In response to the Nov. 18 Post and Courier article on calls for Burke High School to be closed, I offer the following comments:
First, let me congratulate the students, faculty and administration of Burke High School who continued to work very hard and improved their 2012 report card score. While attaining an “average” may not mean a lot to some people, overcoming an “at risk” or “below average” rating is not easy.
It should also be emphasized that the high school rated “excellent” in the improvement area. Because of Burke’s tenacity and determination to improve, these ratings should be a jumping-off point for a better future.
On the heels of celebrating these milestones, how could anyone suggest that we close this school?
Burke High School is more than bricks and mortar — it is more than the people who currently attend and work there. Burke is a symbol of achievement in the face of adversity; it signifies hope for a better tomorrow; it is a means to achieve high goals for a promising future. Burke embodies the spirit of “We can ... and we must.” It has a rich legacy as a pathway in many areas of academic and economic opportunities for people who would otherwise not have a chance.
To many people, Burke has been and can again be a place where everyone has equal access to the best courses and training that offer high academic challenges and career preparation training.
What Burke needs is a comprehensive curriculum that includes high technology/vocational courses required for current and future jobs; advanced placement and dual credit courses that give students a head start on their future college years and careers; and extra-curricular activities that enrich their middle and high school experiences,
In short, Burke wants and needs what all good schools have — an environment and resources to build and grow future leaders and citizens. We want to be able to recruit and attract people from all socioeconomic backgrounds and races to work and learn together the way that they would be expected to live and work in the real world.
My constituents are saying that there is a faction in the community that wants Burke closed so that it can be reopened as an exclusive academic magnet school for a select few. This group has already suggested the name of “Academic Magnet-South.” Group meetings are being held with handpicked special interest groups that want to close the school, change the school’s name and re-open anew.
The general community feels that the school is being neglected — that so-called advocates appear to be involved, but that movement on any real plans is running at a snail’s pace. This actually would allow for a further drop in enrollment and therefore the school’s closing.
Such actions are unfair and cater to those who wish to exclude children who have every right to be at Burke.
Let’s give Burke High School (and Burke Middle) a chance to thrive and grow. Let’s stop calling for a school closing and get on with the business of creating a competitive program that can attract students from across the county. Let’s provide Burke with the necessary resources to support a curriculum geared toward high achievement and unique opportunities to learn.
Let’s encourage students and parents to give all that they have toward meeting the goals set forth by the school and the district. Let’s involve all of the community in planning and discussions about the future of Burke.
Let’s nurture the competitive spirit and promote more growth for the students. Let’s train the teachers to effectively work with students of varying backgrounds, interest levels and learning styles.
Let’s hold the administration and teachers accountable to deliver the best services possible. Let’s have full transparency in meeting, planning and reporting results of such gatherings.
And finally, let’s all join together to support and promote excellence at Burke.
Wendell G. Gilliard, a Charleston Democrat, represents District 111 in the S.C. House of Representatives.
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