By Barney Blakeney
As constituents of Charleston County School District continue protests of Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait’s initiatives to assess teachers and reassign some principals, a few seem lost in the emotion of the moment. A few School advocates offered their guidance.
Calling for the assessment of teachers and the superintendent’s assigning principals is nothing new, said a retired CCS employee who has advocated for school improvement the past 18 years since his retirement. “This is something we’ve been asking for, for many years.” Another CCSD retiree quipped, “We asked Postlewait to change things. She thought we were serious!”
Asked for a two-minute synopsis of his views about the current controversy, former Charleston Education Partners Exec. Dir. Jon Butzon took 20 minutes to offer that his criticism of Postlewait has somewhat been muted by her initiatives. Only about 25 percent of teachers in Charleston County actually improve student progress in the course of a year, he said. And when the leadership in school administration comes down to a focus on two administrators, something’s wrong, he added.
Perhaps a more comprehensive response came from a former CCSD official who thinks Blacks need to support Postlewait. Here’s why: “Amid recent protests by teachers and principals across the district many Blacks have taken a backseat to openly supporting Postlewait. All we remember is that she came in under unsetting circumstances in 2015.
In hindsight you might ask what person in their right mind would take a job leading 50,000 students and 3,500 teachers in a constantly racially torn school district. And just after the most heinous criminal slaughter of nine praying prisoners at Emanuel AME Church! A woman of faith is the answer. A woman of moral character with a vision to help transform a school district and city that’s voted best in the world yet is still hamstrung by Jim Crow laws today.
“The truth is that silence implies consent. No one from the Black community, or Black board members for that matter, has come out to openly to support Dr. Postlewait as she drives the bus of change through Charleston County. With 84 percent of County’s Black third grade scholars failing the state reading test, we need bold leadership.
“Dr. Postlewait has demonstrated the change needed in the district by not only sharing the brutal facts, she is taking heat from teachers and principals on some very controversial moves that challenge the status quo. She moved Jake Rambo off the James B. Edwards bus, where the most affluent students and parents are fine, but the middle class white students and the poor blacks ride in stagnated yearly growth progress.”
Rambo’s resignation reeked of white privilege and blame game poor leadership.
“Postlewait changed bus drivers at West Ashley High School where school fights were the norm. She also put some great talent on the bus at predominantly Black high schools in the district no one gives her credit for. The new principal at North Charleston High school, Henry Darby, is a long time North Charleston resident who knows education and is committed community leadership. Naming Cheryl Swinton Executive Principal at Burke High School indicates Postlewait’s commitment to put Burke back on top.
“Dr. Postlewait came to Charleston County in the cloak of night under scrutiny, but has emerged as a champion for public education not only in words but in deeds. The Job of school superintendent is hardly an easy one; especially in Charleston County where we are still fighting the Civil War and can’t seem educate students across the county equitably.”