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Take A Good Look At Lowcountry Tech
10/1/2014 5:07:24 PM

By Barney Blakeney

For someone whose eyes are getting worse every year, I’m a stickler for having vision. And like the old saying goes, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

Me? I can’t see or hear very well these days, but there was a time I could hear it getting started and see it coming a mile away. Now days I have to squint and ask folks to repeat things. Still, I saw the deal about Lowcountry Tech Academy and heard the rattling of the swords years ago. So it came as no surprise Monday when Charleston County School Board voted to move the three semester-old technical education program from the Rivers campus in 2016.

I don’t want to get hung up on Lowcountry Tech. It’s a sore spot for a lot of folks. And like I told my editor, I don’t want to get in a fight with anyone. He said if I feel that way, I’m probably in the wrong business. So I’ll simply say the Lowcountry Tech business is a good idea spoiled by some people with bad vision.

A lot of folks put up a gallant effort to make Lowcountry Tech Academy a success, but that deal was doomed to fail before it got started. It took the school district more than 10 years to implement the program after advocates successfully lobbied for the concept. During those years the concept was attacked and compromised until finally when it was implemented, it bore not even the slightest resemblance to the original concept.

Don’t get me wrong, what finally came to reality is a good thing - instruction in the technical fields that today’s students will face as career opportunities tomorrow - but the original concept was vocational instruction in the building trades with accompanying instruction in their technical applications.

I don’t know if the advocates for the original concept saw the okey-doke coming, but they sure ‘nuff heard the students of the Charleston Charter School for Math & Science moving into the building they had identified as the location for their pet project.

Forced to compromise the program’s concept then led to compromise over the location, Lowcountry Tech advocates ended up with 40 percent of the building they had identified as their home and a radically different instructional program. In essence, the advocates got almost nothing of what they set out to get.

Nowadays, I have to wear eyeglasses to read the fine print, but I could see that the Lowcountry Tech program was a far cry from the High Tech High that initially had been envisioned. But you know what? I really didn’t have a problem with it.

I walked through the corridors one day and was impressed with what I saw. Just at a glance I could see some really good stuff was happening. I remember thinking ‘white parents really should want to get a piece of this for their kids’.

Now I’m hearing county school board members saying they want to replicate the program at other schools in the district. And though I’m a leetle bit deef, that sounds good to me. I can’t understand why anyone would oppose the idea.

I’m also hearing about promises made and broken and who should occupy what space. Hey, the school district hasn’t kept its promises about Lowcountry Tech since day 1! What’s the big deal now?

Take out the racism and the egos and what’s on the table now could be a pretty good deal. Remember, the Lowcountry Tech program and equipment now is at the math & science campus. Duh! Is that a good fit or what? There’s an argument for moving that stuff over to Burke, but me and my bad eyes, I can’t see that far.

When I think about the history of public education in this and other communities throughout the country, I see there never has been a time when Black children got a fair shake. Still today, Black kids every day pass quality schools to attend segregated lesser quality schools.

How in the hell do all these Black kids living in downtown Charleston pass Buist Academy, arguably one of the best elementary schools in the country, to attend failing schools downtown You can count the Black kids at Buist on one hand. What’s up with that?

I see where the advocates for Lowcountry Tech are coming from. I hear what they’re saying when they argue that the school district gave them the shaft. But I’m thinking we've got bigger fish to fry.

Black folks truly dedicated to providing quality educational opportunities for all kids shouldn’t just focus on one program that was a lost cause before it got out of the gates. Even I can see that. And I hear our children crying for more.

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