Brentwood Breaks Through

Story by Jen Jordan / August 15, 2016

Meeting Street Elementary at Brentwood Pre K teacher Ali Sevey (right) works with students (from left) Damien Lemacks Tyler Rhodes and Nikko Grant on their reading Wednesday, February 3, 2016. (Brad Nettles/Staff) 2/3/16

What is Charleston’s greatest challenge today?

Certainly at the top of the list would be our struggle to provide better educational opportunity to under-resourced kids and families. The alarming statistics show that only one in five low-income fourth grade students is proficient in reading, and over half of public school students are considered low-income by federal guidelines. In fact, among under-resourced Charleston County School District students who made it to their junior year in high school last year, less than 10 percent met college-ready benchmarks.

But the CCSD does have some reason to be optimistic. One CCSD school now ranks as one of the top elementary schools in the nation based on a testing regime that is used for 10 million students in over 20,000 schools across the country. Based on this school’s kindergarten reading scores, it ranks in the 95th percentile nationwide; and based on its first and second grade reading scores, it ranks in the 92nd and 78th percentile nationwide, respectively.

Which school would you guess this is? A magnet school? A school located in an affluent area such as Mount Pleasant or Sullivan’s Island?

How about this answer: It’s a public neighborhood elementary school located right in the heart of North Charleston’s Dorchester Road corridor, where 90 percent of students qualify for free and reduced price lunch. It’s a school called Meeting Street Elementary at Brentwood (MSE@B), which currently serves almost 500 students in PreK3 through 3rd grade. Shocking, right? In comparison, similar North Charleston area schools rank below the 25th percentile nationally. And how about this: For kids who have been at MSE@B for its full two years of operations thus far, average reading scores have risen from the 30th percentile to the 78th percentile. Wow!

Not surprisingly, MSE@B’s parent community has responded to these results with resounding enthusiasm, pleading for more such schools to be made available to their children.

But what about the education community? How have they responded? Are they rallying around the school? Celebrating its success? Asking how these results can be achieved in every school?

Amazingly, not across the board. While the superintendent, her staff and many principals have come out in strong support of Meeting Street, a vocal group on the fringes of the education community simply can’t stop trying to poke holes in this incredible story.

They only seem interested in protecting the status quo; in worrying about adults first as opposed to what’s best for kids. They complain that the school is “a new kind of public/private partnership with Meeting Street Schools,” grumbling that “the principal can fire poorly performing teachers at will,” and that “the administrators have too much autonomy.” This reaction is akin to criticizing Einstein, after he developed the theory of relativity, for not returning his research books to the library on time.

Our community has suffered for too long from a legacy of schools that fail to prepare our under-resourced children for success. Now it is time to stand up and say, “It is possible to do so much better. It’s happening right here in one of our own schools.” Now that we have a “proof point,” it is time to start thinking about questions such as:

How can we replicate MSE@B’s results at other schools? Can we afford the extra cost of approximately $3,000 per year to pay for what’s needed, such as starting students at three years of age, providing an extended school day and an extended school year, and staffing every classroom with two highly qualified teachers? And in addition to spending the extra dollars, how can we create the culture of excellence in our schools that doesn’t exist today but is required to achieve these results?

These obstacles can be overcome, but it won’t be easy. The very good news is that we know it’s possible.

It’s already being done!

Benjamin Navarro is the founder and CEO of Charleston-based Sherman Financial Group and the founder of non-profit Meeting Street Schools.

Benjamin Navarro

Post and Courier


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About Meeting Street Schools

Meeting Street Schools (MSS) is an innovative non-profit where schools, families, and the community collaborate to create environments where all children can achieve their full potential. With a network of schools across South Carolina, including MSA-Charleston (Charleston, SC), MSA-Spartanburg (Spartanburg, SC), MS-Brentwood (North Charleston, SC), MS-Burns (North Charleston, SC), and MS-Jasper & Beaufort (Jasper, SC), we are committed to providing students with the rigorous education they deserve.

Founded on the principle that every child deserves an excellent education regardless of their socio-economic background, Meeting Street Schools has been a beacon of hope and a testament to what's possible in education. Our schools are driven by a strong focus on student achievement, evidence-based instruction, and relentless support of our students and their families.

While united by our shared mission, each MSS campus, is unique in its character, tapping into the local spirit of the communities they serve. Explore each of our schools and discover how they're creating a brighter future for students in South Carolina.

News & NotesFrom Clemson University to Master Teacher and Player Coach: Emily Godwin

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Our Schools

MSA – CharlestonDowntown Charleston, SC - Independent School - Since 2008 - 364 Students

Nestled in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, MSA Charleston is more than just a school—it’s a hub for innovative learning and community engagement. As part of the Meeting Street Schools network, MSA Charleston embodies a commitment to excellence through its rigorous academic programs, inclusive culture, and focus on developing the whole child. With a curriculum that emphasizes both academic and personal growth, MSA Charleston prepares students to be curious learners and active citizens of their community.

MSA – SpartanburgDowntown Spartanburg, SC - Public School - Since 2012 - 323 Students

MSA Spartanburg stands as a pillar of educational innovation in the Spartanburg community. The school’s dedicated educators and supportive learning environment ensure that each child receives a high-quality, personalized education with exceptional faculty and teachers. MSA Spartanburg is distinguished by its emphasis on community partnership, fostering relationships that extend beyond the classroom to build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.

MS – BrentwoodNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2014 - 694 Students

MS Brentwood is a place where education meets opportunity. Serving the Brentwood area, this school is a testament to the transformative power of education. With a student-centered approach that celebrates diversity and encourages excellence, MS Brentwood is dedicated to equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. MS Brentwood also serves as a hub for the Brentwood community to access educational and wellness services. The school’s commitment to innovation, coupled with a warm, welcoming environment, makes it a standout in the MSS network.

MS – BurnsNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2018 - 478 Students

Located in a community rich with history and culture, MS Burns is renowned for its dynamic educational approach that intertwines traditional learning with modern teaching techniques. The school’s focus on experiential learning ensures that students at MS Burns are not only recipients of knowledge but also active participants in their educational journey. MS Burns exists to spark an educational revolution for the students and families in the Dorchester-Waylyn Neighborhood in North Charleston. With a commitment to creating a supportive and challenging academic environment, MS Burns is forging a new path in public education.

MS – Jasper & BeaufortJasper County, SC - Public Charter School - Fall 2023 -

MS Jasper represents the Meeting Street Schools’ dedication to community-based education with a global perspective. The school provides a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to explore their potential and cultivate a love for learning. With its diverse programs such as Eureka Math, and Wit and Wisdom, MS Jasper puts a major emphasis on character development, specialized learning and equips students to become thoughtful, engaged members of society, reflecting the MSS ethos of empowerment through education.


  • 1/3

“MSA is a family. Once you’re in, you’re in. They said they would follow our kids from K-3 to college and they actually lived up to what they said they would do. Not only did MSA challenge my daughter academically but it also exposed her to new things that she probably wouldn’t have been exposed to at our previous neighborhood school. Our journey at MSA was exciting and rewarding. They actually walk the walk.”

— Tyeka GrantParent

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“Meeting Street Academy is my family. They taught me that I am valuable. I am an asset to the world…They asked me, ‘What is your dream?’ I had never been asked that before. The MSS community gives me the strength to pursue my dreams.”

— Kadelyn SteedStudent

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“We come into work everyday truly believing that our students are capable of achieving anything that is put in front of them. Here at MSS, students are provided the opportunity to achieve success through the facilitation of well-educated teachers, resources, and a responsive classroom school environment.”

— NikToshia GilesTeacher