PUBLISHER'S COLUMN: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it
By Brian Whitmore
The school districts of Laurens County should not be consolidated.
Politicians should govern and leave education to educators.
A referendum, not a single politician (Rep. Mike Pitts), should drive legislation of major issues.
The one place you don’t skimp when it comes to money is your children.
Since coming to The Chronicle in 2016, I’ve been impressed with Laurens County School District 56.
Recently, I asked Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields to speak to the Rotary Club of Clinton. He talked about all the good things that are happening in the district. You read about them each week in The Chronicle, everything from Science Olympiad success in the classroom to an upper state championship for the boys’ tennis team on the courts.
Read the editorial page each month and you’ll find Dr. O’Shields’ column, which currently is spotlighting District 56 schools — Clinton High, Clinton Middle, Clinton Elementary, Eastside Elementary, Joanna-Woodson Elementary and M.S. Bailey Child Development Center.
At Rotary, Dr. O’Shields gave out a handout detailing some things you may not know about District 56:
• 100 percent of students are taught by certified teachers.
• First responder tours are conducted annually at all schools.
• More than 50 percent of middle and high school students are involved in extra-curricular activities.
• Robotics are in all schools.
• $100,000 invested in additional cameras for safety and security.
• 3,000 personal devices strengthen and personalize classroom instruction.
• 78 percent of graduates enroll in a two-or four-year college.
• All classrooms have wireless connections.
• 25 dual enrollment classes are offered.
• 23 percent of teachers are graduates of Clinton High.
• 88 percent of teachers returned to the classroom in 2017-18.
• Middle School Science Olympiad team has won 16 straight state championships.
• High School Science Olympiad team has won 9 of last 10 state titles.
• Every child in district eats breakfast and lunch at no cost.
• All employees are provided with job related professional development each year.
• Two high school teachers earned top 5 distinction for Biology course results.
• Wilder Stadium is undergoing a $1.7 million renovation.
Cindy Jacobs, Director of Child Nutrition, also talked with Rotary about how District 56 schools are top three in the state for students’ participation and only purchase the highest quality ingredients. Over 6,000 meals are served daily.
I’ve eaten at my daughter’s school, M.S. Bailey, and can tell you the food is excellent, certainly not the school food from my youth.
Other information presented included: enrollment (3,022 – 2,386 transported by bus), expenditures per pupil ($10,939) and average teacher salary ($48,791). All money spent is in line with surrounding counties.
You know, all these numbers and factoids are great, but what impresses me most is what I see first hand. I see my daughter, Lydia, learning and loving to learn.
That love of learning starts early. She loves her teachers, Amanda Sicillia and Virginia Snead. She loves school — reading, writing, math, playing with friends and that good food. Her 4K experience has been awesome and it culminated with a graduation ceremony that had the feel of a high school commencement.
At that ceremony, Dr. O’Sheilds got down on his knees and shook each student’s hand, while looking them in the eye. How many superintendents would do that? Not many.
Maybe the politicians need to come back to Laurens County from Columbia and visit our schools. Maybe they’d see that District 56 is a gem in South Carolina’s education system. Maybe they’d quit trying to monkey up something that, as I’ve said, is pretty awesome.
Brian Whitmore is publisher of The Clinton Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org