Roaming Around

​​​​​​SOUTH CAROLINA ORGANIZATION OF RURAL SCHOOLS

 

ROAMING AROUND JUNE 26, 2018 


Dr. Randall Gary, superintendent of Lexington 3 School District is overflowing with pride and enthusiasm. He has been in the District for 5 years- 2 as assistant superintendent and the last 3 as the superintendent.

He is grateful for a good board, “They understand their role and how important it is that we work well together,” he told us. He is also grateful for his staff and for the fact that they join him in being anxious to provide lots of opportunities for students.

Lexington 3 is partnering with Lexington County First Steps program in providing BOOST (Beginning Opportunities Offered for School Transition). Families with preschoolers meet weekly to discover and practice the Montessori method of learning and practice those methods at home with parents as teachers.  

Lexington 3 partners with Saluda County to train young firefighters who might start as local volunteers and continue on as fully paid firefighters in more urban areas.

CATE students built a house for a local man who paid for the materials plus 5% to help fund the program.
 
Because of their block scheduling, students can graduate from high school with an academic degree and a CATE certificate. Dual enrollment opportunities allow students to graduate with an academic degree and an associate’s degree from Midlands Technical College.

 The STEAM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics gives students hands-on opportunities to explore all these fields.

Elementary school students who started being taught to provide news and weather reports to their fellow students, are now participating in their School of Journalism, and are spreading the word about how to prepare healthy snacks that don’t require any cooking.

 We toured their Summer Reading Camp as well as their pre-K summer program and met Ms. Angie Mishoe, who runs those programs, and is soon to become an assistant elementary school principal in the district.

 Dr. Gary went on to talk about their successful athletic programs, the Palmetto Finest Award won by Batesville-Leesburg Elementary School, and handed us a 6 page, glossy, full color brochure that informs the community about the district. “I believe in letting the community understand what we are doing ” he tells us and in the 2 ½ hours we spent with him,  he did just that.


ROAMING AROUND JUNE 25, 2018

What a pleasure it is to walk into a school district where nobody knows you and find a very warm welcome! As we travel around South Carolina, visiting school districts, we meet the nicest and most caring people.

Calhoun County School District, where Dr. Steve Wilson has been superintendent for nine years, is just such a place. Wilson has worked hard to make the district, staff, and community into a cooperative family. Certainly, there are outliers in every family, we have a few. When Dr. Wilson started as superintendent, the school was just about to go into a reaccreditation review.  The process was going to be one building at a time.  Dr. Wilson prevailed upon the state to do the review as a complete district, a single entity. This move on the superintendent’s part set the district off in a new direction, where the entire district worked together.

Wilson said that “teaching and learning” is what Calhoun is all about. He is proud of their 1:1 program because every one of his students has a computer. The district introduced that technology by giving the teachers computers six months before the students received them. This allowed the teachers to become comfortable with the technology before the students began to use it. Calhoun manages to pay its teachers 7% above the state salary schedule, but Dr. Wilson knows that is not the only reason why teachers stay. That’s why he believes that “You hire good people and get out of their way. Let them use the good skills you hired them for.”

Of course, like other rural school districts, Calhoun has its challenges. When it comes to maintaining and repairing three school buildings (two k-8 and one high school) they make use of the services of SCAGO (South Carolina Association of Government Organizations). This group contains governmental units and school districts. The interest rates for borrowing are lower than traditional rates and these funds are used to keep buildings in shape.

Not only did we have an opportunity to spend time with Dr. Wilson, but Ms. Christine Murdaugh, their Chief Academic Officer, was gracious enough to give us her time and attention. Over lunch she told us about the Summer Reading Program where 127 students were being helped with basic skills. Murdaugh had purchased bags of books, including a journal, for each student so they can start their own “home library.” Because teaching and learning is their number one goal, the district will pay for all 127 students to visit the Discover y Place in Charlotte, NC and to have lunch at the museum.

Again, teaching and learning are put into action when the Calhoun School District covers each student’s whole tuition at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College. The dual enrollment program makes it possible for a student to graduate with 32 college credits.

If you “follow the money,” it become apparent that the school board, administration and staff use prioritizing and creative problem solving to make their goal of teaching and learning come alive.Finally, Dr. Wilson recommended that we all read the book, “Tailspin,” by Steven Brill about the past 50 years and how we come to be the way we are. We intend to read it. We also suggested a book to Dr. Wilson, “Deer Hunting with Jesus” by Joe Bageant. It explains how and why rural people live their lives the way they do.