Published Friday, May 28, 2021
It is with much excitement that Berkeley County School District (BCSD) announces a complete return to traditional, in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.
This planned move to re-unite our community of learners was not decided in haste. The decision comes after weeks of discussion and the guidance of local, state and national health care professionals.
The best place to ignite the passion of learners is within a school setting, with all of its supports in place. Rarely can one argue against that. In our schools is where BCSD teachers and support staff plan to make a positive difference and help our students mold a future we dare to imagine.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought so much hurt to communities in our area and across our great nation, but it also forced us to adapt, problem-solve and collaborate. As a result, we passionately believe Berkeley County’s students and teachers will return to classrooms and unite in a way that we have never witnessed.
For those students unable to return to a traditional classroom, alternative learning opportunities in place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic are the only options available. Normal (pre-pandemic) eligibility criteria will apply. Parents/guardians of those students should contact their child’s school during normal business hours.
Additional information on applying for distance, online and virtual education opportunities can be found in our board policy on Distance, Online and Virtual Education.
Again, BCSD plans a full return to traditional, in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.
Published Monday, May 24, 2021
Meals will be available at 11 Berkeley County School District schools this summer as a part of the 2021 BCSD Summer Feeding Program. All children 18 years of age and younger qualify for meals as a part of the program.
Locations listed below will be open Monday – Thursday from June 21 until August 6, 2021.
- Breakfast Service: 8 a.m. – 9 a.m.
- Lunch Service: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Locations (sites subject to change)
- Berkeley Middle School located at 320 N Live Oak Dr, Moncks Corner, SC 29461
- Cane Bay Elementary School located at 1247 Cane Bay Blvd, Summerville, SC 29486
- Cross Elementary School located at 1325 Ranger Dr, Cross, SC 29436
- Devon Forest Elementary School located at 1127 Dorthy St, Goose Creek, SC 29445
- Goose Creek Elementary School located at 200 Foster Creek Rd, Goose Creek, SC 29445
- Goose Creek High School located at 1137 Red Bank Rd, Goose Creek, SC 29445
- Hanahan Elementary School, located at 4000 Mabeline Rd, Hanahan, SC 29410
- Nexton Elementary School located at 200 Scholar Way, Summerville, SC 29483
- Philip Simmons Elementary School located at 2095 Seven Sticks Drive, Wando, SC 29492
- St. Stephen Elementary School located at 1053 Russellville Rd, St Stephen, SC 29479
- Westview Primary School located at 100 Westview Blvd, Goose Creek, SC 29445
BCSD Child Nutrition is currently accepting applications for locations interested in becoming volunteer summer feeding sites. Applicants can complete an application online or print a paper copy.
Updated Thursday, June 17, 2021
French Teacher - Cane Bay High
Under general supervision assists students in learning subject matter and/or skills that will contribute to their development as mature, able, and responsible men and women. Reports to the school Principal.
SALARY: Teacher Salary Schedule (View)
APPLICATION CLOSING DATE: Until Filled
Special Education Assistant - Timberland High
Under general supervision assists students in learning subject matter and/or skills that will contribute to their development as mature, able, and responsible men and women. Reports to the school Principal.
SALARY: Teacher Salary Schedule (View)
APPLICATION CLOSING DATE: Until Filled
Media Technology Teacher - Stratford High
Under general supervision assists students in learning subject matter and/or skills that will contribute to their development as mature, able, and responsible men and women. Reports to the school Principal.
SALARY: Teacher Salary Schedule (View)
APPLICATION CLOSING DATE: Until Filled
Math Teacher - Timberland High
SALARY: Teacher Salary Schedule (View)
APPLICATION CLOSING DATE: Until Filled
BCSD social worker Savannah Santis was surprised this week with the inaugural Cannon-Felder Award -- a new recognition acknowledging the influence of social workers.
The award is meant to celebrate the work BCSD's social workers do that goes above and beyond expectations. BCSD LMSW Coordinator Elaine Swain said criteria for being recognized includes but is not limited to providing consistent services throughout the district, schools and team; having a positive influence on team members and being a "real go-getter" in the community.
Swain said Santis, an employee of BCSD for more than 20 years, does all that and more and is a true resource to BCSD schools.
"She is a strong advocate for students and families, and breaks down the barriers students need for success," Swain said.
The award is named in the honor of longtime BCSD social workers Teresa Cannon and Eugenia Felder.
On Monday, Timberland High's Jamaal McKinney signed his letter of intent to play football and run track at Savannah State University. Jamaal signed his letter at a celebration attended by school administrators, teachers, students, and community members.
In these photos, Jamaal Mckinney sits with his family, including his mother, Timberland High School Attendance Clerk Suzi McKinney.
Local New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe and debut author Angela May teamed up at College Park Middle for a book signing and giveaway on Tuesday.
Monroe and May provided 6th and 7th grade students a copy of The Islanders, which they co-authored. The event was a kickoff to the official nationwide release date of the book and the CPM summer reading challenge.
Adding to the excitement, Angela May is a graduate of Berkeley County School District and a former College Park Middle student.
Students received copies of the book at no cost due to special funding at the middle school, contributions from the two authors and Berkeley Electric Cooperative (the company purchased copies for each 7th-grader).
The local Chick-fil-A also contributed to the event by providing each 6th and 7th grade student with a digital gift card.
Bowen’s Corner Elementary’s third-graders donned some nifty sunglasses to participate in a special ribbon-cutting celebration on Tuesday morning.
The celebration was actually called a “Solarbration” as it recognized the installation of the school’s newest feature: a solar panel, perched on the playground near the school building’s electrical panels.
The new solar panel is the brainchild of art teacher Lauren Rice, who applied for the grant last school year after learning about it on Facebook, and wanted to provide a new opportunity for children to learn about solar energy.
Bowen’s Corner Elementary is the first elementary school in the state to receive a solar panel as part of Dominion Energy’s Solar for Students Program, which aims to give students a hands-on experience with solar energy.
The NEED Project (National Energy Education Development) will administer the program by providing technical support, preparing educational materials for students, and training the teachers.
“When you look at the NEED organization, they really believe in the kids-teaching-kids philosophy, and hands-on science,” Rice said during the Solarbration. “So when I looked at what they had done in other schools, and how they train the teachers with the curriculum needed, I thought, ‘wow, that would be great to bring to Bowen’s Corner Elementary.’”
As a STEAM school, Bowen’s Corner Elementary’s main focus with the solar panel will be geared toward the third-grade STEAM unit.
Third-grade teacher Rachel Aarons said the solar panel will greatly enhance the school’s STEAM learning.
“We are grateful for the solar panel and this opportunity to learn about a topic that could be intimidating to students – and to teachers – in a way that is genuine and authentic,” she said.
The third-graders will use the data tracked for different projects – which is why the third-graders were a big part of the Solarbration event.
Liam Albee, Ava Kuhlman and Vivian Pirolo
Ava Kuhlman spoke to her classmates about why solar science matters, and why they benefit from the hands-on experience with the solar panel.
“It’s more fun, it’s more memorable, you can discover a lot,” she said. “It helps us apply what we learn.”
Vivian Pirolo shared a poem she wrote about the sun, and Liam Albee talked about why solar energy is important.
“Right now we use non-renewable resources that will eventually run out,” he said, adding, “Solar energy is a renewable resource, which means we can use it over and over again.”
Students also heard from Dominion Energy representative Stephanie Jones.
“This is a great way for students to learn more about renewable energy and how solar energy works,” she said. “It’s also part of Dominion Energy’s ongoing commitment to clean energy.”
Jones commended Rice and all of Bowen’s Corner Elementary for being the first elementary school in the state to step up to the plate with getting a solar panel.
“We’re just very excited to be here, and thank you for all that you have done,” she said.
Rice was joined by third-graders Jaelah Waddell and Jeferson Inestroza-Reyes in cutting the ribbon, and then the third-grade class proceeded to gobble sunbeam-shaped cookies provided by Dominion Energy.
The panel spans about 10 feet wide and is perched on a pole about six feet tall. This 1.2-kilowatt photovoltaic system converts sunlight to electric power. Each solar array has a visual display that shows students and faculty real-time data on the amount of electricity generated.
Each array will generate enough electricity to power up to 18 desktop computers, 40 10-gallon aquariums or 15 42-inch LED televisions.
It was a difficult year, but Philip Simmons High Principal Chris Buchholz commends his students and teachers for their perseverance, and their ability to make his first year as school principal a memorable one.
With all the students due to report back for in-person learning for the fall semester, Buchholz is looking forward to the 2021-2022 school year.
“I think this community is ready to be back, and go full-on with everything,” he said.
Buchholz started his teaching career in Virginia before moving to South Carolina. He started out in Berkeley County School District at Berkeley High for six years, where he taught special education for four years and served as the testing coordinator for two years. He then moved on to an assistant principal position at Cane Bay High for five years before moving to Goose Creek High to serve as an assistant principal and director of athletics for three years.
The district named Buchholz as principal of the still-growing Philip Simmons High last July, after former principal Anthony Dixon moved on to serve as the district’s Executive Director of Academics and Innovation.
Buchholz’s family had just settled into a new home on Daniel Island when he was named the new principal, meaning he would get to serve the community he lives in.
Buchholz was excited for his new role, but said there was so much uncertainty about the upcoming school year because of the pandemic.
“I feel like we changed plans every week leading up to the start of school,” he said, adding that despite this, his new school had a lot of good things in place; Philip Simmons High had a high percentage of students who elected to go the traditional learning route at the start of the year, which made the atmosphere feel a little more normal.
“Having more kids back in the building made it feel more normal, we could do more things – it was really cool,” Buchholz said, adding his goal was to keep it feeling normal. “Anything we were allowed to do, we were going to do it – take advantage of it.”
The school tried to keep everything going as it typically would; students participated in an outdoor pep rally for Homecoming. Many students who learned from home still came out for different sporting and club events.
The school also initiated the Iron Horse Derby, a completely student-run concept geared toward promoting school spirit.
“I just think we were lucky that we had so many kids who were involved,” Buchholz said.
The pandemic really did not slow anything down at Philip Simmons High: theater students debuted the school’s first musical, “Chicago”, in May. With two new instructors, the JROTC program got off the ground. Art students successfully completed 15 portraits for children living in group homes in Cameroon and India. The school’s athletic program grew with the addition of the boys lacrosse team, which will have its own varsity team next year. The school also secured eight regional titles (and track won two state titles), to name a few accomplishments.
On June 12, the school bid adieu to 134 graduates; the class of 2021 is the second to graduate from the school.
Buchholz praised his teaching staff for their hard work.
“They didn’t complain, they didn’t fuss, they knew it was going to be difficult, but they just put their heads down and went to work – and they really did a good job,” Buchholz said. “Our failure rate decreased every quarter throughout the year. Every teacher was doing extra when it came to tutoring and trying to be flexible with kids.
