By Beverly Gadson-Birch
We will not rest as long as there is unrest in our communities and disparities in our schools. We have had four senseless killings of young African American males within the past two weeks. That’s four deaths too many. While we can’t place the recent rash of murders by young African American males solely on our educational system, the root cause can be traced back to a lack of a quality education. We cannot dismiss the fact that early parental involvement in their child’s development play heavily in their overall development and success.
However, we cannot diminish the role Charleston County School District has played and continues to play in creating a dual educational system that discriminates against minority students. In two recent studies by Clemson and the College of Charleston, both concluded that “racism” is the overwhelming factor in the great divide that exists between students of color and white students. The irony of this whole tragedy is had past and present Superintendents and Boards expended the same level of energy to build a superior educational system here in Charleston County, children would be better prepared to meet the demands of today’s high tech workforce with good paying jobs and we would have a system to model and one we can be proud of.
Even after the studies, countless community meetings with the Director, parents, staff and stakeholders of Prestige Preparatory Academy and the number of young black males that have been dumbed down and now being gunned down, Superintendent Postlewait and the Board still saw fit to rescind the Charter and close Prestige Academy, an all-boys predominately black school, at the end of this school year. The school has only been in existence 3 years and it was working. And yes, they have the test scores to prove it.
We can no longer sit back and allow Superintendent Postlewait and the Board to provide minority children with less than a minimally adequate education while providing an advance and highly technical education to others.
Here are some disparities that have led up to the CCSD’s failures and why we can’t continue to allow these types of disparities and divides:
Very few black students enrolled or exposed to Gifted and Talented Programs.
- Too many lawsuits that take away valuable staff time and cost taxpayers millions of dollars that can be used for our students and teachers; The Gethers’ molestation case at Dunston Elementary School involving elementary students remains unresolved. Someone in this very same building should have been held accountable and should be sitting in jail right now for covering up this incident and not taking immediate steps to remove the predator from the school and protect the children.
- Black community pushed for a high-tech school at Rivers for all students seeking an advance high-tech education and was given a program—a watered down program that was later moved to Burke High School. On the other hand, Wando received more than $50 million for a Center for Advanced Studies and was pushed to the top of the list in front of more urgent building projects such as major renovations to majority black schools.
- The Center for Advanced Studies for North Charleston will be built near North Charleston High School and not at Garrett Academy of Technology site where it would have been more cost effective. After a committee of stakeholders, convened by the Board, voted the Garrett site as the best option and cost to taxpayers, the Board threw out their recommendation.
- Black parents and Black community groups are continuously ignored and disrespected by the Board while their white counterparts are treated with dignity and recommendations acted upon.
- Board changes rules and implement policies to restrict public engagement by placing public comments near the bottom of the agenda and in some instances limiting the time they can address the Board from 2 mins, 1 min and even tried 30 seconds.
- Capital Improvement Projects- Predominantly white schools tend to get pushed to the top of the list in front of long overdue minority schools.
- Too many Charter and Magnet Schools that limit and/or deny minorities choices and equal access to a quality education; all to sidestep the real intent of Brown vs. the Board of Education decision to integrate and provide an equitable education for all students. We find this propensity for division and deliberate display of racism non-compliance and in direct violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which outlawed racial segregation in schools.
- New stadium at Carolina Park East Cooper for Wando & New Lucy Beckham High School = $14 million dollars; Burke High stadium, Stoney Field, after decades of neglect was tossed a $1 million dollar bone to re-sod the field, improve drainage and signs.
- Closing or restructuring predominantly black neighborhood schools and busing minority students out so that new residents moving into the area can set up schools of their choice.
- Meeting Street Academy hired to educate minority and failing students at Meeting Street Elementary at Brentwood, a school create for students at Burns and surrounding area after busing failing students out of their established neighborhoods. Something in the milk is not cleaned. Someone is not doing their job.
- All Nine (9) schools identified as failing schools are predominately African American Schools; all high performing schools are predominately white.
- Out of the nine failing schools singled out last year by the state as needing intervention, eight are in North Charleston—that’s pretty much all of North Charleston Schools with the exceptions of Academic Magnet and School of the Arts, special admission schools, and one on Johns Island– all predominantly minority students. In Mt. Pleasant, there are no failing schools. Zero!! The Superintendent and Board made sure of that by closing Lincoln High School and busing those students to Wando High. The only school that would tarnish their record of excellence in a rapidly growing town. Case in point, if Mt. Pleasant schools can be successful, why can’t all Charleston County Schools be successful?
- Extravagant amount of monies spent on workshops and teacher recruitment fairs utilizing outside facilities paid for my taxpayers when CCSD has facilities that can accommodate such ventures; even teachers are fed up; they are walking out of their classrooms this week headed to Columbia to rally for better wages and smaller classroom sizes.
The list goes on and on and a pattern of not only disparities in education but in spending also exists among schools and capital projects. We will continue to investigate these disparities and demand equity for minority students and all students. We live in a diverse world—a world of inclusion—not exclusion where children regardless of race learn from each other. It will not be business as usual for Charleston County School District.