A state-operated school for at-risk teens has lost its accreditation after South Carolina’s education agency said “widespread and persistent” issues caused an “underservice” to its students.
The John de la Howe School (JDLH) in McCormick has spent the past school year on probation after a 2014 audit found problems at the school due to its high cost per student and questions about whether it was accomplishing its education mission. The decision to deny JDLH’s accreditation was revealed at a state Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.
Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said the school has had “widespread and persistent” issues.
“There is a concern that the mission of the school and its students are not being served,” she said during Tuesday’s meeting. “They are not being served to the extent that they deserved. And it is for that reason only that we have come to this decision that accreditation should be denied.”
A 2013 Inspector General’s audit found it spent more than $87,000 per student with no assessments as to whether its education was successfully helping those at-risk teens. That cost has since grown to more than $92,000 per student, according to the state Education Oversight Committee. School leaders dispute those numbers, noting their students tend to transfer in and out at a higher rate than traditional schools.
President Danny Webb says the school is at a huge disadvantage compared to traditional schools. “For John de la Howe to lose its accreditation and not be able to continue to serve a population of students that have fallen through the cracks within the traditional school setting is discouraging and unfair to the population of students and the families that we serve from across the state of South Carolina,” he said.
Webb said the school plans to meet with staff from the Department of Education as they move forward.