“They are very excited to know they’re not going to have to do blended distance learning next year,” he added lightheartedly.
Buchholz is planning on having a low-key summer with his wife and their three children. He said he is grateful for the support the students and staff provided this past year.
“I’m just really proud of everybody. Despite everything that happened, our kids just stepped up,” he said, adding, “Our kids just rose to the occasion and took over. I think they had the mindset of, ‘if we’re going to be here, we’re going to do it."
Oswaldo Ordonez was running his own liquor store business in Bucaramanga, Colombia when he came across an ad for Educational Partners International on Facebook.
He clicked on the link and learned that EPI hires international teachers to come work in schools in the United States. Ordonez went ahead and applied, and two days later EPI contacted him to start the formal hiring process, and he was subsequently selected by Cane Bay Middle Principal Carol Beckmann-Bartlett for an interview.
Shortly after the interview, Ordonez received an e-mail saying Bartlett had selected him as a Spanish teacher for her school.
“I freaked out,” Ordonez said lightheartedly.
It was a quick turnover; in July 2019, within a month of applying, Ordonez was on his way to South Carolina.
He has taught a total of 14 years and is finishing up his second year teaching at Cane Bay Middle, and he comes from a family of teachers: his mom was a teacher for 42 years and two of his siblings are teachers.
“It’s in my veins,” he said.
This is actually his second time working in the United States; he worked as an au pair from 2005 to 2007 in Chicago to a family with three children, with whom he is still keeps in touch.
“I had the chance to go and do that job and I loved it – I fell in love with this country, and I respect this country a lot,” Ordonez said.
He keeps the Colombian flag hanging on one side of his classroom, not too far from the mounted American flag above his desk.
“I represent those colors, (but) I respect this one’s,” he said, pointing from the Colombian flag to the American. “Because it opened the doors for me to meet amazing people here.”
He has a three-year contract with EPI, and he can travel in and out of the United States, but he has the option to extend it two more years – he said he will not be able to leave the United States during those two years but he can still travel within the country during that time.
He plans on staying at Cane Bay Middle all five years – and hopefully longer.
“I fell in love with this school since day one,” he said, adding that being new two years ago was challenging, but he grew close to the teachers he worked with. “Two of my great friends are here – I met them here and they’ve been very supportive…for me all the time.
“And…I can’t ask for a better person to be my principal,” he added. “Dr. Bartlett is amazing…she is phenomenal, she is my role model.”
In Colombia he taught Spanish, English and world cultures, which he incorporates with his Cane Bay students. Anytime his students learn about a new country, he brings in food from that country for his students to sample (and obviously the first country they try out is Colombia).
Ordonez’s hope is to leave a lasting impact on his students; he really wants them to see him as a role model, and someone who loves to explore the world.
“Everything is possible if they want it,” he said. “I was…just sitting one day in my country, and all of a sudden I ended up coming up here. I want them to understand that there’s more out there in the world to explore, to know, to visit, to learn from.”
Ordonez said sometimes students may think there is nothing “more” to check out beyond the United States – but he happily disputes that, saying traveling helps one grow as a person.
“There’s amazing things for you to know and explore….so go and explore,” he said, adding that he likes to tell his family: “Kids are kids everywhere in the world. The only thing that changes with them is their nationality. Other than that, I have the same kind of kids back in the classroom.”
Ordonez wants to get his Master’s in education and eventually get his doctorate. He plans on staying in the classroom.
“I love this interaction with them (the children),” he said, adding, “I love being around my students.”
In addition to Spanish and English, Ordonez can speak French, German, Italian and Portuguese.
Ordonez is very close to his family, and in addition to having a family of his own one day, one of his life goals is to bring his mother to Jerusalem, saying it is a place his mother has always wanted to see.
“I want and I pray to God that he will give me the strength, the money…to take her there because I want to make that dream come true for her,” he said.
Ordonez has not been able to travel back to Colombia during the pandemic but he had the chance to fly his mother and one of his brothers over for a month-long visit earlier this semester. He took them to New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
“We had a blast – it was amazing…They loved it, they didn’t even want to go back,” he said.
He resides in Summerville with his 2-year-old male Yorkie mix, Kharlie (pronounced “Charlie”).
Somebody people can look up to, somebody who gets along with everybody, somebody who adapts to change very well – this is how Luis Navarro views a leader.
Navarro said he thinks he has leadership qualities because he comes into school every day with a positive attitude, greets everybody with “good morning” and tries to be a role model for his fellow classmates.
Navarro is finishing up his eighth-grade year at Philip Simmons Middle, and he is looking forward to new opportunities next fall when he gets to Philip Simmons High school – he particularly wants to continue studying art. This budding artist said he really enjoyed taking art in middle school with art teacher Alexandra Benardot, who he credits as probably his favorite teacher at the middle school.
He enjoys drawing pretty scenery like flowers and plants, but he interested in pursuing portraits of people.
“I’m going to miss it, but I’m really excited about the opportunities I’m going to have in art throughout high school, and all the people I’m going to meet, the teachers…and hopefully I’m able to do track,” he said.
Navarro has an older sister who now attends Clemson University, and he looks up to her as a leader because she is someone who is very happy and fun to be around – Navarro is also considering going to Clemson himself, though he is not yet sure what career he is interested in pursuing when he grows up.
“I’m pretty indecisive…I’ll try a bit of everything in high and try to see what I enjoy the most,” he said.
Spreading kindness is something Navarro would like to see more of in the world today, saying that unification would probably help in other areas because it would bring people together.
“I feel like that would make the biggest impact on the world,” he said.
Check out Navarro’s full Student Spotlight interview.
To help students avoid the “summer slide”, Berkeley County School District’s Office of Federal Programs is providing three books for students to take home for summer reading.
The summer slide refers to learning loss during the course of summer vacation, so the district wanted to find a way to make sure students keep reading.
Students were able to self-select three books and will receive them before they depart for summer break. The books were ordered from Scholastic and are currently in the process of being delivered straight to the schools – some students have already received their books.
Jane Harrelson, coordinator of Title I schools for the district, said the Office of Federal Programs has hosted a book distribution with Scholastic for about 10 years, but it typically is just for BCSD’s Title I schools.
After enduring a year greatly impacted by the pandemic, the office was able to maximize other funding to further include all district schools in the distributions.
All district schools had the opportunity to participate in receiving books; Harrelson said most of BCSD schools joined in.
All the schools had a point of contact who coordinated with Scholastic to help students select their books online.
“I’d like to give a huge shout-out to BCSD Office of Technology because they got all the student rosters loaded for us and helped us with any issues – they were amazing,” Harrelson said. “The kids just went onto a website – and they had about 25 to 30 books to choose from, so they had lots of choices they could make.”
The books are theirs to keep; however, Title I schools each have access to their own Little Free Library boxes on the school grounds, so students are invited to donate their books back after they are done reading them and select some new reading material when they visit the box.
“We want to promote reading any way that we possibly can, so this is just another way to put books in children’s hands,” Harrelson said.
When South Carolina Ports Authority recently opened the Hugh Leatherman Terminal in North Charleston, the terminal came with five new ship-to-shore cranes that officials wanted to name.
Instead of naming the cranes themselves, Ports Authority gave local third through fifth-graders the opportunity to throw out suggestions by entering in the “Name the Crane” contest.
Noah Cowell at Bowen’s Corner Elementary and Corbin Pritchard at Westview Elementary – both fifth-graders – were two out of five local students chosen from 500 entries. The winners were selected by a panel of port crane operators.
Cowell came up with the name “The Reel Steel” and Pritchard came up with “South Craneolina.”
Students got to tour the port on June 3, take pictures and receive a plaque.
In addition, both of them earned $500 for their schools to be geared toward education-related activities.
Cowell said he was not expecting to place in the contest.
“I was in shock,” he said.
Cowell was joined in the port tour by his parents and both sets of grandparents as they rode around and checked out different parts of the terminal – and, of course, got to see the crane now labeled “The Reel Steel.”
Cowell said the name came to him after he and his dad watched the sci-fi movie, “Real Steal.”
Cowell is a student in Kelee Beckwith’s class; she said Cowell had a personal connection with the port as one of his grandfathers used to work at the port.
“I was shocked just as much as he was because there was over 500 winners, and only five kiddos won,” she said. “It was a pretty awesome experience…and the kids were really excited about it.”
As a graduating fifth-grader, Cowell said he is looking forward to meeting his new teachers at Hanahan Middle.
“I’m hoping they’re going to be nice,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pritchard's crane name came to him while he was working.
“I was just doing my work and it popped in my head and I just screamed pretty much…because I was excited that I (came up with) one,” he said.
Pritchard said the port was really big, and he enjoyed seeing the crane now labeled "South Craneolina."
“It was cool,” he said.
Pritchard is also heading to middle school next year; he said he is going to miss his teachers at Westview Elementary.
“They’re really nice and I’m just going to miss them,” he said.
Pritchard was joined at the port by his parents, his sister and his teacher, Lindsey Bronzino, who said the winning students learned a lot about the port during their visit.
“It was just a really neat experience to hear them talk about the ports and what they do for Charleston and the Charleston area, so I’m glad he got the opportunity to go,” she said.
There is no official word yet on what the schools will put the winning $500 toward.
Ship-to-shore cranes are responsible for lifting cargo boxes filled with goods on and off container ships. Leatherman Terminal’s cranes have 169 feet of lift height above the wharf deck and 228 feet of outreach. The electric cranes are capable of working the largest container ships calling the East Coast.
“We have some of the tallest ship-to-shore cranes on the East Coast deployed at the country’s first container terminal to open since 2009,” SC Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said in a post by SC Ports. “Our entire team is proud that these impressive pieces of cargo-handling equipment have a strong connection to South Carolina students through our Name the Cranes contest.”
Berkeley County School District is pleased to announce its four recent graduates of Project SEARCH: Catherine Brewington, Dalton Furbee, Lyric Heyward and Emily Shillinglaw, who were recognized in a graduation ceremony June 2 at the Berkeley County government office building in Moncks Corner.
Project SEARCH prepares young people with special needs for success in employment opportunities. Throughout the school year, these students work in departments at Berkeley County Government and develop skills and training to prepare them for future jobs.
The program has been made possible in Berkeley County thanks to support from county leadership, and through a partnership with Berkeley County School District and Vocational Rehabilitation.
The program started in Berkeley County government in 2017. County departments participate and help students find job opportunities and success.
Berkeley County Supervisor Johnny Cribb said this one of the partnerships the county is most proud of.
“This an example of when a partnership works really, really well,” Cribb said, adding that despite a difficult year with the pandemic, the interns and county departments persevered. “We have a lot of staff members who really like participating in this program.”
South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation area Supervisor Kelly Sieling said Project SEARCH has become one of her favorite programs over the years. She said she is excited to see where the graduates go from here.
