Lincoln High’s Failure - What They’re Saying
2/1/2017 1:15:22 PM
By Barney Blakeney
Okay, so I was going to write about recent rumblings on Charleston County School Board over shifting powers between the school board and Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait. Then I opened my email account and found this correspondence between Board members Rev. Chris Collins and Michael Miller and former CCSD building and construction manager William ‘Bill’ Lewis. They’re talking about the Shift last year that closed McClellanville’s Lincoln High and sent its 120-plus students to Wando High.
This stuff is juicy! I’m giving it to you, my readers, uncut as I got it. Here it is.
William Lewis wrote: “Trustee Miller, I think you might want to make a comparison between student performance between students who went to Lincoln HS and who are now bussed to Wando and students who attended other CCSD middle and high schools who are now bussed to McClellanville to attend Oceanside Collegiate Academy at the district's former McClellanville MS campus.
“The comparison will clearly demonstrate that Lincoln parents and District 1 adults who tried for years to keep their children trapped at Lincoln FAILED their own children through low expectations and living in a community where adults do not make their children's education a priority.
“No other public school district in SC could successfully operate such a small high school or afford to operate it at an expense higher that the state's most expensive private school. CCSD spent over $20,000/student at Lincoln HS and wasted money funding ridiculously small class size and remediation because of social promotion versus Oceanside being funded as a state charter with per pupil funding more than 50% less than Lincoln and the majority of its funding focused on acceleration and a wide range of co-curricular activities. And, they are doing it in a school building with far less amenities (CTE spaces, gym, HS science labs, etc) and technology than Lincoln.
“Parents who made their children's education a priority knew Lincoln could not meet their expectations for a rigorous education for their children and used the district's choice option to send their children to other schools. The study showed that their children are now doing well. The parents living in District 1 who did not have similar high expectations were content to let their students stay at Lincoln. And, the study showed that these students are now struggling. That is disappointing but should not be a surprise. The good news is that they finally have an opportunity to move forward.
“Moreover, other parents living east of the Cooper who wanted their students to attend a smaller, academically rigorous school chose Oceanside Collegiate Academy because of its high academic standards, flexible schedule and wide range of co-curricular activities. Their choice required parents to make large sacrifices to work around the charter school's flexible schedule and bus their students to McClellanville. These comparisons starkly make the case that parents who made education a priority elected to take advantage of a wide range of options offered by either CCSD or charters to excel. But, parents who didn't make education a priority for their students failed their own children.
“Moreover, the District One Constituent Board failed the community's children. They cried foul for the 15-years I worked at CCSD and tried to guilt trip the Board to keep Lincoln open even though it was the smallest most expensive public school in the state. They turned down options to repurpose the beautiful historic McClellanvile campus that Oceanside jumped at holding out for the district to invest millions to build a new school instead of repurposing the two existing campuses. Lincoln and McClellanville to provide far more capability at a fraction of the cost. And, they turned down options for their children to go to Wando before the district melted down financially.
The members of the Constituent Board were selfishly concerned about adult issues, teacher/staff employment, alumni etc. and not focused on how best to educate the children in their community as well as trying to enrich a family member by having the district purchase land adjacent to St James Santee.
“Charleston County Board members would be better served with trying to reverse the cycle of illiteracy in high poverty minority neighborhoods by challenging parents, community leaders and clergy to have the same high expectations for their children and make education a priority for their children that successive waves of poor immigrants, who did not speak English, with foreign cultures have successfully done to assimilate into America.
“Immigrants of the past and the new waves of immigrants who are people of color from SW Asia/Pakistan, Indian, Afghan, Iraq etc, Pacific Islanders/Philippines, Guam and Asia/China, Japan, Korean and Hispanic/Mexico, Central America, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cuba etc. over the past 50-years have sacrificed for their children to make education a priority for their children. The success rate for these new waves of immigrants has been exceptional. AA children need to clearly understand that they must be able to compete with these new American's of color as well as majority students during their life.
“But, unless AA parents, community members and clergy are united in making education a priority for their children, America's new peoples of color will leave them in the dust because they do not have adults setting low expectations for them or making excuses for their failures. Board members have to have the courage to stop today's parents from sacrificing their children with a culture of excuses, low expectations and excuses.
