Precious Passengers

At the beginning of each school year, I meet with various groups – new teachers, cafeteria staff and the like. This provides an opportunity to show my appreciation for their contributions to the district as well as to receive feedback from valued employees.

This year, while meeting with our student transportation staff, I was offered an invitation to “take off the tie, roll up my sleeves and ride a bus with students!” I accepted the offer. Friday afternoon, I rode the afternoon route of Bus 346 with “Mr. C,” as the students call him.

Mr. C has been a bus driver for Richland One since 2008. This year, his elementary run is at Burton-Pack Elementary School. As students boarded the bus, he called them by name and walked them up and down the aisle as they entered. He and the students and I exchanged greetings and brief conversations. I got welcoming and puzzled looks as well, given I was “new” and they knew Mr. C.

By the time we left school for their trip home, students invited me to sit with them, as I was in someone’s assigned seat. I was pleased to be invited to join students in the seat across the aisle. I must say, even on a Friday afternoon, elementary students have a lot of energy! That said, I heard stories of brothers and sisters, favorite teachers, class activities and tomorrow’s football games.

On the ride to and from school, Mr. C shared his thoughts about transportation and Richland One. I thank him for that. Furthermore, I say thank you to all of our bus drivers and the entire Student Transportation Services department for what they do on a daily basis. They are the first and last faces of Richland One for many of our students. They navigate the roads, weather and traffic with precious passengers – our students. We salute you all.

Partners in Education

This week, we held a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off construction on an exercise fitness trail at Burton-Pack Elementary School. The project is led and coordinated by the Columbia chapter of The Links, Inc., which has been a Burton-Pack school partner since 2014. Three local construction companies – Brownstone Construction, Contract Construction and Orion Construction – are donating the labor and materials.

When completed in November, the exercise fitness trail will include several exercise stations with signs that give step-by-step instructions on various physical activities, such as jumping jacks or sit-ups. The exercise fitness trail also will feature benches and student gardens.

We know that engaging in regular physical activity has many benefits for students, including helping to improve their academic performance and their overall wellness. We extend our thanks to The Links and to the three construction companies for working together and in partnership with the school and the district to make the exercise fitness trail a reality. It will be a point of pride for Burton-Pack and the entire Belvedere community. We also thank Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin for his assistance and support of the project.

We are fortunate to have many school and district partners in Richland One – from service organizations like The Links, to the City of Columbia, Richland County and other governmental entities, to faith-based, higher education and business partners. These partnerships provide additional resources, services and competitive advantages for our students.

If your business or organization would like to be a school or district partner, please contact Dr. Traci Cooper in our Strategic Partnerships Office at 231-6842 or

I’d also like to wish everyone a very safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend. Schools and offices will be closed Monday, September 5, and regular schedules will resume Tuesday, September 6.

Making It Happen!

As we conclude the second week of school, we continue to settle into classrooms and instructional activities. We appreciate our teachers and school administrators who are on the front lines of making it happen for our students. Working together and communicating along the way enhances what we all do in this regard.

This week, I had a great visit at Pine Grove Elementary School. Thanks again to Dr. Tracy Pickett and her students and staff. I am glad to be known as the “man on the SMART Board!”

I want to invite our students, staff, parents and community members to join me in my first Twitter Chat of the new school year. It will be this Monday, August 29, from 6:00-7:00 p.m. Participate by including my Twitter handle @RichlandOneSupe and the hashtag #r1supechat in your Tweets. I am looking forward to hearing about back-to-school tidbits, plans for the year and any other related topics, as well as answering any questions you may have for me. Join in and be a part of the conversation!

Welcome Back to School!

This week, we started a new school year and welcomed our students back to school. It is exciting to know that we have a chance to continue our journey in “transforming lives through education.”

After a busy summer of reflection, planning, staffing and the like, I am pleased to have our students back in school. I appreciate the work of our teachers in preparation for students’ return and the instruction provided this week and throughout the year.

Making the rounds this week, our campuses looked great and the smiling faces of our students and staff were an even greater indication that we are off to a wonderful start of the 2016-2017 school year. That said, now that students are back in school, I also want to extend my appreciation, in advance, to our parents for your continued partnership. Please continue to stay engaged and informed about your child’s school and the district as we move forward. Stay connected through social media and other ways, including our website and Richland One TV.

Thanks to all for an excellent start of school!

End of the School Year

This week marked the end of the school year for our students and teachers. I am sure the students will enjoy the time off and a somewhat different schedule.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our teachers for their work during this academic year.  We ushered in new instructional tools, new state assessments for grades 3-8, SLO (student learning objectives) and laptops for students at the middle and elementary levels. This and more took place during the 2015-16 school year. Through it all, we continued to provide instructional opportunities in all classrooms across the district.

Finally, I want to say thank you to our parents and other stakeholders for working with our teachers and schools during this year. You, too, were our partners in helping our students grow academically as well.

That said, we now turn our attention to preparing for 2016-17!

Congratulations, Class of 2016!

As one chapter of their lives ends, another chapter begins for the Class of 2016. This week, as they walked across the stage at the Colonial Life Arena to receive their high school diplomas, there were lots of big smiles and a few tears from the graduates themselves as well as their proud families.

I had the honor and pleasure of being part of all seven of our high school graduation ceremonies, along with the members of our Board of School Commissioners. Over the three days, we listened to inspirational speeches and humorous reflections from the class presidents, valedictorians and salutatorians. We also heard the principals share their words of wisdom with the graduates as they prepared to send them off into the world.

For us as district leaders, high school graduation ceremonies never get old because they represent what we’re all about in Richland One – providing the educational foundation our students need to be ready for college and careers.

The accomplishments of the members of the Class of 2016 are many, including earning nearly $61 million in scholarship offers and other financial aid to date. We know that our newest Richland One alumni will go on to reach even higher heights and continue to represent their respective high schools and the district with distinction.

Congratulations and best wishes to the Class of 2016!

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

We held our end-of-the-year employee recognition banquet last night at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The event, called Celebration 2016, provided us with an opportunity to celebrate some of the many employees who help to make Richland One a great school district.

During the program, we honored Teachers of the Year and Classified Employees of the Year from schools and departments throughout the district. We also showed our appreciation to the 110 employees who are retiring from Richland One this year after many years of dedicated service to the district.

Caroline Manning, a third-grade teacher at Brennen Elementary School, was named the 2016-2017 Richland One Teacher of the Year.

Charmaine Primus, a social worker at W.G. Sanders Middle School, was named the 2016-2017 Classified Employee of the Year.

School bus driver Earlene Scott, who has an incredible 36-year, accident-free driving record, was named the recipient of the first Star Achiever Award.

Custodial supervisor Jaquence Porter, who has worked in Richland One for 40.5 years, was recognized for being the employee retiring this year with the most years of service to the district.

Appropriately, the theme for Celebration 2016 was “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work” because it takes all of us working together as one team to ensure that our students achieve their potential and dreams.

Congratulations to all of the award winners and honorees, and thank you for your service, dedication and commitment to Richland One and, most importantly, to our students!

Academic All-Stars

Yesterday evening, we held our annual Academic All-Stars Recognition Banquet at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. This event recognizes some of our most outstanding graduating seniors.

To qualify as Academic All-Stars, students must have at least a 3.5 GPA, rank in the top 10 percent of their class and have no grade lower than a C for any subject completed for high school credit. This year, we honored 202 students as Academic All-Stars. It was the largest group of Academic All-Stars the district has had since the recognition program began in 2002.

During the banquet, the students went on stage and introduced themselves individually to the audience, which included their proud parents/guardians, principals, guidance counselors, school board members and district staff. The All-Stars also stated their plans for after graduation. Those plans include going to college and majoring in fields from education to engineering to the arts. Some announced that they plan to serve our country through enlistment in the military.

We are so proud of these students for what they’ve already accomplished. We know they will go on to do even greater things in the future and continue to represent Richland One with distinction.

Congratulations to our Academic All-Stars!

It Takes A Village

Thursday, evening, we held a special end-of-the-year program to honor and thank our School Improvement Council chairpersons, Volunteers of the Year and Partners of the Year for their service.

Throughout the year, these men and women share their time, talents and resources to support our students and our schools. They serve as tutors, mentors and Lunch Buddies. They help organize and fund school events and activities. They provide hands-on experiences in the workplace to enhance what our students learn in the classroom.

Marietta Wider, a graduate of Eau Claire High School, returned to her alma mater as a volunteer, providing support to students and staff in a variety of ways. She’s also encouraged and inspired other Eau Claire alumni to get involved at the school.

We can’t thank Ms. Wider and all of our other volunteers and partners enough for the key roles they play in helping our students achieve their potential and dreams. It truly takes a village to ensure that our students have the knowledge, skills and resources to be successful in the classroom and in life. Thanks to our SIC chairs, volunteers and partners for being part of our village.

Congratulations to this year’s Volunteer of the Year and Partner of the Year award winners:

Elementary School Volunteer of the Year – Ms. Chinell Singletary (W.S. Sandel Elementary)

High School Volunteer of the Year – Ms. Marietta Wider (Eau Claire High)

Elementary School Partner of the Year – Palmetto Health (Edward E. Taylor Elementary)

Middle School Partner of the Year – Center for Community and Family Transitions (Heyward Gibbes Middle)

High School Partner of the Year – Palmetto Health (C.A. Johnson High)

District Partner of the Year – Colonial Life

Sharpening Soft Skills

In the Lower Richland cluster of schools, we are continuing to move our STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities. In addition to the knowledge and skills that students are learning, we also know that soft skills play an import role in their future success in college and careers.

That said, I attended Lower Richland High School’s 3rd annual Dress for Success program this week. Fifteen STEM students had an opportunity to show professional and business casual dress required in the workplace. In addition, students demonstrated to their peers interviewing tips needed to put their STEM experiences to work. This mobile interactive program engaged student peers in the audience and challenged them to show their knowledge of soft skills.

It continues to be exciting to see the work that are students are creating in the STEM areas. It is more exciting to see them connect more of the dots to their future plans!