“It’s a joy to see you guys blossom and progress throughout the year,” she said, recapping that the students apply and interview for their internship positions – which can often be a scary experience for any new hire. “We just…watch you blossom and build that self-confidence and see your work skills improve, and it’s a great joy to see that happen.”
County Councilman Josh Whitley called the partnership “a no-brainer.” He recalled back in October when the county received the Barrett Lawrimore Regional Cooperation Award for the Project SEARCH program.
Whitley wrapped up saying that he is a father to two exceptional children with a rare genetic disorder. He told the graduates: “For the hope you give this dad…thank you.”
Project SEARCH instructor Craig Hige spoke on the difficulties the graduates faced with the added challenge of the pandemic, and subsequently recognized four county employees who were “super helpful in making this program work” this year: Shamika Guthrie, Real Property Services administrative assistant; Verna Williams, administrative support specialist; and custodians Michael Cassady and Billie Russell.
All four graduates briefly spoke on their experience with Project SEARCH, and also thanked government employees and officials who helped them along the way
Brewington graduates from Cane Bay High this month. She said she joined Project SEARCH because she wanted to learn what kind of job she wanted to do after she graduates. Her first internship was in the delinquent tax department, and her second internship was in the mail room. She is now employed as a child care counselor at the Cane Bay YMCA.
Furbee graduated from Hanahan High in 2020. His first internship was in the custodial department and his second internship was in the Real Property department. He will now work full time as a custodian at the naval weapons station.
“I’d like to thank my family and teachers for supporting and helping me,” he said.
Heyward will graduate from Stratford High in two weeks. Her first internship was in the custodial department and her second internship was in the real property department, where she learned how to work on a computer and use a scanner. Her third internship was greeting all the visitors who came to the government building, and answered their questions. Heyward is currently looking for a part-time job close to where she lives.
Shillinglaw is excited to work with the Real Property department this summer. She graduated from Timberland High in 2020. Her first internship was in the permitting department and her second internship was in the Real Property department. Her third internship was with the custodial team, who taught her how to use the dust mop.
“I will miss our time together,” she said.
His previous job with the Department of Corrections led Officer Antwan Richardson to want to play a bigger role in children’s lives – and keep them on the right path and out of prison.
Richardson is with the Moncks Corner Police Department and currently serves as the school resource officer (or SRO) at Foxbank Elementary. He is from Charleston, and has been a part of the police department for about a year and a half.
He studied criminal justice at Voorhees College and was with the Department of Corrections for nine years, serving as a K-9 agent/criminal investigator.
He is new to Foxbank Elementary – he came to the school in February. Richardson noted his role with the Department of Corrections as a huge motivation for the new role, based off seeing people go to prison – a lot of them for situations that could have been avoided, he said.
“What really hurt me was I would work day and night, get cases, send them to the solicitor’s office, and then you can’t really do anything to them because they’re already incarcerated,” Richardson said.
It was an eye-opening experience that led Richardson to question what he could do to get ahead of the problem, and decided he wanted a more active role in younger children’s lives. He went on to apply to the Moncks Corner Police Department for the sole purpose of becoming an SRO.
Richardson has two goals: to get children on a straight path so they do not end up in the Department of Corrections, and to help bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement as a whole.
“With this age group here, you can influence them so when they go to middle and high school, whatever you instill in them, they can keep it as a tool that they can use,” he said.
He added that he enjoys the elementary age group.
“They’re loving, and they’re easy to talk to,” he said. “All you see is the best of them.”
Richardson conducts traffic in the morning, and then he will find different ways to help out around the school, whether it is helping clean a dirty floor or watching over a class while their teacher steps outside of the classroom for a minute.
Richardson does different things around Foxbank Elementary to help build a relationship with the students, and wants to show children that the uniform is not something to be afraid of; he will help students learn to read, run around with them at recess, shoot a quick game of basketball, say things to make them laugh and talk to them about his job.
Many of the students know him by name at this point – though on the first-grade hallway he is affectionately known as “Mister Police Officer.”
He tries to instill in students: “Law enforcement is not here to hurt you, or to ‘take you to jail’ per se…we’re there to help you.”
When they leave Foxbank Elementary, Richardson said he wants students to remember that members of law enforcement are their friends, “and anytime you get in anything, good or bad, you should be able to approach them with a sound mind and know that nothing is going to hurt you – just be honest.”
He also tries to instill in children that they should always try to do the right thing – “even when no one’s looking.”
Richardson’s favorite thing about Foxbank Elementary is its staff.
“They welcomed me with open arms,” he said.
Richardson has two sons, plus a girlfriend with two children of her own; the age range goes from 5 to 18 years old. Outside of school Richardson is active in his community by doing volunteer work and participating in food drives.
Richardson aims to continue to be a person who will help prevent children from going down the wrong path.
“The Department of Corrections has changed me a lot, and any way I can help…I’ll do it,” he said.
Third-grader Allena Steen is a very organized student who enjoys being active at Mount Holly Elementary.
Steen defines a good leader as someone who follows directions, does the right thing at the right time, doesn’t get off track and finishes their work in a timely manner.
She said she thinks she makes a good leader because she embodies those qualities.
“If I’m doing a project with other kids, if somebody’s talking, I remind them you have to work and not talk because then you might not get it submitted at the right time,” she said, adding, “If you don’t stay on track or listen to the directions you might not know how to do your work.”
Steen is part of the Gifted and Talented program this year at school, and she is a student in Kym Lawrence’s class; she said she likes her teacher because she is very kind and helps to make sure her students have plenty of time to work.
“Sometimes she lets us turn in our work after school if we can’t finish it,” she said.
Steen is part of Mount Holly Elementary’s news program. She alternates with another student with reading slides in the news program’s slideshow.
Her favorite subject in school is math, saying she has always been good at it.
When she grows up she wants to be a psychic – “someone who can tell the future”; Steen said she already has a knack for being able to guess what people are about to say before they say it.
One problem in the world she would like to fix is the pandemic – “so we don’t have to wear masks and, also, no one gets sick anymore.”
Though she has a couple more years of elementary school, she is looking forward to playing an instrument when she gets to Sedgefield Middle; she said her favorite instrument is the harp.
“I don’t really know why…it just seems interesting,” she said.
Outside of school, Steen enjoys playing kickball, painting, and watching anime on Netflix.
Check out Steen’s full Student Spotlight interview.
Philip Simmons High's athletic season came with a number of team and individual wins.
The school wishes to recognize its eight sports teams who claimed regional titles this year: volleyball, baseball, girls basketball, boys cross country, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls track/field.
As the school's athletic season comes to an end, PSH Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Dan Minkin said he is very proud of all of the school's athletes and coaches.
"In a year of uncertainty, the athletes and coaches never wavered," Minkin said. "They brought back to Philip Simmons: eight region championships, two lower state championship game appearances, one lower state championship, one state runner-up, and three state championships. We also had numerous All-Region athletes, All-State athletes, and North/South All-Star game athletes."
While the 2020-2021 athletic year may be hard to beat, Minkin said he is looking forward to seeing what happens in the years to come.
Boys/girls track and field
Both the girls and the boys’ teams scored big this year with a regional and state win.
At the regional event, the boys won 166 to Woodland’s 110, Timberland 84, Lake Marion 4, Burke 0 and the Girls won 217 to Woodland’s 115, Timberland’s 27, Lake Marion 0 and Burke 0.
Both teams are led by Coach Bill Muhn.
Girls event winners
Naj Watson: 4x1, 100, 200, 400
Layla Simpson: High jump, 100 hurdles, 400 hurdles, 4x4
Hailey Meyers: 1600, 800, 4x4
Mary Allen: Long Jump, 4x1
Emmy Wood: 3200
Madison Jent: Pole Vault
Ghemyni Jefferson: 4x1
Illyana Pannell: 4x1
Liliana Rendan-Chilel: 4x8
Avalyn Healey: 4x8
Riley Woolridge: 4x8
Ella Bachmann: 4x4
Grace Ward: 4x4
Boys event winners
Peyton Woolridge: Pole Vault, 100, 4x4
Noah Ward: 4x8, 800, 1600, 3200
JacQue Greene: 200
Ian McCorkle: Javelin
Colin Nemeth: 4x8
Thomas Schmenk:4x8, 4x4
Evan McKinnon: 400 hurdles, 4x4
Pierce Walker: 4x8
Both the boys and girls’ teams went on to capture the Class AA titles in the State Championship the weekend of May 24. The girls scored 161 points – just six points shy of the state records scored in a state meet (read more in the original Post and Courier story).
Junior sprinter NaJhyrai Watson won three individual golds (100, 200, 400) to set the pace for the girls. Madison Jent won the pole vault and Layla Simpson won the high jump and was second in both hurdles events. Avery Harbaugh placed second in the pole vault while Hailey Meyers finished third in the 1,600 and fourth in the 800. Mary Allen had a second-place finish in the long jump
The boys team was led Saturday by senior distance performer Noah Ward, who won the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter gold medals.
Ward was also very active in cross country (see "boys cross country" below).
Ian McCorkle posted a runner-up finish in the javelin. Henry Wood, another senior distance runner, finished second in the 1,600 and third in the 800. JacQue Greene finished third in the 200 and Peyton Woolridge was second in the pole vault.
The girls volleyball team became region champs last September for the first time in the school program's history.
The team ultimately saw 15 wins and two losses this season. They made it to the Lower State Championship after a win against Buford High, but subsequently fell short to Andrew Jackson High.
Maya Gerding and Kate Johnson made the All-State Team. Kate Johnson made the North/South All-Star Game.
Coach Jay Watterworth hopes to return to the Lower State Championship for the third time next year.
Photo featured in The Daniel Island News
Watterworth also coached girls soccer this school year.
The team became region champs in April – another first for Philip Simmons High.
The team saw 12 wins and four losses, and made it to the state semifinals, in addition to winning its first-ever playoff game. Watterworth also said the team scored the second-most goals in the state this year.
Alexandra Ugan, Claire Esse and Kylee Kellermann made the All-State Team. Ugan also made the North/South All-Star game.
The girls finished the season going 7-2 overall, and 3-0 in the Region, beating Burke, Woodland and Lake Marion to clinch the school’s first Regional Championship.
Four girls made the All-Region Team: Lily Buceti , Kylee Kellermann 10, Kennedy Rivers 10 and Maddie Moehlman 10.
Kellmerman and Kenney also made the Class 2-A All-State Team: Kellerman averaged 16.9 points per game and Rivers averaged 17.1.
Overall the team averaged 56 points per game, 12 assists per game and 13 steals per game.
The team made it to the Lower State Championship but fell to Silver Bluff with a score of 50-41.
Twelve players will return for next school year’s team; Coach Dustin Williams hopes to compete for another Region and State championship in 2021-20221.
Photo featured in The Daniel Island News
The baseball team claimed the Region 6-AA Championship with a 6-2 victory over Woodland.
