Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Lowcountry's Overcrowded Schools Result of Shift to Sales Tax

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Here in South Carolina, and especially in the three counties that make up the Lowcountry--Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley--we are being governed by idiots. The burden of sales taxes that fall especially hard on the poor is but a minor result of "not my property tax" thinking.

Who is the idiot who first proposed putting the burden of school operating expenses on sales tax instead of property tax? 

We need to burn him or her in effigy. 

How many shoppers in Charleston County realize that our sales taxes are higher than New York City? That's right. Higher than New York City. 

No wonder that on-line shopping is so popular. Duh.

How many Lowcountry residents realize that the mega-developments of housing occurring in our counties will not contribute a dime towards school operating expenses? When you see those houses going up in Cane Bay and elsewhere, just remember that those incoming children will crowd your schools without the off-setting property taxes that would pay for new ones.

Get the picture? Our school districts live in a Catch-22 world: more and more students and less and less income. 

Inevitably a drop in the economy and sales tax revenues will occur. 

Where will this idiocy end?
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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Upgrading Burke's Stoney Field Small Change

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Piling dirt on subsiding Stoney Field, the football venue for Burke High School, is a small change indeed. Given that it was built on landfill, some of us must wonder. "What were they thinking?" It's a temporary fix at best.

Nevertheless, spending $1 million to put the field into play is also "small change," when you consider how much the Charleston County School District is spending on two glorious stadiums in Mt. Pleasant and North Charleston. No one could blame Burke's School Improvement Committee if it questioned the district's priorities.

Looking down the road just a tad, some cynics think that in the long term the district plans to ditch Burke High School despite its up-to-date campus. Just as the Archer school building is being sold, a day will come when the land dedicated to Burke will be just too valuable for a high school. As residents are pushed out of the peninsula by rising rents, so too the potential for high school students will continue to drop. Look how empty Burke already is.

Think I'm too gloomy? Look around you.

Monday, May 28, 2018

CCSD's Postlewait Attempts to Ignore Meeting Street Schools' Success

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It can be done. Meeting Street Schools educational results have proved it. How long will the Charleston County School District persist in educational models that consign large percentages of low-income black children to inferior results?

As Gerry Katz cogently wrote in his Letter to the Editor earlier this month, "At the end of fifth grade under-resourced MSS elementary students have domestic and academic competencies comparable to well-supported students. . . . The MSS preschool education model should be scaled into all elementary schools with high percentages of under-resourced children."

Katz further notes that "all three elementary schools using the model achieve the third-grade reading benchmark."

Every taxpayer should challenge our Board of Education Trustees on this important issue. The next election should bring out candidates dedicated to replicating MSS results.

Otherwise, why are we spending almost a billion dollars per year?

The proof is in the pudding.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Yes, Vote SC Governor Power to Appoint Superintendent of Education

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South Carolina has one of the most powerful legislatures in the country. It also has the weakest governor. Every newly-elected governor has promised to improve the abysmal educational outcomes our state is known for. Every governor so far has lacked the power to do so.

This coming November will be our chance to give South Carolina's governor some power, in this case, power over education. The electorate rightly or wrongly has believed that the governor could improve education in the state.

"Public education is one of the state’s primary responsibilities, and one of its major struggles, but South Carolina’s top elected official has little influence over it. That thankfully could change this fall."

"Voting to make the superintendent of education a governor appointee — only 14 states still elect their superintendents — would mark another positive step for government restructuring. In 2014, voters decided that the governor should appoint the adjutant general, who at the time was the nation’s only elected adjutant general. Voters later said the governor and lieutenant governor should run together on the same ticket, which they will do for the first time this year, ensuring that the pair will be from the same party and, predictably, on the same page in regards to policy."

"Making the superintendent of education an appointee would give governors more opportunities to help make meaningful changes — and reap the political credit — but also take some of the blame if things don’t improve. That kind of accountability is a good incentive for improving education for all South Carolinians."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

CCSD Following Primrose Path with Football Stadium Sponsors

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First they solicit sponsors for football stadiums. Don't forget selling logos on the football jerseys.

Next, sponsors willing to guarantee two teachers per classroom in high-poverty schools get to rename the schools.

Of course, the whiteboards, or their ilk, are next on the sponsorship list. 

