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Commentary: Charleston Leaders Addressing District's Divides

The commentary written by CCSD Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait appeared on October 16, 2018, in the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper.

Dr. PostlewaitRegardless of your vantage point, it is undeniable that the Charleston County School District has some of the state’s very best schools and some of the state’s lowest performing schools literally a few miles apart — separated by geography, history, and socioeconomic factors that are complex and deep-rooted. However, the issues presented by this dichotomy must be addressed.

Recently, the school district’s administration and the Board of Trustees endorsed two efforts to focus attention on the problems and look for a place to begin making changes that will result in high-quality education for all students — regardless of their ZIP code.

Last December, the board contracted with Clemson University’s Office of Inclusion and Equity to conduct a study of our district in an effort to get a third-party view of equity, inclusion, and sources of tension related to those issues.

After six months of interviews with hundreds of stakeholders and first-hand visits to the district’s schools and communities, the Clemson group presented a report to the board in August with a list of recommendations around closing the achievement gap between white and minority students, ensuring that our system of governance is effective, engaging all stakeholders in the work that needs to be done.

Maybe most importantly, they urged that we begin immediately to act and follow through on the recommendations. The board and the district administration agree with the need to follow through.

KidsMuch of what they reported came as no surprise to those who have watched our district over time. We cannot go back in time, but we can address what is before us now.

The school board, the district and the community are responsible for what we do now while these issues exist on our watch. So as a starting point, the board asked the district to look at our magnet and choice programs to make sure that they were meeting the standards of equity and inclusion to which we aspire.

A group has begun that work and is charged with bringing an initial set of recommendations to the board by December so that they can have time for thorough vetting before any changes are implemented for the coming year.

Second, the Clemson study’s recommendations have now been picked up by a diverse 27-member stakeholder team as part of the board-endorsed Shared Future project, designed to create actionable plans to begin the difficult task of addressing the issues that divide the school district and its communities.

The Shared Future project involves Reos Partners as facilitators. Reos Partners is an international team with an impressive track record of helping communities and groups bring diverse viewpoints to actionable plans. The action plans of the 27-member community stakeholder team will be finished later in the year. Then the work begins in earnest.

Dr. PostlewaitOur district has a huge poverty divide among attendance areas. Likewise, too many of our schools are racially identifiable with little to no diversity in their student population.

Charleston is a recognized world-class city, and this community deserves world-class schools.

The only way that will be achieved is when all children are receiving an excellent education and are being prepared for a future as productive citizens.

The problems are complex and the work will be difficult. If we don’t start doing something now to break this cycle, then who will?

I urge you to visit the school district’s website at www.ccsdschools.com and review the Clemson Inclusion and Equity team’s report to learn more about the Shared Future project. We would love to have your ideas, your support and your involvement as we move toward a brighter future for the children of Charleston County.

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