The Charleston County School District has a great challenge and an unusual opportunity to serve all of the people of Charleston County. We applaud the accomplishments of getting all the new and magnificent buildings in the county and especially in downtown Charleston, which was long overdue.
Along with the recently announced Justice Department investigation, the issue of Burke Middle/High School is prominently on the agenda. For many years, the Burke High School Foundation, Inc. (BHS) has been trying to work with the CCSD in its quest to improve the academic excellence and to diversify the student population at the school. Some progress has been made, as evidenced by the school report card in recent years, but much more is required and even more is expected.
There have been numerous groups and individuals expressing their views on the future of Burke Middle/High School, so the BHS Foundation would like to clarify its role and efforts. We have reached out to a number of District 20 parents, alumni, neighborhood organizations, higher education institutions, the Constituent School Board and the CCSD administration and board to request that we join together in an effort to solve the issues that are keeping Burke from excelling and returning to the excellence that is her legacy. While all of the groups and individuals do not agree on everything, there are a few specific items that I believe we share:
1) That the Burke Middle/High School should not be closed, even on a temporary basis for building upgrades, which can be done while students are still using the building.
2) That the name of “Burke” shall be in any name revision used to further describe is mission.
3) That the governance structure be changed to allow parents, school administrators, faculty, community and support organizations to chart a course for the school and to have management oversight, within legal, CCSD and SDE boundaries, as is presently allowed by many of the public schools operated in the county.
4) That the selected governing body be composed of a diverse group of responsible representatives of the community the school will serve.
5) That authority and resources are given to recreate a highly academic and career preparatory school which offers a continuum of course options from dual credit, advanced placement (AP), college prep, and general courses along with the career, trade and technology courses to give every child options for life’s preparation.
Today in the Burke Middle/High School Auditorium, these organizations have agreed to collaborate in bringing together all other community interest groups and expanding its reach to more parents and the community to join us: the Burke High School Foundation, Friends of Burke, D20 Parent Group, District 20 Constituent Board, S.C. Alliance for Charter Schools, Burke Middle/High School administration, and the Charleston County School District administration.
The meeting will be a 90-minute planning session where the community may say in one voice what are the best offerings for all Burke students, current and future. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.; childcare services will be provided in the cafeteria with adult supervision; and light refreshments will be served starting at 6:00 p.m.
The meeting is not to vote on or promote a public charter school or any other form of governance. We want to hear what the people say about what a successful Burke needs and should look like in the future. We want to image a Burke that will serve all people of different races, ethnicity, economic status, and interests, and will prepare them for any profession, career, business opportunities, military or work that they so choose.
Yes, a group of us decided to file a letter of intent to make Burke a “public charter.” That letter was to reserve a place to keep our options open for decision-making by a larger group of planners. We need an avenue for governance at Burke to have our voices truly heard as parents and community supporters. If there is a better way, we are seeking whatever is best for the good of the whole. The CCSD offers a wide variety of “choice schools” to include countywide magnets, partial magnets, constituent magnets, public charter and Montessori programs, as outlined on its webpage. Each has its specialty for governance and its benefits as well as disadvantages.
We invite you to join us in the discussion which will form the foundation for a master plan of how we can do this together.
We recognize that there are many rumors, innuendos, and half-truths circulating, but let’s prove all of the naysayers wrong and join together, in mutual respect, putting all things behind us and press toward the mark of the higher calling for the children we love and are responsible to educate. Together, we are better than who they say we are.
Dr. Barbara D. Dilligard, a retired CCSD deputy superintendent, is president of the Burke High School Foundation, Inc.