Friday, November 30, 2018

Sex, Lies, and Video in the Charleston County School District

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More missing video? 

We now have a third case of the Charleston County School District's failure to hand over video of a disputed incident. This time it's a five-year-old being mistakenly picked up by a Lyft driver last April at Springfield Elementary in West Ashley. The district is being sued by the child's mother. The video was requested three days after the incident; the CCSD employee responsible for chaperoning the child has mysteriously left district employ.

"This case follows other incidents involving the school district and FOIA requests."

"When WCSC-TV requested emails earlier this year relating to a $300,000 settlement involving a district employee accused of child molestation, the district was accused of not meeting FOIA deadlines and charging excessive fees for public documents."

The "sex" part? After a police investigation the Stall High School chorus director was arrested at the Taj Mahal after being accused of "sexual battery" of an 18-year-old former student. He's worked in the district for six years.

Transparency, thy name is CCSD.

SC School Report Cards "A Tale Told By an Idiot"

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"Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

OK, so Macbeth was a bit soured on life when he said those words, but it's about time for SC voters to be soured on school and district report cards. This latest fiasco is but a case in point.

Are we tired yet of bureaucrats switching tests from year to year so that one set of tests is never comparable with another? Now we have another anomaly to gripe about: who is the idiot who designed these results? We know the name of the company, but where is the goat, because the SC Education Department needs one.

"In Charleston County, the state’s second-largest district, Executive Director of Assessment and Evaluation Buffy Roberts said some of the district’s best-performing schools were dinged on their report cards because their average performance, as measured by state tests, improved by a smaller amount than the state average."

“'The report card’s method of computing progress is slightly misleading because it measures if the school on average grew more or less than the state average, based on the state’s grade-level tests, rather than measuring the amount of academic progress that students actually made individually,' Roberts said." Slightly?

"Buist Academy, a K-8 magnet school whose admissions process is more selective than Harvard’s, earned an overall rating of Average this year. Its rating for academic achievement was Excellent, but its overall score was dragged down by an Unsatisfactory rating for student progress."

In other words, if you're at the top, the amount of progress you can make pales in comparison to a school at the bottom. 

The test designer is mathematically illiterate.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Charleston County School District Faces Questions Over "Popular" Auditor

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Funny, the news that doesn't get reported in our local newsrag. 

While the exposes and trials of Brantley Thomas have dragged on, it forgot to mention that the same auditor that caused the Berkeley County School District so much woe was also employed by the Charleston County School District.

Oops! The cat's out of the bag.

In a lawsuit brought against Greene Finney LLC, the Berkeley County School District also revealed that this "popular" auditor did the books for both CCSD and Dorchester District 2 after helpful recommendations by--you guessed it--one Brantley Thomas. The firm was founded in 1996 and "helped" Thomas in his nefarious activities beginning in 200l, according to the lawsuit.

Who hired this auditor for CCSD? 

How many years did this firm cook the books for the Taj Mahal?

The answers will be interesting to all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Demise of Prestige Prep While CCSD's Fraser Building Sits Empty

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Did the Charleston County School District set up Prestige Prep Academy for deliberate failure? That's what you should be asking yourself about the latest failing charter school sponsored by CCSD.

Despite our local fish wrapper's long article on its woes, nowhere does the reporter mention the school's failure to obtain a viable school building in the district. Where the school now meets, traffic is unbearable and facilities not stellar. 

Yet day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year the Fraser school building sits rotting away, draining district resources while providing no income.

How long, oh Lord, how long?

Why? Why shouldn't a district-sponsored public charter school rent a public school building paid for by the taxpayers? Prestige was doomed when it couldn't find a better facility. 

The foregoing reveals how CCSD cares for its facilities. It must be waiting for the right buyer to build another hotel on the property. 

While we're on the subject, when is the district going to provide busing for its public charter schools? 

We're all about fairness and diversity, aren't we? Aren't we?

Friday, November 16, 2018

Liberty Hill Student Lawsuit Should Include Firing Its Principal in Racist Incidents

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Why does Liberty Hill principal Chris Haynes still have his job? Does he smooze with the right people? Is he related to Mr. Big? Does he have the "goods" on the Charleston County Superintendent? Does he know where the bodies are buried?

We must rack our brains at this point to arrive at a scenario that would cause his removal. Certainly, two years of chaos at Liberty Hill wasn't enough. Ignoring district guidelines for keeping video isn't either. 

Here's the story from our local rag. There's one salient fact that goes unreported, although Channel 5 was courageous enough to broadcast it: the boy being attacked and called racial slurs was white; all of the attackers were black.

