Poor school scores trigger rally in Jasper County

sbowman@islandpacket.comAugust 18, 2013 

Imagine, Denise Davidson said, a student coming home to his or her parents and telling them a 27.3 -- an "F" -- on a test didn't matter, that it "had no meaning."

"That wouldn't work," she said.

And yet, she said that's exactly what Jasper County's schools superintendent is trying to tell parents and citizens after the school district scored back-to-back "F" grades on federal accountability 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 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 Washington's 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 only came together about a week ago, not long after the department released the district's scores for the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards and the High School Assessment Program on Aug. 1. Those tests are used to help determine the district and school letter grades on federal accountability standards.

Jasper County scored 27.3 on a 100-point scale. This score is down from 39.5 points in 2012 and is the lowest in the state. The graduation rate for Jasper County also fell from 72.9 percent in 2011 to 65.2 percent in 2012.

But Milton Woods, a concerned citizen, said the community needs to realize that these aren't 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 community will come together to solve the problem. Even if residents don't have kids, they should care because it affects the economy and every taxpayer, Woods said.

Two speakers at the rally were state Reps. Bill Herbkersman and Weston Newton. Both said they would be in Columbia this coming week and would try to set up a meeting with State Superintendent Mick Zais to discuss the district's problems.

They also encouraged those attending the rally not to let the event's energy fizzle and to continue to pressure the school board and elected officials.

"Take control of your schools, and take control today," Herbkersman told 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 hopes to gather 1,500 signatures to present to the school board and Zais.

"Things have been bad for a while," Davidson said, "but that can't be ignored."

She ended the rally by 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 at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service