Normally, we add minutes of SCORS meetings in the minutes section of the website. Because of the singular nature of this meeting, we are highlighting what happened on October 12, 2017 at the EdVenture Children’s Museum.
We were honored to have Charles “Bud” Ferillo, producer and director of The Corridor of Shame documentary released in 2007. It took Bud and his team almost two years to complete. There were 14,000 DVDs made and distributed over the next few years including to the legislature.
Bud gave us a short history of the Abbeville equity suit. He brought us up to date about activities that surrounded the case from the beginning. We looked at a short snippet of the Corridor of Shame and a small portion of a documentary done in another state.
A number of questions ensued about the school districts that started the suit, the superintendents that are still around and the changes that have happened since the film was made. The discussion that ensued was whether there should be a follow-up to the documentary. There was unanimous agreement that we do need to show what has happened since 2007.
The discussion focused on how this film could portray the way things are right now. There were three possibilities suggested:
1. Portray how things have deteriorated since 2007.
2. Compare a disadvantaged school district to a wealthy district.
3. Present improvements made in certain districts (facilities) and not in others.
Although the three suggestions were reviewed by those present, there was a feeling that although facilities and other resources were important, there was one issue that that impacts all districts around South Carolina and across the nation. That is the problem of securing teachers for the classroom.
Some of the problems identified are;
1. The inequity of pay, which leads to a bidding war among districts.
2. The wage disparity especially hurts rural school districts.
3. There is also a general paucity of teacher candidates.
4. It appears on the national level that there is a movement toward vouchers and school choice.
5. Because of the shortage of American teachers with appropriate certification, many districts are forced to hire foreign teachers. These teachers, although well versed in their fields and very caring about our students, often do not serve our students well because they do not speak American English and do not understand our culture and the best ways to relate to our students.
6. Although our graduation rates are improving, the poor and rural districts still lag behind those districts with sufficient resources such as the ratio of professional educators to students.
7. Because great deal of a district’s funding comes from local taxation, the economic decline experienced in South Carolina’s rural communities has a negative impact on those districts and their students because their resources are limited.
8. Colleges and universities in South Carolina and across America are not turning out enough teachers to meet the demand.
It was pointed out by a number of attendees that the document released on Sept. 18, 2017 by the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee establishes a rating system where no matter how much a district’s scores improve over time, there will always be “winners” and “losers”. The document calls for the state to accept that 1/3 of SC districts will be rated Excellent, 1/3 will be rated Average and 1/3 will be deemed Below Average or Unsatisfactory.
There was discussion about the importance of getting rural communities, especially our teachers, to vote for the changes that will be needed to be made for poor rural districts to be treated in an equitable way by our legislators. Teachers must become more vocal leaders in the fight for equitable funding.
The meeting came to a close with Bud Ferillo stating that his “heart and soul” is with us and that he is committed to working with SCORS to produce a new documentary portraying the improvements that have taken place since 2007 and the changes that still need to be made, focusing on the need for more great teachers all across the state of South Carolina.
There was a general consensus that a new documentary should be created to focus on the need for great teachers and secondarily on resources. The film would update the situation in rural schools- improvements since 2007 and work that still needs to be done. This would be UNFINISHED BUSINESS.
There was a discussion about SCORS officers. Roger Smith will be our President and Dr. Thelma Sojourner will be our Vice President.
Our next meeting, which will be a planning meeting for the new documentary, will take place in November (date and place TBA).