Following the team's May 24 win against Buford, the Iron Horses went on to face Latta in the the Lower State District 4 championship game on May 25; Tuesday night's loss ultimately ended the baseball team's season.
The team is led by Coach Josh Kubisz. While Tuesday night was not the ending the team hoped for, Kubisz praised his seniors for building the school's baseball program from day one, noting they are leaving behind a legacy for the underclassmen.
Among the team's accolades, Tripp Williams was named the Region 6-AA Player of the Year.
Coach Patrick Gundersen said the boys soccer team had a “fantastic” season with a lot of accomplishments.
In particular, they had a lot of “firsts.”
The team scored a total of 13 wins – a new school record for the team.
They also received their first playoff win in the program’s history, and this was the first year they secured a Regional Championship with wins of 2-1 and 6-0 against Woodland High.
Also for the first time in the program’s history, four players were selected to the All-Region team: Karl Swanson, Riley Beard, Griffin Gore and Anthony Visconti. Beard, Gore and Visconti also made the All-State team.
Gore was named Regional Player of the Year while Gundersen was named Regional Coach of the Year.
Boys Cross Country
The boys cross country team completed another impressive season aftering scoring its third sconsecutive Region Champsionship. The team was led by Noah Ward, who finised first for the fourth time in his high school career (Ward also excelled on the boys track team – see "boys/girl track and field" above).
Henry Wood, Will Finch and Colin Nemeth joined Ward as All-Region performers. The team's run for a state title came up just a few points short as they finished as the Class 2-A State Runner-Up for the second year in a row.
CBH and PSH
Berkeley County School District high schools has some stellar track and field athletes.
The weekend of May 24 proved to be a busy one as these athletes competed in the State Championships.
The weekend particularly proved to be a big one for Cane Bay High’s 11th-grader Jaylen Boudreaux, who won three state titles.
Boudreaux won the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.19, which keeps him at number-one in the state overall.
He also won the 400 hurdles with a time of 52.16, which is a new state championship record, and puts Boudreaux on the leadership board as number-one in the state, number-one in the country, and number-two All Time in the state.
Boudreaux went on to anchor Cane Bay High’s 4x400 relay team as first in the state with a time of 3:20:39 plus the state championship title. Boudreaux ran an individual time of 48.1 split to come from third place to help the team win. Boudreaux was joined by Emmanuel Espinal, Kaleb Frost and Jayvion Johnson in scoring the win.
Jayvion Johnson also placed fourth in the 200-meter dash. Aaron Pierce placed fourth in the boys javelin event while Sean Price took fifth.
The girls 4x400 relay team placed seventh and consisted of Alisa Haase, Kaitlyn Rivers, Alaina Nettles and Jazmyn Lapacinski.
Alisa Haase placed fifth in the girls 400 hurdles and claimed a new personal record with a time of 1:06.00. Alaina Nettles placed six in the girls triple jump.
The girls team finished 20th in the AAAAA State Championships and the boys team finished sixth.
Both teams are led by Coach Greg Hall, who doted on Boudreaux’s individual wins as well as his teams’ hard work.
“It was awesome to be a part of this for him and the rest of the team,” Hall said.
Meanwhile, Philip Simmons High boys and girls’ teams captured the Class AA titles in the State Championship (read more about Cane Bay and Philip Simmons High in the original Post and Courier Story).
The girls scored 161 points – just six points shy of the state records scored in a state meet.
Provided photos / Philip Simmons High boys and girls track celebrates becoming state champs.
Junior sprinter NaJhyrai Watson won three individual golds (100, 200, 400) to set the pace for the girls. Madison Jent won the pole vault and Layla Simpson won the high jump and was second in both hurdles events. Avery Harbaugh placed second in the pole vault while Hailey Meyers finished third in the 1,600 and fourth in the 800. Mary Allen had a second-place finish in the long jump
The boys team was led Saturday by senior distance performer Noah Ward, who won the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter gold medals.
Ian McCorkle posted a runner-up finish in the javelin. Henry Wood, another senior distance runner, finished second in the 1,600 and third in the 800. JacQue Greene finished third in the 200 and Peyton Woolridge was second in the pole vault.
Philip Simmons High’s track and field students are led by Coach Bill Muhn.
“I’m so proud of all of our athletes, coaches and parents,” Muhn said. “Everyone has put in so much work the past four years and sacrificed a lot to make our state championship dreams turn into reality.
Accomplishments throughout BCSD
The Hanahan High Hawks took home a couple of first-place medals during the State Championships.
The boys 4x800 relay placed first with a time of 8:04.04; the relay team included 12th-grader Jonny Perryman, ninth-grader Devin Evangelista, 12th-grader Jack Dantzler and 12th-grader Aidan Hatton; Hatton also placed first in the 800-metere run and Dantzler placed third in the 3200-meter run.
Ninth-grader Jake Semmler placed seventh in the boys pole vault with a score of 10-6 – a personal record for him.
The girls 4x800 relay placed fourth with a time of 10:27.01 and included 11th-grader Hanna Johnson, 12th-grader Hannah Chelton, eighth-grader Lauren Furse and seventh-grader Caroline Dantzler. Chelton also placed seventh in the 3200-meter run with a time of 12:28.97.
The boys track team placed eighth overall and the girls placed 21st overall. Both teams are led by Coach Thomas Walton.
Several Stratford High Knights walked away with some individual accolades. Eleventh-grader Dannielle Brown scored first in the shotput with a distance of 40-00.25 – a new personal record for Brown. She also placed sixth in discus throwing with a distance of 103-04.00.
Tenth-grader Yasmine Cook placed fourth with a 5-0 high jump while 11th-grader Kayshrion Guillory placed sixth in the girls shotput with a distance of 32-08.50.
Eleventh-grader Talaiya Arline took seventh in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 16.40.
The girls were 10th overall, scoring 23 points.
In addition, senior James Cureton placed seventh in the boys discus throwing event with a distance of 123-04.00 while fellow senior Hunter Calvert took fifth place in the pole vault with a leap of 13-00.
The teams at Stratford are led by coaches Camille Toliver and Stevan Harris.
Cross High track coach Eric Murrell shared high remarks for his competing students at the State Championships.
Tenth-grader Amonte McCray finished in third in shotput with a throw of 43-07; McCray is a first-year thrower, and previously threw a 46-00 at the Lower State Meet.
Graduating senior Kaden White finished in sixth place with a jump of 40-00.50. Murrell described White as a hard worker and a pleasure to coach.
Goose Creek High Gators took fifth in the 4x400 boys relay. The relay team included 10th-grader Mason Watson, 10th-grader Maurion Scott, 11th-grader Tobious Glover and 11th-grader Lucas Wallace.
Coach Deshon Baylock leads the boys and girls track team for Goose Creek High. The boys relay currently ranks number-eight in the state, and Baylock said the 3:25.27 they ran on Saturday is the third-best time in the school history according to the database.
From Timberland High, 2020 shotput State Champion Jamaal McKinney, a senior, reclaimed his title with a new state record of 51-3.50, while teammate and fellow senior Da’Quawn Johnson acquired a new State Champion title in the boys high jump with a leap of 6-04.
Ninth-grader Nevaeh Prezzy placed third in the girls 100-meter hurdles with a time of 17.00.
Senior KeShawn Rivers took fourth in the boys triple jump with a score of 43-0.50 while 10th-grader Cayden Chance took seventh in the boys 3200-meter race with a score of 10:45.62.
Senior Tatyanna Pinckney placed fourth in the girls’ discuss throwing event with a distance of 73-3.
Berkeley High junior DeMarco Gadsden placed third in shotput with a distance of 50.09.75, a personal record for Gadsden.
When the Rotary Club of Goose Creek met Elaine Swain, it was enough to inspire club members to take on a project that would support Berkeley County School District’s at-risk students.
Swain serves as the coordinator of at-risk programs for the school district, and she was recently invited to speak at one of the Rotary Club’s meetings. Swain talked about topics like donating to the school’s food pantry, and supporting the district’s homeless population.
Rotary Club President Pam White said the idea of homelessness in the school district really caught the club members’ attention.
“My mind can’t fathom that,” she said.
This led to the Goose Creek Rotary Club coming together to purchase, and then donate, about 30 backpacks to the school district’s social services department to be distributed to at-risk students.
The backpacks were filled with personal hygiene items, as well as school supplies like pencils, pens, crayons, paper, folders and dictionaries.
The Rotary Club also hopes to host a meal drive for these students in June.
Swain said the club has aided the district in the past with literacy support (like tutoring), but this is the first time district social services has connected with the Club, as programs, to serve students.
The Rotary Club made the donation in May, and Swain said it came as a pleasant surprise.
“We’re thankful for their support, and blessed to have a community that is willing to go the extra mile,” she said.
White said the club does a number of different projects to serve the community, like working with Lowcountry Orphan Relief and the DAV. The club recently completed a Blessing Box for the Tiny Chapel on St. James Avenue in Goose Creek.
“The objective of Rotary is to give back to the community,” she said. “We don’t do things for us – we do things to better the community.”
White said the club is always looking for new members; anyone interested can visit the club’s Facebook page for more information.
“The more hands you have, the lighter the work,” she said.
For information on supporting Berkeley County School District’s at-risk students, contact Elaine Swain at email@example.com.
Published Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Berkeley County School District (BCSD) has received confirmation that South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman has, effective immediately, rescinded the state face covering policy with the exception of the school bus requirement that is now required by the federal government. Additionally, per the Governor’s Order, the South Carolina Department of Education provided school districts with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control consent form to opt out of the face mask requirement imposed on students by a school or district.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) opt out form can be found here:
In order to be valid, the form must be completed without change by the parent or guardian (or student, if age 18 or older).
SC DHEC's recommendations regarding COVID-19 precautions, including wearing face masks, have not changed. Wearing face masks and taking other precautions are important disease prevention methods that protect not only the person wearing the mask but also those around them from COVID-19. For your convenience, the South Carolina Department of Education School Bus Face Covering Guidelines can be found here: https://www.bcsdschools.net/Page/34736
If you do not want your child to wear a face covering at school, please review and complete the SC DHEC opt out form via the link provided above and return a signed copy to your child’s school. If you do not have access to the internet or a printer, please inform your child’s school and a form will be provided to you.
As they head inside the building first thing in the morning from the student parking, the first thing Cane Bay High students pass is Bay the Boulder.
Bay the Boulder is a new feature at the high school, made possible by Cane Bay High’s Student Council.
The idea of the new Cobra Spirit Rock originated with Student Body President, senior Ellie Huot, who is also part of the school’s dance company. Earlier this semester she attended a dance competition in Irmo at Dutch Fork High, who had its own spirit rock with the school’s dance team logo on it. The school encouraged visitors to get their photo taken with the rock and share on Instagram.
Intrigued by Dutch Fork High’s efforts to promote and market the different goings-on at the school, Huot pitched it to her Student Council team back in March.
