By Barney Blakeney
Charleston Shared Future Project Scenario Team Monday night presented its months-long work to the community. The Project’s scenario team made the presentation at Burke High School after the Charleston County School Board meeting.
For a total of nine days over three months – three days each in September, October and November – about 30 individuals comprising a cross section of those who are insightful, influential, interested in education and who have the capacity to make things happen met in intense day-long sessions that usually stretched into the nights. During those sessions the group engaged in exercises designed to help them learn collaborative skills they ultimately would use to develop concepts of what Charleston County School District is now and could become by 2035.
The purpose of the project is to increase community understanding and support for improved education outcomes for Charleston County schools students. The district used discretionary funds received from credit card rebates to hire REOS Partners, an international social enterprise that helps people move forward together on their most important issues through systems-level change efforts.
Having worked with groups all around the world on challenges that range from reconciliation after civil war to the design of future food production and distribution systems, REOS team members unconventionally instructed the scenario team to an focus on “learning by doing”, experimenting and prototyping – learning its way into solutions to build individual, team and organizational capacity for systemic change. The result of that work culminated in the co-creation of four scenarios about the future of education in Charleston County.
The scenarios represent four different outlooks about what the future of education in Charleston County might be like in 2035 and some possible paths to get to those endpoints. They take into account what is happening and has happened in Charleston County. They are not predictions, visions, proposals, or plans. Each scenario incorporates critical certainties — things that we know about 2035 for sure, and uncertainties—things that could change and cause different things to happen in each scenario, which is what makes the four scenarios distinctive.
The next step in the project was to present the four scenarios to groups in various geographic areas of the county. That took place January 29 at Ashley River Creative Arts School – West Ashley, R.B. Stall High School – North Charleston, Wando High School – East Cooper and at St. Johns High School – Johns Island.
While some received the information with apprehension – S.C. Dept. Education State School Board member Jon Butzon said he is trying to figure what the scenarios are about, where the information takes us and what are the next steps – county school officials are hopeful. CCSD Board member Cindy Bohn Coats said the information is enlightening. Combined with other reports received over the past 18 months consistently saying the same things, Coats said she thinks productive actions will come from the project.
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait said, “We owe a huge debt of gratitude for the work of the Charleston Shared Future team. The passion and the energy that their work inspires make it an exciting time to be a part of the school district and this community. The large turnout of staff and community members tells me that the time is right to extend these conversations into action that will yield positive results for our students. I think it shows that people with good hearts and minds can come together for the greater good regardless of their race, gender, background, or address. The Shared Future project gives me great hope for what we can become in Charleston County School District.”