Burke High can produce excellence on its own
As a proud product of Charleston County Public Schools, I am continuously grateful for the education I received from Wil-mot J. Fraser Elementary, Courtenay Middle and Burke High Schools.
My K-12 educational journey propelled me to pursue four academic degrees, including a doctoral degree in urban education.
Although systemic institutional inequities existed, I was fortunate to have nurturing stakeholders that consisted of teachers, administrators, staff, and a host of community members who had high expectations for all students.
For example, the director of the Burke High School Bands, Linard McCloud, never settles for less than the best.
In light of his reasonable expectations from students, the marching band traditionally produces the valedictorian and salutatorian each year.
In addition, at least 90 percent of marching band graduates obtain academic scholarships after high school graduation.
Mr. McCloud has created a “culture of academic excellence” for band students. Not only have the majority of those students graduated from college, most of them furthered their education, earning advanced degrees across disciplines at leading universities across the country.
Today the State Board of Education is scheduled to meet in Columbia regarding the “fate” of Burke High School, which is listed among the seven worst schools in the state based on its “history of failure.”
Burke High School has been cited for having “an abysmal academic record.” Documents suggest that some leading issues are: lack of discipline, classroom management, principals’ and teachers’ turnover rates, and teacher quality.
According to reports, the state has offered only three options to “fix” the problem. Those options are to allow the state to assume management, replacing principals, or continuing providing assistance. The director of the Charleston Education Network, Jon Butzon, has endorsed the idea of state control saying, “I think they’ve done everything they know to do, and it hasn’t worked.”
As an educational scholar and practitioner, I assert that there is no “quick fix” to the systemic institutional challenges that Burke High School is currently facing.
In addition, it is important to acknowledge the lack of educational resources and support that has been traditionally offered to the Charleston inner-city students.
Structured questions regarding educational inequalities should be raised. Some of the possible variables to consider may include race, ethnicity and social economic status, just to name a few.
There is no quick fix to the educational challenges that Burke High and six other schools are facing across the state. However, Burke High School teachers and administrators do not have to look far to locate a proven educational model that has worked for the past two decades. Despite institutional inequalities, lack of resources, high teacher turnover rates, and discipline challenges, Linard McCloud has consistently been an outstanding educator.
From observing Mr. McCloud over the past 13 years, several things stand out about his educational methodology:
1) He cultivates a family environment in his classroom; however, from the first day, every student knows he is the leading authority.
2) He nurtures and gets to know all of his students individually. This is a key factor because it causes each student to feel cared for. Adolescents typically don’t want disappoint people they feel genuinely care for them.
3) He has high expectations of all students. Failure is not an option.
4) He fosters healthy relationships with parents and community members, understanding that “it takes a village to educate a child.”
It is not my intention to minimize the need for Charleston County students to meet national and local educational standards. In order to meet these standards, we not only need “highly qualified teachers,” we need teachers who are also highly engaged, invested, culturally sensitive and care about the future of urban students.
ANTONIO L. ELLIS, Ed.M
School of Education