“We’re just trying to be creative and come up with a different way to raise school spirit,” Huot said.
For the next two months, Cane Bay High’s Student Council continued to research the idea. Two Student Council members visited with Kennedy’s Grading and Excavation, Inc. in Moncks Corner to check out possible boulders to mount at the school.
Student Council also pitched the idea to the school administrators to get the go-ahead, explaining that students could paint the rock for different events happening at the school, like sporting events and spirit weeks.
Student Council works under the guidance of math teacher Laura McSwain, who said she loved the idea when the students brought it to her attention.
"Cane Bay is still, relatively speaking, a new school and we are still establishing traditions," McSwain said. "I thought this would be a wonderful new tradition to start here while continuing to build school spirit. I told them to write up a proposal and take it to admin. They ran with it and the admin team loved the idea as well."
With the school’s blessing, Bay the Boulder, named after “Cane Bay”, is now perched near the student entrance to the school, and has its own Instagram handle: @baythecbhboulder.
Student Body Vice President Aniya Nelson, also a senior, said the plan is whenever big events come up at Cane Bay High, Student Council will encourage other students to get their picture taken with the rock and share on Instagram.
Bay the Boulder has not gotten a whole of publicity yet, but Student Council predicts that next year’s students will start to take notice and hopefully the photos will start rolling in.
“I think there will be different traditions that come along with it,” Huot said. “I think right now it’s still new, but I definitely think that come the next year or two, it’ll be a lot bigger.”
The first thing Student Council did with the rock was write the names of this year’s Student Council members. They have since gone ahead and painted over the rock with white, with a shout-out to Cane Bay High’s graduating seniors, so the names can no longer be seen…but Student Council members know, and they like the symbolism of it since the rock was their idea.
“It’s always going to be there,” Nelson said.
Bay the Boulder was one of Nelson and Huot’s final acts before they check out of Cane Bay High as graduates. With the pandemic limiting a lot of what students could do this year, Cane Bay Student Council was proactive in finding ways to keep school spirit alive.
Huot and Nelson agree the pandemic only brought their team closer.
“I think that we made the best of the situation that we were given, and we were still fortunate enough to have quite a bit of events and things that were to promote school spirit,” Huot said.
Now Student Council is preparing for the 2021-2022 school year. The school has already held elections for next year’s positions, and Huot and Nelson are getting ready for graduation in a month, and both say the feeling is “bittersweet.”
“I’ll miss the community,” Nelson said. “I feel like this, out of all years, we’ve gotten super-duper close…even with the little stuff that we’ve done we’ve been able to have a good year.”
Awaab Kamil is a very courteous, outgoing sixth-grader at Hanahan Middle, who makes it a point to be a cheerleader for his fellow classmates.
Kamil said he thinks a leader is somebody who does just that; it is a person who tries to help other people and boost their confidence, and someone who is kind to everybody.
“The principals, they’re very nice – everyone’s very nice, and I’d say that I’m like one of those people in sixth-grade…who demonstrates a lot of leadership and is just very kind in general,” he said.
Awaab was born in America but his parents are from Sudan. He looks up to his dad as a leader.
“My dad is just one those people who is very nice – he’s like an older version of me,” he said, adding, “He’s one of those people who…goes over the top to make you feel amazing and to help you.”
Kamil said he had a great sixth-year; he said he enjoyed his classes, and he was recently recognized as a Student of the Day, which acknowledges children who demonstrate leadership among their peers at Hanahan Middle.
Earlier this year he was active in Gateway Tech, where he learned about robotics – a team he would eventually like to join.
He likes technology so much that he wants to be an electric engineer when he grows up.
“Technology’s always inspired me so I want to be one of those people who manufacture,” he said, adding that he wants to be the next Bill Gates.
He said is ready for seventh grade.
“I’m looking forward to growing and (succeeding),” he said.
Outside of school Kamil enjoys playing video games, playing sports like basketball and soccer, drawing and reading.
He named the teachers and staff as his favorite thing about Hanahan Middle.
“They’re amazing – all the staff and teachers here, they help you a lot, they help you succeed d, they help you do the things that you’re supposed to do,” he said.
Be sure to check out Kamil’s full Student Spotlight interview.
Kaitlin Simonides started off her Friday at Daniel Island School with a pretty big surprise.
Principal Nancy Leigh was joined by school district officials in congratulating Simonides for being named Berkeley County School District’s Rookie Teacher of the Year.
The surprise was an emotional one for Simonides.
“I almost cried,” she said lightheartedly.
Simonides is an autistic support teacher at Daniel Island School, focusing on behavior.
Simonides said she had a great first year teaching. She is originally from New York but moved to South Carolina to study special education at the College of Charleston. She received her certificate in intellectual disabilities and emotional disabilities, and she also minored in psychology.
After graduating Simonides said she was not ready to head back north and thus landed a position on Daniel Island.
When she was in high school, Simonides was friends with a lot of the students in the special education classes, and enjoyed hanging out with them at lunch and after school.
“I really admired that specific population and I thought it would be so cool to be able to work all day in that type of environment,” she said.
Simonides plans to obtain her Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which is all autism and behavior-focused. Simonides loves her behavior students, and has no plans to leave the classroom anytime soon.
“I love the kids…they’re funny and creative, and you get to see a different side to them when you’re working on their behaviors,” she said.
She named her paired professional assistant, Michele Ivarone, as a “godsend” in her class.
“I wouldn’t have made past day one without her,” Simonides said.
When she was about to start her rookie year teaching, Simonides received this advice: “Give yourself the grace you give others,” and said she wishes to pass that along to any rising teachers.
“You’re so quick to forgive other people and it’s easy to beat yourself up, especially if you feel like you don’t know anything at all, and just being able to give yourself that same forgiveness…that’s how you’re able to start again the next day, and you just learn from what happened, and you take that and move forward with it,” she said.
Simonides said before she started teaching, she was the type of person who hated asking for help, and did not like requesting it from her administrators when she first got started, but then she learned she needed the support.
“It’s okay to ask for help,” she said.
While she was honored to be recognized on a district level, Simonides particularly remembers when she was named the Daniel Island School Rookie Teacher of the Year earlier this semester; the school-level award differs in that the people who selected her for the role are the ones who work with her every single day.
Principal Nancy Leigh said she is really proud of the success Simonides achieved in her first year.
“She was successful in developing the best strategies for her students and then she was able to help others on her team with those same strategies,” Leigh said. “She’s the role model for others that embraces the lifelong learning and growth mindset that’s needed in teaching.
“We have fun with her kids and she’s…been a team player on our special education team – because it really takes everybody,” Leigh added.
Simonides resides on Daniel Island with her dog, Chrysanthemum (or just “Chrys), a Wheaten terrier. She enjoys gardening, cooking, surfing and doing yoga, and doing activities with Chrys.
When he pursued track as a seventh-grader, Jaylen Boudreaux did it more so because a friend got him interested in the program.
Boudreaux knew he could run fast, but he did not know where his involvement with the track program at Cane Bay High would take him.
“At first it was more just doing it for fun,” he said.
Now this 11th-grader is both state and nationally-ranked.
Boudreaux is number-one in the state in the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.15, and the 400 hurdles with a time of 52.71, which put him on the map for both the state and the nation.
Boudreaux is gearing up for the state championships this weekend in Spring Valley.
Cane Bay High track coach Greg Hall said when students pursue track, the coaches let them try out different track and field events until they find an activity that fits. Interestingly, Boudreaux started off as a sprinter and excelled in middle-distance running, and he decided just this school year to give hurdles a shot.
The combination of his sprint speed and middle distance endurance enables him to be an excellent hurdler; Hall said the 400 hurdles is probably the hardest race in track and field events. “Having to sprint and take on 10 hurdles…it’s very difficult.”
Boudreaux was named the Region 7-5A Male Track Athlete of the Year just this week. Hall has been named the Track Coach of the Year for boys and girls.
This weekend Boudreaux will participate in three events at the state championships: the 110 hurdles, the 400 hurdles and the 4x400 relay (for which Cane Bay High’s team is ranked number-one in the state).
Despite his recent accolades, Boudreaux stays humble, and said he is not really a fan of publicity. He is trying not to get too nervous about this weekend (Hall assures him: “It’s just another meet”).
“I’m just trying to stay as relaxed as possible,” Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux has built a lot of friendships beyond his own team through track.
“When I show up to the meet, they know who I am, and I try to be as friendly as possible,” he said.
Last week Boudreaux broke the state record with his time, but in South Carolina, the state record is only broken at the state meet, so while Boudreaux ran fast enough to break the state record last week, he has to do it again this weekend in order to officially be named the titleholder.
Something that motivates Boudreaux?
He is particularly interested in getting a slab of wagyu steak from Japan.
“He asked me at the beginning of the year, once this all started, if he broke the state record, would I get him a wagyu steak,” Hall said, adding, “Food is his motivation.”
Boudreaux might be shy when it comes to publicity but he knows plenty about this steak (which is supposed to be kind of pricey).
“It’s an amazing steak,” he said.
Hall said he gets asked all the time by other athletes what makes Boudreaux so good; Hall said while Boudreaux is obviously very talented, he also puts the work into it.
“When it comes down to it, when it’s time to work, he’s out there and he’s working,” Hall said. “He is against himself…whatever goal it is that he set for himself, he uses that as motivation to push himself. That’s why he is where is now.”
Hall is proud of Boudreaux’s work ethic, and is hopeful to secure funding so Boudreaux can compete in the national championships, which will be held in Oregon in July.
“We’ve had state champions here in different events but to have someone like this is special,” Hall said, adding, “He works to get what he’s getting…so it’s fun to watch.”
Boudreaux is not sure what his plans are after high school but is interested in Asian studies, and particularly wants to explore Japan (which is how the steak came into play).
Boudreaux also plays running back for the school’s football team, though he is interested in playing both safety and wide receiver. He named his mom, sister and girlfriend (who is a distance runner on the track team) as his biggest supporters.
Two Hanahan High School students were among several Berkeley County School District athletes recently recognized with spring Signing Day events.
Kamryn Brown - Erskine College - Basketball
Arianna Owen - Spartanburg Methodist - Volleyball
Stratford High’s two school resource officers (also known as SROs) wear a lot of hats.
Conrad Stayton and Chanele Sylvester are fully involved in the day-to-day activities at the school. They take the time to visit classrooms as guest speakers. They walk the halls and enjoy talking to the children, and their goal is to make a positive impact on the high school students before they graduate.
Both are also involved in the Goose Creek Police Department’s Police Explorers program, which gives a hands-on experience to teenagers interested in careers in law enforcement. Active participants will say how much being a part of the program has shaped and changed their lives – one cadet even says he wants to be an SRO someday, thanks to his advisors’ impact.
Even more so, both Stayton and Sylvester think of these students as their own children, and enjoy being a part of the Stratford community.
Stayton and Sylvester
Stayton is in his fourth year at Stratford High and has been with the Goose Creek Police Department since September 2004.
