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Despite Remark, Burke Closure Is Not An Option
11/20/2013 12:00:45 PM

Burke High School Advocate Arthur Lawrence

By Barney Blakeney

A statement made in the heat of the moment at a public meeting urging the closure of troubled Burke High School was all it took for some of the school’s detractors to take off running.

Since that fateful remark, discussions about how to transform the chronically failing school have renewed.

It was at a Constituent Dist. 20 School Board meeting two weeks ago that Burke High advocate Arthur Lawrence said if school officials were not serious about educating students at Burke, they should close the school.

In an earlier statement Lawrence said he made the remark out of frustration with a constituent school board whose primary function is to expell students and a administration that perpetuates Burke’s failure through a succession of ineffective programs.

Lawrence would not address his remarks about Burke’s closure for this story, but others are using them as a catalyst to propose change at the school.

Dist. 20 Constituent School Board Chairman Edward Jones said he expects fellow board member Fran Clasby to follow through on a proposal to close Burke as a high school and reopen it as a satellite campus for Mount Pleasant students.

Jones said he doesn’t see any chance of success in the proposal, but it serves as fuel for opponents who want to see the traditionally Black high school rebranded to serve a changing peninsula demographic.

Burke is a new facility in a rapidly changing community, Jones said, but its tradition as predominantly Black and recent history as low performing eliminate it as a high school option for the majority white population that now inhabits the peninsula.

Some of its detractors even are suggesting a name change in an effort to rebrand the school, he said.

Lawrence said he hopes Burke continues on its path to improvement reflected by higher report card grades recently issued by the S.C. Dept. of Education.

A day after Lawrence’s remark at the school board meeting the state revealed Burke for the first time in decades moved from ‘at-risk’ status. Lawrence said he supports efforts to continue that improvement.

School administrators seem unlikely to support closure. They are moving forward with plans to develop a collaborative between Burke and four area higher education institutions.

Jones said he regrets that the remark about closing Burke was made at the school board meeting, but Burke’s closure is not an option.

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