Allendale County’s school district sits in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, in an impoverished, rural region near the coast known as the “corridor of shame” for the chronic poor quality of its education system. Until recently, three of the district’s four schools were considered among the lowest performing in the state.
But after an assist beginning more than a year ago from the state—which is working to rebrand the area as the “corridor of opportunity”—two of those schools made it off the state’s list of the lowest performers….
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Organized by the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s (SCDOT) Safe Routes to School Program, South Carolina Walk to School Day will be held March 6, 2019. The event is part of a broader effort by communities across the state to provide students with more opportunities to promote pedestrian and bicycle safety. Walk to School events also encourage physical activity among children, emphasizes concern for the environment, and builds connections between schools and the surrounding communities.
International Walk to School Day (also known as “iWalk”) is a popular South Carolina tradition in October when hundreds of schools participate with walking and bicycling events. SC Walk and Roll to School Day mirrors iWalk and provides schools and communities an opportunity to join SCDOT in kicking off the spring season. Events may take place throughout March.
The South Carolina Safe Routes to School Program and its community partners are encouraging schools to celebrate their “Safely Super Heroes” during this year’s SC Walk and Roll events. Heroes may include law enforcement personnel, crossing guards, educators, community advocates, parents, and students. Schools will promote safe pedestrian and bicycle skills, encourage students to dress as super heroes, provide safety and super-hero themed education programs, and recognize the people that make walking and bicycling safer.
Learn more about the SC Safe Routes to School Program by contacting Rodney Oldham at 803-737-4073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s indisputable that most students perform better academically when they have parents or adults to help with homework and to be advocates with teachers and principals.
But in many communities, parents who juggle multiple jobs, don’t speak much English, or have low levels of education often don’t have the time or resources to make meaningful connections to their child’s schooling experience.
That’s why some leading-edge districts have made it their job to reach out to families and create more welcoming and accessible ways for parents to be part of their children’s schooling.
In Washoe County, Nev., for example, the school district’s family-engagement work includes organizing home visits by teachers—and training those teachers to make the most of those face-to-face encounters in students’ homes.
In Federal Way, Wash., the leader of family-engagement efforts taps a diverse array of parents to serve on committees or task forces that inform major decision making in the district, including high-level hires.
Still, the specialized field of parent and family engagement has mostly been driven by ambitious leaders at the district level. And even in districts with robust programming, resources to support the work are often tight.
But new and potentially bigger forces are building around the need for schools and educators to forge deeper connections with parents and community members.
Philanthropists—in particular the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation of New York—are championing the flow of more money into family-engagement initiatives, including research to identify what efforts are effective.
And the federal budget has set aside $10 million to help fund efforts by several state education agencies and outside partners to develop strong parent and community programming.
The Every Student Succeeds Act also directs states and districts to develop plans to work with families and surrounding communities—a requirement that has spawned a multistate endeavor to create guidelines and exemplars for schools and districts to follow.
Advocates for building strong ties between schools and families say it’s a major opportunity for a proven, yet underutilized strategy to make schools better.
“There is a lot of excitement, and more of an evolution in where both policymakers and funders feel like they want to increasingly put their money,” said Vito Borrello, the executive director for the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement…
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A few weeks ago when I heard Charleston County School District for the first time had received accreditation I thought, “What the what?”
I was both surprised and concerned. I had never imagined our county school district until then was not accredited. I knew that Charleston County School District has some low performing schools, but it never occurred to me the district was not accredited. I mean, very few things are any good unless it’s accredited. Sure we have some individually challenged schools, but surely the district was accredited, I had just assumed. So hearing that CCSD was just getting accredited for the first time had me flabbergasted.
I remember when I was applying to colleges all those years ago; one of the things I looked at was the school’s accreditation status. I felt like a degree from a non-accredited school wouldn’t mean very much, so accreditation was important. How could it be Charleston County School District was not accredited? So I asked a few questions.
I’m finding that this accreditation business is a very complex issue. The first thing I learned was that although the district as a whole had never been accredited, certain schools – the county’s high schools especially – were. That made sense. High schools had to be accredited otherwise their graduates might not be accepted at institutions of higher learning.
