by Susan Gilcher, MS Ed.

UPDATED: February 21, 2005

[Publisher’s Note: Susan Gilcher published this article over three years ago. She recently wrote to us with this update:

I have a sense of humility when it comes to assessing my own perfection, or lack thereof. Following my departure from Stratford High School in Goose Creek, I experienced a great deal of reflection about what had really taken place down there, and why had my attempts to relocate permanently to that state failed as a result of what seemed to me, to be bizarre circumstances. I wanted to blame myself, and improve myself, but just couldn’t put my finger on anything tangible. Of course I wasn’t perfect, but what had I done that caused me such personal consequences?

One morning during the week of November 5, 2003, as I was having my coffee before going to work and watching a national news broadcast, there it was – the video taken at Stratford High School. On national news – a bizarre incident at a public high school.

(See The Great Goose Creek Raid, Austin Chronicle; December 19, 2003 by Jordan Smith and others such as Pre-emptive strike hits high schools “What was good for Iraq is great for kids at Stratford High” by Bob Barr as published in Creative Loafing Thursday, November 20, 2003 at 9:00 AM )

I can’t really explain why, but after laughing out loud I felt vindicated. It all made sense – I had not been losing my mind or fooling myself – that was an unusual and dangerous place. Dangerous in the sense that level-headedness and common decency were really not part of the administrative agenda.

I recalled the day that a District level administrator said to me “Well, someone has to fail their evaluation, otherwise the data would not be credible.” I recalled another day when a student walked into my classroom as the session began, walked up to a student already seated, punched him in the side of the head and then sat down. I called the administration, who came to my room and left without assigning any action against the offender. You see, he was a star football player and, well, that’s just the way it is.

I’m very happy teaching again in New York. I work with decent, level-headed people who respect others. I’m sorry that there are places in our nation where decency and level-headedness are giving way to the social pressures of our time. However, people should realize that there are places in our nation where decency and level-headedness have not yet arrived.

Susan Gilcher’s original article appears below:]

October 1, 2001

South Carolina schools are in the bottom of the ranking for one simple reason: They are administered by highly paid individuals who make decisions which affect many people for better or for worse. Responsibility and salaries are not spread out among the many people who are responsible for the teaching of children on a daily basis.

Let Freedom Ring
A teacher in South Carolina has no freedom to take a risk and actually get something done. If ever an innovative idea comes to a teacher inside a school, they must be certain to channel it through administrators who are so busy with sports and other matters that they simply table everything. Sometimes the buck gets passed and nothing gets done. Teachers are not empowered to innovate and teach in any way. The schools are too large, cold and too much like penal institutions and anyone occupying the top position MUST rely on the competence of support staff, but the quality of those people is poor because they are in their positions through the grace of POLITICS, not because they necessarily want to be. They are well paid relatives of someone already in the system, or there for racial balancing reasons! They care about no-one but themselves, least of all students or the teachers who rely on their competence but receive daily rations of incompetence. In any given week at Stratford High School last year, at least one administrative memo in my mailbox was superceded due to errors. If the people of South Carolina want to truly investigate something, look into what happens to a teacher who makes an error of any kind. They will see that teachers are the scapegoat of administrative errors and incompetence. NO WONDER THERE IS A TEACHER SHORTAGE… IT IS SELF-GENERATED.

New people enter the ranks of administration and they push their weight, agenda, issues of racism, issues of personal preference, whatever they can get away with. It has everything to do with their image and absolutely nothing to do with TEACHING KIDS!!!!!

Gossip & Slander
The people with the greatest knack for gossip and slander get their way whenever they are so inclined. This reflects a basic lack of quality control and accountability within the system at all levels. When a new teacher is evaluated in the South Carolina system, no-one ever considers whether or not the students they taught really learned anything. If there is some reason to not like a person, however personal and unique to the existing administration, then they will get rid of that person. It has absolutely nothing to do with the education of children. This is a check/balance that is missing in the system.

There is a law, Public Law 59, which states that one District cannot interfere with the ability of a teacher to get a job in another District. However, things are so out of hand that this happens routinely according to the lawyer I consulted before leaving South Carolina. It happened to me. To this day I have no idea who, why or what really caused the problems I had in the South Carolina system. I was a successful teacher for 7 years before South Carolina, I am a successful teacher now in NY, and earning 41% more.

The South Carolina School System is a political playground, not an educational system. How could they possibly rank higher in terms of education? Many in the system are not educators, although many teachers I met truly want to be. They never will be without educational leadership.

Administrators in South Carolina “stick together, protect each other, and don’t care about anyone else”. They are paid very well for this.

I am speaking from recent experience as a teacher in South Carolina. While folks are pretending to be so good and God-fearing, they are turning their backs on anyone and everyone who needs assistance within that school system. They do it because it is the traditional and predominant cultural norm.

Oh, by the way, people down there call a northerner like myself a “Damn Yankee.” Aren’t we all AMERICANS?

And many South Carolinians wonder about those rankings… what a laugh!