Haley, Riley cut ribbon on new Charleston school

(Dave MacQueen/WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Gov. Nikki Haley and state Education Superintendent Mick Zais joined Charleston Mayor Joe Riley as he cut the ribbon on a new building housing a private school in Charleston for low income families.

Haley says the Meeting Street Academy can be a model for schools across South Carolina.

"If we could get every single school in South Carolina to work like Meeting Street Academy, we would be in a much different situation when it comes to education," she said.

The academy was founded in 2008. It aims to help provide a first-class, college preparatory education for families who care about education but can't afford traditional private schools.

"They do things creatively," Haley explained. "They teach every child individually so they don't treat all children the same. They teach them separately. They focus on math and reading which is what really counts and there's parental involvement. They have parent meetings. They have parents that are required to read with their children at night. There's commitment not just from the students but commitment from the parents and we all know for education to be successful for a child the family has to be a part of it."

The academy is supported largely by donations and contributions. It charges students a token tuition. In return, parents or family members promise to help the children with their school work and stay involved in the school.

"This is what happens to education when beaurocracy's not a part of it. This is what happens to education when administrations don't take over the funding," said Gov. Haley. "This is what happens to education when it's about the child and reading and math and the parent's involvement as opposed to the way we have it now. And this should be the goal for South Carolina."

Superintendent Mick Zais says the academy shows that low-income children can learn in the right environment.

"Poor kids can learn and poverty is not an excuse," said Zais. "We have high-poverty schools across this state that are knocking it out of the ballpark and doing very well. And they are demographically, geographically and financially identical to some schools in our state that are high-poverty that are failing miserably. The difference between high-poverty schools that are doing well and those that are failing is not the students nor is it the parents. The difference has been the competence of the adults in the system."

Gov. Nikki Haley called Mayor Joe Riley a "rock star" when it came to working out the logistics and thanked him for his hard work. Riley said the methods used at the academy can be a model for public schools.

*The AP contributed to this report