"After students allegedly assaulted a boy five times over two months at his school and on the bus, the boy’s parents had tenough. They hired a lawyer who demanded that the Charleston County School District hand over surveillance videos of what happened.

"Nine months later, the school district says it doesn’t have the footage. The boy’s mother is suing, claiming that the district deliberately destroyed evidence.

"School district policy ECAA says that a school can delete surveillance video footage after 10 days unless “an incident is reported or a request is made to view or copy a video.” Police reports were filed in four of the five cases involving the boy. The lawsuit, filed Oct. 2 in Charleston County Court of Common Pleas, claims the district broke its own policy as well as the state’s open-records law.

"According to the attorney, Mark Peper, the student is a 12-year-old boy who was assigned to Liberty Hill Academy in North Charleston in December 2017. Liberty Hill is an alternative public school that serves partly as a last-chance reform school for students with serious disciplinary issues. Another part of the school serves special-needs children in first through eighth grade.

"According to police reports, a student allegedly hit the boy with a shoe on Dec. 13, 2017. Five days later, the same student allegedly got in a fight with the boy and threatened to kill him and his mother.

"Another student punched the boy in the face on Jan. 11 in a hallway, according to a police report. On Jan. 16, several students admitted to hitting him, including one who confessed to hitting him with a belt, according to school records provided by Peper. Two days later, a police report says a student punched the boy three times.

"On Jan. 23, the family’s lawyer sent the district a letter demanding that it preserve any records from the incidents, including surveillance footage. Like many schools, Liberty Hill has surveillance cameras, and district emails indicate that the bus also had a camera. On May 10, Peper submitted a Freedom of Information request for the records and footage. On Sept. 20, a district official wrote back: “Too much time had elapsed between your request and the date. Unfortanently (sic), there is no video for this matter.”

From the request on January 23 until the response on September 20? Yes, I'd say that too much time elapsed!

"Last month, Circuit Judge Michael Nettles ruled that the district was “grossly negligent” in failing to preserve the videos. “I don’t know whether or not they can be recovered in some way or fashion, but I’m gonna order that y’all do whatever is necessary to try to recover any videos that might have been destroyed,” he said.


"The lawsuit sheds light on a dark period at a school that ex-teachers described as dangerous and anarchic over the last two school years.

"Shortly before the student in the lawsuit started at Liberty Hill, Principal Christopher Haynes sent an email to teachers saying that he was “closing without action” a backlog of 159 student discipline referrals. Teachers were outraged and said they felt unsupported. Haynes made some changes at the school this fall, including hiring a behavior interventionist and revising the system for “restoring” students back to their home schools."

Tell me again why Haynes wasn't removed as principal, please.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

FOIA Meets CCSD's Office of Delay, Linger, and Wait

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The Taj Mahal treats FOIA as its worst enemy. Despite the ranks of bureaucrats employed at the Charleston County School District's administrative offices, somehow responding to FOIA requests in a transparent and timely manner falls lowest on the agenda.

Take, for example, the outrageous situations detailed below:

"The Charleston School District needs to come clean about a four-year-old scandal in which an employee suspected of accessing child pornography was later accused of molesting two students. The employee has since died, and the school district paid $300,000 to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of an 11-year-old student.

"But for months, the district has effectively stonewalled a local television station’s Freedom of Information Act request for emails related to the scandal.

"Despite changes made to South Carolina’s FOIA to make access to public documents easier and more affordable, the district has failed to meet deadlines for responding to WCSC-TV’s requests and set preposterously high fees for culling and redacting the emails.

"Channel 5 was told its initial request for district emails involving the late Marvin Gethers would cost the station about $11,220, prompting the station to narrow its request to only emails to and from the principal during a few months in 2014 and 2016. That dropped the price to $2,485 — still a steep price to pay for public information the district presumably would have already culled, given the investigation and lawsuit. The station has since further narrowed its request.

"Under the FOIA, “reasonable fees cannot exceed the cost of search, retrieval and redaction of records by the lowest-paid employee capable of the job.”

"By law, the district has 20 business days to acknowledge request, then 35 days to produce the records. The district’s general counsel, Natalie Ham, said each request restarts the clock. She said she was unsure about the status of the latest request but would check on it.

"What’s most troubling isn’t that the district is having trouble complying with the law in specific cases, but rather that it appears to have trouble in complying with FOIA requests in general.

"In a related matter, the district has balked at turning over a list of legal settlements over the past the five years, according to WCSC-TV. The request was filed March 30. Finally, after threatening legal action against the district, the station recently received a letter from Ms. Ham apologizing for delays and promising the information in 10 business days, or by Nov. 8.

