James Simons Montessori Opposition to CCSD's 1/10/22 CCF Reimagine School Proposal vote

James Simons Montessori Opposition to CCSD's 1/10/22 CCF Reimagine School Proposal vote

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Petition to
Charleston County School District

Why this petition matters

Started by Katie Monoc

Dear CCSD School Board Members-

We write to strongly urge you to delay tomorrow’s vote on the CCF Reimagine Schools proposal until the James Simons Montessori school leadership and School Improvement Council (SIC) have a chance to meet with CCF and CCSD leaders.  Voting without having done so seems to be in contravention of your duties pursuant to South Carolina Code Section 59-20-60(7)(a)(“Each school district board of trustees shall review each school improvement plan and the annual updates for integration with district plans and objectives and school progress in meeting those goals and objectives.”)   As written, the proposal reflects an apparent misunderstanding as to the nature of our school and the efficacy of the leadership in place.  Significantly, existing James Simons leadership and our SIC are focused and working on closing the achievement gap caused by racial and socioeconomic disparities.  In light of this, we are very concerned that the proposal submitted to the school board—on an expeditious motion requiring a vote tomorrow (Monday, 1/10/22)—is being seriously considered for passage with little to no input from our school community.  Beyond the misapprehension projected onto our school, the proposal is vague and provides little detail as to what this transformation would mean for James Simons Montessori, which is unique among other D20 schools for the reasons outlined below.  If the vote is not delayed, we ask that you amend the proposal to exempt James Simons Montessori from the affected schools in this proposal.

At the outset, we are concerned the proposal as written could fundamentally change the nature of our school and affect our kids and community – it overlooks important features of James Simons, a 3K-8th grade Montessori school, and it appears to be underinformed with respect to our thriving community.  Very basically, James Simons—which is not a failing school—should remain a Montessori focus school.  Our children are treated as individuals and can succeed in this environment.  The proposal as written threatens the school’s Montessori culture, specifically the Montessori method implemented at our school, and this possibility is heartbreaking for us.  Some of us parents were Montessori kids ourselves; some of us have been converted to Montessori evangelists; most of our kids know nothing else. Reverting to a traditional model at this juncture could have negative consequences on their development, an outcome that perhaps has not been considered.  

In addition, the proposal to create a feeder school system in each of the four districts within CCSD ignores the fact that James Simons already houses a middle school and therefore does not feed into another middle school. 

Indeed, if you look at the data, James Simons is on an upward trajectory through the thoughtful involvement of parents and faculty collaboration.  Don't get this wrong:  we as a school community understand the achievement gap and are proactively working to close it.  Our school’s leadership and the SIC currently have a plan in place to address areas we know need improvement.  For example, our primary focus for this semester is to address chronic absenteeism and tardiness in an effort to help improve test scores.  We know that attendance is critical to learning (obviously the pandemic has highlighted that), and we are trying to stress that fact to our school community with data to back it up.  Such efforts are not a magic wand, but common-sense steps toward closing the achievement gap; these can be taken through community efforts and additional funding that likely already exists or could be available through grants that CCF provides.  We welcome additional resources within our existing infrastructure to help us in our ongoing efforts.  For example, a portion of this funding could be used to hire SIC coordinators in each school who could study the issues specific to each school and help develop and implement plans so that parents and principals, who already have enough on their plates, receive professional support toward our intended outcome: equitable achievement for students of all socio-economic backgrounds.  We welcome the opportunity to work with the CCF and/or other organizations to help us in these efforts. We reject the idea, however, that we need to completely rebuild the culture and makeup of the James Simons Montessori school, staff, and faculty. 

The SIC can speak on behalf of James Simons families to say that we collectively have great love and respect for our teachers and staff, with whom have we have built close relationships over the years.  Without data, the proposal permits the possible termination of teachers and staff, denying their right to due process, and the potential for privatization such that CCSD would no longer be their employer. This possibility is both troublesome to us and patently unfair to them, especially in light of their specialized training and the amazing work they have done and continue to do to move the needle for each and every one of our kids.  It should be noted that what you do not see in the data is the daily effort by each of these individuals to improve the emotional well-being of the children as well:  check in/check out, food, clothing, medical and dental assistance, or even just a hug when needed.  Guarantees that the proposed change would not adversely affect the team that works so hard every day for our kids would go a long way toward alleviating our concerns, but it is obviously not the only issue here.  

Finally, we are concerned by the lack of transparency in the process of delivering this proposal and the lack of detail within it, giving us great pause.  While we would like to trust that your intentions are in the right place, history has shown us that throwing money at a problem without a clear plan does not work.  At the very least, we ask you to delay the vote to give us a chance to show you our school, voice our concerns and ask more questions of the CCF to discern whether there is indeed any intent to transform James Simons in terms of administration, privatization, and other particulars murky in the proposal as written.

In conclusion, while we welcome the opportunity to more closely work with you and to collaborate with well-resourced groups such as CCF in our ongoing efforts to close the achievement gap caused by racial and socioeconomic disparities in our community school, the current proposal has been rushed to a vote without any James Simons input and without regard to the particulars of our school.  If the vote is not delayed, we ask that you amend the proposal to exempt James Simons Montessori from the affected schools in this proposal.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Chris Monoc

SIC Chair

James Simons Montessori


Christine Ryan


James Simons Montessori


Stefanya Drazba

Vice Chair

District 20 Constituent School Board


Dominique Godfrey

SIC Member


Kimberly Gleason

SIC Member

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