In Lake City, the gleaming new Continuum education center beckons high school students in the poor, rural Pee Dee to expand their horizons and expectations by earning high school and college credit while taking college courses and workforce training in classrooms that use the latest equipment and technology.
As The Post and Courier’s Seanna Adcox reports, the $25 million Continuum is the result of a collaboration between Lake City native and philanthropist Darla Moore, Francis Marion University, Florence-Darlington Technical College and the local school districts.
Adults can also take courses at the center, and supporters are promoting it as a way to transform the local economy, by facilitating local entrepreneurship and teaching new job skills to adults.
Closer to home, reports the newspaper’s Conner Mitchell, Dorchester District 2 Superintendent Joe Pye has been perfecting the art of alliance-building.
He’s partnered with North Charleston to build a $20 million indoor aquatic center that will be paid for mostly by city funds, with the rest coming from a district-wide $7.5 million referendum. The district’s new Career and Technology Education building at Summerville High School was built in conjunction with career and technical education experts from Trident Technical College and the state Department of Education and will be furnished with $750,000 worth of donated equipment.
A local developer provided the property and a good chunk of the funding for the Summers Corner Performing Arts Center auditorium attached to Rollings Middle School of the Arts. The district is in talks with North Charleston about collaborating on a library that could be shared by students and the public. And this year, Dorchester County Council even agreed to kick in $3.2 million to help cover a state funding shortfall for school operations.
Although Ms. Moore is the driving force between the Continuum, and Mr. Pye is the force behind the Dorchester projects, both provide impressive examples of what can happen when our school districts and colleges and the private sector set aside parochial concerns and work together to help kids grow into successful adults.
Both, too, reflect a growing understanding that education at every level is critical to the success of our state and our communities, and we hope that other school districts, colleges, local governments, businesses and community leaders will find inspiration in them for ways they can work together — for everybody’s benefit.
But it’s important to remember that the primary obligation to provide a decent education to all children in South Carolina lies with the General Assembly, not with volunteers. In fact, you could argue that schools shouldn’t have to scrounge for such partnerships. It’s even more important to remember, since lawmakers can’t immediately make up for the deep funding hole they’ve dug for our schools, that not all communities have a Darla Moore or the kind of resources available in the Lowcountry.
This year’s state budget provides poor, rural schools with extra money for maintenance and a new pot of money for the Commerce Department to use to recruit jobs to the poorest school districts by building infrastructure needed to support businesses, such as water and sewer lines and possibly a new school. It’s a good start, but particularly poor districts have huge backlogged needs and few resources, and their students often struggle the most to see past their current circumstances to a future where they are a vital part of our state. So lawmakers must not forget that they will always need extra attention that better-off districts are able to draw from their communities.