SAMS parents clamor to preserve partial magnet status

SAMS parents clamor to preserve partial magnet status
October 25 11:31 2019 Print This Article

Parents from St. Andrews Math and Science Elementary (SAMS) showed up in large numbers, calling to preserve the school’s partial magnet status Thursday at Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait’s West Ashley listening session at West Ashley High School. The school, nestled in the South Windermere neighborhood, places an emphasis on Science, Math, Engineering and Technology (STEM). If the school loses its partial magnet status, enrollment would be restricted to a specific attendance area, and other West Ashley elementary students would not have access to a STEM school.

A Clemson University team conducted a school diversity study in 2018 that concluded that school choice programs like SAMS lead to inequality. SAMS is actually one of the most diverse schools in Charleston County School District (CCSD), with a student population of 818 that is 53% white, 36.4% black and 6% Latino. Several parents praised the school for its diversity and its dynamic STEM instruction. During a two-session West Ashley “mission critical action items” workshop in May, with more than 100 citizens participating, there was no discussion about eliminating the partial magnet status at SAMS.

There was also discussion Thursday about the inequality of West Ashley’s middle schools. Parents perceive that C.E. Williams is superior to West Ashley Advanced Studies Magnet (in the former Middleton High School building). Orange Grove Charter School also has a middle school, but enrollment opportunities are limited there because most of its elementary students choose to remain and it has no room for expansion. Dissatisfaction with middle school options is a major reason why 47% of the CCSD students who live in West Ashley attend schools elsewhere. The situation exacerbates the area’s traffic congestion problem.

Another issue which came up is CCSD’s failure to promote best practices among the schools. Oakland Elementary and Springfield Elementary both have about 70% of students living in poverty but have much different student outcomes. Oakland received the Palmetto Silver award for excellence, while Springfield was rated unsatisfactory by the South Carolina Department of Education. School district administrators should share the things that Oakland is doing well with schools that have similar student populations. Stono Park Elementary is another high-poverty school in West Ashley with low student achievement. There was discussion about providing more training and support for faculty at low-performing schools during the May workshop, but that has not been acted on by CCSD.

The proposed change at SAMS requires school board approval and could take effect for the 2020-2021 school year. All students who currently attend the school would be allowed to remain there through fifth grade if the change is implemented. School board chairman Eric Mack told the participants that their comments would be considered in the board’s decision.