"Corporate sponsors could pay to name high school stadiums in Charleston County. Under a policy being vetted by the Charleston County School Board, school athletic facilities could one day be named after corporate sponsors."

"The proposal received a 5-4 vote on first reading at a Charleston County School Board meeting Monday. Board members Kevin Hollinshead, Kate Darby, the Rev. Eric Mack, Priscilla Jeffery and Todd Garrett favored it."

When you get a chance, vote those people out!

The total expenditures of the Charleston County School District are now approaching $1 billion per year. Look around you: what are you getting for that money? Now the district is looking for "new revenue streams" to increase spending. 

"If the policy gets final approval next month, district staff would be able to solicit bids for naming rights. The school board then would vote to approve any such arrangement, including details on how the new revenue would be spent."

Maybe we should just give every student in the district $20,000 per year and see what happens then.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

CCSD Budgets Increase on Homeowners to Service Debt

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Remember the new gazillion-dollar North Charleston sports stadium?

Yes, you homeowners will help pay for it,  just not as part of the Charleston County School District's operating budget.

"But a separate tax increase to help service the district's debt, also approved as part of the budget process Monday, will affect all types of property. Chief Financial and Administrative Officer Donald Kennedy said the increase will help pay for some recent capital projects including the $11.5 million land purchase for a North Charleston regional sports stadium, a $5 million land purchase in Awendaw for a future school, and a $1 million renovation and expansion of Deer Park Middle."

"This second tax increase will add $1.80 onto the tax bill for a $15,000 vehicle; $12 onto the bill for a $100,000 commercial property; and $24 onto the bill for a $300,000 homeowner-occupied residential property."

Need proof that Charleston County no longer welcomes families? Why is the enrollment in the county's schools remaining flat while its population booms?

"The budget assumes a total enrollment of 50,183 students across the district, which it describes as 'relatively constant.' Despite an influx of new residents in the tri-county area — 38 new residents per day, according to the Charleston Area Regional Development Alliance — enrollment in Charleston County public schools has flat-lined in recent years, according to the 135-day student headcounts that are used in many budget calculations."

"The district counted 50,203 students in the 2016-17 school year, 50,028 in 2017-18, and 50,183 in 2018-19. The current year's operating budget was written assuming enrollment would grow by 600 students."

"The $507.7 million general operating budget is the largest single part of the school district's overall budget. The total spending planned for next fiscal year, including general operating, special revenue, state Education Improvement Act funding, food services, debt service and capital projects, equals $976.6 million."

CCSD rivals Boeing and MUSC in its budget, but surely the latter two have more knowledgeable oversight by their boards!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

With School Board Pay Veto, CCSD Gets What It Pays For

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Want school board trustees moved by noblesse oblige

You got 'em.

Want trustees too busy making a decent living to spend time on school board matters? 

You got them, too. 

Evidently, the State of South Carolina has its own Catch-22. When trustees of the Charleston County School Board voted to raise their pay, they were informed that action was illegal.

Now the Governor says that the state legislature's voting to allow pay raises for school boards is also illegal and has vetoed the bill that would allow Charleston school board pay hike.

You can't make this stuff up.

"Charleston County School Board members currently make a $25 stipend per meeting plus gas mileage, making the board one of the lowest-paid among large school districts in South Carolina. The rate is set in the 1967 Act of School Consolidation, a state law that combined numerous small districts to create the Charleston County School District."

"State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, said he intends to challenge the veto, which would take a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate to override. 'We have special authority constitutionally to legislate in this area because of the constitutional provision that the General Assembly must provide for and fund public education,' Campsen said."

"Proponents of the pay raise have argued that it would allow a broader range of people to serve on the board."

No joke.

Monday, May 21, 2018

CCSD Kicks Sanders-Clyde Principal Off the Horse

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Appalling, what the Charleston County School District does to principals brave enough to take on the perennial challenge of Sanders-Clyde School. Despite stories to the contrary (supposedly Principal Roshon Bradley quit because of his ailing mother), what really happened is that once again CCSD refused stability to the failing school. 

