by Robin Steinberger | October 5, 2018 8:26 am
The (Charleston) Post and Courier reported that the Charleston County School District (CCSD) is re-evaluating its school choice programs based on feedback from a recent Clemson University diversity study on CCSD schools. The current school choice programs include a variety of magnet and partial magnet options, some of which are county-wide and others with have specific attendance zones. There are also 10 charter schools within CCSD’s purview which are governed by independent boards of directors. Several statewide charter schools also serve Charleston County students which do not fall under the CCSD umbrella.
The Post and Courier reported that CCSD is scrutinizing the charter schools for their compliance with the state charter law which requires the demographic make-up of the school must fall within 20% of their service areas. Lowcountry Source has learned that the 20% rule can’t be used to shut down a charter school. It does give the charter-granting authority a reason to look into a charter school’s recruiting practices. The recent Parents United Supreme Court case determined that charter schools cannot recruit with race as the sole factor.
The Quality Education Project sponsored a School Board Candidate Forum on October 2. The following are candidates’ stance on school choice:
Pictured left to right: Kate Darby, Joyce Green, Sarah Shad Johnson, Jake Rambo, Cindy Bohn Coats,
Carolyn Murray (Moderator), Linda Mosley Lucas, Francis Marion Beylotte, Herbert Fielding, Eric Mack, Paul Pedron
West Ashley Candidates ( 1 Seat Open)
Paul Padron – Retired CCSD teacher, principal, administrator – Strong advocate for school choice – “Every parent should have a choice of where to send his or her child to school.”. He was in charge of the school choice program for CCSD and made some reforms to remove barriers to the admissions to Academic Magnet High School and School of the Arts but thinks the admissions are still unfair. Padron wants to see more access for low income families at the elite magnet schools. “There are lots of things we can do to make it fairer,” Padron said.
Eric Mack – Incumbent Vice Chairman – Pastor at a downtown church and business analyst at MUSC. School choice has created some barriers within the system. There are choices in some parts of the district that are not offered in other areas. A child should be able to attend his or her neighborhood school and have the same choices throughout the county. The Clemson Diversity Study recently commissioned by the board is looking at how to create equity throughout the county.
Herbert Fielding – Retired Veterans Director at the Employment Security Commission. “Schools should be fair and equitable with students having access to the same programs, Fielding said. “The district should not create special schools that have the added expense of new buildings. Rather than creating a new choice school with a specialized program, put the program in the existing neighborhood school.” Fielding believes choice schools add expense to a system that is already struggling financially.
Francis Marion Beylotte – Clinician at MUSC. Beylotte is opposed to the school choice programs. He said, “Choice schools are not working. If you have choices, those choices should be something that everyone has access to. Students have a chance not a choice to gain admission to charter and magnet schools. Choice is not working.”
North Area Candidates – (1 Seat Open)
Linda Mosley Lucas – Retired CCSD guidance counselor. She said, “Every family should have a good choice. The home school should be the first choice and have every opportunity the child needs. Children should be able to walk or ride their bike and not have to ride a bus early in the morning to go to a schools miles away to get a good education.”
Cindy Bohn Coats (Incumbent) said, “Tensions start with the 3 separate laws in South Carolina that govern 3 separate modes of education – pubic schools, charter schools, and public-private partnerships. For example, some charter schools charge parents for transportation while others don’t provide transportation at all. There needs to be an even playing field from a legal standpoint. There are too many partial-magnets in the district. It is hurting the district. She wants to reduce some of these elementary school magnets and put programs in everyone’s neighborhood.” Partial magnets are schools with a theme and a specific attendance area.
Vivian Pettigrew – Retired CCSD teacher. She was unable to attend the forum because she was in a continuing education seminar for her tax and accounting business.
Mt. Pleasant (2 Open Seats)
Jake Rambo – Spent 10 years in CCSD as a teacher and principal. He said, “Every child should have access to a quality education whether it is a neighborhood school, charter school, magnet school, or pubic-private partnership school. We need to look at the school and determine whether the students are performing and are prepared for life outside of school. Charter schools can give more local control over a school so they don’t have to follow top-down mandates from the district that don’t fit the school.” Rambo gave the example of Orange Grove Charter School, describing it as “a successful neighborhood school with no special theme that does the basics well.” He said charter schools should be evaluated on student performance and fiscal responsibility.
Sarah Shad Johnson – Chairwoman for the District 2 (Mt. Pleasant) Constituent Board. She said, “There are 37 choice options in Charleston County. There are some great charter schools in CCSD that are doing a great job – for example, the Montessori schools.” Johnson wants more focus on traditional neighborhood schools, while looking at what is working in charter schools. She wants transparency and accountability in charter schools and public-private partnerships, which are the Meeting Street Schools.
Joyce Green – Owns a Human Resources consulting business. She said, “It would be great if we didn’t need charter schools. We should put resources into our neighborhood schools, and the need for charter schools would possibly not be there.” She does support charter schools because children should get the best quality education. Green said, “Improve schools so parents don’t have to make a choice.”
Kate Darby (Incumbent Chairwoman) said, “CCSD needs to narrow down choice options. Schools were given incentives and an extra teacher point to become partial magnets. They have an emphasis in the arts or STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and math) without really carrying out the focus of study. Some choice schools are closing the achievement gap (between white and minority students), but choice schools also segregate students and don’t reflect the racial makeup of Charleston County.”
Voters throughout Charleston County will be able to vote on all for school board seats on the November 6 ballot. Absentee voting begins Monday, October 8. For questions about eligibility to cast an absentee ballot, call the Charleston County election off at 843-744-8683 from 8:30 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.
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