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Racial Diversity At AMHS Got Lost In The CCSD Shuffle Last Year
7/13/2016 6:09:39 PM

Michael Miller
By Barney Blakeney

Racial diversity at Charleston County School District’s most academically elite high school has become an issue that left alone for all practical purposes, has been forgotten.

Controversy over diversity at Academic Magnet High School took flight after football players during the 2014 season performed racially tinged rituals after games. That year at the AMHS, which is among the top high schools in the nation, of 644 students only 16 were African American. And last school term, only six students in a freshman class of about 190 students were African American.

At a September consolidated school board meeting, new Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait presented some 40 initiatives she felt should get priority in the district. At the top of the heap was racial diversity at the Academic Magnet High School. Board member Michael Miller said this week that priority seems to have gotten lost as school officials this year struggled through a myriad of challenges including staff shifts and financial flare-ups.
“I don’t know what the status is of diversity at Academic Magnet High,” Miller said Tuesday. “Some groups were supposed to be working on that, but I’ve been told they no longer function. Nothing ever became of it. That’s symptomatic of much of what happens in the district,” Miller intimated. “If something’s not important, it doesn’t get any attention. It’s given no measured goals for achievement.”

Miller noted one initiative to create greater diversity at the school provides opportunities for the top two middle school students entering high school to be admitted to Academic Magnet High. However that provision may not produce the desired results for several reasons, he suggests.

Most Title 1 schools Black students attend only offer limited advance courses. Students from those schools would start at a deficit because most of the applicants to AMHS have had advanced course study in multiple disciplines, he said. Students coming from Title 1 schools might find success at Academic Magnet High challenging.

Beyond academics, there are other issues, he said. In addition to racial diversity among students, the district also has to address racial diversity among the staff and faculty. “Kids at AMHS only see two Blacks on the staff - an assistant principal and one teacher. Everyone else there who is Black either is working in the cafeteria or is pushing something,” Miller said about the staff last school term.

Miller and others on the nine-member consolidated school board have been pushing the district to hire a chief diversity officer. A CDO and complimentary staff could address issues not only regarding racial diversity at Academic Magnet High, but also could impact black teacher recruitment and blacks in administrative positions, he said.

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