The fate of West Ashley middle schools is uncertain

The fate of West Ashley middle schools is uncertain
April 17 17:19 2019 Print This Article

Charleston County School District (CCSD) is contemplating combining the two West Ashley middle schools under its control, C.E. Williams and West Ashley Advanced Studies Magnet (WA-ASM). A third West Ashley public middle school, Orange Grove Charter Middle, is governed by an independent board of directors.

CCSD has created Mission Critical Action (MCA) Teams for West Ashley and three other regions to make recommendations to the consolidated school board prior to its June 24 meeting. One of the items the West Ashley MCA Team was tasked with examining is combining the two middle schools, which have a total enrollment of about 1250 students. The school district combined two West Ashley middle schools for the 2014-2015 school year, and the merger resulted in daily student fights and hundreds of students withdrawing from the combined school. The school was rebranded years later as the WA-ASM with an honors program, and the enrollment has since rebounded.

The West Ashley MCA Team is led by retired CCSD administrator Kim Wilson, MUSC Chief Diversity Officer Anton Gunn, and Merridith Crowe, President of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry. Wilson lives in Mt. Pleasant and was never assigned to a West Ashley school. Gunn and Crowe have no record of involvement with West Ashley schools. Lowcountry Source has learned that only seven of the 26 hand-picked MCA team members showed up for the introductory meeting on April 15. The list of team members has never been made available to the public or even to all of the elected members of the consolidated school board.

None of the West Ashley MCA team members chosen is an elected member of the West Ashley Constituent District 10 school board. The District 10 board members have the best knowledge of the 10 schools in its area and receives regular feedback from West Ashley principals, teachers and parents.

The first of two public meetings for the West Ashley MCA Team is set for Monday, April 22 from 6 to 8 pm at West Ashley High School. Concerned citizens attending will sit at small tables and provide feedback on combining the middle schools and five other itemized issues. One of them is redrawing attendance lines, which is the legal duty of the District 10 constituent board. The others are coming up with an academic focus for newly constructed Stono Park Elementary, suggestions for improving under-performing schools in District 10, preparing for the West Ashley career technical center (scheduled to open in August 2021), and suggestions for improving teacher training in the high-poverty schools. The second public meeting is slated for Wednesday, May 22 at West Ashley High School.

Among the items the West Ashley MCA Team was not tasked with are discussing best practices being used in area schools or issues related to the partial magnet schools in West Ashley. Orange Grove Charter School recently received a record-high 1500 applications for the 2019-2020 school year, including 449 applications for the 100 available kindergarten spots. Orange Grove could assist the other West Ashley schools with best practices, including how to use student test data to individualize instruction and utilizing lead teachers at each grade level to assist fellow teachers and provide small group instruction to students needing extra help. Concerned citizens may also inquire about the future of Carolina Bay Elementary, which was approved by voters in the 2014 school construction sales tax referendum but has not been funded.