Backlash after CCSD board member says he wants to “pull the plug” on Burke HS

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – People in the community are upset after a Charleston County School Board member said he was ready to “pull the plug” on historic Burke High School.

A week ago, Todd Garrett, Trustee for the CCSD school board said, “I’m ready to pull the plug” on Burke High School. He said after Burke’s class of 2019 graduation, he looked into their academic statistics.

“You’ve got this proud class celebrating their 50th anniversary there sitting behind the students, and then once I realized that only one was graduating college-ready even though 20 had gotten life scholarships from the state, all these others weren’t ready to go to college,” Garrett said.

According to Garrett, only one of 60 graduating seniors at Burke were deemed academically college-ready. That means they scored a 20 or higher on the college admission’s American College Test (ACT). He also provided other statistics on C/O 19:

  • The average ACT score was a 13.7
  • 19 of 60 were career-ready with silver or better on WIN certificates/equivalent of work keys
  • Only one scored a Gold level which what someone would need to get a job at Boeing
  • The average reading level was a fourth or fifth-grade level

In 2006 and 2012, the State took over the fate of Burke. In both instances, CCSD promised improved progress.

“They brought in more money, AP class, new grant money/programs and said it would turn around,” Garrett said. However, he said those were broken promises and believes the system and the district has failed these students.

“We’re lying to ourselves to look back at 06 and say, oh yeah, and look back at 12 and say that worked because it didn’t,” Garrett said. “I’ve watched this for 13 years now and I’m not convinced the district can do anything”

Garrett said in 2006, Burke’s graduating seniors were in Kindergarten. He said since then, the district has spent $320,000 on educating each student ($222,000 on salaries and $98,000 on building expenses per student over 14 years), or $19.2 million. “Or $25 million if you include the 16 who dropped out before graduation,” Garrett said.

When News 2 asked what Garrett meant by saying he’s ready to pull the plug he said, “What I meant by that is there’s no plan to close Burke.”

Burke HS alumna and parents, Christine Washington, is upset at Garrett’s comments and actions.

“Are you really plugged into Burke High School to even want to pull the plug?” Washington asked. “Everyone talks a good game but when it’s time to put up we don’t see it. It always seems like the ball is dropped when it comes to predominately black schools.”

Garrett said CCSD often fails black students.

“We’re not doing something right,” Garrett said. “CCSD does not do a good job by our African American students particularly our poorest so I don’t know that closing it would achieve any.”

Garrett’s new proposal to help Burke is to bring in third party providers to come and turn the school around by working with CCSD. He thinks, at this point, the district can no longer help.

Washington thinks Garrett and the school board believes money will fix these problems, but she thinks otherwise.

“They’ll spend the money to do the job they are supposed to do,” Washington said. “They need to come up with a plan and become involved in the school, create a relationship with the teachers, administrators and the students.”

Garrett said he is hoping for change and looking into all options. Washington said she will continue fighting to make sure her school remains standing.

“This is home,” Washington said. “This is bulldog nation and we are going to defend it at all costs.”

Garrett said at this point he will do anything to help.

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