Imagine, Denise Davidson said, a student coming home to his or her parents and telling them the 27.3 an F that they got on their test didnt matter, that it had no meaning. That wouldnt work, she said. And yet, she said that is exactly what Jasper Countys schools superintendent is trying to tell parents and citizens after the school district scored back-to-back F grades on federal accoutability standards. This is unfair and unacceptable, said Davidson, of Ridgeland. We need to demand better and demand accountability for our kids. About 50 people gathered at a rally Saturday morning in Ridgeland to do just that: demand accountability and for the resignation of Superintendent Vashti Washington. At the rally, which started at 10 a.m. and lasted about an hour at Harold Turpin Park, several people spoke, many signed petitions calling for Washingtons resignation, and almost all wanted the S.C. Department of Education to declare a state of emergency in Jasper County. Davidson, who organized the rally, said it just came together about a week ago, not long after the department released the districts scores Aug. 1 for the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards and the High School Assessment Program. Those tests are used to help determine the district and school letter grades on federal accountability standards. Jasper County scored 27.3 points on a 100-point scale. This score is down from 39.5 points in 2012, and is the lowest score in the state. The graduation rate for Jasper County also fell from 72.9 in 2011 to 65.2 in 2012. But Milton Woods, a concerned citizen, said the community needs to realize that these arent just numbers. We have to remember that these numbers represent children, a living, human child, Woods said. It is so terrible because these children are having their futures stolen from them something must be done. He said he hopes the whole community will come together behind this option. Even if they dont have kids, they should care because it affects the economy and every tax-payer. Two who spoke at the rally were state Reps. Bill Herbkersman and Weston Newton. Both said they were going to be in Columbia this coming week and would try to schedule a meeting with State Superintendent Mick Zais about the district. They both also encouraged those in attendance to not let the energy at the rally fizzle and to continue to put the pressure on the school board and their elected officials. Take control of your schools, and take control today, Herbkersman said when speaking to the crowd. These are your kids and your kids futures. At the rally Davidson passed out petition sheets for people to take with them and spread throughout the community. She said she is hoping to gather 1,500 signatures to present to the school board and Zais. Things have been bad for a while, Davidson said, but that cant ignored. She ended the rally quoting Washington and posing a question. Our superintendent said May 1 in the Jasper County Sun, We will not have individuals in our system that will not deliver or cannot deliver, Davidson said. Does this not apply to the person who said this comment?
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.