Two of Charleston County School District’s most challenged high schools last month were appointed new principals.
February 14 Cheryl Swinton was appointed the new Executive Principal of Burke High and Simmons Pinckney Middle School in Charleston.
February 17 Henry Darby was appointed the Interim Principal of North Charleston High School.
Darby returns to CCSD from Dorchester District 2 where he served as Assistant Principal at Fort Dorchester High School in North Charleston.
The two veteran educators have their work cut out for them.
Both schools have struggled for decades to improve academic performance. Burke High with an enrollment of about 324 students most recently was rated below average by the S.C. Department of Education.
North Charleston High with an enrollment of about 522 students was rated at-risk. Both schools have about 60 teachers. Prior to the current school term each had stable leadership. Their previous principals each were at their respective schools about five years.
Turning the schools into the winds of higher achievement will be among the least of the challenges facing the new administrators as their schools sit at the cusp of change.
Burke faces uncertain transition in the midst of a rapidly changing surrounding environment. The 105-year-old historically Black school seems poised to serve a peninsula constituency that now is about 70 percent white. But the percentage of white families surrounding Burke likely will become almost exclusively white in the next decade. The Burke School of old seems destined not to be the same school in the future.
As Swinton takes the helm, some question how long will she be there and how the school will transition to accommodate its future constituency.
Swinton brings a wealth of experience to her position, but the school has floundered in recent attempts to enhance its curriculum. One attempt was the development of five career academies. Swinton previously served at Wando High School first as an assistant principal, then Associate Principal for the past 15 years. She first joined the CCSD family in 1984 as a Family and Consumer Science Teacher at Burke High School. In 1992, Swinton took the post of Job Placement/Co-op coordinator for two years before moving on to serve as a guidance counselor at Garrett Academy from 1994-1996.
After briefly departing the district to work as the guidance director and a curriculum specialist at Waccamaw High in Pawleys Island, Swinton returned to CCSD in 2002 as an assistant principal at Wando. She served in the position until becoming an associate principal in 2014 where she was responsible for the direction of the Center for Advanced Studies and supervised all Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs.
Throughout her career, Swinton has assisted in school to workplace transition programming and planning, supervised and facilitated guidance counseling and student support services programs, overseen CTE curriculum.
Darby faces equal challenges at North Charleston High where according to one source, some students demonstrate the profane and disrespectful behavior that typifies too many youths today. Several students Feb. 16 were arrested by North Charleston police for creating a disturbance on their school bus. The source said one teacher this year has referred 285 offenses to administrators which indicate the high level of inexperience among the staff of 61 teachers. Only three of the teachers are minorities.
Like Swinton, Darby brings the juice necessary to quench the thirst for effective leadership at North Charleston High and to move the school towards higher academic performance. Prior to joining the administration at Fort Dorchester, Darby served in a variety of roles in CCSD including as an instructor at both Morningside Middle and Burke High School. Before leaving Burke, he was a coordinator and administrative assistant at Burke.
While at Fort Dorchester Darby was responsible for the daily implementation of the school district’s policies, procedures, performance standards and objectives, managing and directing the mentoring of new teachers and monitoring and evaluating student achievement and progress.
Darby, a member of Charleston County Council since 2004, is a resident of the Liberty Hill community in North Charleston. He is the founder of Citizens Patrol Against Drugs (CPAD) in North Charleston, co-founder of CPAD II with the City of Charleston, a member of the South Carolina Association of Secondary Administration and National Association of Secondary School Principals, and a member of the Liberty Hill Improvement Council.
Darby holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Morris College, a Master of Arts from Atlanta University, and a Master of Education and Education Specialist degrees from The Citadel. Earlier in his career, Darby served as an adjunct professor of African-American Studies and U.S. History at Charleston Southern University, and as an international instructor at the Chinese Culture and Education Center in Handan and Shijazhuang, China.