Teachers and parents to protest at school district office

The Charleston County School District hosted a "listening session" for teachers Thursday evening in response to the recent backlash to principal reassignments and a proposal to evaluate teachers based on their students' test scores. File/Staff

Upset about new teacher evaluations and an unexplained shuffling of some school principals, teachers and parents plan to protest at the Charleston County School District office Monday night.

Organizers say more than 100 people have confirmed they will take part.

Some educators have been up in arms since early April when the district started evaluating teachers, in part, based on student standardized test score improvement and classroom observations.

The district had not told teachers in advance that they could be put on Professional Growth Plans — a possible prelude to firing — based on that. School leaders in other states have abandoned student test scores as part of their teacher assessments, citing research showing they are a poor evaluation tool.

On April 28, 51 teachers from a Mount Pleasant elementary school signed a letter expressing their concern to the district school board and the superintendent.

"If this path of action continues, there will be a disruption that could do significant damage to our CCSD community," the letter read. "If that happens, we all lose, especially the students under our care."

The district also rankled some parents last week when it reassigned several principals or gave them contracts that listed their location as "pending." Parents launched petitions to keep at least two principals in place: William Lee Runyon at West Ashley High, and Jake Rambo at James B. Edwards Elementary. Rambo's petition has more than 1,100 signatures.

The district declined to explain its rationale for the principal changes, which did not include input from parents or constituent school boards. On Tuesday, Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait compared the decision to one a business manager might make.

"I think you could talk to any CEO who has 86 branches to manage, and they would tell you they need to have strong branch managers in every location and the needs of each location may be unique," she said. "So the particular strengths of one manager may fit well at a different branch, and when you have the diverse settings that we have, you want your staff to be cross-trained, to have a lot of experience in diverse settings."

She said the decisions were based on several factors. "The important thing is everyone has a contract. There are a few folks who don't have a location to give us some time and flexibility, and any principal who is returning gets a pay raise. It's not intended to have negative connotations," she added.

Monday's protest is scheduled for 6-7 p.m. at the district's 75 Calhoun St. office. Patrick Hayes, a fifth-grade teacher at Drayton Hall Elementary and founder of the advocacy group EdFirstSC, has invited teachers to wear hats and sunglasses if they prefer to remain anonymous.

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Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers.