2015 Was A Hard Year For Charleston County School District
CCSD School Board Member Michael Miller
By Barney Blakeney
2015 was an eventful year for Charleston County School District marked by significant change. Yet much in the district remained unchanged.
The continuum that characterizes entities such as the county school district brought a lot of leftovers from 2014 into the 2015 calendar year. Beyond the perennial disparities in education between minority students and others, 2015 held a few bookmarks in the pages of constant change for the district.
The search for a new superintendent perhaps was the most obvious leftover from 2014. The departure of former superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley in October made the search pivotal and incorporated aspects like the issue of racial diversity. McGinley left the district, in part, over the issue of racial diversity. The search for her successor intensified that issue.
In a district where about half the students are Black, but fewer than 20 percent attend the district’s top rated schools, the potential for naming chief academic officer Dr. Lisa Herring, who is Black, the next superintendent became a point of contention. When Dr. Gerrita Postelwait, a white administrator from Horry County eventually was named superintendent, Herring’s resignation became almost a foregone conclusion.
By midyear it was clear the district would lose its three top administrators. McGinley who had left at the end of 2014 soon would be followed by Herring and chief financial officer Michael Bobby. And in November, the county’s consolidated school board would see three new members elected to the nine-member body. Also during the November election county voters approved extending a sales tax to fund the district’s capital improvement project through 2021.
The positive impacts of getting a new superintendent and chief academic officer, Valerie Harrison, soon were overshadowed by the revelation of an $18 million budget shortfall whose impact has carried over into 2016.
County school board member Michael Miller said it’s hard to think positive about the events of 2015. The district received an excellent rating from the state’s education department, but that came more because of changes in the rating formula than school improvements, he said.
Charleston County schools still suffer double-digit percentage point differences in the academic achievement between black and white students. Under-performing schools that were under-performing decades ago still are under-performing. The conspicuous lack of racial diversity at the county’s best schools also is conspicuous among the corps of teachers and administrators.
Add to that the gap in student achievement between black and white students, the chronic under-performance of too many schools, a shortage of effective teachers, the fact that fiscal responsibility is at issue along with perpetually unreliable school buses and it’s hard to see 2015 in a positive light, Miller said.
But that only means the new year brings hope, he believes. Part of that hope may be realized in November when voters elect five members to the school board, said Miller who promises to seek re-election.