Year in Review: Schools
The Dorchester School District 2 enjoyed another interesting and successful year in 2012. Schools, students, teachers and staff across the district received recognition at local, state, and national levels for a variety of accomplishments.
In January, 12-year-old Cassidy Etue, a sixth grader at River Oaks Elementary School, won the 2011-2012 DD2 district-wide spelling bee, an annual contest that pits the best spellers from all the elementary and middle schools in the district.
Also in January, W8 2 Txt, a statewide campaign initiative to educate high school students about the dangers of texting and driving kicked off at Summerville High School. In February, area elementary schools received a visit from a favorite author, Tim Smith, known to his legions of young fans as “Buck Wilder.” Smith, the creator of the wildly popular children’s nature adventure series featuring outdoorsman Buck Wilder, said his mission is to help people -- kids and adults alike -- unlock their imaginations, try new things, and above all, not be afraid to make mistakes.
In February, Alston Middle School celebrated Black History month and Gullah Culture with its annual Umoja Night, a special evening of art, song and story. The event featured a number of student performances as well as presentations from a number of area artists.
In March, DD2 made William R. (Randy) Eads Director of Personnel and Elena Furnari Assistant Director of Personnel. Also in March, Beech Hill Elementary School held its annual “Tied to Brightness” ceremony, a special event the school does does every year to connect with and celebrate the accomplishments of its fifth grade boys. The event consists of a father/son breakfast during which each boy receives a necktie; his father or a male mentor then helps him put on the tie. The receiving of the necktie marks a symbolic benchmark in his life as he moves closer to becoming a young man.
The school holds a similar event, known as “Strands on the Beech,” in May for the 5th grade girls.
Another important milestone for Beech Hill Elementary School occurred in March when the school earned the prestigious title of 2012 Palmetto's Finest School. From among nine finalists, four schools – one high school, one middle school, and two elementary schools -- received this award as being among the best schools in the state.
In April, some 160 bus drivers and monitors employed with Durham School Services, the private corporation that operates the DD2 school bus services, voted to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters labor union. Also in April, DD2’s Science Technology Engineering Mathematics(STEM)programs held a special awareness/fundraising event that raised more than $45,000 for DD2 STEM programs.
In May, Kelley Wanish was chosen as Dorchester School District 2’s 2012 Teacher of the Year. Also, Ashley Ridge, Fort Dorchester, and Summerville High Schools held graduation exercises May 26. Ashley Ridge High School’s class of 2012, some 405 students strong, was the first graduating class to attend all four years at the school.
The summer months saw important events occur in DD2 even as teachers and students took a much looked forward to summer break. The district announced salary increases for all employees in June. In August, the board officially filed its bond referendum question for the November election asking the public to approve a $179 million bond referendum for capital improvements. The district would also receive a major helping hand from Yes4Schools, a grassroots citizens group that would be instrumental in getting the referendum passed.
In October, the district recognized 22 teachers from 11 schools who wrote and administered a total of $187,655 in Arts Innovation Grants.
DD2 earned an absolute rating of “Excellent” on the 2012 state report card. Out of the state’s 84 districts, only 27 districts earned an absolute rating of “Excellent,” and DD2 was the only Lowcountry district to receive this top rating. Seventeen of the district’s 21 schools earned an absolute rating of “Excellent” and the other four schools had a rating of “Good.” None of the district schools went down in their absolute ratings 2011. In addition, 16 of the 21 schools earned an “Excellent” in both the absolute and in growth ratings; all three high schools earned “Excellent” in both the absolute and the growth ratings; Rollings Middle School of the Arts ranked third among the state middle schools in the absolute rating index; Rollings ranked sixth and Oakbrook Middle School ranked fifteenth among the state middle schools in the growth ratings; and all but one school increased their absolute indexes. DD2’s overall graduation rate was 76.5, an increase of 2.1 percentage points over 2011.
Also in November, an event during Beech Hill Elementary’s Cultural Arts Week went nationwide. Everyone in the school – students, teachers, staff all wearing various colors – assembled outside to form the shape of a lighthouse, visible as such only from high atop a crane. The event was part of an initiative put together by Daniel Dancer, a conceptual artist from Oregon, and would air on the television show “Good Morning, America.” Rounding out the year, Flowertown Elementary School learned in December that it was one of four elementary schools and one high school nominated in December to be a National Blue Ribbon School. The blue ribbon program recognizes schools that are academically superior or demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement.