Will the real school board member please stand?

Dr. Maxine Smith

Dear Editor:

I believe that a school board member should take time to know the legacy of any school, but particularly that of a unique school of immense historical importance to the African-American community.

Persons who value and provide investments in heritage, people and pride, make our city worthy of its many accolades. I have many concerns after reading the interview by Barney Blakeney in the July 10th issue of The Charleston Chronicle of Mr. Todd Garrett, a member of the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees.

Mr. Garrett made many negative comments about the leadership of Burke High School and the performance of the 2019 graduates. I was stunned that a member of the school board would make such negative public statements.

1. I think of a school board member as someone who believes in public school education and who wants each school to succeed, regardless of its population or the socioeconomic background of its students.

2. I believe that a school board member should work with the Chief Administrator (the principal) to ensure that the academic environment is challenging and that students are being prepared for the workforce. That school board member should ask what assistance is needed to improve the academic environment at each of the schools in the Charleston County School District.

3. I believe that the school board should speak “with one voice”. It is inappropriate for a single board member to go directly to the media and which is in conflict with standard board governance.

4. I believe that the school board should be tone setters as a body, not as individuals. Individual board members may and should present disagreements but not in media interviews.

5. With the changing demographics of the city of Charleston, it is apparent that the student population at Burke High School may be majority white in the future. In preparation for these demographic changes, and regardless of the changes that will come as families move near the Burke campus, it is imperative that any fair-minded school board member would work with the principal to set the school on a path to challenge existing students, prepare them for the workforce and attract students who want to attend a neighborhood high school.

6. Bashing Burke High School and its leadership will not accomplish these goals. The remarks made by Mr. Todd Garrett, member of the Charleston County School Board, seemed aimed at trashing Burke, its history, its leadership, and unfortunately, the alumni, students and parents felt the harsh criticism, as well.

Dr. Maxine Smith / Child and Family Advocate Former Faculty, Burke High School and Faculty/Administrator at the College of Charleston & Former Executive Director, Trident Urban League

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