CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Brace yourselves, Kanawha Countians. According to recent editions of both local newspapers, a mass migration of parents from Alum Creek to the coveted South Hills of Charleston is upon us.
The reason? To solve overcrowding at John Adams Middle and George Washington High schools, the school board is considering a redistricting plan that might relieve some Alum Creek and Ruthlawn students of their enrollment status at GW. They would go instead to South Charleston High School.
"I'm not sending my children to South Charleston," proclaimed one perturbed parent. "I will move. I will sell my home at a loss and I will move to put my children in a home squarely within the [South Hills] district." She further lamented the fate of children whose parents are unable to relocate, indicating that they would be "left behind," presumably forced to eke out a meager existence at SCHS amongst the Vast Un-Rich, who, according to speakers at the board meeting, obviously lack "middle class values" and work ethic.
To these parents, I offer words of encouragement: I know South Charleston High School. South Charleston teenagers are students of mine, and that description, Distraught Parents, is no description of South Charleston High School.
George Washington High School enjoys a fine academic reputation, and as an educator, I applaud GW's successes. But this curious notion that it is the only school at which a student can obtain a quality education is pure mythology. A poorly informed attendee at last week's brouhaha observed, "After we reviewed the curriculum at both John Adams and GW compared to South Charleston schools, it's astonishing to see the difference in education that's offered."
I can only assume that she did not understand what she was comparing. True, GW offers an impressive array of AP courses. However, since 1999, SCHS has been the only authorized International Baccalaureate school in the state. One of the most highly respected and rigorous college-preparatory programs currently available, the International Baccalaureate Program is prized by colleges and universities in the United States and throughout the world. Participating students, like AP students, may receive college credit for their high school coursework. (In fact, one of last year's South Charleston's IB graduates received 34 credits, the equivalent of a year's worth of college credits.) Students who participate in the full IB program sit for the equivalent of six AP exams, and the work of all IB students is compared, not just to that of other high-achieving American students, but to the work of outstanding students worldwide.
Currently, more than 60 SCHS juniors and seniors are participating in this two-year program (with as many enrolled in the ninth and 10th grade pre-IB offerings). In addition to the plethora of IB courses, we offer a variety of other quality programs for students of diverse interests and abilities. A sub-par education? Balderdash.
As perplexing as the bogus claim concerning academic inferiority is the other highly offensive and wholly unsubstantiated criticism, that SCHS students lack "middle class values" simply because they may not be as wealthy as many of their GW counterparts. Piffle. Values, it seems to me, are a reflection of the state of one's character, not the size of one's bank account. And surely one sign of character is having the decency not to publicly malign terrific, hardworking teenagers in order to further one's own personal agenda.
SCHS students felt personally insulted, and they deserve an apology.
Students, rich or otherwise, who may wish to learn more about the SCHS IB Program are invited to visit our website. And should they wish to move into our attendance area to simplify the morning commute, I might know where their parents can purchase a house at a great price.
Booten is coordinator of the International Baccalaureate program at South Charleston High School.