Despite Protests, Positions On Principals Still Up To Postlewait

The above photo was taken during CCSD’s First Day of School Tour August 15, 2016. CCSD Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait tours newly built Chicora Elementary School with principal Shavonna Coakley. Photo: Tolbert Smalls, Jr.

Kendall Deas, Quality Education Project Policies and Research Committee Chairman

By Barney Blakeney

You’ve got to give the people what they want. But it helps if they know what they’re getting. Last week about 200 protesters marched at Charleston County School District headquarters on Calhoun Street to challenge, among other things, principal assignments being proposed by Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait.

Board member Kevin Hollinshead expressed his concerns. “It’s not fair or legal,” Hollinshead said. Postlewait is using her authority to reassign principals without telling anyone why they’re being reassigned. Board members and community partners are being kept in the dark as shifts are made, he said.

But shifting the most talented and qualified administrators and teachers to schools where their skills are most needed is something many in the community have proposed for decades. Hollinshead and others say they’re not sure that’s what’s happening.

The board’s senior member, Rev. Chris Collins said he’s criticized for years the constant rotation of administrators that produces little positive results. Such inconsistency only has produced chronically failing predominantly Black schools in his Constituent School District 4, which has the highest number of the county’s Black students. Unless Postlewait is forthcoming with more information about her strategy, he’s not happy, Collins said.

That’s also how Quality Education Project Policies and Research Committee Chairman Kendall Deas feels. The two-year-old public education advocacy organization is emerging among the most vocal commentators on school policies. They agree change is necessary, but Postlewait hasn’t told anybody why she’s making the changes or how they will impact the district, Deas said.

“I understand her making adjustments, but the mistake is in not engaging in transparency. Our group’s mantra is the importance of transparency and involvement from all the parties. I agree that as the district’s ‘CEO’ she has to make changes, but she shouldn’t overlook or underestimate the connections people have within their school communities. And that’s what she’s done,” he said.

Priscilla Jeffery, a former teacher elected to the board for a first term last November, said she’s acutely aware that the right administrator can make the difference in whether a school is successful or not. In the two years she’s lived in Charleston County, Jeffery said it’s become apparent such decisions are not always made in the interest of fairness. But in Postlewait’s defense, Jeffery said she realizes confidentiality laws may prohibit the superintendent from divulging all her reasons for moving the principals.

Her West Ashley board colleague, Michael Miller, added that Postlewait’s insistence on keeping her rationale confidential is buoyed by her authority to make independent decisions. Until he has more information, Miller said he can’t determine whether or not he agrees with those decisions. The board has asked for more information, he said. Until they get it, we’re all stuck in a holding pattern, he said.

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