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North Charleston Should Not Take Over City’s Public Schools

School control conflict image.

North Charleston Should Not Take Over City’s Public Schools

Bad ideas have a way of lingering around, not unlike the person at the party who talks only, incessantly and very loudly about himself. Only two years after then-North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and other city leaders openly mused about splitting that city’s schools off from the Charleston County School District, a group of North Charleston leaders is making similar sounds yet again.

And so we will say again what we said back then: Elected officials’ concern about the struggles experienced in many public schools in North Charleston is admirable, but trying to break those schools off into a district of their own is not the cure. In fact, it would only harm those it purports to help. As The Post and Courier’s Valerie Nava reported, three North Charleston City Council members recently held a forum to discuss the state of education and the city’s schools and shared concerns over building conditions, test scores, and the like.

Community Collaboration for Improvement

Some described the meeting as a first step toward seeking an advisory referendum on breaking off those schools into a district of their own. According to the newspaper’s report, Councilman Jerome Heyward said, “We want the community to decide what we’re going to do.” That would be a mistake, but by saying so, we don’t want to discount the importance of the community working together to get many North Charleston schools on a better track.

Jacqueline Haynes, associate superintendent for acceleration schools, told the forum that the district is working to recruit new staff, make curriculum changes, and in other ways improve schools in the city that were on the state’s list of low-performing schools. North Charleston High School principal Henry Darby, who also is a Charleston County councilman, also noted the current School District administration is addressing the schools’ challenges, specifically commending Superintendent Anita Huggins’ ongoing collaboration with the city of North Charleston in a joint commission to improve educational outcomes and provide better support to students.

Building on Existing Initiatives

As Ms. Huggins explained in a recent commentary in these pages, her proposed budget uses a weighted student funding model to ensure individual schools have the authority and resources to help students overcome knowledge and skill gaps. “This will let us tackle pockets of deep educational disadvantage and give all students a real opportunity to achieve their potential. All of our schools enroll students who face unique hurdles that require creative classroom solutions and extra support,” she wrote, and we agree.


North Charleston officials should consider how they can work with the new joint commission or directly with School District staff to ensure the success of these initiatives rather than pursuing the drastic, impractical, and divisive idea of breaking off from the existing district. Fortunately, the recent trend in South Carolina, where state lawmakers decide the physical and legal contours of our school districts, has been to consolidate school districts, not split them into smaller districts.

The notion of breaking off the North Charleston schools into their own district would reverse that trend. When Mr. Summey floated the idea in 2022 of the city taking over a smaller, new North Charleston district, he argued that kids weren’t getting a good-enough education, which was true, and that North Charleston taxpayers paid more to the county district than they received in return, which was not true. The idea died off two years ago, as it became apparent that the biggest losers in a split would be North Charleston students themselves.

The idea is back, but as with that loudmouthed guest, we all should slowly yet deliberately wander away from it.

North Charleston Should Not Take Over City's Public Schools

HERE Charleston
Author: HERE Charleston

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