Understanding the Focus of CPN

Written by Amanda Cote

On February 18, 2011

Part of our objective with this blog is to inform the public about what the Charleston Promise Neighborhood is trying to achieve.  We have chosen Sanders-Clyde, Mary Ford,  James-Simons, and Chicora elementary schools as the initial focal points for our efforts, but our long term vision is to improve the entire 5.6 square mile Promise Neighborhood.  This includes providing supports for not only elementary school children, but those from birth through high school. Our commitment is also to make the schools better for all children residing in the Neighborhood, not just those of a specific demographic, ethnicity or income level.

This commitment is a major difference between The Charleston Promise Neighborhood and the Harlem Children’s Zone or other promise neighborhoods across the country.  While the boundaries of other promise neighborhoods were drawn to almost exclusively focus on high-poverty areas and children from disadvantaged backgrounds, the Charleston Promise Neighborhood is expansive enough to include some higher-income families who also desire a public school education.

The Charleston Promise Neighborhood is committed to improving the schools for all children within its boundaries and seeks to do so by focusing on the elementary schools as an entry point.  Our school-infusion strategy will assess the specific needs of each of our four elementary schools, then leverage resources to bring scalable, high-quality, evidence-based programs to these schools to address these needs.

Some community members have asked where the Charleston Promise Neighborhood stands with regard to the proposed introduction of a Montessori program at James Simons Elementary School.  The possible introduction of a Montessori curriculum at James Simons is a decision that will be made by the Charleston County School District, and the Charleston Promise Neighborhood has not advocated either for or against this decision.  We are aware, however, that children who have been educated in Montessori programs have shown tremendous progress, particularly in the early grades.  Since James Simons is one of the four schools in our designated area of geographical focus, our intent would be to provide whatever additional supports are needed to the neighborhood children enrolled there, regardless of whether the curriculum were to change.

Lastly, our primary commitment is to children who reside in the 5.6 square mile Charleston Promise Neighborhood.  Enrollment data provided by the school district indicates that not all children who reside in the Neighborhood go to school in the Neighborhood, and similarly, that the elementary schools in the Neighborhood serve children who live outside our 5.6 square mile zone.  These logistical challenges do not alter our initial objective to make our four elementary schools among the best in Charleston County, and a model for other schools seeking to improve attendance, test scores and overall quality.  We have chosen the school-infused strategy as an entry point because it allows us the opportunity to benefit the largest number of children in a measurable and systematic way.  As we grow as an organization, we will also seek to directly benefit children and families outside of these four schools with additional programs and services.

We would love to hear from you with any comments, questions or feedback that would help us achieve our near term objective of making Chicora, James Simons, Mary Ford and Chicora elementary schools among the best in Charleston County by 2016.

Dwayne Green