Okay that was a concession, but I still was left wondering how an elite, arrogant community like Charleston County didn’t have an accredited public school district. In one brief exchange with a friend, I asked whether the fact that we received accrediting for the first time was good or bad. My friend answered with an emphatic “good!” I respect my brother Jason’s perspective, but I can’t imagine how being accredited for the first time in its history can be a good thing for a 200-year-old school system. By the way, Charleston County school district is the last Lowcountry school district to receive accreditation. I guess Jason figures better late than never.
Jason and I never got the chance to fully discuss the subject of CCSD accreditation, so I’ve still got a lot of questions I think our community also should be concerned about. First and foremost, just what does being accredited mean? Maybe the folks at South Carolina State University could help. They were facing some real challenges about accreditation.
Like SCSU did as an institution of higher ed, Charleston County School District got its accreditation from one of the foremost accrediting agencies around for education systems– AdvancEd. I looked ‘em up and they apparently can cut the mustard. I was concerned CCSD administrators weren’t just giving us another dog and pony show, hiring some no-name company to take a pay off in exchange for a good rating. But AdvancEd appears to be reputable.
And AdvancEd didn’t just hand over the all-clear without some stipulations! For those of us who have lived here a long time the stipulations seem repetitive – improve governance, classroom culture, school alignment, allocation of resources and community engagement – stuff constituents have complained about for years. AdvancEd gives its accreditation for five-year cycles and will allow the district a few years to make the improvements if it wants to keep the accreditation. I’m anxious to see how that plays out.
At the top of the heap of the stuff that has to be improved is board governance. Charleston County always has had a racist, elitist and self-serving school board. It’s now devolved into a dysfunctional one as well. I’ve seen some back-biting entities – that’s not the nature of the beast, that’s the nature of stupid people! That’s also our fault (voters) because we continue to elect people to the board who don’t serve the interest of the community as a whole. We continue to elect people to Charleston County School Board who serve parochial interests – people who obviously have no understanding of the reality that high tide raises all boats.
I tell people all the time our school system, with all its flaws and inequities, works exactly as it is intended. The system isn’t designed to provide equal education opportunities to all children – and I don’t know where this new cliché about education opportunities depending on zip codes comes from. What does that mean?
Okay, okay, okay. It’s complicated. But you put people in position to achieve certain outcomes. People are spending a lot of money to get elected to the county school board. The first time I heard a guy had spent $50,000 to get elected it blew my mind. Now folks are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get elected. They’re forming slates of candidates. You don’t have to be real bright to realize that means people have agendas and are willing to go all the way to achieve those agendas.
We’re talking about a system that provides billions of dollars to the local economy and facilitates how our community is shaped in many ways. Public education is serious business! It ain’t just about insuring little Johnny learns to read. Lil Johnny doesn’t need to read to push the hamburger button on a cash register at Burger King. And soon they won’t need lil Johnny at all because customers will be placing their own orders! Some kids get a good education in Charleston County because some kids will push hamburger button, others will own the restaurant or design the buttons.
So what about school district accreditation? I’m still a little confused about the why and how it will affect public education in Charleston County. But as I argued with a friend recently, every little bit helps. Accreditation certainly can’t hurt. I think the real issue is will we move beyond getting accredited.
Construction of the new St. Paul’s Hollywood Library branch is underway. Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) and Charleston County Government officials kicked off the construction of the new facility during a groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 30. The 15,000-square foot facility will be located on Highway 165 next to the new Hollywood Town Hall.
The new library will include:
Adult, children and teen areas
An auditorium that can be divided into two meeting rooms (100-person capacity)
A meeting room/makerspace for do-it-yourself (DIY) projects (25-person capacity)
Learning Lab (Computer Instruction Room)
Contemporary Lowcountry Design
The library branch, which is scheduled to open in late 2019, will be part of a larger municipal complex that will include the new Hollywood Town Hall building as well as an aquatics center operated by the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission.
Local residents approved a referendum to build five new libraries, and renovate or upgrade 13 others in November 2014. The first phase of the overall project was designed to solicit community input for the five new library locations. One of CCPL’s top priorities during this process involved obtaining practical information from public library users. The Glick Boehm architectural firm presented their design of the new branch during a community meeting in June 2017. Visit bit.ly/stpaulshollywood to see the design.
Visit www.ccpl.org/construction for monthly status updates and to view updated branch designs presented during past community meetings.
