Charter school seeking to improve academic performance at Stono Park Elementary

VIDEO: Charter school seeking to improve academic performance at Stono Park Elementary

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District is seeking applications from nonprofits to help improve 15 of the district’s lowest performing schools.

As a result, Orange Grove Charter School wants to help improve student achievement at Stono Park Elementary.

Principal of Orange Grove Charter School, John Clendaniel, says he thinks it would be great opportunity to serve more kids and provide a quality program for more students. He believes they have what it takes to improve the performance of Stono Park Elementary students, and says they have the top performing middle school in West Ashley.

“We’ve proven over the life our charter that we’ve been able to see that success. We’ve been able to see that improvement,” Clendaniel said. “We’re at the 90th percentile right now. Currently Stono Park is at the 11th percentile and we feel like we can go in there and make a positive difference.”

Clendaniel sent a letter to parents of children at Orange Grove outlining the charter school's interest in this partnership to be transparent.

In it are proposals to eventually create a new 800-student middle school in 2026 for both Orange Grove and Stono Park students to create more courses, programs and support at that school.

The proposed site is where West Ashley Middle School is located, which confused parents like Liz Whitworth.

"This site would be on the same site that they are proposing to use a different project," Whitworth said.

West Ashley Middle School is also the same site where District 10 sixth graders are set to attend.

“I just feel like there needs to be more transparency. Things are coming form left field at a high rate of speed,” Whitworth said.

She says her daughter attended Orange Grove Charter Middle School and she's hoping her son will be able to attend as well.

“I wasn’t aware that Stono Park was struggling that much. It just reopened and I feel like maybe it hasn’t had much of a chance to prove itself under the new principal and it’s new being,” Whitworth said. “I know that Orange Grove does a great job with their middle schoolers. I’m just not sure what the involvement would be and why it would be necessary.”

When it comes to changes within the school district, Whitworth would like to see more transparency.

Orange Grove Charter’s proposal was submitted Tuesday and it’s under review.

“With the merger and those discussions, obviously some thing would have to be worked out and figured out, but there’s time to do those things,” Clendaniel said. “It’s just an application at this point, nothing is set and stone. There’s no deals that have been struck.”

The principal hopes to lower the 1,000-student wait list for Orange Grove Charter, by improving Stono.

The Charleston County School District released the following statement on the matter:

"Charleston County School District received a proposal in response to the recent Solicitation Of Interest from Orange Grove Charter on Tuesday, Dec. 10. We are also aware that the Orange Grove Charter principal sent a communication to that school’s parents outlining a list of long-range goals/actions related to their proposal.

The Orange Grove Charter letter was shared on social media and has resulted in some confusion among District 10 elementary and middle school parents. We are sorry for the confusion this has caused, especially during the planning by CCSD staff and District 10 community members to implement the Board-approved merger of District 10 middle schools.

Orange Grove Charter’s proposal to become a partner through the District’s Acceleration Schools initiative will be reviewed and vetted (like other proposals) by the committee charged by the CCSD Board of Trustees with bringing back recommendations for further action."

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