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Daily Press Dances With County School Coverage: Part of Shell Game?
11/19/2014 4:29:20 PM

Henry Copeland
When the majority, including the main-line press, is convinced a lie is actually the truth, how do you break the news that we've been had?

Worse, how do you make certain the next Superintendent of Charleston County’s school district isn't just another guardian of the big lie?

Drill down into the meaning of last Friday's published report on school ratings in the Post & Courier. The headline is very misleading. When all of the big 3 local school districts hit the "excellent" mark, it brings the concept of grade inflation to mind. This is not progress, but a demonstration of how public school administrators manipulate overall scores in order to hide real and tragic failures at the level of individual students.

In spite of what the spin artists behind the press are pushing, the hero here isn't the public school district administration or the former superintendent. There is no hero because the battle was purely about numbers and not about real accomplishments recorded by individual students and teachers.

I'm sorry, but "Memminger School of Global Studies" moving from "at-risk" to "below average" isn't really remarkable unless it is to celebrate mediocrity within the state's 2nd richest zip code. How many of the previous year's students (while spending 3 years exile in North Charleston) were included in the current year's report? Not many. The name the reporter used for Memminger isn't even accurate. It does, however, celebrate a "victory in the classroom" for a superintendent who was determined to fight the community that originally wanted to transform it into an IB school. She won and we, really, the kids at Memminger lost.

I also see at the heart of this story what some would call an extreme narcissist.

Not that the P&C's fawning headline is enough, we are subjected to another one of the former superintendent's op-ed pieces, too. Again, she is given prime space to brush over the fact that her reduction of failing schools is nothing more than a shell game. With our blessing, she closed failing schools, renamed others triggering a reset of previously failing report cards, and she moved the most at-risk students to larger schools where their lack of progress could be statistically buried.

For this she gets credit for a victory that actually leaves thousands of our neighbors, particularly minorities, with a less than adequate education. How did AMHS go from 16% African-American enrollment in 2007 to only 2% today? This isn't about quotas (which would be too easy and illegal), but about actions by an administration that isn't committed to providing genuine access to all.

There really are two totally separate and very unequal public school systems in Charleston County. It would be an easy case that no longer has the shields of protection it had in the last desegregation cases brought in the 1980's. This is now a countywide system that has all but eviscerated the autonomy and legal "unity" once claimed by each of the eight constituent school districts. The county authority is now legally vulnerable to charges of open and systematic discrimination.

If only someone would bring the suit.

This is a tale of two public school districts in Charleston County. The present leadership in the local press and at 75 Calhoun Street has returned us to the days of segregation. This didn't happen with the force of laws which could be challenged, but with only a wink and a nod. It’s a kind of informal segregation that can be whitewashed with stories and editorials like these. The Post and Courier should understand this because it has a long history of supporting de facto segregation.

The irony is this story comes on the heels of a landmark SC Supreme Court decision which effectively shames the state legislature into fixing the problem. Unfortunately, CCSD and the Post and Courier won't make the connections when it comes to the disparities between Academic Magnet and Burke or Wando and Lincoln high schools.

When the Post and Courier continues to be convinced the Emperor's New Clothes are real, it's either time to give up on the public ever knowing the truth or it may be time to find out exactly who's profiting from this non-existent wardrobe. I say, let's find out who owns the tailor shop.

The author, Henry Copeland, is a former member of the District 20 Constituent School Board which oversees the city schools on the Charleston peninsula. He was recently elected as a trustee for District 10 which includes the St. Andrews area of West Ashley.

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