State Education Superintendent has plan to consolidate schools - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

State Education Superintendent has plan to consolidate struggling schools

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

The South Carolina Department of Education is looking at a plan to combine all seven "persistently failing" schools in the state into a single district. Those schools include:

  •      Allendale-Fairfax Middle School in Allendale County
  •      Burke High and North Charleston High in Charleston County
  •      Ridgeland Middle in Jasper County
  •      Lee Central Middle in Lee County
  •      Gibbes Middle and Perry Middle Schools in Richland County

Each of these schools have gotten failing scores for the past seven years.

State Superintendent Dr. Mick Zais has a plan to turn these schools around. 

Two of those schools are in Richland School District One. Perry Middle is a school's that's performed well below state standards year after year.  It's the same story at Gibbes Middle school.

"It's not the children who are failing," said Zais. "Let me be clear. It's the adults in the system who are failing the children."

Zais' plan would involve creating a "turnaround" district. All seven schools would join one unified district. Parents would elect a board, hire a superintendent, and focus on improving their student's test scores.

"School for these children has become a place of failure and frustration and at the first opportunity, they bail," said Zais.

But not everyone's on board.  In July, Zais and the state department heard from people in the failing schools about giving their administrators' ideas time to work.

 "If you would just give Jasper County a chance," said Jasper County resident Thomas McClary.

 "We can improve that system," said Jasper County resident James Austin.  "And I think we have made some steps in that direction."

Zais said he's discussed his plans with the people running the failing schools and it's not getting a warm reception.  

"They go, 'Oh, these are our children and we want local control'" said Zais. "We've tried local control in these schools and it hasn't worked. We've given you millions of dollars. It hasn't worked, so let's try something that's had a better success record."

"For all the millions of dollars we've poured into those schools, what do we have to show?" asked Zais. "Nothing."

Some people involved in the school districts, like Jon Butzon, agree. Something's got to change.

"I hate to say it but what we've done in Charleston--and I've been party to it--has not been what's best for kids, otherwise we wouldn't be standing here today," said Butzon.  He is the former Director of the Charleston Educational Network.

"We have go to provide opportunities for these young people," he said."Zip code should not be destiny."

This plan is still a long way from becoming reality. Dr. Zais has to first sell his plan to the legislature to change the education accountability act.

And the state education department said it's identified another 19 schools that could reach persistently failing status by the end of the year.

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