Charleston County School Board: Hitched the horse back up to the wagon

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

Charleston County School Board made some sweeping educational changes at its regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting December 16. The changes were long overdue and were put in place to address years of concerns regarding inequities and biases from stakeholders–parents, students, ministers, community organizations and activists. The Board’s Strategic Education Committee unveiled its recommendations and the Board voted upon major changes. Among the changes were:

  • Partial Magnet Recommendation- Using Additional Magnet Allocations/Staff
  • Partial Magnet Recommendation- Jane Edwards, Jerry Zucker and Mitchell
  • Partial Magnet Recommendation- Haut Gap Middle School
  • Partial Magnet Recommendation- St. Andrew’s Math and Science
  • Partial Magnet Recommendation- Memminger
  • Buist Academy- Recommendations to change entrance criteria & school configuration
  • Academic Magnet High School- Recommendation that the administration develops new entrance requirements for the 2020-2021 school year based on a point system
  • Partial Magnet Recommendation- Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary

(A full review of changes are listed on CCSD website)

Changes are inevitable! Too many low income and minority students have been uneducated, undereducated, suspended, expelled and just darned right misaligned, trapped into a system of failure. You can’t fix that!! I know y’all didn’t ask me, but, in my opinion, changes fell short. There is never a quick fix solution to an age-old problem. Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait admitted that over the years, the horse (administration) lost its cart (students). She also rebuked talks that might be circulating regarding privatization. Since the verdict is still out on privatization, I will not hold my breath. Over the years, I have learned to receive the Superintendent’s remarks with a bit of skepticism. Postlewait received unrelenting criticism from minority parents, leaders and other stakeholders for joining the status quo and perpetuating inequities among students and teachers. Minority teachers and educators have also fallen victim to a dual educational system.

Many stakeholders attending Monday night’s meeting thanked the Superintendent and Board for making changes and restructuring schools. I was most interested in the Board’s decision to restructure Buist Academy and Academic Magnet. While I applaud the success of both schools, both were designed to admit only a handful of black students. I am not a betting woman, well maybe just a little, but I betcha the lottery system for admission was flawed. It is my hope that this time around the horse will remain on track and black and brown students will be given the same opportunities to attend high performing neighborhood schools or schools in their district. That would certainly reduce the amount of time the Board spends circumventing the student transfer policy by allowing “privileged” students to attend high performing schools outside of their district. This process was put in place years ago and contributed to the disproportionate number of failing schools in primarily black neighborhoods.

At a previous Board meeting, the Board voted on changing Mary Ford from an elementary school to an Early Childhood Learning Center. What happens to Mary Ford students? Will they be assigned to Chicora Elementary School? In 2019, according to the state report, “Chicora was ranked worse than 99.8% of elementary schools in the state. It also ranked last among 47 elementary school in Charleston County School District.” Chicora may have a new school, but they also need a new attitude from the Board to go along with it. It would be interesting to see how the Board addresses this problem. No child should have to transfer to a school that is rated less than the one they are leaving.

While not all stakeholders addressing the Board agreed with the changes, perhaps they were among the “privileged” that the district has systematically “provided for and/or protected” over the years. It’s accountability time!  It is time minority students are “provided for and protected” from systemic exclusion and failure. While I have developed a wait-and-see attitude on the changes, I am onboard for positive changes. Changes that will spiral minority students out of the valley of failure to mountaintop success. All children deserve a challenging education regardless of color, creed or ethnicity. And, if changes means hitching up a new horse to pull an old load, I say, “let’s get the Budweiser Horse in front of the wagon.”

Leave a Comment