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Lowcountry Tech Academy Again Under Attack, Citizens Rally Support
9/10/2014 3:42:21 PM

On September 8, Members of Citizens United for Public Schools held a press conference in front of the Charleston County School District Administrative Office in oppositon to the closing of Low Country Tech Academy on Rivers School campus. (l-r) Front Row: National Action Network Charleston Chapter President Elder Johnson, Civil Rights Advocate & IMA (Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance) Member Beverly Gadson-Birch, Charleston Branch NAACP President Dot Scott, Charleston Branch NAACP Vice President Joseph Darby; Back Row: IMA Member Myrtice Brown, SC Representative Wendell Gilliard, Civil Rights Advocate Arthur Lawrence, Civil Rights Leader & Claflin University Professor Dr. Millicent Brown, IMA Member Ellen Feaster-Smalls. Photo by Tolbert Smalls, Jr.
By Barney Blakeney

Proponents for the Lowcountry Tech Academy hope to get ahead of the curve ball as Charleston County School District officials and others pitch what they consider another assault on the program that’s beginning its fourth semester in operation this school year.

Citizens United for Public Schools, a coalition of organizations that include local individuals, NAACP branches, the National Action Network, the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance and others are mounting a challenge to proposals they say are designed to diminish, damage and relocate the Lowcountry Tech program at the Rivers campus in downtown Charleston. The high tech education program began with 100 students January 2013. Student enrollment has increased to some 170 students.

About 2002 the Charleston Area Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance proposed a technical vocation education program for implementation at the then vacant Rivers campus.

The IMA sought to create an alternative program for CCSD students that offers instruction which would give students not going on to college the skills needed to enter right out of high school an increasingly more technological workforce or to continue their education at technical schools. The IMA’s proposal was to offer county students technology-based instruction in building construction, green technology and information technology.

Since then however, the initiative has been under assault, said IMA Education Committee Chairperson Beverly Birch. Every year something is introduced to close the program, she said.

It took eight years before the program finally was implemented. Along the way there were bumps as it was paired with the Charleston Charter School for Math & Science at the Rivers Campus. The math and science school was organized and funded in about two years. It opened fall 2008.

Birch said the math and science charter school always has wanted the entire facility. In 2010 Charleston County School Board took no action on a proposal that would have moved the planned Lowcountry Tech High School from the Rivers campus to the Burke High School campus. Several proponents said the issue had not been resolved.

Most recently, Todd Garrett, peninsula Charleston representative on Charleston County School Board introduced a proposal to move the program to the Burke campus and to replicate it at West Ashley and North Charleston high schools. The issue was to be discussed at the school board’s Sept. 8 meeting. However it was pulled from the agenda because Garrett was out of town.

CUPS held a Sept. 8 press conference prior to the school board meeting to reiterate its support for Lowcountry Tech Academy and to demand the school district honors its commitment to the program at the Rivers campus. In its press statement, CUPS said the compromise to share the Rivers campus has exceeded expectations. The shared use of the campus has resulted in the establishment of two good schools on a diverse campus with different educational focuses, CUPS said.

But what is being touted as an expansion of the Lowcountry Tech Academy program really means the program at Rivers will be dispersed among other schools to give the charter math and science school the full campus, Birch and CUPS members insist.

Birch said its important that advocates for Lowcountry Tech Academy understand new members will join the school board after the Nov. 4 general elections. While there may be continued focus on fiscal responsibility, the focus on the cost only becomes an issue when Black students where concerned, she said.

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