He is from Moncks Corner originally and a product of Berkeley County School District; he graduated from Berkeley High.
Stayton said he has a passion for working with children – particularly on a high school level. Outside of his job he is also serves as a karate instructor and does Boy Scouts.
“When this opportunity came open I just went with it – it came with a pay cut, too,” he said. “You’ve got to really have that passion for it to really do that. I’ve loved it ever since, I’m not going anywhere until I retired.”
Sylvester is her third year at Stratford High and has served the Goose Creek Police Department for five years. She is originally from a rural area in New York, and wanted a change of scenery after graduating from college, which brought her to South Carolina.
Sylvester said she has a drive to “be the change that you want to see”, which motivated her to serve in law enforcement. When she first started her career she wanted to be a school resource officer at some point, so she seized the opportunity when it presented itself at Stratford High. She had prior experience with the age group when she worked as a camp counselor in New York for a few summers.
Sylvester is also the head JV girls soccer coach at Stratford High.
The officers see high school as an important age to make a positive impact on the students and leave them with a good perception of law enforcement before they graduate.
“For me, it’s more of the mentality and maturity,” Sylvester said. “We can cut up with the kids and joke around with them and stuff like that and build that rapport that way.”
Stayton added high school is the biggest challenge in terms of the age group.
“We’ve got four years to make that positive impact on them, so when they leave high school, at least there’s a little bit of trust…between them and law enforcement, and that just helps the community as a whole later on,” he said.
Both Sylvester and Stayton serve as advisors for the Police Explorers program, which local teens can join if they have an interest in a career in law enforcement field (or related field in the criminal justice system). Program participants meet at Stratford High every Wednesday at the school to get a hands-on experience in law enforcement.
The program is not sponsored by the school district – it is sponsored by the Goose Creek Police Department. While a lot of the participants are Stratford High students, it is open to anybody in the area.
Cadets get the full uniform and train just like a police officer would, and by the age of 21 they are ready to go to the academy if they want. About 30 cadets are currently enrolled.
The program is not new, though it went on a hiatus a several years ago because of a lack of funding and was reinstated about six years ago. Stayton said he is hopeful to get to a point where they can purchase new equipment, like a virtual simulator.
Cadets learn about facing situations from assault, armed robberies and crime scenes. Through role acting, the cadets are graded on how they handle the situations. They also participate in competitions.
Stayton and Sylvester love to brag about them.
“They’ve built their own relationships and family with that program now that they’re all best friends…so they enjoy being together, they work well together,” Stayton said.
The cadets are on different teams – Green is beginner level, Blue is intermediate and Black is for more advanced cadets.
Cadets most recently met up May 12 and covered scenarios involving domestic violence. Stayton and Sylvester stand by and observe, and only jump in to make any corrections.
Khanur Tamayo, a Stratford High senior on the Black team, got involved in the Police Explorers his junior year because he plans to go into the Army but his backup plan is to be a police officer; he said he wants to protect people, and to have a job that involves keeping them safe.
Tamayo said the program is very realistic in the sense that it teaches the cadets what could happen while on the job as an officer.
“It teaches you literally everything you need to become a proper cop,” he said.
Ashley Grau, a 10th-grade Stratford High student on the Blue team, joined about half a year ago. She is interested in going the law enforcement route after high school. Grau said she likes how the advisors explain what the cadets need to do when they make mistakes during scenarios, and teach them key information to keep in mind on the job.
“It’s really a life-changing experience and it is definitely worth other kids coming to,” she said.
Goose Creek High 11th-grader Mackenzie Godfrey is on the Black team. She has served in the program for three years and eventually wants to go into the FBI. She has plans to go to Charleston Southern University and study criminal justice and law enforcement.
“I think we have great order and staff,” she said, adding, “It’s just really great overall. …Even if you mess up they try to help you understand how to fix it.”
Stratford High 11th-grader Penelope Martinez is on the Black team and got involved in the program about a year ago. She also has a sister who is new to the program.
Martinez is considering going into the military but is also interested in studying to become a zoologist after high school.
Martinez doted on how close the cadets are with each other.
“This is like a second family because they helped me through a lot in my life,” she said.
Stratford High senior David Murray is on the Black team and has been an Explorer for four years. He said Stayton talked him into joining, and he stuck with it. Murray has a contract with the Marine Corps and will head to boot camp after graduation but he also wants to join the Goose Creek Police Department.
He particularly wants to be an SRO after being inspired by Stayton.
“I like dealing with the community directly,” Murray said, adding that he enjoys communicating with his school’s SROs. “They make me smile.”
Murray said he already recommends the Police Explorers program to other students “all the time.”
Stayton is married with three children who attend the Cane Bay schools. Sylvester has two children who are at Westview Primary.
The officers said they are glad to be at Stratford.
“We think of all of these kids as our own kids,” Sylvester said.
Stayton said the number-one best thing about being at Stratford High is their relationship with the administration.
“They trust, we trust them,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t ask for any other principal other than Ms. Taylor.”
Principal Heather Taylor gave similar thoughts about having Stayton and Sylvester at her school.
“Both of these officers have engrained themselves into our school,” she said. “They have made positive relationships with the kids and work really well with the administration. They are always in the hallways during class exchanges. They go into classrooms as guest speakers. You will even see them doing traffic duty in the morning and afternoon, as well as lunch duty.
“I love having them as part of team Stratford,” she said.
The pandemic placed a number of limitations on Philip Simmons High’s theater students this past year.
Their first-ever musical had to be cancelled altogether in spring 2020, and they could only live-stream their fall production of “Steel Magnolias” last semester.
That is why the cast of “Chicago” is more than ready for a live show, which is coming to the school's stage this upcoming weekend. Audience members can catch the show May 21 and 22.
“Chicago” is a well-known Broadway performance set in Chicago during the 1920s. The story is a satire on corruption in the justice system and the concept of the “celebrity criminal.”
The performance follows vaudevillian Velma Kelly, who stands trial for the murder of her husband and sister, and wannabe-vaudevillian Roxie Hart who is on trial for the murder of her lover, Fred Casely. Both vie for the spotlight, and for representation by Billy Flynn, a well-known defense attorney who has never lost a case. Flynn usually represents women who have murdered their lovers, and often turns trials into a media circus and public spectacle as a means to paint his clients in a positive light.
And all that jazz…
The students are working under the guidance of English and theater teacher Taylor South and chorus teacher Timmi Winston.
South said her students wanted a challenge; the teachers suggested several things and the students wanted more.
“They wanted to work hard and to make it something great to debut as our first live show,” South said. “They have worked incredibly hard and we could not be more proud. There have been tears and friendships, laughs and exhaustion, but it will be worth it and we cannot wait for this weekend.”
The two lead female parts in the production are each shared by two students; 11th-grader Charlotte Francis and ninth-grader Sophia Shulse share the role of Velma Kelly.
Both girls are in the school’s Drama Club, and Francis said she suggested “Chicago”; with this being the school’s first musical and it being a smaller cast, Francis said she felt like they could pull off a powerful show.
“I thought it’d be a great idea – I’m so excited we got to do it,” she said.
The girls said they both liked the character Velma for her spunk.
“She’s very underrated…you should hate her because she’s mean and she’s a bully, but they (the audience) love her and by the end, they’re actually rooting for her,” Francis said.
Shulse added that audience members will enjoy watching Velma’s character development.
“It’s a fun character to play,” she said.
Students had to tackle a number of obstacles to bring the production to fruition. In addition to working around the pandemic, the whole production has been a learning experience as some students have never been involved in a musical.
“This is our school’s first musical so a lot of us, including me, haven’t been in a big part in a musical like this,” Shulse said. “So it’s been new to be to sing, dance and act all at the same time."
Shulse also said everyone is looking forward to showcasing their work on stage this upcoming weekend.
“I want everyone to see the talent we have in this school with singing, dancing, acting – all of it,” Shulse said.
Tenth-graders Hannah Magner and Ava Bartosic share the role of Roxie Hart. Both girls are also members of the school’s chorus.
“Roxie has been my dream role ever since I first heard the musical, so I was aiming for Roxie when we tried out,” Magner said.
Magner and Bartosic said the biggest challenge for them has been learning choreography; the girls are dancing in two-inch heels.
“I’m pretty good with songs and singing – memorizing music is very easy for me, but it’s the choreography that messes me up,” Bartosic said.
Magner and Bartosic promised the show is a crowd-pleaser.
“It’s a great show, and so getting to see our rendition of it will be fun,” Magner said.
Tenth-grader Kaleb Lincoln plays the role of Billy Flynn. Lincoln was already familiar with “Chicago” and said he wanted to play Billy because he likes the character’s songs in the production. Both Lincoln and Habersham are also involved in chorus and were encouraged by their teacher to be a part of the musical.
“It’s a great show full of great cast members, great songs, great (choreography),” Lincoln said. “The directors worked really hard to put it together – it’s going to look really great.”
He said the most difficult part for him was the characterization of Billy.
“Trying to be the cocky, arrogant person is kind of different for me, so that’s the most challenging part,” he said.
Students have been rehearsing after school in recent weeks in the school’s auditorium (view video of a recent rehearsal).
Despite the challenges of the production, students have their own personal favorite aspects of it; some enjoy singing overall, some like performing their solos, some have just enjoyed being a part of a musical.
“Razzle Dazzle” seems to be most of the students’ favorite number in the performance because they get to use items like streamers and hula hoops; “Cell Block Tango”, “We Both Reached For the Gun” and “Roxie Hart” were some other favorites.
Lincoln is participating in the production with his cousin, tenth-grader Payden Habersham, who is part of the show’s chorus.
Habersham said learning the choreography was hard for her – also, the overall process was new to her.
“At first it was overwhelming but then when…we did practices I started to get more and more into it,” she said.
Ninth-grader Liam Floyd plays Amos Hart, Roxie’s husband.
“I just liked his songs and I kind of thought it would be easier for me to act as him than another character,” Floyd said, “It’ll be an exciting experience…to see a show that everyone kind of knows, and see a new take of it.”
Tenth-grader Andrew Scharnitzky plays Fred Casely, Roxie’s lover – a role he wanted to take on because he was excited about the character’s death scene.
“I just hope that they (the audience)…have a good laugh at me dying,” Scharnitzky said lightheartedly.
Tenth-grader Cody Vick plays multiple roles in the production, including the role of Sergeant Fogarty, the police officer investigating Fred’s murder.
Vick also delivers the opening line to the production: “Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to see a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery – all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts.”
“A lot of what we do is practice individual scenes,” Vick said. “Whenever we run through the full thing, it’s very satisfactory…It’s really nice to just run through the whole thing, and I feel like that’s what I’m most excited for.”
Published Tuesday, May 18, 2021
At Berkeley County School District, students are taught valuable work and life skills. They are also encouraged to become lifelong learners by continuing to pursue knowledge in their area of study or place of employment.
