Ashley Ridge High, Fort Dorchester Elementary named Palmetto's Finest

  • Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fort Dorchester Elementary School Principal Harolyn Hess, center, and the large crowd gathered in the multi-purpose room reacts to the news that FDES won a Palmetto's Finest award. JIM TATUM/JOURNAL SCENE

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It's official: Ashley Ridge High School and Fort Dorchester Elementary School are the best elementary and high school in the state.
The South Carolina Association of School Administrators named the two Dorchester School District 2 schools as Palmetto's Finest winners during a ceremony streamed live via SC ETV Monday.
Students, parents, faculty, staff, and community members gathered in both schools Monday for the announcements. FDES was one of three elementary school finalists; ARHS was the only high school finalist for this year's coveted awards.
As the announcement was read via live streaming video on SC ETV, the entire multi-purpose room of Fort Dorchester Elementary School, filled to near capacity with students, faculty, DD2 school board members, parents and members of the community erupted in cacophonous, enthusiastic celebration.
“I accept this award on behalf of the students, the teachers and staff, the parents, business partners, community members – everybody in the Fort Dorchester Elementary School family,” FDES Principal Harolyn Hess said to the gathered. “It's all about you – you are the real deal. This is our school, ours, together and I'm so proud of all of you.”
Karen Radcliffe, principal of Ashley Ridge High School had high praise for students, teachers, and staff as well.
“We are very excited to be able to represent Dorchester 2 in this,” Radcliffe said. “It's been a dream of ours to be considered one of the top schools in the state. Most important, it's another feather in the cap of our students and our staff – they are all just awesome.”
She noted that much of Ashley Ridge's success has to do with getting everyone on board to work together to achieve this goal.
“At the high school level, it really is about relationships, and trust,” she said. “It's all about knowing our kids. We have to know how far we can push them for success, and they have to know and understand our expectations.”
Each spring since 1978, South Carolina Association of School Administrators has recognized a few select schools that offer excellent instruction and outstanding leaders, augmented by strong family and community involvement and a supportive business community.  
“The Palmetto's Finest award winners represent the many innovative schools in our state,” SCASA Executive Director Molly Spearman said. “They are community centers of learning where students are given personalized instruction and high expectations.”
During the DD2 school board meeting later in the evening, Superintendent Joe Pye shared some insights from the judges regarding both schools.
“Remember, too, they don't usually share comments too much with us,” he said. “But they commented specifically about Fort Dorchester's TAILS (Teamwork, Achievement, Integrity, Leadership, Service) vision – every where they went, they could see what Fort Dorchester Elementary was all about and they were extremely impressed – you just blew away the competition.”
The judges were also very impressed with the level of solid relationships on all levels at Ashley Ridge High; the spirit and level of commitment resonated deeply with the judges, Pye said said.
Ashley Ridge High School became DD2's first Palmetto's Finest winner at the high school level. ARHS and FDES bring the DD2's total to ten Palmetto's Finest winning schools.
Two other Lowcountry schools, Marrington Middle School of the Arts and Hanahan Middle School, were named Palmetto's Finest schools; both are in the Berkeley County School District.

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