One of Our Gems

This week, I had the opportunity to meet with the Gadsden Elementary community about the instructional programming at the school. Currently, Gadsden offers a 3K Montessori class that does well. Students have the ability to move to Caughman Road Elementary if they would like to continue with Montessori.

During the meeting, information about Montessori, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), IB (International Baccalaureate) and other programs were discussed in an effort to inform and solicit feedback from parents and the school staff. There were great questions and comments from the audience.

As you know, it takes a team effort when it comes to building such programming to enhance and support student learning. Even with all of the discussion and feedback about possibilities and the future, the highlight of the evening was when Principal Monica Owens Carter shared with the group the great programs and activities that already occur at Gadsden, such as the International Day that infuses cultures into the curriculum, STEM and project-integrated units, and student achievement increases in science and social studies. The principal’s remarks reminded us all that the school has plenty of successes from which to build upon as the school’s enrollment grows.

We have lots of gems in our district and Gadsden is among this number as well. It is a small, close-knit community school that we may not hear about often, but it is doing great work. Go Gadsden Bluejays!

Serving Our Students

This week, I had the opportunity to work with our Student Nutrition Services staff at Logan Elementary School. On this particular day, a Thanksgiving meal was on the menu. It included turkey with all of the trimmings, as well as ham! Students also had other options from which to choose.

When I arrived, I was shown around the kitchen and briefed on all of the food safety protocols and the serving instructions. The staff checked temperatures and serving sizes and showed me all of the ropes. They were very professional and intense as they prepared for the first lunch. I think they were nervous about me being in the kitchen area, but I was even more nervous than they were! It takes a lot of coordination to ensure that students are served within the time limits and given the options that make their dining experience a good one.

As students arrived and the line started moving, the cafeteria staff members were very kind as they worked with me on serving instructions and providing the meals for students. Students also were surprised to see me and said hello, but it certainly was clear that they were there for their lunch and intent on making the correct selections.

This was a great experience for me to get to work side-by-side with our Student Nutrition Services staff, including Director Tracy Dixon and the Logan cafeteria manager, Ms. Thereasteen Cannon. Kudos to our Student Nutrition Services staff for what they do for the 24,000 students we serve in Richland One!

As with our Student Transportation Services staff and other departments, the employees of Richland One do an excellent job supporting our students and the district as a whole.

Richland One schools and administrative offices will be closed November 23-25 for the Thanksgiving Break. Regular schedules will resume Monday, November 28. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

A Great ‘Resource’

Richland One has many partnerships that support the work that we do in our schools. One such partnership is that of our school resource officers or SROs. Whether it is forming bonds and relationships with students, conducting DARE programs or providing support and assistance in afterschool and mentoring programs, the SROs from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and the Columbia Police Department are considered to be a part of our team of support.

Last month, Pine Grove Elementary School held a community parade in support of DARE. Resource offers from neighboring schools joined in the festivities as well. In addition, I had the opportunity to scoop and serve ice cream with Sheriff Lott at their DAREscream event that brought together schools, law enforcement and the community. Many other such events happen on a continuous basis.

We all can appreciate the positive influence of caring adults that support and work with our students alongside our administrators and teachers in working to transform our students’ lives through education, so they can realize their potential and dreams. The “resource” provided by our SROs helps to make that happen.

 

Principals for a Day

This week (November 3, 2016), Richland One held its annual Principal for a Day program. As a part of this event, business leaders, local politicians, faith-based leaders, university administrators and the like spend the day in one of our schools to experience a “day in the life” of one of our principals. Some experienced carpool lines, cafeteria duty, classes as well as class changes – and many other of the various activities that occur in our schools every day.

At the reception held at the end of the day, some of the participants shared their reflections on their experiences as Principals for a Day. Those reflections included problem-solving with students, reading to classes, even being on a swing during recess! Most also reflected on the number of steps they covered during the day.

All in all, the participants, whether returning participants or first-timers, were complimentary of their experience and the opportunity to shadow our principals in Richland One. Certainly the entirety of the job cannot be experienced in this snapshot experience, but it does provide an opportunity for community members to see the instructional and operational management that is provided in order for students to be successful when they are in our care.

Thank you again to the participants and, more importantly, thank you to the principals and administrators of Richland One for your work every day for the students we serve!

 

 

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 traci.cooper@richlandone.org.

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!