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Politics & Discrimination At The Center Of Hursey Vote
3/26/2014 3:45:51 PM

Community members show their support for Hursey Elementary with signs reading “Do the Right Thing” at the CCSD School Board Meeting on Monday. Photo: Tolbert Smalls, Jr.
By Beverly Gadson-Birch

In 1954 the Supreme Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that separate but equal violates the 14th Amendment that guarantees equal protection under the law. Apparently the schools were not making swift progress toward compliance; therefore, in 1955 the Supreme Court came back with a more definitive decision that desegregation of schools was to proceed with “all deliberate speed”.

In order to circumvent integration, Charleston County School District (CCSD) chose to spend their state appropriation “Equalization Funds” to build new schools for black students that were supposed to be equal to white schools. CCSD continued to maintain segregated schools until 1962 when Black parents, fed up with segregated schools and lack of equality in education, sued to have 11 black children attend white schools. Since South Carolina is noted for being the last in almost everything, the state was last to desegregate public schools. Charleston County Schools have struggled since 1962 but have failed to achieve any measurable success in integrating the schools.

In 2014, 52 years later, politics and discrimination are still alive and well in the public schools of Charleston. Charleston County School District is attempting to turn the clock back to the 60’s. Black students are being forced out of their neighborhood schools by new white families moving into the area.

Superintendent, Dr. Nancy McGinley, is driving the district in the wrong direction and creating wide disparities in how children are educated in Charleston County Schools. The first ruse was to yell “earthquake” and move minority students out of downtown schools, rebuild under the guise of safety and mislead them into thinking they could return to their neighborhood schools. Many of the children that were housed in temporary locations have moved on to middle schools. The remaining students at James Simons will be phased out once they complete fifth grade and the school will become a full Montessori School. Parents seeking a traditional education will be faced with the decision of either enrolling their children in the Montessori Program or placing them somewhere else where traditional classes are offered.

The same “phase out”, which is nothing but a “force out”, is taking place at Hursey Elementary School in North Charleston. Just like James Simons Elementary School, new development along Mary Ellen Drive has driven parents new to the neighborhood to make demands on the Board and new developments around Hursey have parents demanding a full Montessori School at Hursey. Several meetings were held at Hursey and the majority parents voted for a dual program—traditional and Montessori.

The Superintendent and some members of the Board continued to drive a wedge between parents by not respecting the majority black parents living in Hursey’s attendance zone. This disrespect was evident by the Board’s vote 5-4 vote on Monday night in favor of making Hursey a full Montessori School. Those voting to move the traditional students out of Hursey were Craig Ascue, Chris Fraser, Tripp Wiles, Cindy Bohn Coats and Todd Garrett. Those members supporting the existing dual program at the school were Rev. Chris Collins, Michael Miller, Elizabeth Moffly and Tom Ducker. The Board’s vote seals the fate of education in CCSD. The consequence of the Board’s vote is black students will be uprooted from their neighborhood school and bused out to make room for the white “upper crust” moving in. This plan of phasing out minority students is becoming a pattern.

After many months of parents parading back and forth to the school board, the Board’s vote favored nine Montessori parents whose children would not be able to attend the school next year if the traditional program remains. Hursey School has additional space to add a couple more classrooms but that wasn’t good enough for the Montessori parents who wanted exclusive use of the school.

The Superintendent’s plan to move the district back to segregated schools is all by design. Minority students will be in failing schools and white students will be in high achieving schools. It is all politically motivated and will move black students back to the days of segregation. Major Riley got his hands tainted when he played his political cards supporting the “earthquake” farce to move black children out of their neighborhood schools to make way for new families moving into downtown.

Mayor Keith Summey is doing the same thing in North Charleston. Persons appearing before the Board on Monday so much as said that Major Summey supports a full Montessori School at Hursey. A Boeing employee echoed the Mayor’s wishes as well. Education should be about the children and not about politics. It should be about diversity and not about “dirty, underhanded” practices and politics.

Previously, white families would not think about sending their children to a predominately black school or a school with a black history. And, if they did, they had to be in the majority. The heart of the matter is there are still parents who do not feel comfortable with their children attending school with students from poor socio economic backgrounds. Buist Academy was founded on a 60/40 ratio whites/blacks.

Academic Magnet started off as a program on the Burke campus and the Burke students could elect to take courses in the magnet program or magnet students could take courses on the Burke side. An invisible line was drawn on the campus and the magnet students did not want Burke students crossing that line and they had no desire to cross the line to blend in with Burke students. That was the first straw. The second straw was they did not want Burke’s name on their diploma so they petitioned the State Department of Education to have the Academic Magnet name on their diploma. That decision resulted in a new school. The next move was to relocate to the old Naval Base campus and become an inclusive high school and currently they have one of the finest facilities in the state.

The Board is also proposing to relinquish their responsibility in educating students who they have failed to the Meeting Street Academy. This is a partnership between public and private education. The district is providing the Brentwood facility and is paying all salaries and expenses to bolster this relationship. Keep your eyes out for yet another injustice to minority students.

Every student in Charleston County School District deserves equal treatment and access to a quality education. When students are denied equal access, one only has to ask the question, why? Why wouldn’t the district want to educate all students equally? Why is the district wasting valuable tax dollars year after year to maintain a dual system of education? It is not only costly but destructive to a civilized society.
The Hursey decision is not over until “the fat lady sings”.

Visitor Comments
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Submitted By: mamaz Submitted: 3/27/2014
You have stated that "Parents seeking a traditional education will be faced with the decision of either enrolling their children in the Montessori Program or placing them somewhere else where traditional classes are offered." and then you stated that "Minority students will be in failing schools and white students will be in high achieving schools." Well, it seems, you are claiming that "minority parents" are CHOOSING to move their children out of "high achieving schools". WHY is that? Do these parents not understand the Montessori principles? If they recognize that it is high achieving but they CHOOSE to move their child OUT of that school, the question is WHY would anyone do that? To avoid going to school with new white NEIGHBORS? Seems the CCSD didn't require anyone to move out of the school - they just implemented a "high achieving" program in the school. Montessori is: "Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options, Uninterrupted blocks of work time, ideally three hours, A constructivist or "discovery" model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction, Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators, Freedom of movement within the classroom

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