On Friday afternoon (March 30, 2012) at 2 PM at Scotts Branch High School, we had a very productive meeting with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Those attending were Secretary Duncan, Congressman Jim Clyburn, former Secretary and Governor Dick Riley, Superintendent Mick Zais, Superintendents - Rose Wilder, John Tindal, Betty Bagley, Frank Morgan, Cynthia Cash-Greene, Leila Williams, Congressional and USDE Staff members, Debbie Elmore from The SC School Boards Association, Betsy Carpentier and Molly Spearman from SCASA. Dr. Zais was invited into the meeting by Secretary Duncan and Congressman Clyburn. He heard the concerns and participated in the entire discussion. We had a very frank, open, and what seemed to be a very productive meeting.
We asked that Secretary Duncan consider 1)granting South Carolina an immediate freeze on the 2014 AYP goals 2)review and present to reviewers our concerns as listed in the letter sent from the Executive Committee and supported by all superintendents, SCSBA, and SCEA 3)request that the waiver be sent back with instructions for collaboration with local districts and inclusion of the recommendations from superintendents and that it be resubmitted in September, or 4) if this is not possible, deny the waiver and allow local districts to apply for waivers.
During the discussion, we detailed reasons for our concerns, particularly the A- F labeling, and the lack of answers to many questions and the uncertainty of how the new system would impact districts. We agreed with Dr. Zais that many meetings were held to gather input; however, we felt that the waiver request was predetermined and little, if any change had been made as a result of input. We showed reasons that we felt the waiver would be more punitive than NCLB and that many of the goals were not achievable. Secretary Duncan was very attentive and explained that the waiver would go through the established review process and that he would take our concerns back to staff.
Shortly after we finished, Dr. Zais requested an impromptu meeting with those of us remaining. Again, we had a very productive and open conversation and the final discussion ended at 4:30 p.m. I think we all left feeling optimistic.
Shortly afterwards, a press release was sent out by the South Carolina Department of Education Press Office which had a very negative tone towards Congressman Clyburn and all of us. I am including the press release from the department, as well as the news article from the Sumter Item (see both below)... We will continue to be optimistic and work for the best of students in South Carolina and we tremendously appreciate Congressman Clyburn setting up the meeting for us, for Dr. Wilder hosting us in her beautiful school, for the time everyone gave to make this a productive meeting and for the unified support our colleagues across the state have given this effort.
Molly Spearman from SCASA
Subject: ***STATEMENT BY SC STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION MICK ZAIS***
Statement from State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais
Today South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais issued the following statement after attending an event at Scott’s Branch High School in Summerton, South Carolina where U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a public appearance.
After the event a secret meeting, organized by South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn and the South Carolina School Administrators Association, was held to lobby Secretary Duncan against South Carolina’s request for flexibility from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, commonly called the NCLB waiver. Others in attendance included former U.S. Secretary of Education and former South Carolina Governor Richard W. Riley, SCASA Executive Director Molly Spearman, and several hand-picked South Carolina district superintendents. Dr. Zais walked into the secret meeting, which he was not invited to attend, addressed the attendees and answered their questions. Dr. Zais issued the following statement after the secret meeting.
Dr. Zais said, “The South Carolina Department of Education set an unprecedented level of transparency and public engagement during the NCLB wavier process. The public comment period began on December 16, 2011 and lasted until February 1, 2012, and we received and reviewed approximately 1,100 public comments. We held 22 public meetings including a statewide virtual meeting throughout the state. However, Congressman Clyburn did not attend any of these community stakeholder meetings and few district superintendents did as well.”
Zais continued, “Rather than engaging the public in the sunshine, the education establishment is trying to cloak its activities in secret. This goes against the transparency Secretary Duncan has required as part of the waiver process. I hope he will reject today’s political stunt by Congressman Clyburn and the education establishment, and give South Carolina’s NCLB waiver a fair review.”
Leaders, Zais spar over waiver