Principal shuffle creates chaos at Chicora

Principal shuffle creates chaos at Chicora
November 27 20:03 2017 Print This Article

Lowcountry Source reported on June 25 that 19 out of the 80 schools in Charleston County School District (CCSD) would begin the 2017-2018 school year with a new principal. One of the principals moved in the principal shuffle was Shavonna Coakley at Chicora School of Communications, who was replaced by veteran CCSD principal Mary Reynolds. Coakley had been principal of Chicora for two years and was reassigned as Principal on Special Assignment for the Department of Alternative Programs. She was regarded by parents and community leaders as an effective school leader.

Chicora Elementary in North Charleston was re-built in 2016 and re-named Chicora School of Communications. It has 558 students and a 96.3% poverty index. 10.8% of Chicora students exceeded or met expectations in English Language Arts and 19.4% in math on the 2016 SC READY (The South Carolina College-and Career-Ready Assessments).  This compares to 52% average for CCSD elementary schools in English Language Arts and 47.6% in math.

Lowcountry Source has learned that Chicora is in chaos. There are reports of daily fighting, desks being thrown, teachers being bitten, and teachers having bruises from student assaults. Students are being allowed to tear up the new building. The Progressive Discipline Plan is not working. Teacher morale is low.

Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait has assigned at least two district administrators to assist Reynolds. One is Anna Dassing. She is Principal on Assignment of Lucy Beckham High School, which is not slated to open until 2020. It is questionable why CCSD would allocate a six-figure salary to an administrator three years before the school is slated to open. Another administrator sent to Chicora is Charles Benton, listed as an assistant principal at West Ashley High School.

Continuity of leadership is important in the running of any school. High poverty schools have challenges in retaining teachers and typically have a large number of inexperienced teachers. Adding a new principal to the mix creates an unstable environment. This is certainly detrimental to the learning process of these students. School efficiency experts say it takes at least three years to develop a school improvement strategy and culture of success. Shavonna Coakley was not given that opportunity.

Will the School Board insist on maintaining safety in the schools or is student violence now acceptable and the teachers subject to physical abuse?

Robin Steinberger retired after 30 years from Charleston County School District as a high school special education teacher.  She is the education reporter for Lowcountry Source.  Please contact Robin at robin@lowcountrysource.com if you have tips to offer.  Your confidentiality will be maintained.