"Either the district isn’t equipped to handle what appear to be relatively simple FOIA requests, or it hasn’t prioritized fulfilling the requests in a timely manner. Regardless, the district must improve its compliance with the law. If Ms. Ham’s office is overwhelmed with requests, the district should provide her with additional resources.

"Separately, the district also has been under fire for erasing video that allegedly shows a boy being beaten up at school. Attorneys for the youth are now suing the district over what a judge called “grossly negligent” behavior.

"The Freedom of Information Act doesn’t exist to embarrass public institutions, but is designed to provide transparency and accountability to the public. The district must do a better job on both counts.?

Transparent and accountable?  Ha ha ha ha ha.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

CCSD School Buses Took Voters to the Polls

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Observers reported seeing Charleston County School District buses unloading full contingents of voters at a polling place on Johns Island on election day. 

Was CCSD aware that its buses were being used?

If so, how much was paid to the district for using the buses?

And, who paid it?

And, since district headquarters had a preferred slate of candidates in this election, were voters told whom to vote for in the school board elections?

The answers should be revealing.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Postlewait Announces Garrett Closing Without School Board Vote

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The Charleston County Superintendent of Schools decides on school closings without an official vote from CCSD's elected Board of Trustees.

Now you begin to see what the Coalition for Kids (aka for the Status Quo) was all about: handing power from the school board to the superintendent. Will this school board object? Of course not. The superintendent makes the decisions in Charleston County. The elected board is there for show purposes only.

As Lowcountry News reported recently, 

"a Charleston County School District (CCSD) official told Garrett Academy of Technology faculty members last week that the school would be closing at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. The teachers were advised to apply for other jobs. Garrett became a countywide magnet school for vocational training in the mid-1990s. The school initially had 17 career offerings and an enrollment of more than 700 students. The career programs have been cut in recent years, and the enrollment has declined. The Charleston County School Board has not yet voted to close Garrett.

The Garrett faculty was also told that none of the existing career programs at the school will be continued at the $42.7 million North Charleston career school scheduled to open in August 2020. The school is slated to be built across the street from North Charleston High School at the existing football stadium and will serve all of the North Area high schools. CCSD has not yet listed the career offerings that will be provided or the cost to staff the career school faculty.

Most Garrett students live in the North Charleston High School attendance area. If the school is closed, students enrolled there at the end of the 2019-2020 school year would be transferred to their home schools. Business partnerships and internship opportunities have declined at Garrett in recent years at a time when local contractors are struggling to find workers. The Dorchester County Career School places 75% of its students in apprenticeships and has business partners in each of its 18 career programs. Rumors are swirling that a real estate developer wants to build apartments on the current Garrett facility.

Probably the CCSD official thought it good to let Garrett teachers look for other jobs. Another example of how poorly the dedicated teachers fare in this school system.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Rich and Powerful Purchase Charleston County School Board

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When you have the billionaires on board, who can stop you? 

Some of us had hoped that at least two new Charleston County School Board members would be those who had actually worked "in the trenches" of Charleston County schools: former principals Jake Rambo and Paul Padron. The Coalition for Kids (aka Coalition for the Status Quo) saw to it that they went down in defeat. 

Who could stand up to the relentless outpouring of cash brainwashing the voters? Now Ben Navarro has his own personal representative, Joyce Green, positioned on the Board to report on those who fail to follow the planned agenda. 

Expect the Coalition for the Status Quo to ramp up again next election to rid the Board of anyone who dares to disagree with the superintendent and Kate Darby.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Vote: Padron, Johnson, Rambo, Pettigrew for Change in CCSD!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Rich and Powerful Attempt to Buy Charleston School Board

I was planning to blog about this problem today, but Jake Rambo beat me to it:

**Dark Money and the School Board**
As an educator, I decided to run for School Board with one primary goal: to get needed supports to students and schools! I thought it was that simple. It’s not.
Because of recent court rulings, big-money, well-connected individuals are allowed to create “non-profit” groups to spend an unlimited amount of money to influence elections. Their donation lists and true intentions are never revealed. But yet, the community is expected to just believe their motives are genuine, and their efforts are just.
So please ask yourself these questions: why is there a dark money group spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to influence our local school board election? What do they get out of this? Why are they so connected to local officials and large government contracts? Why do they claim to be for change yet promote the status quo?
I have learned that politics in Charleston is a pay-to-play game. I am proud to say that I am not playing that game! Like my father has always taught me, "I say what I mean and I mean what I say."
On November 6th, let’s show these special interest groups that electing candidates who have experience putting students first, demanding transparency, and prioritizing the needs of teachers and students are what’s most important for our system. And let’s send a clear message that dark money has NO place when it comes to what’s best for our kids!#DemandTransparency #ClearEyesFullHearts #TeamRambo