Listen, then decide on schools
Sometimes decisions regarding schools are unpopular. A zoning change, a new principal or a different curriculum can upset people’s schedules and confuse them.
But sometimes the most unpopular decisions are the best for educating students.
Nevertheless, the school district administration makes a terrible mistake — for the community, the students and educators — by failing to bring the community in on the discussion before making a decision.
Such is the case with Lincoln High School. Superintendent Nancy McGinley might well be making a wise move by shifting middle schoolers from McClellanville High School to St. James-Santee Elementary School down Highway 17. Lincoln’s academic track record is disheartening, and St. James-Santee has enjoyed some success.
The shift has upset a number of citizens who protested to the Charleston County School Board this week. But realistically, some St. James-Santee parents opt not to send their children to middle school at Lincoln. They might keep them at St. James-Santee for middle school.
The board in January supported Dr. McGinley on this issue, but agreed Monday to hold community meetings and reconsider the decision. Meanwhile, the decision stands.
It would have made much more sense for the district to have held community meetings prior to making the change. Even if the board were to implement the change over their objections, people would not feel blindsided. They would be more likely to understand the rationale and, who knows, the district might learn something helpful from the community.
The same lesson applies to the district’s move to relocate sixth graders from District 23 elementary schools to Baptist Hill High.
As in the Lincoln decision, parents are unhappy, and they want the district to know that Jane Edwards Elementary, in particular, is “not just a school; it’s the center of our community.”
And as in the Lincoln decision, the board might ultimately decide it is necessary, albeit unpopular, to move the students anyway.
But also as with Lincoln, the community should have been given an opportunity to hear about it and respond before it became policy.
The Charleston County School District has declared often its intent to be transparent. But this is not the first time a community has been left out of important decisions regarding their schools. Part of being transparent is making sure the community knows and understands what is going on in their schools.
Board member John Barter said he is open to more community input, but he advised that the board would sometimes have to make difficult decisions.
He’s right. The decisions must be made to provide better educational opportunities for students.
But it isn’t asking too much to bring the community in on such issues as they’re being considered.