Now, Dunston Principal Janice Malone gets her 15 minutes of fame, or as S-C principal. The district needs to get off the merry-go-round. If it can't give a principal more than a year to turn the school around, hand it over to the experts

No, not those turkeys at the Taj Mahal--to Meeting Street Schools--and provide the necessary funding!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Mick Zais Confirmation Another Partisan Disgrace

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We can hope that Republicans will treat nominees of the next Democrat President in the same manner. "The 50-48 vote ended a months-long wait."

Zais has incurred the ire of "teacher groups" and SC Board of Education minions. Horrors!

Yet even Lindsay Graham approved.

"Supporters of the former [South Carolina] schools chief expressed optimism when he was nominated that he would be able to push conservative policies on the national level with more like-minded allies in DeVos' department."

No more "same old same old" is what voters wanted in the last Presidential election. 

With Zais, they've got it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

CCSD Gives Prestige a Chance to Get Its Act Together

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Given the years allotted to previous failing charter schools, the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees made the right decision in giving Prestige Prep Academy another year to mend its problems. The all-male school serves a portion of CCSD's students whose overall achievement has remained grim despite gains in other areas. The school is completing its second year of operation.

Conditions imposed on the school include "a revised budget by May 1, and an academic plan for each student as well as a plan to increase enrollment to 85 students by June 30."

"Prestige Prep officials acknowledged that the school had a difficult first year in 2016-17, including near-total staff turnover and an enrollment drop-off that hurt the school financially due to the per-pupil funding formula for charter schools. They also presented a plan for fixing their problems."

"The school's staff members have agreed to a reduction in pay to help balance the budget, according to Executive Director Joyce Coleman. The school is talking with Word of Life Ministries about using part of the church's North Charleston campus as a facility at a reduced rental rate. Board member Willi Glee is spearheading a fundraising effort, and the school is posting flyers and recruiting students for next school year."

"When you look at where we are in the district as it pertains to serving students just like they're serving, we have not historically served that subgroup well," board member Michael Miller said.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

CCSD Offers Carrot and Crickets to Math Teachers

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English teachers may need to worry about unemployment, and yes, even art teachers, but math teachers know that if they leave teaching, plenty of higher-paying jobs await them. As districts compete for a dwindling supply of teachers overall, math teachers are feeling the effects of the free market. Now Charleston County Schools offer them a $9,000 signing bonus. 

The question is, once lured to CCSD, will they stay? After all, they're free agents. 

"For math teaching positions at 16 high-poverty schools in Charleston County, the district now offers a base starting salary of $45,000 — about $9,000 more than the starting rate for other teachers in the district. . . . The new pay scale, approved by the Charleston County School Board March 12, applies to new and current math teachers alike, and district leaders hope the money will help retain quality math teachers in schools that have historically faced near constant teacher turnover."

CCSD lost almost half of its math teachers in the last two years.

Golly. It's hard to believe that's due to low salaries alone. In fact, it's not.

"As teachers leave the profession, citing low pay, lack of support and back-breaking assessment loads, in-state teacher colleges are not keeping up with demand."

So how will CCSD change its ways in order to keep these teachers in the district? 


Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Fixing CCSD's Sanders-Clyde Begins with Stability

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Who is going to stand up and take responsibility for the revolving-door principals at Sanders-Clyde in the past few years? 

Who will admit that merely announcing a partial-magnet program to entice parents whose children go elsewhere to transfer to the school was a stupid idea? 

What white family would pretend that Jonathan Green's mural at the school contains a single white child? 

Does the P & C's reporter even know of the scandal of false test scores that several years ago should have sent its acclaimed principal to jail instead of another state?

Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

We grieve for the parents and children at Sanders-Clyde who have had their hopes raised again and again. 

"But a new principal with a new vision says he's made strides in his first year — and some members of the Sanders-Clyde community believe he can right the ship, if he's able to stay. And if he stays and succeeds, his example could help similar schools thrive."

"Roshon Bradley, Sanders-Clyde's fifth principal in seven years, knew the odds before he took the job in the spring of 2017. He previously worked for almost 16 years in the schools of Rochester, N.Y., a place with similar levels of poverty to Sanders-Clyde's attendance zone."

No one can turn around a failing school in one year or even two. Such endemic problems do not disappear overnight. CCSD has a choice: either it keeps Bradley on for at least two more years, or it turns over the whole school to an outside entity such as Meeting Street Schools.