“I hope you are that kind of leader. There are too many children living in Charleston who are being left behind by the collective neglect of their parents, community, clergy that need to hear that clear simple message so they can take advantage of the $150,000 scholarship the citizens of Charleston County have given them to get their HS diploma to be successful in life. Today, too many children are throwing away this opportunity because adults are not making education a priority for their children. Those are the people who set up the Lincoln students to fail! All the best, Bill Lewis.
Here’s how Miller responded: “First of all, how dare you assume that the parents in those communities were not interested in their children's academic success. That is such a bold assumption. Who are you to make that assessment? What qualifies you to speak on behalf of parents in that community?
“The failures of Lincoln HS (in my opinion) are greatly contributed to the lack of commitment and low expectations from CCSD. People love to blame the parents (and yes they do have a role) but the failures of Lincoln HS and St. James Santee should be owned by the board, superintendent and the district! And yes in that order! This board (past and present) has never been committed to properly educating black, black/brown and now the code word "Poor" children! And yet you and others like you want to place all the blame on parents. Such a foolish notion!
“This district (ergo; city and the power structure) stinks of unfairness, biases, classism layered with racism. And then have the audacity to blame parents when the schools in their communities fail to properly educate their children. It's like being at fault for calling the fire department (when your home is on fire) to put out a fire and when they don't put the fire out you are to blame.
“Let's look at the loan forgiveness program for example. Teachers get their student loans paid for if they work at a title I, high poverty, and low performing school. Look within our system at CCSD. We all know that these schools need the best teachers in the district and yet we send a first year, straight out of college, non-experienced teacher to these schools. Then blame the parents for what the school has failed to do, which is to properly educate every single child to the best of their abilities.
“So do me a favor, save your emails and ask yourself the question. ‘What did I (Bill) do to create an atmosphere of excellence for all students and or to provide access and opportunities to African American companies to work with in our system?’ While you were in the district did you ever advocate for the building of the new Lincoln High School after it was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo? If you did not, shame on you. But the larger question would be why? And if you did, why wasn't a new school built?
“Anybody can address the problems, but I am about finding healthy solutions. Unfortunately, sending students from Lincoln to Wando was not a solution. And for me it is never a dollar and cents issue! Especially, when it comes to educating our children, Closing Lincoln was not the solution. The solution should have been the superintendent and board (past and present) looking at how we create high-quality schools in areas when that has been not the expectation from the staff or the leadership! And maybe the parents as well. I am not inclined to blame parents for the failures of a flawed, segregated, unequal, and dysfunctional educational system! Which by the way, I'm trying to fix!”
And Collins wrote: “Mr. Lewis, your assumptions are asinine at best. You know nothing about parent expectations in McClellanville. You are a biased outsider who never cared anything about African American schools and communities. Under your leadership, you always spent more money on non-African American schools and on landscaping and contracting. There were two classes of people for you: those that look like you and then others who received very little under your guidance.
“There is not a single parent in the McClellanville area that doesn't want the best education for their children. Your statements represent the integrity of your heart and a lack of commitment to these communities and their schools. You blame the parents who pay taxes for good schools for your own failures and lack of regard and consideration for good educational opportunities in District one.
“These communities were given no resources and no support from CCSD and staff. They received teachers with the least amount of experience; they lacked Wifi and technology that you were responsible for putting in the schools. They used ragged text books and were taught in dungeon-like conditions because you refused to build them a new school. These same children struggled and bore the burdens to keep a neighborhood School in their community. They saw the value of having a good school in their communities. Their hearts are bigger than ours.
“Even though Lincoln did not offer many career clusters, college courses and advanced sciences and math, some children earned scholarships and went on to college and became great leaders in the community. In the midst of adverse conditions, deteriorating buildings, lack of resources, discrimination, segregation, racism and biases against them, many children still succeeded. To you it looks like failure to me I see children fighting to survive. If these children were not African American, their school would have been rebuilt years ago. The kids would have the best of teachers, great resources, high technology and a great college ready curriculum.
“Who expects low expectations? Those who set up the kids for failure and those who refuse to do anything to help. Lincoln High was depleted of all resources and support from CCSD and was set up to fail by people like yourself. Was this school's closure not planned a long time ago by you and the previous administration that neglected the school?”