School board decides not to push for Sullivan's Island referendum 

Hursey Elementary parents concerned about Montessori plans

After much ado and public outrage, the Charleston County School District board of trustees rejected a proposal to request public input on the construction of the new Sullivan's Island Elementary School Monday night.

Many island residents have been up in arms over the large size and beachfront location of the new school, which is planned to accommodate 500 students. If the proposal had passed Monday night, the school district would have asked the Town of Sullivan's Island to take a referendum on the plans for the new building. Of the 36 people who signed up to speak during the public-input session at the meeting, 23 were there to speak either for or against the proposal. In the end, six members of the nine-person board shot down the proposal, overriding the Yes votes of council members Elizabeth Kandrac, Elizabeth Moffly, and Brian Thomas.

The meeting got off to a late start after the number of audience members exceeded the room's 200-person capacity. Some in the crowd were there to receive special recognition from the school board (including Belle Hall Elementary School teacher Christy Crawford, who helped raise money for the family of a student undergoing treatment for a brain tumor), and a school district official asked members of the general public to stand in the lobby during the recognition phase of the meeting. There was some grumbling as people filed out the back door, and a few shouted, "Why?"

Other major issues that arose during the public-input session included a request to reinstate Garrett Academy of Technology band director Jarrard Coleman, who students and parents said had been fired unfairly, and a push to restore teachers' annual salary increases, which have been put on hold for the past two academic years. Several parents also expressed concern that Malcolm C. Hursey Elementary School, which serves dual purposes as a Montessori magnet school and a regular neighborhood school, was being transformed into a strictly Montessori school. Parents have heard that only Montessori applicants are being accepted at the school, and they said at the meeting that they had not been informed or consulted about the decision to move away from the school's traditional curriculum.

School board member the Rev. Chris Collins, who has two children attending Hursey — one in the Montessori program, one not — says he understands the parents' concerns and will be looking into the issue.

"It could be by mistake or by negligence, so we want to get to the bottom of it," Collins said after the meeting. "My concern is that we keep it open for both schools."


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