It's that simple. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

CCSD School Board Pay About Time and Money

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Maybe now some middle-class folks can serve on school boards.

"Members of the Charleston County School Board could soon make $9,600 a year under a bill that recently passed a key vote in the South Carolina House of Representatives."

"This year's Senate bill was introduced by a bipartisan group of Charleston lawmakers. The pay increase would not be automatically guaranteed to reach that amount but the school board members would decide how high it should go toward that ceiling."

Taxpayers should keep in mind that school boards oversee one of the largest employers in the entire county with a budget in the millions. Doing a proper job of oversight requires many hours on the job. These positions should not be considered stepping stones to higher office but needed oversight of a bloated bureaucracy.

Now, if we could just get the legislature to allow single-member districts and partisan races, we'd be "cooking with gas."

Friday, May 04, 2018

Stealth Meeting of CCSD School Board Called by Joe Riley

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Good thing we have Lowcountry Source around since our local rag has ignored an illegal meeting for days.

Joe Riley is involved.

According to John Steinberger, 

"The Charleston County School Board failed to comply with the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) when it held an unannounced meeting at the Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston."

"The nine school board members were notified of the event by e-mail from former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley through his e-mail address at The Citadel. School board members were asked to RSVP to Riley’s assistant at The Citadel, where he serves as an Endowed Chair of Government and Public Policy."

"Lowcountry Source has learned that the meeting was attended by six members – Chairwoman Kate Darby, Cindy Coats, Kevin Hollinshead, Priscilla Jeffrey, Eric Mack and Chris Staubes. That's a quorum.

Each of them should know better.

"Mayor Riley urged board members to display unity and to renew the contract of Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait. Postlewait’s contract expired in December 2017 and was not acted upon by the school board, automatically triggering a one-year extension."

Riley has tried--and succeeded--previously to influence the School Board's choices regarding superintendents. As mayor, and certainly as ex-mayor, he has no legal leg to stand on. Interestingly, Charity Missionary Baptist is led by Nelson Rivers III, a long-time organizer for the NAACP and now CAJM. Several black members of the Board have not supported much of Postlewait's agenda.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Copycat Teachers Meeting in Charleston Pointless for Future

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What would a bunch of local teachers be doing by meeting at the local International Longshoremen's Association Hall? Supposedly called by the Quality Education Project, their stated goal is to discuss pay, conditions, and the future.

Teachers have never been unionized in South Carolina, nor should they be. Being a teacher is not the same as being on an assembly line, no matter how much our culture tries to make school into one. Should we have doctors' unions? How about lawyers' unions? Teachers should always remember that they are professionals as well. Meeting at a union hall sends the wrong message to the public.

Dr. Kendall Deas, director of Diversity at the College of Charleston (whatever that means), is co-director of the project. 

Not encouraging.

Teachers at this time of the year are swamped by end-of-school-year duties. Yes, pay should be higher, especially for effective, experienced teachers, and working conditions can be horrendous, but meeting to complain to each other does not advance educational goals.

We all know that the real purpose of the meeting is to organize activists to push for unionization.

Ain't gonna happen.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

CCSD's Taking on "Restorative Justice"

The pros and cons of using restorative justice in schools.

Proponents hope that restorative justice will reduce the number of suspensions among minority students in Charleston County schools. That's why this program receives the support of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry. 

This year "Northwoods Middle along with four other Charleston County schools is addressing student disciplinary problems head-on with a pilot program in restorative practices, an approach to discipline that has students sit face to face with the people they have wronged and make amends."

The reporter draws a direct link between discipline in schools and the homicide rate in North Charleston, an assumption based on no data whatsoever: "Restorative practices could prove particularly relevant at Daniel Jenkins Academy, an alternative school for students with criminal and behavioral problems, and at other North Charleston schools, such as Northwoods, that often rank among the highest suspension rates in the county. The city also recently endured its deadliest two-year stretch of homicides." 

The practices originally dealt with problematic Australian aborigines but have since found both success and disaster in American school systems.

"Can 'restorative practices' in schools get at the root of bad behavior?" Not likely

Whether the classroom environment suffers more or fewer disruptions in student learning will tell the tale.