Marking 26 years of scholarship support for high school students, the Marie Jenkins Jones Incentive Award (MJJIA) announces five award recipients for 2018. Receiving scholarships of $500 each are Kayla Bennett, Ajani Brooks, Quinara Lawson, Zataya Rivenbark and Jamesia St. Louis, all recent graduates of Baptist Hill Middle High School. These outstanding young ladies have excelled in their high school studies and will be pursuing higher education this fall semester.
“My siblings and I are thrilled about this year’s scholarship recipients,” says Andrea C.J. Casey, MJJIA Board Chairperson and daughter of the late Mrs. Marie Jenkins Jones. “Because of matching gift donations and increased support from local businesses, former students, and the community, we were able to help even more students this year,” explains Casey.
MJJIA is a federally recognized 501(c)3 organization that helps deserving graduating seniors at Baptist Hill Middle High School advance their education at a vocational school, trade school, college or university of their choice.
Over the years, this scholarship has awarded tens of thousands of dollars to students assisting with books, school supplies or any other needs they may have toward their educational goals.
Mrs. Marie Jenkins Jones educated students of Charleston County for over forty years. She had a passion for teaching, love for her students and a devotion to the community. In 1992, she retired from Baptist Hill High School after decades of teaching in District 23. Her children established the scholarship to honor their mother’s legacy and to support students in furthering their education. “MJJIA wants to grant more scholarships in 2019, so we ask churches, organizations and the community to spread the word and encourage students to apply,” said Casey.
For more information about the MJJIA, to make a tax deductible donation, or to apply for the 2019 scholarship, please visit www.MJJIncentiveAward.org or contact the organization at email@example.com
The much anticipated opening of Charleston Accelerated Academy became a reality September 4 as approximately 120 students embarked on a course toward a diploma and high school graduation. Charleston Accelerated Academy is a unique S.C. Public Charter School helping young adults overcome real-life challenges to earn their district or state-issued high school diploma. The school opened at the Septima Clark Academy site, 1929 Grimball Rd, on James Island in Charleston. Ribbon-cutting and open house ceremonies were held September 5.
The school serves students ages 16-21 through non-traditional approaches that incorporate web-based curriculum and technology, individualized learning plans, hands-on life and career coaching and flexible hours and scheduling. Charleston Accelerated Academy (CAA) is unique in many ways, but most importantly, it offers educational opportunities which previously have not been provided through ‘outside the box’ approaches to instruction for young adults. Its mission is to provide a comprehensive education to at-risk students which leads to students’ attainment of a diploma, acceptance to college or pursuit of a career, and culminates in each student having a positive impact in their community.
To accomplish that mission CAA provides what research shows students need to be successful: engaging courses, technologically advanced educational tools, personalized curriculum, and regular interaction with caring adults. CAA offers the tools needed to help students overcome personal barriers to attendance and engagement that include services which allow graduate candidates the flexibility to work from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection, individualized learning plans which are tailored for each graduate candidate’s individual schedule and focus on the next step with hands-on life & career coaching.
Realizing that no one-size-fits-all, CAA offers a variety of supports to help graduate candidates find the path that’s best for them whether that is college, the military or a career. Highly qualified paraprofessionals and certified teachers work with candidates in small groups or in one-on-one settings creating opportunities to develop substantial relationships. The facility is staffed with two vans that will allow candidates to schedule transportation to and from its James Island site. And public bus passes are offered that can help candidates not only get to school, but also to work or other areas around the community.
Food services are available. CAA is partnered with the school district to provide food services daily. CAA understands that many of our candidates are caretakers to families of their own and allows candidates to bring their children to the site. CAA does not take custodianship of the children, and at all times, the parent is the guardian of their child, however this allows candidates flexibility in their scheduling.
As importantly, CAA has connections with local businesses and services to help candidates including churches and faith-based organizations, Trident Technical College and area Chamber of Commerces – networks that support candidates beyond the facility. CAA is Acceleration Academies’ first location in South Carolina, and the seventh location nationwide. Over 4,500 high school-aged students in Charleston County are currently not enrolled in traditional high schools due to a variety of factors such as needing to work to support themselves or their families, a lack of transportation or resources, or family caretaker obligations.
“The Academy’s goal is to make Charleston County a no-dropout community,” said Tom Ducker, Charleston Acceleration Academy Board Member. “CAA’s uniquely personalized and engaging education model is designed to provide the social, emotional and academic supports needed to re-engage high-risk and at-risk youth with their education and set them on the path towards graduation, careers and college,” said Charleston County School Supt. Dr. Gerrita Postlewait.
CAA board Chair Nadine Deif added, “We encourage businesses, community/church leaders, law enforcement and parents to encourage students to seek our help. Our job is to help the youth become high school graduates and find a career path that’s right for them. The individuality of each student is respected and encouraged.”
For years I’ve done an annual story about the Kids Count report. The report is compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national organization that since 1948 monitors and reports on the well-being of children. My former editor, Jim French used to provide me a hard copy of the report each year.
We’re both old school journalists – Jim and I. Before retiring, somewhat reminiscent of Andy Rooney, French used to type his stories on a Smith Corona typewriter. Being a generation behind French, I first used a typewriter, then a word processor and now use a computer to write stories. But I still like hard copy materials for references. This year I got the report in an email. I am not tech savvy. So pulling out the information has been a task in itself. Unfortunately, even with my limited computer skills, I could tell not much has change for Black kids – they still are our state’s worst off.
A funny thing about reports like Kids Count, they usually confirm what most people already know. The numbers change, but the reality doesn’t. Each year I wrote the Kids Count story I almost could use the same wording and just plug in the updated numbers. The Avery Institute’s report on racial disparities in Charleston County confirms that little has changed about such disparities since the 1940s.
That’s why I find it so hard to understand how some folks don’t realize that the lifestyle they enjoy today was created by slavery, that their lifestyle is a direct result of slavery and that the City of Charleston’s attempt at an apology for its role in slavery is but one effort to acknowledge that reality. I just read a July 17 Post and Courier letter to the editor from an individual who just doesn’t get that his parents’ wealth-building only occurred because Black slaves created the economic environment in which their business was able to flourish. The Kids Count report always reaffirms for me how that travesty continues. Reading letters from people like that individual reaffirms why it continues. About 30 percent of the state’s children under age 18 are Black. About 55 percent are white. To start with, the median income for white households in South Carolina is highest at about $73,000 annually. Asian Pacific household median incomes come second at about $69,000 and Black household median incomes come in dead last at about $32,000. Black kids start out in households with much lower household incomes – less than half the median household income of their white counterparts. And it doesn’t get any better.
The report says establishing the conditions that promote successful educational achievement for children begins before birth and continues into the early elementary school years. With a strong and healthy beginning, it is much easier to keep children on track to stay in school and graduate, pursue postsecondary education and training and successfully transition to young adulthood. The infant mortality rate for Black babies doubles that for Hispanic and white babies. About 15 percent of Black babies are born with low birth weight compared to about 10 percent of all babies and about eight percent of white babies. About 12 percent of Black children are not in excellent or good health compared to about five percent of white children. The data doesn’t show results for other races or ethnicities.
When it comes to students who don’t graduate high school on time, the rate for Black kids is comparable to other groups. About 20 percent of Black kids don’t graduate on time while some 16 percent of white kids don’t graduate high school on time. About 20 percent of Hispanic or Latino kids also don’t graduate on time and some 26 percent of Native American kids don’t graduate on time. The experts agree the problems start earlier. According to the report, 85 percent of Black fourth graders are not proficient readers and 78 percent of Hispanic fourth grade students are not proficient readers while 60 percent of white fourth grade students don’t read proficiently. The report also indicates the percentage of Black kids’ fourth grade reading proficiency is increasing while the numbers for white kids is pretty constant. In all cases the numbers are unacceptable. Maybe that’s why we’re seeing more initiatives like the Cradle to Career Collaborative. Our public education system also fails most white students. Many of them also are not prepared for the new industries locating in our community.
When I got the latest Kids Count report its promoters said, “South Carolina achieved its highest placement to date in an annual nationwide survey of child well-being. Improvements in measures of strong families and children with health insurance placed South Carolina at 38th in the nation for child well-being. We are seeing incremental improvements over time, and this shows us that the investments we are making in children, families and communities are adding up.”
