Rats, facilities problems, and low-test scores plague high-poverty schools

Rats, facilities problems, and low-test scores plague high-poverty schools
October 12 15:01 2018 Print This Article


Charleston County School Board member Kevin Hollishead led a press conference Friday concerning the inequity of Charleston County School District (CCSD) facilities and maintenance. Standing in front of the CCSD headquarters, Hollinshead stated, “North Charleston provides the largest (sales) tax base in Charleston County, yet the North Charleston schools are under-served in capital spending.” CCSD has a $500 Million capital spending program funded by a 1% sales tax, which was approved by voters in 2014. A measure to re-authorize the sales tax will go before voters in 2020.

Hollinshead cited the recent rat infestation problem at Garrett Academy of Technology as a long-standing maintenance issue. He also pointed to Deer Park Middle School in North Charleston, which has toilets that frequently clog, no kitchen and a tiny cafeteria which only seats one-sixth of the students at one time. Former Deer Park principal and current school board candidate Paul Padron frequently contacted CCSD about the inadequate facilities, but no corrective action was taken during his two years at the school, which is located at the former Northwoods Academy site.

Many of the participants at the press conference noted that teachers and principals are afraid to come forward about facilities problems, fearing retribution from CCSD leadership. North Charleston community activist Elvin Speights notes that teachers from Mary Ford Elementary, the former Ron McNair Elementary (which now houses Burns Elementary), Morningside Middle School and C.E. Williams Middle School have all contacted him with reports of rodent infestation at their schools.

Former school board candidate Louis Smith from North Charleston said that school facilities in CCSD show a glaring example of a district with “the haves and the have-nots.” Johnson said that as bad as the facilities are in the schools with a high minority population, the quality of education is even worse. He said,”We should be giving our students a 21st Century education, but that’s not happening.” The North Charleston neighborhood schools mostly have fewer than 20% of students performing at or above grade level in English and math, according to the 2017-2018 SC Ready test scores. At Chicora Elementary School in North Charleston, only 1.2% of 5th grade students performed at or above grade level in math. District-wide, only 11.5% of black students in 7th grade performed at or above grade level in math. CCSD has not published the SC Ready scores on its website, even though they have been out for more than a month.

Former school board member Elizabeth Moffly, who lives in Awendaw, said the November 6 school board elections are crucial, with four seats on the ballot. She said, “If you don’t like the way the schools are performing, you don’t have to take it.” Moffly described the three incumbent school board members on the ballot, Chairwoman Kate Darby, former Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats, and Eric Mack as “shills for the administration” and urged people to vote them out of office. Absentee voting is already underway and will continue up until Monday, November 5 at 5 pm. The North Charleston absentee voting station is open now at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, and West Ashley and Mt. Pleasant absentee voting stations will open Monday, October 22 at Sea Coast Church.