Shared Future Project Team Overwhelmingly Supports CCSD Recommendations For School Changes: PART 1

Panel discussion for Shared Future Project

By Barney Blakeney

Despite protests and requests from some that Charleston County Consolidated School Board pumps its brakes on approving sweeping changes to schools across the district, that approval was given Monday. Members of the Shared Future Project offered some views about the protests and the board’s actions. Below is some of what they said.

The Shared Future Project team was organized September 2018. About thirty people from Charleston County were brought together to co-create a set of four scenarios about the future of education in Charleston County. Those scenarios depicted what CCSD could look like in 17 years, the time it takes for another generation of kids to be born and matriculate through our school system by 2035. The diverse group bridged race, gender, geography, politics, age, and occupational roles.

The team, took into account previous studies like the Clemson Study on Diversity and Inclusion, Post and Courier’s “Minimally Adequate” series, The Avery Institute’s Racial Disparity Study, the 1998 Harvard Study on Charleston’s Education System, the recent CCSD strategic plan, and other data and experiences to develop after several months of work, four scenarios which were shared with the board of trustees January 28.

Since then, district officials initiated other community-based efforts to develop a set of recommendations for changing the system. Over the past two months the board agreed to proceed with a list of those recommendations. The recommendations are the culmination of more than a year of analysis, collaboration, planning, and gathering feedback from sources including the Shared Future Project, the AdvancEd Accreditation Report, the Clemson University Diversity Study, Mission Critical Action Groups, and most recently community listening sessions, said district officials. Some recommendations would significantly change the status quo in education delivery around the district.

From predominantly Black Constituent District 23 on the Sea Islands to predominantly white Mount Pleasant east of the Cooper River, some constituents balked at proposed changes that would combine schools and programs which impact their communities in various ways. Shared Future Project team members’ views reflected on many of the sentiments and offered thoughts.

Business owner and CCSD parent Darrin Griffin began the conversation saying, “Over one year ago we all met and came together to address assorted deficiencies within Charleston County School District. We completed our work and presented it to the District and the community at large. As I watch the news and the district, I continue to shake my head because as I said to you all, CCSD has NO interest in educating children of color.

“I am not happy with the failures of CCSD because I still have a son in the school district, Griffin said. “I knew prior to meeting all of you this district would not change … I’ve put four children through this broken, biased system and still have one more. It only takes five votes to put anything into place. How much time does it take to do the right thing??!!”

Several team members asserted that the district has made changes. Among them Tri-county Cradle to Career Collaborative Exec. Dir. John C. Read who said, “I see it differently. What I see is this school board, for the first time undertaking real systemic change in the interest of equity for those least well served. By definition it has to involve all schools, not just failing schools and it does. It’s messy, the recommendations change as the board tries to respond to what they are hearing. Communication has been rough and either the Devil or God will be in the implementation details…but it’s directionally correct.”

National Action Network Vice President, Religious Affairs and External Relations and Charity Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III said, “In short, I agree with John. I can say without fear of successful contradiction that this is the FIRST time that the majority of the board and superintendent have agreed on this one fact – the present poor condition of education for Black children in this district was by design of public policy that goes back to 1968, the year I graduated from Burke High School.”

READ PART 2 IN THE 12-25-19 EDITION OF THE CHRONICLE

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