By Beverly Gadson-Birch
Like spiders, Charleston County School Board has woven a web making it almost impossible for low performing students to escape. And, it’s not just minority students but white students as well. The Board has used their majority 5-4 vote to create a dual system of education to trick minority parents. The problem is you can “fool some people some of the time but you can’t fool all people all of the time”. The day of reckoning has come. The dual system has hurt all students—black, brown, and white.
After decades of trying to circumvent “true” integration, the district has failed miserably to educate students. Then, to add insult to injury, the state comes up with a “minimally adequate” education as its standards. What ‘da heck can South Carolina students do with a minimally adequate education when students in other states and countries are performing on the college level?
Take a look at how we got where we are. Many minority “baby boomers” attended segregated schools. It’s been over 50 years ago and many did extremely well. Now, take a look at “so-called” integrated schools—Buist Academy, Academic Magnet, Sullivan’s Island, Wando and the list goes on and on. The imbalance is obvious and did not occur overnight. The Board was able to achieve this divide by selective transfers across district lines, establishing specialty schools, lottery for student selections and other diversionary and carefully orchestrated tactics.
The Board changed Malcolm C. Hursey, historically black school with traditional education, to a Montessori to accommodate majority white parents moving in the new development across the street from the school.
Murray LaSaine was also changed from a majority black traditional school into a Montessori—black students scored better statewide in 2011 than they did in 2017, even now with 62.5% whites. There are no significant changes in test scores. And, 100% of the students are on free or reduced lunch.
The Board voted to build a new high-tech school instead of building on the Garrett School of Technology site. You would think that would be the best place for the school. They have the land needed for the new school. Oh no, Garrett is located in a highly populated black community. The Board held meetings for public input. And, even when the community voted to have the school built at Garrett’s site, they chose to do otherwise costing taxpayers millions of additional dollars.
After years of community involvement in keeping Lincoln High School open or a new Lincoln built in the area, the school was closed and students bused to Wando High.
These are just a few examples of the Board’s biased decisions that gave rise to a dual educational system. The fact that a lottery system was developed for admission to Buist Academy and Academic Magnet is proof of how those schools and other controlled lottery admissions are not in the best interest of students and do little to achieve integration.
The community is fighting to keep the Prestige Academy school for boys open. Prestige has had its share of problems; but their problems are not all self-inflicted. The Board has not fully supported the school from its inception. The boys at Prestige need a chance at success. It may be the only chance they get. When students fail, regardless of ethnicity, we fail as parents, superintendents, board members and community.
The Board’s quick fix to getting out of the web they have woven is to merge and close poor performing schools. Bad decision!! What will solve some of the Board’s problems is first owning up to their diabolical scheme to maintain a dual educational system and start respecting all folks. After all whites left the district to circumvent integration and now that they have returned, they are calling the shots. Whatever happened to minority parents that stayed? Does anyone care that black and brown children are people too?
In owning their past mistakes, the Board must believe all students matter—that black and brown parents want the same high education standards for their children as white parents. You can’t dumb down some students while elevating others.
There is room for all students to achieve as long as differences, turbulences and divides are put aside. The best formula for success is simple “do the right thing.”