CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District’s Board of Trustees approved an action plan designed to restructure the entire district with changes coming to schools in West Ashley, North Charleston, downtown and magnet, partial magnet, as well as choice schools.
The school board approved the actions at a meeting on Monday. District officials say the list is the result of recommendations from several outside groups that observed the district.
The new comprehensive plan breaks down the district into regional areas that, if approved, will have different plans to individually boost different areas.
That includes developing a comprehensive plan designed for each area of district to make sure all students have a quality education without leaving their area.
“We think that these actions are important first steps,” CCSD Superintendent Gerita Postlewait said. “Despite the efforts of talented and hard-working educators across our system, we are not reaching some of the children who most depend on public schools to get things right for them. This is a system’s problem not an employee problem.”
The proposed mission-critical actions include, but are not limited to, changing attendance lines to give all schools the best chance of success, consider the addition of an early college middle school, provide training for teachers on how to be successful in “high-challenge settings,” and recruit new and highly successful teachers and principals.
In North Charleston, the district says it wants to develop high-quality preschool programs and change attendance lines to give all schools a better chance for success and increase the quality and rigor of middle schools.
Postlewait said they looked at four of the lowest and four of the highest schools in North Charleston and said there was a noticeable difference with teachers. Postelwait said the high performing schools had more experienced teachers. She said in order for lower performing schools to obtain teachers that have a track of creating growth, the district could try to work on offering differentiated salaries.
According to state report cards, North Charleston had some of the lowest rated schools in the county.
CCSD School Board Member Todd Garrett said very little has changed in the district over the last 20 years, and said these changes are needed.
“I’m only going to be on this board for two more years and I will be forever regretful if we don’t have a better job of integrating our schools,” Garrett said. “The way our schools were set up was a 1967. We still have over a dozen segregated schools in our district so my intention through this process as a board is to ask them to make sure we do a better of integrating our schools.”
They also want to involve community groups and business partners in identifying what both students and schools need to be successful and then advocate for those needed resources.
The plan calls for giving students who commit to hard work the promise of needed scholarships to attend college.
For schools located on the peninsula, the district wants to better utilize schools where enrollment is lower than the school’s capacity and possibly merge middle schools or program to provide all students with more electives and opportunities currently available in the district’s larger middle schools. It also wants to centralize more services like nursing, food services, transportation and administration.
District officials also want to create high school options on the peninsula that will provide “the appropriate level of rigor for all students living in D20,” and to determine which career and technology centers D20 students will attend to access programs beyond those offered on the peninsula.
The list of proposed actions also includes aligning programs across schools PK-12 for continuity to make sure elementary programs continue through middle and high school, including International Baccalaureate, visual and performing arts and math/science/engineering.
Another goal would be to expand opportunities to enroll more D20 students at Buist Academy without lowering the quality of programs currently in place and to “significantly improve” the lowest-performing schools by searching nationwide for programs proven successful with similar types of students that could be replicated in D20.
In West Ashley, the district is aiming to improve the academic performance of the area’s low-performing or under-performing elementary schools. It also wants to create a unique academic focus to attract students to the new Stono Park Elementary School opening in August 2019.
They would also look at the feasibility of combining the two middle schools that currently serve West Ashley to strengthen programs such as advanced academics, the arts and STEM programs.
Officials say strengthening academic programs at West Ashley High School in preparation for the future opening of the new state-of-the-art career and technology center is also a priority.
District officials also want to create magnet and choice school programs with a clearer purpose for what each school is trying to deliver as well as try to use zip codes or other geographic identifiers as part of the selection criteria to guarantee that more students in under-represented areas have an opportunity to attend these magnet and choice schools.
It also wants to find a permanent home for Early Colllege High School on the Peninusla and consider opening a second Early College High School in another area of the district.
In rural areas, the district wants to purchase more land in the Awendaw area, and invest in the expansion of a Montessori Program in District 9.
It also outlines a legislative agenda which includes support for revising the state school funding laws and advocating for removal of the salary cap for retired teachers to allow high-quality teachers to remain in the classroom.
The district also provided a sample timeline which spans from February 2019 to June 2019 which includes four committee stakeholder meetings and an eventual formal recommendation to the Board of Trustees.