The commitment to lifelong learning isn’t just something the educators in Berkeley County School District teach – it’s practiced from the bottom to the top.
In recent weeks several BCSD administrators have been recognized for achievements in professional development. Among those is BCSD Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Glenda Levine.
Dr. Levine was a recent recipient of The Citadel’s Col. Charles E. Hirshey Award – an award recognizing the most outstanding graduate students in education. Her specific area of focus was Educational Leadership – School Superintendent.
The award ranks high among her career accomplishments, and she describes the program and experience as a wonderful “opportunity to learn from other education professionals in the class – teachers, instructional coaches, administrators, coordinators and etc.”
“This one ranks extremely high, right along with an honor I received when I earned my bachelor’s degree from Benedict College (Columbia, SC) several years ago,” Dr. Levine said. “I graduated Suma Cum Laude and was awarded the Distinguished Student Award, an honor that went to one student in the entire graduating class who had performed at the highest levels academically and had also demonstrated the ability to be successful in other areas of college life.”
Dr. Levine’s drive comes from her family and the early value placed on education.
“I knew my parents did not have the money to send me to college after high school, so I attended high school knowing that I had to get a scholarship (or scholarships) to go to college. I worked hard and finished second in my high school graduating class and received a full academic scholarship to attend Benedict College.”
She also credits teachers for encouraging her to always do her best.
“They were adamant that they would not settle nor allow me to settle for anything less,” she said. “My science teachers, Dr. Janice Gamble and Mrs. Frances Hilton, and my English teacher, Mrs. Paulette King, were inspirations to me when I attended C.E. Murray High School in Greeleyville, SC. Mrs. Beaulah D. Reid, a retired educator in the community, was also very influential in encouraging me to do my best each and every day.”
Years from now, Dr. Levine said she hopes coworkers and students remember how much she cared – just like the teachers of her childhood.
“I have spent my entire career teaching, guiding and encouraging those I encounter inside and outside of schools, especially young people. For the past few weeks, I have heard from several students I had the pleasure of teaching or serving as their school administrator as they congratulated me on being a finalist for the district’s superintendent position. Some of them reminded me of encouragement I had given them over the years and they went on to tell me how much my words had impacted their lives. I was both touched and amazed.”
When it comes to other educators thinking about advancing their learning and careers, Dr. Levine encourages them to pursue “areas about which they are interested, or better yet, passionate.”
In addition to being the Chief Diversity Officer at BCSD, Dr. Levine also works as an adjunct professor at Charleston Southern University. Last year she taught the Diversity and Equity in Organizations course in the education department’s doctoral program. She’s currently serving on the dissertation committees of students working on doctoral studies at CSU.
Berkeley High School recognized several student athletes on Friday, May 14th for signing to play sports on the collegiate level.
BHS 2020-2021 Signees
Gabe White - USC Salkehatchie
Mack Ritter - USC Salkehatchie
Jack Hedges - USC Salkehatchie
Jersey Silver - Presbyterian College
Skylar Page - Presbyterian College
Gracie Prince - Charleston Southern University
Hayden Richberg - Concord University
Johnny Felder - Newberry
Jamar Smalls - Methodist University
Goose Creek High School celebrated four student-athletes on Thursday, May 13 with a Signing Day event.
Congratulations to our Gators that will be competing on the collegiate level!
Alex Dial- Saint Andrews University - Baseball
Tianna Roberts- Columbia College - Soccer
Xavion Bennett- Converse College - Basketball
Yaturi Bolton- Limestone University - Basketball
Rep. Nancy Mace paid a special visit to Philip Simmons High on Tuesday morning.
The visit was to recognize sophomore Dorothy Yaun as the first-place winner in the 2021 Congressional High School Art Competition.
The art competition showcases the work of students in South Carolina’s First Congressional District, which Mace represents. Yaun’s winning piece, “America’s Immigrant Daughter”, will be on display in the U.S. Capitol for a year.
“We had about 30 submissions, and then we had a panel of five professional artists that helped us make the selection for the winner, and runner-up winners as well,” Mace said, adding, “We’re really excited because there’s so many great young artists in the lowcountry; to be able to showcase their artwork at the Capitol is very, very exciting.”
Yaun will be in AP art next year and the focus of her AP portfolio is children who live in developing countries and are of different ethnic backgrounds.
“America’s Immigrant Daughter” depicts a profile of a young African girl. Yaun was drawn to her after finding an image of the girl online.
“It really spoke to me because I feel like she definitely represents the hope of America and people coming to America with this dream, and I really, really enjoyed drawing her,” Yaun said.
The piece was done in colored pencil and handmade collage paper from India. Yaun spent a total of 30 hours on her artwork, which is now encased in a frame donated by Island Expressions on Daniel Island.
This is Yaun’s second year in art at Philip Simmons High, and her first year working with art teacher Paige Duvall.
Duvall said Yaun had not drawn a portait before and wanted her to practice; Yaun's congressional piece was actually the practice portrait that Duvall challlenged her to create.
Yaun thanks Duvall for the ongoing support in her artwork.
“I’ve really enjoyed it so far,” Yaun said.
Nexton Elementary has been named a 2020-2021 National Beta School of Distinction.
The school earned this recognition by increasing their club’s membership by at least 10 percent from last year.
Principal Tina Hoots shared the news May 11. She said this recognition is particularly important this year given the obstacles posed by the ongoing pandemic.
"To get that kind of an honor for improving our beta club membership is just phenomenal," Hoots said. "I'm really proud of them."
Nexton Elementary's Beta Club members work under the guidance of fifth-grade teacher Jessica Abangan. Beta Club students have worked to do a number of service projects for the community this past year, including helping with food donations around Thanksgiving and making holiday cards during the Christmas season.
National Beta School of Distinction is an honor for Beta clubs striving towards academic achievement, exemplary character, demonstrated leadership and service to others. With an ongoing quest to instill these qualities in more students, the National Beta School of Distinction Award is designed to award those schools that show an increase in membership for the current school year. This year, only 14 percent of Beta Clubs across the country received this award.
Berkeley County School District is offering a FREE virtual STEM camp July 19th - July 22nd.
- Alternative Energy
- Computer Science
- Sustainable Living
- Water Filtration
The camp is open to middle school students (grades 6-8).
** There is limited space available. Please call 843-899-8670 for more information.
When she walked into Foxbank Elementary’s multipurpose room Monday morning, Principal Natalie Locklier had no idea what was in store for her.
However, when she saw her school’s teachers lined up, all sporting red t-shirts while chanting her name, Lockliear did not miss a beat; she strutted down the tunnel of hands and gave out high-fives to her energetic staff members (view photos).
This is not an uncommon thing to find at Foxbank Elementary; Lockliear later said her school enjoys throwing parties, and just assumed it was another party.
This was a special celebration all for Lockliear, though, as she was soon recognized by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) as a Patriotic Employer by the Department of Defense.
Angie Gibbs, ESGR Area 1 Chair, said this is an award employees can nominate their employers for; it recognizes employers who share an employee with the Department of Defense to ensure national security.
“ESGR highly recommends that Guard or Reserve employees give special recognition to their employers or supervisors, for their patriotic and unselfish support of our military service members,” Gibbs said.
Foxbank Elementary fourth-grade teacher, CPT Brittany Lawrence, nominated Lockliear for this award back in March – because Lockliear happens to be one of Lawrence’s biggest cheerleaders when it comes to the latter’s personal goals to not only serve her community as a teacher, but serve her country through a military career.
It is not uncommon for Lawrence to have to take a leave of absence from school for days, weeks or months to fulfill her military obligations. Lawrence shared this testimony with Lockliear and her fellow teachers during Monday morning’s celebration.
“You never complain,” she told Lockliear. “You’re always very open and always very welcoming about my schedule.”
Lawrence was most recently honored in a Change in Command ceremony in March (which Lockliear attended). Lawrence is now the company commander of the 741st Quartermaster Company. Her unit specializes in water purification.
In her new leadership position, Lawrence said she has soldiers who come to her needing time off for themselves to fulfill other obligations like work or family.
“I understand it now…So I just want to tell you that I appreciate you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart from Day One,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence has always doted on the support she receives from Foxbank Elementary to live a life of service. She was deployed in 2019 to Kuwait for nearly a year. When she returned home last June, Foxbank Elementary staff surprised her by coming to the airport with signs and balloons – a story Lawrence also recalled when she spoke Monday morning.
This award bestowed to Lockliear comes from the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and reflects Lawrence’s appreciation toward Lockliear.
“You deserve it – and you deserve so much more,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence’s speech was met with an applause – plus a hug from an emotional Lockliear.
“I could not do anything that I do without such a great group, and this is in honor of everybody in this room, because everyone supports you (Lawrence),” Lockliear said. “We couldn’t do what we do without each other.”
Lockliear said she feels very honored and humbled to have been recognized by Lawrence.
“It takes a team, and everybody here pulls together, and I…have to be the most fortunate principal ever because they are so supportive of each other,” Lockliear said, adding, “It’s just a great environment and a great group of people to work with.”
Lockliear said she believes it is important to support all of her teachers in anything they do beyond school.
“You want them to feel supported in every avenue,” she said, adding, “We do have some military families here and we do try to do things to try to do things to support and recognize them as well. It’s just something you should do for everyone.”
Two Philip Simmons High Iron Horses were recognized Monday for singing letters of intent to compete on the collegiate level.
Congratulations to Aiden Sherwood and Noah Ward!
Aiden Sherwood - cheer - Lander University
Noah Ward - track and field - Harvard University
As an avid gardener at home, Cross Elementary school nurse Heather Tamayo was eager to get a garden started up at her school.
Tamayo was able to start constructing the garden using wellness budget funds back in September. The project went on a hiatus when Tamayo had to take a leave of absence, but then she jumped back into it in January.
Now the garden is getting students excited about trying healthy foods. There are a lot of cross-categorical benefits to a school garden – schools use them for health initiatives, but teachers can utilize a garden for different core subjects.
“We’re just now starting to really incorporate them (the students) into it,” Tamayo said, adding that the younger grade levels have gotten interested in the garden now that some produce is starting to sprout. “They’ve actually seen them come up from seeds and get as tall as they are now.”
The Timber Shop, Inc. donated side panels for the garden beds, and Builders First Source donated plywood – Tamayo said fifth and sixth-graders helped lay down the plywood and also helped her construct the trellises. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company also donated about $100 worth of seeds for the school to plant.
The school was able to purchase some dirt for the garden with the wellness budget funds, but Tamayo hopes to get more dirt for the beds; she estimates they need about 30 to 36 cubic yards of dirt. She said the garden could use more organic fertilizer, fish emulsion, worm castings or (even better) earthworms, and non-colored wood chips or mulch.
She would also like to eventually add a timed irrigation system so that the garden can still be watered on weekends and over the summer when nobody is around.
