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School Board Sets Precedence For Math Science Charter
9/24/2014 4:51:12 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

Charleston County School Board set a precedence at Monday night’s Board meeting and approved the Math Science Charter School to occupy the entire Rivers campus beginning in 2016. Board member Todd Garrett introduced a motion to “expand” Lowcountry Tech Academy program to West Ashley, North Charleston and Burke High Schools. Voting in favor of the move were Todd Garrett, Tom Ducker, Elizabeth Moffly, Tripp Wiles and Cindy Bohn Coats, Chairperson, who cast the deciding vote. Voting against the move were Craig Ascue, Michael Miller, Rev. Chris Collins and Chris Fraser.

The Board set a precedence in that the Math Science Charter School does not pay rent or many of the other costs associated with the occupancy of the Rivers’ Building. The Board voted against their very own” true public school program”, Lowcountry Tech, in favor of a Charter School that has less than seven percent of its student from downtown District #20. The Board continues to use a play on words. “Expansion” is the new word for “close”. “Diversity” is the new word for “discrimination”. No one wants to deal with the true issue surrounding the latest decision to grant Math Science full use of the Rivers Building. There has always been a move afoot for Math Science to occupy the entire building. The correct definition for “expansion” is what the Board voted upon for Math Science Charter. To close Lowcountry Tech is to expand Math Science Charter.

One of the Math Science Charter’s arguments for wanting the entire campus is to move children out of mobile classes because some of the classrooms have leaks or pose a safety risk to students housed outside of the building. What about the old run down mobile classrooms on minority schools’ campuses? The district has dealt with overcrowded conditions or housing special programs since its inception and depended upon mobile classrooms to help with the overflow. The district paid for the mobile classrooms at Rivers and the Charter School moved onto the campus. The same concerns that Math Science Charter has about the safety and wellbeing of their students should be the same concerns that the district has for all children. Of course, their concerns were overplayed to drive their point home for taking over the campus.

In 2007, Charleston County School Board voted for 60/40% shared occupancy of the Rivers Building by Math Science Charter and Lowcountry Tech respectively. The approval of use by Math Science Charter included the following conditions: (1) students were to move out of mobile classrooms into the building once the building was completed. Once in the building, the Charter would pay market rate for rental of the space. That did not happen. The Charter School continues to occupy the building rent free. The charter school kept students in mobile classrooms and took in more students than they could accommodate thus requiring additional space; (2) must establish a diverse body; (3) CCSD will support the establishment of an Advanced Placement Academy at Burke HS to start in August 2008; CCSD will agree to actively support the Charter’s effort and plans for community outreach and the enrollment of a diverse student body; (3) After reasonable lease agreement is calculated, the rent will be reduced every year that the Charter enrollment includes at least 40% students who are eligible for “Free and Reduced Meals”; and, (4) the charter school will provide annual reports to the school board on the demographics, characteristics of children enrolled in relation to the goals outlined in the charter school law.” According to the charter’s lease agreement which they are not in compliance with, they were approved for 480 students for 2011 and 2012 school year. The Charter has not reached the required enrollment for the current occupancy space.

After more than thirteen years working for the establishment of a high tech school for students county-wide, the Interdenomination Ministers Alliance Plan for a school was watered down to a program that the district never fully marketed to the public. In spite of the stepchild treatment, the program is doing quite well under the leadership of Sarah Earle and her staff. However, with Boeing, Clemson Turbine, Google and other large high tech corporations moving into the tri-county area, the Alliance saw the program’s approval as a step in the right direction towards training and preparing students for high tech jobs.

Lowcountry Tech requires highly skilled and certified teachers specializing in CTE ( Career Technology Education). To relocate the program to three different sites and hire additional teachers in CTE will far exceed the costs of keeping Lowcountry Tech at its present location on the Rivers campus. The Board did not do a cost analysis or engaged the stakeholders in the proposal before rendering a decision that is clearly not in the best interest of the children or taxpayers.

If Mr. Todd will have the public believe money is the issue for his proposal, then where is the money coming from to so call “expand” Lowcountry Tech? Where is the money coming from to retrofit Rivers campus for a charter school that is occupying the campus for “free”? The public needs to know that the Board is planning on building a $40 million dollars advance technology school in West Ashley. Wouldn’t it be counterproductive to relocate Lowcountry there in advance of the new facility? When the new technology school for West Ashley is built then the program has to move again into the new facility. The Board is seeking public support of a one cent sales tax for additional construction when they have not been good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars. Voters will be faced with a choice to either vote in favor of or against the referendum in the upcoming election. Get the Facts! Survey the District to see where your tax dollars are being spent and demand accountability.

CCSD’s intent has never been to educate all children equally. Their record speaks for itself. Since the door has been opened and precedence set, I would like to suggest that all charter schools stop paying rent effectively immediately. If Math Science Charter has not been evicted for not paying rent, then you have a case for not paying rent as well. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.


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