Community members search for solutions to improve Burke High School

Community members search for solutions to improve Burke High School

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Burke High School has been plagued with years of academic problems and failed attempts to raise its state report card grade above an "F."

Now the school once again is facing a possible takeover by the state board of education. Community members are hoping local colleges and universities can help.

Burke is the only public high school on the Charleston peninsula and has been around for 103 years.

"For so many years it was the pillar of our community for education," said Dr. Barbara Dilligard.

The school is now on the Palmetto Priority Schools list, a list of 20 schools across the state that failed to meet expected progress in the classroom.

Dilligard said, "There's no one person that's a savior, it's a collective energy."

Dilligard is President of the Burke Foundation, a group of parents, alumni and community members all looking for a solution. One of those solutions is a University Center. The idea was put forth by former state Senator Robert Ford and Representative Wendell Gilliard.

Principal Maurice Cannon said, "It's an opportunity to really be hands on and engaging with their learning to see the benefits with how your high school experience, your middle school experience connect to college."

The program is still being planned and it calls for hands on class work integrated with local colleges. It will focus on areas like health, manufacturing, childhood development and law.

Cannon said, "With a strategy you have to make sure that all your component parts are in place in order for your outcomes or your goals to be those that you sought from the very beginning."

Cannon says the school faces an uncommon challenge in that it has 7th through 12th grades.

"It's the 7th and 8th program where we still have not shown the aggressive growth needed in order to move off of the Palmetto Priority list," said Cannon.

Another goal is to draw more students to the school that now only holds a little more than 550 students, but community members are hopeful.

Dilligard said, "It's going to take passion because you could have all the knowledge in the world but if you don't believe that something can be, it's hard for you to make it happen."

Burke will be evaluated for four years by the state board of education. Cannon says four colleges are onboard to create the University Center, The Citadel, College of Charleston, Trident Technical College and the Medical University of South Carolina.

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