Superintendent addresses N. Charleston wanting to break away from district

A day after North Charleston leaders expressed a desire to start their own district, the Charleston County School District superintendent is addressing it.
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 4:19 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2023 at 10:11 PM EST
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - A day after North Charleston leaders expressed a desire to start their own district, the Charleston County School District superintendent is addressing the situation.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and others discussed on Wednesday the possibility of removing North Charleston schools from the Charleston County School District.

Superintendent Don Kennedy, surrounded by North Charleston principals on Thursday, began saying he hopes to collaborate for the benefit of the students.

“I’m not here to refute everything that the Mayor and North Charleston said; again, my approach is to collaborate,” Superintendent Don Kennedy said.

District 113 Rep. Marvin Pendarvis drafted and submitted a bill at the state house that would create a North Charleston School District.

The bill says election of board members would be in the general election in 2024, and the assets would transfer on July 1, 2024. North Charleston officials also announced efforts to research what it would take legally to remove schools within the city from the Charleston County School District.

READ MORE: SC lawmaker files bill to establish North Charleston School District

North Charleston officials say concerns that students are not getting their educational needs met prompted the announcement. The Charleston County School District is pushing back against some of the city’s claims.

In a statement Wednesday, the district provided statistics about the student population and per-pupil funding. To read the entire statement, click here.

Kennedy called the distribution of financial resources equitable but acknowledged some of the city’s concerns.

“I too notice that there are some disparities, and I don’t know how they got created, but I do know that they do exist, and I know that my staff and I are working to resolve those,” Kennedy says.

Kennedy went on to explain how if the North Charleston schools were to leave, funding would change. Across the state, sales tax revenue goes to the state and is given back to districts based on need.

“So every dollar we send up to Columbia from Charleston County, we only get about 30 cents back from that,” Kennedy explains. “So the other 70 cents from that go to support places like Colleton County where the tax base does not exist.”

He predicts that if North Charleston established its own district, their tremendous tax base would be affected.

“I would predict the parts of the county, especially the rural parts of the county, where those tax bases do not exist, then those students are going to suffer,” Kennedy says.

Kennedy says just before 2:30 p.m., he heard that his staff and Mayor Summey’s team were in contact about setting up a time to talk.

“And so we will get together and collaborate and make sure that we do approach this the best way that we can in terms of support for kids,” Kennedy says. “So in fashioning a bill and moving forward perhaps there is a feasibility study that needs to be done to figure out exactly how to make any kind of move without negatively impacting our students.”

Kennedy wrapped up his remarks by saying he heard the concerns and acknowledged them. But he also dove into the statistics of support and success and detailed his concerns about the negative impacts a rift could cause financially and in learning for students.

“At this point, I don’t have any expectations one way or the other in terms of the success or lack thereof,” the superintendent says. “My position is that collaboration is needed. Not necessarily collaboration initially about how do we dismantle, it’s a collaboration as how do we come together to continue the academic gains that we continue to see.”

City of North Charleston spokesperson Ryan Johnson and city of North Charleston School Liaison Shannon Praete each say they have not been a part of organizing a meeting or conversation. But Johnson says the city is certainly always open to meeting.