Leaderless Burke High Heading In The Right Direction

Burke High School campus on President Street

Staff Reports

Burke High School recently released its annual ‘Report to the Parents’. Shortly after, Charleston County School District officials announced Burke’s Principal Maurice Cannon after five years leading the struggling school would be moved to a position in the district office as Director of Accreditation.

With only about five weeks until the August 15 start of the 2016-17 school year, a new principal at Burke is yet to be named. The district however has named former CCSD administrator and current education consultant Dr. Barbara Dilligard to lead a ‘transition’ team.

Burke’s transition immediately includes the addition of the Lowcountry Tech Academy to its countywide magnet status. Burke, serves some 300 students in grades 9-12.

The Lowcountry Tech Academy program currently enrolls about 200 students and offers majors in the Information Technologies cluster. They include Information Technology, Information Support and Services and Graphic Communications. The cluster is part of the School of Business and Information Systems.

Ultimately, the program will offer some 16 majors in four clusters of study – the School of Arts and Humanities, the School of Business and Information Systems, the School of Engineering, Industrial and the Manufacturing Technologies and the School of Health, Human and Public Services.

Also coming to Burke’s campus next fall will be the Simmons-Pinckney Middle School located in the Rhett building. The neighborhood school will serve students in grades 6-8. Information about its enrollment was unavailable.

Dilligard was unavailable for comment, but according to information she previously provided, Burke which is designated a partial magnet school for its Advanced Placement Academy offers students dual credits in collaboration with the College of Charleston and Trident Technical College. Its five-year strategic plan will be built around ‘project based learning’. The school has initiated a personalized learning model in addition to credit recovery for students that enables them to recover failing grades in a core subject. The school also offers after school tutoring to all students.

Burke has re-established its school improvement council as part of its five-year strategic plan. Hopefully, the plan will continue the momentum that has resulted in increased course passing rates and four-year graduation rates that have risen from 48 percent in 2010 to about 77 percent in 2015. Almost 40 percent of Burke students earn silver or above certificates in WorkKeys assessment.

Excellence in some of the areas in which the school traditionally has excelled – its JROTC, culinary, sports and band programs – is expected to continue. The graduation rate among band members is 100 percent. Ninety-nine percent of band members go on to four year colleges or the work force. And last year, Burke relaunched The Parvenue Newspaper after a more than 30-year absence.

Although Burke still has no leader at its helm, Dilligard intimated she is optimistic about its future. The report to parents closed with the theme “The New Burke – Imagine the Possibilities”.

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