On a recent excursion in the garden, Tamayo had a small group of students help pluck some fresh strawberries, harvest a big cabbage head and nibble on some peas. When students are out and about in the garden, they help tend to the beds by watering the plants.
Students sample peas in the garden.
Cross Elementary is growing a number of items including strawberries, asparagus, mustard, carrots, cabbage, kale, lettuce, celery, collards, cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, peppers, sage, borage, three different types of beans and two types of peas.
The school has a couple of beds set up but it is in the process of building five more beds, and has plans to eventually grow some melons. The beds are going to be built in different shapes so teachers can incorporate the shapes into students’ learning, and Tamayo is considering creating a small area of sand where teachers can draw letters; Tamayo noticed a K-3 teacher using elements of the garden as part of a spelling lesson (i.e.: what letter does “garden” start with?).
“That’ll all come down to getting it built and seeing what we get resource-wise,” she said.
Everything is being grown chemical-free, so anything grown in the garden can go straight from the garden and into students’ stomachs.
Tamayo practices a gardening technique called companion planting – the plants tend to help each other repel unwanted insects and attract helpful insects.
“You’ve got to know what plants you can plant with each other,” she said.
Tamayo has enjoyed seeing students become braver about trying healthy foods.
“If it’s on their plate, they don’t want to touch it, but when they see it come out of the garden, they are much more open to tasting it,” she said.
BCSD photos / Monica Kreber
Berkeley County School District is offering a summer camp for children currently enrolled in a BCSD CERDEP program. It will be a place for children to learn, make friends and prepare for kindergarten!
July 19th-22nd and 26th-29th
8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Goose Creek Elementary, Nexton Elementary, Whitesville Elementary and J.K. Gourdin Elementary
Breakfast, lunch and snack will be provided daily.
There are LIMITED SLOTS AVAILABLE. Parents will receive confirmation and additional details if accepted.
At Philip Simmons Elementary, fourth-grader Jazlene (“Jazzy”) Varner sets a good example for her classmates by being a student who enjoys coming to school to learn and grow.
Principal LaToya King said Varner is someone she considers to be a great, well-mannered student.
“She’s very soft-spoken, she doesn’t speak a whole lot,” she said, adding, “You can depend on her to do any and everything around the school, all you have to do is ask…she’s always receptive, whatever she is asked to do. She is just all-around, a good student.”
Varner believes a leader as someone who makes wise choices, and considers herself a leader because she likes to help others, and makes to a point to treat her peers with respect.
Varner named her teacher, Brandy Carlton, as a person she looks up to as a leader because of her teaching style, which reflects Carlton as someone who “loves to learn.” Varner herself wants to be a teacher when she grows up – particularly a fifth-grade science teacher because science is her favorite subject. She said likes to do experiments, and a fun one her class recently did taught students about vibrations.
Varner hopes to do experiments with her own students one day.
“I just think it’ll be fun,” she said.
Varner also enjoys reading fiction and nonfiction books – she is currently reading The One and Only Ivan, which is inspired by the true story of a gorilla named Ivan who grew up in captivity. Varner is interested in animals (especially koalas) and likes to depict them through coloring.
She is also a Marvel fan; her favorite superhero is Wonder Woman.
Fun fact about Varner: she was previously homeschooled, and so this was her first year having a public school experience – and she has embraced it; she has made new friends and said she likes learning in school setting.
“I really the nice people that are there (at school),” she said.
Next year she will be at Philip Simmons Middle, and said she is excited for the challenge because she likes to learn.
Varner’s message to her classmates: “Respect others…so people feel included in things.”
Check out Varner’s full Student Spotlight interview.
Carly Gagne grew up observing her mom working hard as a teacher.
Gagne is originally from Vermont, and can recall spending time after school, riding her Razor scooter through the empty hallways of the high school where her mom worked as a P.E. teacher.
Her mom was very involved in the high school as well as her own community: she was the advisor for Student Council, and she ran a huge fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Gagne admired her for how she was able to reach so many children.
“I got to see firsthand the positive impact she had on the community as a whole, and I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do,” she said.
Gagne is now a math teacher at Cane Bay High, and she lightheartedly refers to herself as “the teacher who can’t say ‘no’” as she not only teaches in-person and virtual classes, but is involved in many other areas of her school and within the Cane Bay community. Gagne hopes to inspire her own students to grow and serve others as well.
Gagne went to SUNY Plattsburgh in New York, where she received her bachelor’s degree in math and then received her master’s in education.
She also just got accepted to Charleston Southern University to receive her second master's degree in administration.
When she finished her student teaching, Gagne initially had plans to teach in New York that fell through. She applied everywhere until Cane Bay High’s former principal, Lee Westberry, offered her a job at Cane Bay High, and she has worked at the school ever since.
She has no plans to move back to Vermont.
“I would not trade this weather for anything,” she said.
Gagne teaches geometry, honors geometry and discrete math. Discrete math was created last year and is a senior-level math course; it is a very consumer math-based class where students learn about areas such as mortgages and savings accounts.
Gagne has always enjoyed math, adding that she was influenced by an amazing math teacher her junior year of high school.
“I just wanted to be just like her,” she said.
At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, Berkeley County School District offered its families the choice of three different learning pathways because of the pandemic: traditional learning, blended distance learning (BDL) and virtual learning. Gagne teaches on all three platforms.
She actually got involved in the virtual teaching platform about three years, and last year she developed the virtual course for discrete math.
“I love it,” she said. “Obviously, this year, teaching three pathways is incredibly difficult, but it is rewarding because I do get to reach more kids than I normally would.”
Gagne teaches traditional and BDL students during first, second and third blocks, and then teaches virtually during her fourth block planning period, among other tasks.
Outside of teaching, Gagne previously involved in National Math Honors Society (which she misses), but she gave that up this year to be the math department head. She is the assistant robotics coach, and also the academic coach for the school’s athletes; she took on working the gates for her school’s sporting events in order to help build a relationship with those students.
She was the 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year and thus previously served on the school’s Teacher Forum.
Beyond school she is involved in Relay for Life and is part of the leadership team for the Berkeley/Dorchester event, which used to be held on Cane Bay High’s track after previously being held at Stratford High.
Last year’s event was cancelled because of the pandemic but the team is planning on hosting this year’s event at the Goose Creek municipal building in May.
Gagne enjoyed working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation through her mom before she came to South Carolina. After she attended the Relay For Life event at Stratford High, Gagne knew she wanted to bring it to Cane Bay High.
Relay For Life has previously been a big event at Cane Bay, which Gagne introduced to the school through her National Honors Society students. Several student groups have gotten involved in addition to community groups – there were at least five individual Cane Bay High student relay teams at the 2019 event.
“I knew I wanted to do some kind of community service, and then when I got here, with National Honors Society, I wanted to partner with a nonprofit,” Gagne said.
Gagne is hopeful that her involvement inside and outside of school is something that leaves a lasting impression on her students.
“I want to leave my legacy of how involved of a teacher, and how committed and dedicated to her community, that I was,” she said. “And just being a good person – go out of your way to do things for other people, be kind and do for others.”
Gagne is engaged to Garrett Welch, an athletic trainer at Cane Bay High. They are getting married next year.
She has two rescue dogs, a girl named Mali from Dorchester Paws, and a boy named Ollie from the Berkeley Animal Shelter.
Gagne’s favorite thing about teaching at Cane Bay High is being a part of the Cane Bay family.
“Everybody is just so amazing,” she said, adding, “We all are more than willing to help each other out.”
After his mother was killed at his church in June 2015, Chris Singleton has made it his personal mission to reach children, and teach them to embrace and celebrate each other’s differences.
Singleton is a former minor league baseball player drafted by the Chicago Cubs. He became a nationally-renowned speaker with a message of resilience, forgiveness and unity after his mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was one of nine people killed in the Emanuel AME Church tragedy in downtown Charleston. All victims were African-American members of the church, who were shot by a white supremacist who opened fire while parishioners prayed.
Last year he released a children’s book, “Different: A Story About Loving Your Neighbor,” which follows Obinna, a boy who can tell he is different from the other children when he starts his first day at a new school in a new country.
Now Singleton’s book is being brought to the stage, thanks to senior theater students from Berkeley Center for the Arts (BCA) who have collaborated with Singleton this past year to create a video recording of the play.
Chris Singleton’s work
Chris Singleton graduated from Goose Creek High in 2014. He has a brother at the school who is graduating senior.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton began her professional career as a speech and language pathologist in Georgia before moving to Goose Creek High in 2008. In addition to working as a speech therapist and track coach at the high school, she was a pastor.
Singleton had the opportunity to be a student at the school while his mom still worked there, and she was very involved in her own children’s education.
“She didn’t allow us to slack off either – she would stay on us,” he said.
Singleton resides in Hanahan with his wife and son, plus another son on the way. He now travels the country as a public speaker, touching on unity and race reconciliation, faith and forgiveness, diversity and inclusion, overcoming adversity, and the power of teammates. His mission is to unite people with his belief that “love is stronger than hate.”
This past year, with the pandemic, Singleton was still able to reach audiences virtually, and he is starting to get back into visiting different cities throughout the country – his biggest audience is students and teachers.
Singleton self-published "Different," which was released June 17, 2020 – the fifth anniversary of the Emanuel AME tragedy. The book is a tribute to Singleton’s mom, and tells a story that encourages others how to live in unity and harmony.
In the book, Obinna moves from Nigeria to Charleston, and his new classmates make a point to let him know that he is “different.” Obinna receives help from his teacher, Mrs. Sharonda, who tells him: “Never be ashamed of who you are… You are beautifully and wonderfully made.”
The book has sold about 18,000 copies worldwide.
“I just wanted to sell 1,000 at first and we’re at 18,000, so it’s done really well,” Singleton said.
Singleton has since written another children’s book called “Your Life Matters," which came out in March, and focuses on reassuring black children that their lives and voices matter.
Singleton is hopeful to keep releasing children’s books and continue reaching other people throughout the world every year.
Following the church shooting, members of the victims’ families actually came forward and voiced their forgiveness to the shooter – and forgiveness is something Singleton also hopes to write about, saying it helped him as he grieved his mother.
“I do believe it’s super powerful,” Singleton said, adding, “I just want to go into depth about the tool and how it’s helped me and my family.”
Working with BCA
BCA is Berkeley County School District’s first arts magnet program established on the secondary level. It is housed at Goose Creek High.
Ashley Baker, assistant BCA theater director, said producing "Different" was a big collaboration among the BCA students.
“We knew we wanted a children’s theater piece and we knew we wanted something that spoke to diversity and inclusion,” Baker said. “We wanted to make sure that we chose the right book for that project.”
Baker worked with BCA theater director Lauren Canfield to select the perfect book, and make sure the author was somebody they wanted to promote.
“The stars kind of aligned when we found Chris’s book, of course, with his history here, not only in Charleston, but Goose Creek High School,” