debt, so to speak. Of course, Garrett claims he had no personal interest in the sale.

Yeah, right.

Finally, the price tag begs credulity. The expensive land deal pushes the stadium's cost well over $20 million. Maybe chump change to the school board but not what voters expected.

Who decided that North Charleston needs a stadium that large? How many people usually attend a game for the schools involved? Taxpayers who voted for the additional tax had no say in how large it would be since the stadium was part of a take all or nothing deal.

The whole project stinks of CCSD's delusions of grandeur.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

SC's Revolving Door of Teachers Worsens

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No one goes into teaching in order to become wealthy. Though teachers may have as much or more education than other professionals, all they really desire is a stable middle-class existence. Raising salaries surely helps in that regard, but if the district and the state try to make teachers into robots, they'll leave the profession. 

Part of the problem of worsening teacher shortages is the education degree itself. Schools of education are a self-perpetuating morass of both super-trendy and outdated ideas taught by those who look down on aspiring teachers. Rarely are graduates prepared for today's classrooms. Further, students who enroll in those courses show less and less scholastic ability, truly problematic for education's future.

"Data from the Commission on Higher Education shows South Carolina's colleges and universities have seen a 30 percent drop in the number of their graduates eligible for teacher certification — in just four years. New and better financial incentives might not be enough to attract more teachers and keep them in the classroom."

"The SC Education Department committee solicited feedback from educators about why teachers leave the profession. Among the 197 responses, the most common complaint, after teacher pay and a lack of classroom support, regarded the demands of assessments and accountability."

"'What we know from having taught is not valued, and they’re constantly changing what they think should be taught in the classroom,' said former first-grade teacher Mary Ellen Woodside, who ended her 40-year teaching career at the Charleston County School District in June. 'There's less and less time to do the things that we know matters most at that age.'"

If the creative side of teaching disappears, teachers will also. It's already happening. 

Maybe you think a computer screen  or robot will do just as well. We may find out.

Anti School Choice Diatribe Ignorant of Reality

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Our local rag ignores viewpoints it doesn't support in the Letters to the Editor it prints, and it prints an inordinate amount of those whose viewpoints it likes. A recent letter from a New Jersey transplant is a case in point. The writer makes no mention of her expertise in the matter.. If we didn't know better, we'd think it was printed as a satire.

First, Patricia Marino seems unable to distinguish between public and private charter schools. In her analysis, they're all private. Now, she could make some points regarding private charter schools, but she instead blankets all with her condemnation. After all, public charter schools do not "drain state money from the entire education funding pot." In fact, she makes that point about vouchers, a tool not available to anyone in this state except special education students.

Marino makes the same point about "creating two separate school systems."

What the heck does she have in the way of facts to back that up when most of the charters in South Carolina are public? Same goes for her comments about public schools' accepting all students while charter schools do not.

Not true. Try to get into the Academic Magnet or Buist that way! 

Her last paragraph is too revealing:

"Public schools are a pillar of our democracy. We want schools in which people from all walks of life can send their children to learn together, and are democratically controlled by neighbors whom we elect to serve on the school board. They teach not just to read and write, but how to work and live together."

So why doesn't the writer live in an area where she can bump elbows with "people from all walks of life" instead of Cassique, an exclusive Kiawah Island development? 

Until parents find North Charleston Elementary so beguiling that they transfer their children from Mount Pleasant Academy, we know that democratic mix is merely pie in the sky.

If she knew more about the schools in Charleston County, she would have pointed out that public charter schools need the free busing given to magnet and neighborhood public schools.

That's where we can find agreement. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

College of Building Arts Rescuing Skilled Artisans From Oblivion

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Some of us remember when it was normal practice to get shoes re-heeled and even appliances repaired. No more. In our supposedly "green" society, repairs have gone the way of the dinosaur. Your dishwasher doesn't work? Throw it out. Repairs will cost more than replacing it with a new one.

If you think I'm exaggerating, you haven't needed a repairman lately.

So it's frustrating that too many people believe that everyone must have a college degree. Instead of equipping students for jobs, the degree has become a barrier for professions that don't need it and a drag on our whole economy as students assume tens of thousands in debt.

We are indeed fortunate to have the American College of Building Arts here in Charleston. Where otherwise would we find skilled workers to repair damage to our historic (and modern) buildings. In some ways Hurricane Hugo turned out to be a blessing, as it pushed the founding of ACBA.

Dr. Anthony Wade Razzi, its chief academic officer, has put forward a strong case for it and more schools like it:

"At ACBA, we teach six traditional trades: architectural carpentry, timber framing, architectural stone, masonry, plaster and architectural forged iron. Students spend four years learning their individual trade and becoming skilled artisans. In addition, they are also given a “traditional” education that includes math, science, literature, philosophy, history, foreign language, drawing and drafting, business management, leadership and historic preservation."

"More importantly, they leave with an education that fuses two branches of learning that have been artificially separated for more than 2,500 years. They learn to work with their hands and their heads. They learn to lay brick, carve stone, forge iron and frame timber, but they also learn the history of their crafts, the story of human architecture, and the scientific principles that underlie the buildings arts."

"They leave with the ability not only to build, but also to plan and design what they build. ACBA nourishes the critical thinking skills required to excel in any endeavor. . . .  They also leave with the ability to advance in their careers with the requisite leadership and management skills. And yes, at the end of four years they leave with a Bachelor of Applied Science in the Building Arts, so that they will not be shut out of other possibilities." 

"But more important than the degree, we at ACBA think that the education we provide produces fully rounded individuals, educated artisans, who have developed their craftsmanship and their intellect to reach their full potential. There should be no stigma attached to that accomplishment."

Too bad that the Charleston County School District doesn't feel the same way.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hold Algebra Nation Accountable When SC Test Results Available

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The cost of homework help just went through the roof. Help with algebra now comes with a million-dollar price tag for South Carolina's students. 

What is Algebra Nation? It's an online program that "features video tutorials, practice problems and an interactive homework help page." Thanks to the additional millions that the Charleston County School District has spent on Chromebooks and their ilk, it's readily available to CCSD students.

Study Edge has figured out how to create big business out of tutoring, and the best part is that many, if not most, of its "tutors" are unpaid teenage students. They rack up points instead. The company employs only a "handful" of "study experts." Probably they live in India. Why not?

It's a genius of a business model.

Study Edge has results from Florida for the last three or four years to back up its promises. "Algebra Nation also ran a full-court press in the Statehouse as budget talks began last year, paying $20,000 to lobbyists in the first half of 2017, according to state Ethics Commission filings. The state Legislature approved Algebra Nation as a pilot program for the 2017-18 budget year, setting aside a one-time sum of $1.5 million."

That was money well spent.

Its affiliate, the Lastinger Center at University of Florida, already had its hooks into CCSD for "literacy coach training," so this program is another step into this particular edublob. "The Charleston area's Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative got on board with the idea after reviewing it with leaders from nine state colleges and universities, according to CEO John Read."

"About three-quarters of South Carolina students who took the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam last school year passed it, according to the S.C. Department of Education. But scores skewed toward the bottom end, with only 9 percent earning an A, 13 percent earning a B, 22 percent earning a C, 30 percent earning a D and 25 percent earning an F."

Want to bet that their report card grades "skewed toward" the top end? 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Chinese Language Charter School: Sign of the Times?

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China rising?

If ever you wondered about China's increasing importance to the United States, the founding of the second Mandarin-immersion SC public charter school in Mt. Pleasant should confirm your suspicions. East Light Academy, modeled after a school in Columbia, expects to enroll up to 350 students in four-year-old kindergarten through second grade for the upcoming school year of 2018-19. The school has located near the Philip Simmons campus off Clements Ferry Road in Berkeley County.

Previously in Charleston a weekend immersion program has satisfied demand.Two other area schools offer Mandarin as a subject. However, this is the sole immersion program, varying from 75/25 to 50/50 Chinese.

Students from any county can enroll in the school; its enrollment period ends this month. "Charter committee Chairwoman Hong Lee said she anticipates . . . adding higher grade levels in subsequent years. Enrollment will be free in kindergarten and older, but pre-K will cost $5,500 per year, she said."

More information may be found on the school's website,

Friday, March 09, 2018

What School Board Qualifications Should Be

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Guess what qualification the State of South Carolina requires to be a school board candidate?

You must be a registered voter in the district you wish to represent.

That's it.

You can be a criminal with a long list of encounters with police, as long as you have no felony conviction that takes away the right to vote.

You could have dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and have never held a steady job since.

Of course, you could be an 18-year-old high school senior.

Some may argue that the election process weeds out the undesirables, but how much do we really know about people whom we've never met. How many stories have you heard about those who've puffed up their credentials, be it in education or military service?

Since here in Charleston County members of the school board run on a non-partisan basis, even the cursory vetting available from a political party doesn't exist.

What causes a person to desire the slings and arrows that arrive with school board membership? Who recruits these people? It turns out that most, not all, have an ax to grind--whether it be shilling for the Chamber of Commerce, palling around with the superintendent and her friends, or promoting mere self-interest, such as a stepping stone to higher office.

The sooner we realize that the Charleston County School District is one of the largest employers in the county and has one of the largest operating budgets, not to mention its capital projects, it becomes obvious that merely having gone to school at some time in your life or even having a child in the school system is not a qualification for this responsible position!

Believe it or not, this school board is supposed to supervise the superintendent and not vice versa. It is required to oversee both operating and capital budgets. Too many boards in the last decade have been at the mercy of fancy financial charts foreign to their backgrounds. CCSD administration is more than happy to enjoy an ignorant board; basically, oversight becomes nonexistent.

What if we created a list of qualifications for the members that actually meant they would understand what the district does? The National School Boards Association has published the following:
What makes a school board effective?
                                  Effective School Boards:
Commit to a vision of high expectations for student achievement.
Have strong shared beliefs and values about students’ ability to learn and of the system and its ability to teach all children at high levels.
Are accountability driven.
Have a collaborative relationship with staff and the community.
Are data-savvy.
Align and sustain resources to meet district goals.
Lead as a united team with the superintendent.
Take part in team development and training.
Sounds good, right? "Data-savvy" should be changed to "Financially-savvy."

"Align and sustain resources to meet district goals" means that members must critique all those charts from administration. 

See what I mean? Maybe Todd Garrett figures out most of what goes on, but I'd wager than the majority of the present board must take administration's word for it. That's adequate for a small business.

CCSD is not a small business.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Time to Close CCSD's Greg Mathis Charter?

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A recent homicide in North Charleston resulted from a robbery gone bad. Charles Michael Cooke and his father were simply working to prepare a house for a needy family. Two teenagers on their way to school decided to use a gun to rob them. The two miscreants were caught almost immediately, but what seems to have been lost in the telling is that they were students at Greg Mathis Charter High.

Our local school board should answer several questions about the perpetrators. For example, why was a Summerville student attending a Charleston County charter school? Aaron Jordan White of Summerville possessed the pistol and did the shooting, according to his own confession.

We don't have enough criminals of our own and must import them from Dorchester County?

Another question concerns the gun: was White in the habit of bringing it to school everyday? Was it ever inside of Greg Mathis High?

Will we ever know the answer to that one?But it gets better!

When Darby raised the specter of closing Greg Mathis last month, ABC News 4 interviewed a student at the school who was a success story.

You can't make this stuff up: his name was Aaron White! 

White proudly announced this was his "first regular high school" after spending two years in a "juvenile correctional facility."


Greg Mathis exists as a replacement for the discipline school upon which CCSD squandered millions of dollars in the last decade. Now it accepts "students who have been arrested, fallen behind academically, dropped out or been suspended from their regular high schools." And Dorchester County's problems as well apparently.

I don't know about you, but if my child "had fallen behind academically" or "dropped out," I wouldn't want him or her together with the likes of Aaron Jordan White or his locally-grown partner. You do understand what it takes to get arrested or suspended from high school these days?

Greg Mathis enrolled 72 students last year. School Board Chair Kate Darby wants to close it as a cost-cutting measure.

"The district's legal counsel sent a letter to Greg Mathis Charter High on Dec. 19 citing an audit that stated, 'substantial doubt remains regarding the ability of the School to continue as a going concern.' The school's charter is up for renewal in June. The letter said Greg Mathis ran a deficit for four consecutive years and had a net deficit of $105,509 as of June."

By the way, this amount is a rounding error to the district's overall budget.

"Principal Natrice Henriques said the school already has shrunk its deficit from $160,000 in June 2015. The school changed its paid time off policy to save money and eliminated a $50,000-a-year CEO position. Donors have given money to support a brick masonry class and meals at an after-school program, she said."

"The district's letter to Greg Mathis did not mention academics, but the school has consistently low test scores and one of the lowest four-year graduation rates in the state — 17 percent in 2017. Darby proposed revoking the school's charter in April 2016, but no other board members joined her."

Darby wants to send students suspended from their high schools back to those high schools. That means that suspension no longer matters. She wants to send students who've been arrested (and are presumably out on bail) back to the welcoming arms of their original high schools. Does it matter if the arrest was for murder? How about rape? Drug dealing? Guess it's all the same to her.

Perhaps a prison bus could pick up the Greg Mathis students who fall into these categories and deposit them at the school's doorstep, where they would be guided into their classrooms. No doubt the neighborhood surrounding the school would like some reassurance that students approaching the school will not commit murders on the way.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Diversity Management Looms on CCSD Agenda

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Evidently, Superintendent Postlewait and the Charleston County School Board hope that a bunch of folks from "off" can steer them in the politically correct direction. 

Don't fool yourself that the "study of CCSD management practices" from a Clemson University team will be done by South Carolinians. No, for a mere $135,000, diversity in Charleston County will be directed by those from Michigan. And they aren't educators, either.

In addition, we are the guinea pigs, the first school district that has signed up for the team's efforts.

When did "integration" become "diversity"? We no longer speak of the benefits of integrated schools; now the buzzwords concern diversified schools. It's no accident that these concepts come from management gurus: the treatment of education as a business is reaching new highs (or lows, if you like). You can always tell when you see the word "stakeholders."

Who decides the parameters of "diverse"? 

Obviously, CCSD believes it should not be the local community--hence the need for outside intervention. For example, would it be diverse to hire a creationist to teach biology? Perish the thought. How about making sure that every letter of LGBTQ is represented in the high school faculty? That would be diverse, wouldn't it? Or each teacher should have graduated from a different school of education? We can figure out right away that's not the goal.

If we're merely hoping to have more even distribution of racial minorities across the district's schools, shouldn't we just say so? Clearly, the concerns of the black community propelled this new foray into the edublob (and who can blame them). 

If reports are to be believed, Postlewait plans to implement the team's recommendations as soon as they arrive. Trusting, isn't she?

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

CCSD Points Toward (Not Your Father's/Mother's) Manufacturing Careers

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First, you should know about Chad Vail, the Charleston County School District's Work-based Learning Partnerships Coordinator. Vail has lived in the Lowcountry for more than 25 years, which makes him an old-timer in CCSD terms.. According to Vail's bio, "examples of Work-Based Learning include Job Shadowing, Internships, Youth Apprenticeships, & Structured Field Trips."

"CCSD has added 8 Career Specialists to work with students in grades 5-8 on their Individual Graduation Plans, which revolve around 16 identified career clusters. The students are encouraged to identify their strengths and interests and learn about the career opportunities which align with them. The students also receive “soft skills” training needed for integration into the workforce, which include listening skills, following instructions, proper body language and eye contact and speaking clearly."

"The programs are part of the increased demand for Career and Technology Education (CTE), which helps prepare students for 21st Century jobs in demand.  CCSD has more than 19,000 students in grades 7-12 enrolled in one or more CTE classes.  Partnering with the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, CCSD has placed about 200 students in apprenticeships, which involve a two-year commitment with partnering businesses, and more than 500 internships, which typically last a semester and involve at least 120 hours of on-the-job training.  Students are paid for participation in most of these training programs."

Trident Tech also offers paid apprenticeships to high school juniors and seniors who will earn credits and professional certification. 

Time to stop forcing parents and students into the one-size-fits-all going--to-college scenario. If these students decide later on a four-year degree, they can use their technical skills to finance their way through.

Monday, March 05, 2018

One of Highest Sales Taxes in Country Still Falls Short for Charleston County Schools

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Anyone remember that tourist dollars spent in Charleston County were going to generate the revenue lost by cutting local property taxes to support the Charleston County School District's operating costs? 

What is the cost of stupid anyway? Not to mention shifting the tax burden to the poor.

What the residents of Charleston County see are expensive facilities and projected massive football stadiums at tremendous cost. The average Joe figures that the school board is always going to cry wolf and overspend its budget on frills. 

Multi-million-dollar stadiums are easy to see; underpaid teachers and crowded classrooms not so much. Maybe it's time to rein in capital spending and devote some time to educating the public about operating expenses. 

"About 83 percent of Charleston County Schools' $483 million operating budget goes to personnel costs, including annual salary increases, health plans and retirement contributions that are all mandated by the Legislature. 'They set our expenses, but they don’t allow us to meet our expenses,' said Todd Garrett, chairman of the Audit and Finance Committee on the Charleston County School Board."

As long as CCSD spends like a drunken sailor on new facilities, not much sympathy will arise for its whining about operating expenses. 

It's one more cost of  poorly educated public, stupid.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Should CCSD Learn Lessons From Endemic Embezzlement in Berkeley CSD?

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Charleston County School District taxpayers can only dream of outcomes such the one in Berkeley County where the former schools chief financial officer faces prison for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the district. 

"Among the funds that [Brantley] Thomas took were federal grants intended for special education students. , ,the court heard details of several methods Thomas used in his schemes, including overpaying vendors through school district accounts, then depositing refund checks into his own account."

How was the fraud discovered? 

Not by the district itself or by its auditing firm that continued to give it a clean bill of health. No, it was the Feds, that is, an investigation by Wells Fargo and the FBI. What does that tell you?

Do we have any reason to believe that financial accounting in the Charleston County School District has been held to a higher standard? 


Thursday, March 01, 2018

Haggling over a Measly Half-Million for CCSD's Lucy Beckham HS Arts Center

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Many questions remain since the Charleston County School District asked the town of Mount Pleasant for $400,000 in "upgrades" to the performing arts center at the new Lucy Beckham High School slated to open in 2020. These are  upgrades CCSD has in mind that the school district itself cannot afford. 😲

Can't afford? You must be joking! Judging by the millions slated for football stadiums, this half a million seems like peanuts!

So the problem is that the taxpayers will swallow millions squandered on glorious football stadiums but not half a million spent on the performing arts? Sounds about right. We can see where the CCSD School Board's priorities lie.

According to the Moultrie News, these are the upgrades:
the primary focus would be to upgrade the audio, visual and acoustics beyond the basic things in a traditional school auditorium. She said they would like to look at adding band shells and clouds to make a richer acoustical environment for professional arts groups. In addition, some nicer finishes could be added to make the facility more professional.
There are electronic improvement options that could take the place of manual equipment. The PAC will be a small, 500-seat venue in an intimate setting. 
On the other hand, a Mount Pleasant group of arts lovers has bigger plans, dreaming of a destination performing arts center in the town that would become nationally known. Given the population of the town, that will happen--someday.

Meanwhile, why can't the district pay for its own upgrades? Mysterious. Most likely trying to find justification for fancy touches not provided at other CCSD schools. Stay tuned.