Protest at CCSD headquarters attracts hundreds

by Robin Steinberger | May 8, 2017 8:50 pm

Over 200 teachers, parents, and students gathered in front of the Charleston County School District Headquarters at 75 Calhoun Street to protest the reassignments of Principal Lee Runyon at West Ashley High School, Principal Jake Rambo at James B. Edwards Elementary, and 11 other principals, as well as a new teacher evaluation system, which wasn’t disclosed to teachers until April. The rally was organized by Patrick Hayes, the leader of Ed First SC, a public school advocacy group.  Most of those in attendance were wearing the West Ashley High purple.

Protesters carried signs stating, “Children are not a test score.” Teachers found out the day before spring break that they would be evaluated with a tool called Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS). EVAAS evaluates teachers based on their student test scores. Principals had no input into this decision and were told which teachers were being put on a “growth plan” by district staff. Outstanding teachers and even those who have been selected Teacher of the Year found out they are being put on growth plans, which can lead to dismissal. For some teachers, the district included the wrong set of assigned students. A West Ashley Middle School teacher was nominated for Teacher of the Year this year. She was put on a growth plan due to a short term drop in test scores. Some of her students were transferred to other classes in the middle of the year, and she had a high number of special needs students. The teacher stated, “I don’t teach to the test. I encourage my students to engage in critical thinking. I am there for the kids.”

Hayes asked the crowd the following questions, “Are you here to support teachers under fire? Are you here to support principals with character? Are you here to support students under pressure? Are you here to support parents who are tired of being jerked around?” Then he spoke about how Postlewait equated being superintendent with supervising branch managers at a bank. Hayes pointed out branch managers don’t give high fives or hugs, stay late at school with a child or hand a tissue to parents discovering  that their child has a learning disability.

Andrew HaLevi, a CCSD high school teacher and the founder of Charleston Teacher Alliance, held up signs saying, “Chaos is not a leadership strategy. Tyrants make bad superintendents. Our superintendent gets an F for honesty.” The crowd engaged in chants, including “Keep Lee Runyon”, “Kids are more than test scores”, “Teachers have voices”, and “Make it stop!”

Others criticized at the rally were school board members Todd Garrett, Cindy Coats, and Kate Darby for supporting the EVAAS and Superintendent Postlewait. The media was also criticized for not finding out the real story from the teachers and parents. The rally ended by the crowd singing the Twisted Sister song, “We’re not going to take it!”

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