Editorial: Dr. Koskela will be difficult to replace in District 56

Dr. Laura Koskela has worked in Laurens County School District 56 for 20 years. She retired this year, although she’s still going to be around and have an office in the district office in her new role as executive director of the CAT (Carolina Alliance for Technology) program. Koskela was assistant superintendent for secondary instruction in D56 when she retired. She also served as the district’s interim superintendent on a couple occasions. She also for years hosted an annual picnic at her spread outside Union for the CHAMPS program during the summer encampment at PC. Koskela was the driving force behind Laurens County’s two school districts (55 and 56) receiving a $6.9 million federal grant (along with Richland District Two in Columbia) that is funding the CAT program. Clinton High School, Laurens District 55 High School, along with Ridge View and Westwood in Columbia, form the Carolina Alliance for Technology program. The high schools in the CAT program have restructured their schedules and calendars to expand individual learning time. CAT redesigns the high school experience and creates more personalized, hands-on learning within these schools. The schools also are working with corporate partners to design project-based learning experiences modeled on real-world challenges, while offering internships, job shadowing, mentoring and professional development. When the federal grant that funds CAT was announced, it was called a game changer. Koskela also shepherded D56 through the first accreditation by AdvancED and then the recently-awarded re-accreditation. She was as strong an advocate for public education in general and D56 specifically as you will find. She will not be easy to replace, but Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields took a huge swing at that curve ball by bringing Brenda Schrantz back to the district. Schrantz, who lives in Laurens, began her teaching career at Clinton Elementary School before moving to Martha Dendy Sixth Grade Center, where she was recognized as Martha Dendy’s Teacher of the Year and the District’s Teacher of the Year. She served at Martha Dendy as assistant principal before coming to the district office as coordinator of special programs and accountability, working with curriculum and instruction and also as the district’s test coordinator. When she returns to the District office next week, she will become the assistant superintendent of instruction – at both the elementary and secondary level. Through this school year, D56 split instructional oversight between two assistant superintendents with Dr. David Pitts responsible for elementary instruction and Koskela in charge of secondary instruction. Now, Schrantz will have all instruction while Pitts concentrates on operations and maintenance while completing a five-year facilities plan – a needs assessment -- the board of trustees has asked for. To sum up, Koskela will be missed and we’re glad she’ll still be around. Schrantz has a huge task ahead of her, but we think she’s up to it. Win-win for students, parents and teachers in District 56.

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