The forgotten end of Charleston County stretches from the northern reaches of Mount Pleasant all the way to the Santee River. Ours is a rural place, our scattered people drawn together by generations of hard work, shared poverty, an ever-declining economy, faded memories of former plantations and, yes, lingering legacies of slavery.

This rural area is not an ordinary place. Its Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge features unspoiled marshes, creeks, beaches and unparalleled habitat for marine resources. The Francis Marion National Forest is vital to the buffer which keeps Charleston green. Our cultural heritage makes this area a prominent part of the newly-created Gullah-Geechie Heritage Corridor along our coast.

Our people are not ordinary people. For example, rather than seeing swaths of the Santee Delta sacrificed to new power lines, we would prefer living with the flickering light of our occasionally uncertain electricity. We are not just "McClellanville," and none of us wish to become "Mount Pleasant." If we could, we would like simply to be left alone, but our interdependent world makes that no more than a fool's dream.

Our sheer presence raises a vital question for all of us in Charleston County: How might a distinctive rural area such as ours be sustained over time? It is a complex question, and there are no simple answers. But this is a question which behooves all of us to engage.

The immediate issue is education. On Aug. 12 a broadly attended community forum was held to ask the board of the Charleston County School District (CCSD) to reconsider its list of building projects to be presented to voters in November.

Following more than two years of team meetings and community discussions, as requested by CCSD, the residents of our area, across lines of race and class, have reached a depth of unity that I last saw after Hurricane Hugo ravaged us.

We are asking that a new high school, worthy of any student, be built somewhere north of Mount Pleasant.

On Aug. 14 the CSSD board voted to approve just that proposal. We are grateful.

I want to emphasize:

1) We are not asking for "a new Lincoln High School."

2) We do not want a new school because "everyone else" seems to be getting one.

3) This will not be a school for, or even in McClellanville. Indeed, it should be built someplace in the Awendaw area south of here, located to serve the children of our area, yes, but also to attract students from the massive and rapidly-burgeoning subdivisions on the northern border of Mount Pleasant.

Traditionally, we have indeed been "the forgotten end of Charleston County." In the interest of all of us, that must change. As hard as we can, we will be working for passage of the forthcoming school sales tax referendum.

At issue is far more than a single new school. At root, we really are asking what is required to sustain a distinctive rural area such as ours. It is a complex question, and it deserves the attention of all residents of Charleston County.

Sam Watson

Member

Constituent School Board, District One

Pinckney Street

McClellanville