Well, forgive me if I seem pessimistic, but I try to be realistic – if I’m in a hole 10 feet deep and you give me a six-foot ladder you’ve helped. But I’m still in a hole. Our children still are in deep doo-doo. We’re not moving fast enough to improve the lives of all our children. And when I see people who so intentionally are oblivious to the reality of modern-day slave dynamics, I’m inclined to think too many of us don’t want to make those improvements.
For the past couple of hours I’ve caught hell trying to unravel the Kids Count stats. The Avery report told me things haven’t changed since the 1940s. I probably could have just used my last Kids Count story and plugged in the new numbers.
In Spring 2018, students at Burke High School (BHS) came together with two BHS teachers, Amelia Little (Navarrete) and Chopper (Edgar) Johnson, to create a unique project about untold stories of disenfranchised, marginalized societies called Finding a Voice. This past weekend, Burke was honored at the national New Tech Conference in St. Louis, Missouri for their outstanding work.
Through support from the ECMC Foundation, Burke High School was awarded a grant to participate in the New Tech Network (NTN) program for the 2017-18 school year. With over 20 years of impact in improving teaching and learning through project-based learning, the New Tech Network, a non- profit organization, supports schools and districts throughout the country in ensuring college and career success for all students.
Community members, school administrators, and staff were excited about the doors this partnership could open for students at Burke. As it turns out, the administrators, staff, and students were ready to walk through those doors together and did so in a way that earned them NTN’s 2018 Best in Network award. The Best in Network honor is given to an NTN project that exemplifies the goal of successfully combining active exploration, application, authenticity, and academic rigor.
Finding a Voice was a Burke project across the dual content areas of world literature and government. The project involved research and collaboration, and asked students to design graphic novels about disenfranchised and marginalized groups around the world. To assist with the graphic novels, Little and Johnson reached out to the local public library system, which enthusiastically joined the team.
Students reached the project’s final creative product through conducting independent research on living conditions for various marginalized societies across the globe and interviews with student refugees from other countries, including a student of similar age from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
To demonstrate and share their research and findings, students wrote first-person narratives and storyboarded the plot of their graphic novel.
BHS sophomores, Trinity Frost and James Snipes, along with Little and Johnson presented Finding a Voice at the conference on Saturday, July 14, 2018. Snipes and Frost led the presentation in front of hundreds of teachers, administrators, and educational leaders from across the country, expertly and enthusiastically discussing their project, findings, and fielding questions from the audience. At the conclusion of their presentation, the group representing Burke High School received a standing ovation from the audience.
Applications are being accepted now through October 31, 2018, for the Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence magazine. This annual outside-the-classroom mentoring program is scheduled for March 21-24, 2019, at the Walt Disney Resort in Florida. The program helps 100 select high school students, ages 13-19, from across the United States jump-start their life goals and pursue their dreams.
Disney Dreamers Academy turns the entire magical setting of Walt Disney World into a vibrant classroom. Students participate in a series of sessions and workshops designed to help them imagine bright futures, make exciting discoveries and learn how to put their goals into action. Disney Dreamers engage in a wide variety of experiences at Walt Disney World while working side by side with celebrities, community and industry leaders and Disney cast members.
For more than a decade, Disney Dreamers Academy has inspired young people from across the country by fueling their dreams and showing them a world of possibilities as they prepare for the future. Each year, students participate in hands-on, immersive career seminars in a wide range of disciplines found at Walt Disney World. Participants learn how to improve their communication skills, what it means to be a leader and networking strategies, among other skills. They are also inspired by celebrity speakers and other special guests who share their stories and provide insights on how to achieve their life goals.
The second decade of Disney Dreamers Academy is focused on challenging young people to relentlessly pursue their dreams through the “Be 100” campaign. This promotional push is inspired by the powerful impact Disney Dreamers Academy has made on graduates, who have gone on to become doctors, nurses, engineers, pilots, journalists and more. Some have started their own public relations firms, while others have worked with national political leaders.
Applicants must answer essay questions about their personal journeys and dreams for the future. Students are selected based on a combination of attributes, including strong character, positive attitude and determination to achieve their dreams. A parent or guardian accompanies each student on the trip.
This four-day, all-expenses-paid experience at Walt Disney World will continue to help change the lives of young people in 2019. For more information or to apply, visit DisneyDreamersAcademy.com.