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Charleston County School Board: Diversity, Division or Plain Racism!
Published:
12/10/2014 3:15:16 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch


If you ask anyone about diversity, they will tell you that it has been around for a long time—in Webster that is. In real life, it has been little more than noun and a talking point. Exactly what is this old word that has people talking as if it is a new thing? Webster defines diversity as “the condition of having or being composed of differing such as the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization (programs intended to promote diversity in schools).

The reason that I am talking about it is the Charleston County School Board missed a rare but necessary opportunity to bring about real cohesive changes in wake of the dismissal of Superintendent Nancy McGinley and the firing and rehiring of Academic Magnet Coach Walpole. The data of the district when it comes to integrating students and staff is appalling. Since Charleston County School District has not done a good job over the years of integrating schools and faculties, now is the time. Now is the time for people to look beyond color and see possibilities—to look beyond failures and see success. The time has come and the district can no longer sit back and pretend diversity is not a problem because it is.

Three new Board members were seated after the November election at a time when discussions surrounding the relocation of Low Country Tech Academy were critical to its survival. The entire fiasco surrounding the move or so called “expansion” is due in part to white families that are moving into downtown Charleston and are looking for an excellent education for their children. Who can blame them for that? All fair minded and forward thinking parents want the best education for their children. You can’t place a color on education. So, what is the problem? Burke High School is the only high school on the peninsula. It has been labeled as a failing school for a number of years. So, who wants their children to go to a failing school?

How did Burke slip between the cracks when it was once an academically challenged high school? It was also an outstanding trade school. Here is what happened? As white parents moved into downtown Charleston, black parents were forced to move out. The faces changed and so did the expectations. White parents pressured the school board into creating a Math Science Charter School downtown because they did not want their children on Burke’s campus. The parents wanted a more academically challenged high school. Well, at least that’s their story and I am sure they are sticking to it.

However, the real story is they did not want their children associated with low performing Burke students. The same was true with the Academic Magnet High School that got its start on Burke’s campus. The magnet parents got together and said “No” to shared classes and “No” to Burke High School’s name on their children’s diplomas. If there was ever an opportunity to turn Burke into a flagship high school, this was it. If only the white parents could get pass Burke being a predominately black high school. If only the white parents could see the potentials at Burke. Burke is located right next to the Citadel and MUSC. What a unique opportunity for partnerships. If only the white parents could look beyond color and failures and see diversity and possibilities.

On Monday night, the Board voted to pull Axxis Consulting Firm’s Contract from the agenda and revisit it in January. Before Dr. McGinley was forced out of her position, she had been working with Kevin Clayton, CEO of Axxis, to bring diversity to the district. In looking at the overall makeup of the faculty, administrators and students, one might conclude that the only saving grace for the district would be a diversity consultant. All of Dr. McGinley’s and Mr. Clayton’s efforts seemed to come to an abrupt halt when Mr. Clayton was asked to visit the Academic Magnet School over the watermelon incident. Is the District really honing in on diversity or division? Clayton’s job was to mediate the situation and engage students and coaches in a dialogue of sensitivity and respect for each other and cultures and what they may not deem offensive may be offensive to someone else. Instead, the Academic Magnet parents chose to bring a lawsuit against Clayton. Why didn’t the parents go after Superintendent McGinley? After all, it was the superintendent that fired the coach. It is beyond comprehension that Clayton, the investigator, now becomes the one who is being investigated. Would someone please tell me that none of this has to do with race?

Please tell me that out of 644 students at the Academic Magnet High School, why are there only 15 black students? And, why are there only 29 black students out of 466 students at Buist? Pinckney Elementary has 60 black students out of 1,304 and Charleston School of the Arts has 148 Blacks out of 1,126. It’s easy to distinguish where the failing students in the district are; just look for the schools with the highest concentration of black students and you will find the schools with the highest rates of failures, suspensions, expulsions and drop outs. The same holds true for minority teachers in the district. You will find them mainly at predominately black schools. Are you telling me they are not smart enough to teach white children? Our system is broken and in need of repairs.

With the infightings, division and violations taking place in the district, you would think the last thing the Board would want to scratch from the agenda is Axxis’ plan to diversity the district. While they were scratching Axxis, I was scratching my head in awe. Diversity or division, what’s it going to be?

Are y’all listening?
 

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: Jocelyn Submitted: 12/16/2014
What you fail to acknowledge is that Charleston Charter Math and Science has become the most ethnically diverse (and that's not just African American and white but all ethnicities) in the county. Acceptance is lottery based and thus not biased by previous performance. Thank you.


 
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