By Barney Blakeney
A lot happened with regard to Charleston County School District in 2017. Much of it had either negative or no significant impact on Black students, according to two school officials.
Anjene Davis, a CCSD employee and advocate for public schools said constituents can expect much of the same from CCSD in 2018 as they got in 2017 – not enough planning or implementation to move the district toward progress. Facing the most adverse consequences are minority students, he said.
The year started last January with a district-wide strategic meeting which Davis says was a misnomer since little strategy was developed. By August it was clear there was no game plan that constituents were aware of and that lack of communications prompted a backlash from people who challenged decisions they felt had been thrust upon them.
What seemed most obvious was that white voices get more responses than Black voices, Davis said. In March some 200 predominantly white protesters rallied at the district’s Calhoun Street offices to contest principal and teacher reassignments. Principal and teacher reassignments occur all the time at predominantly Black schools with almost no response from those constituents, he said. But when those same actions were initiated at predominantly white schools in West Ashley and in Mount Pleasant, white parents’ marches on school district offices downtown were met with concessions. He noted that in contrast, opposition to closure of predominantly Black Garrett Academy of Technology in North Charleston resulted in delay tactics and long-term promises as district officials moved forward with plans to open a new technical education center at North Charleston High.
Despite improved overall district performance ratings, Black students still graduate in fewer numbers and perform less well academically than their white counterparts, Davis noted. As minority constituents in the district waited for the other shoe to drop in 2017, Davis said, those same dynamics likely will be played out in 2018.
County school board member Michael Miller had similar thoughts. In a district where some 40 percent of students are Black, but only about 15 percent of teachers are Black, the district fails to prepare students for a future of productivity, Miller said noting some 50 percent of Black students don’t read at grade level.
Two new school board members came to the board in 2017, and this November voters will elect four more school board members, Miller said. That offers some hope things will change. But in the five years he’s served, new years and new board members have not brought new vision. Change will not be imposed by rhetoric, but by action, he said.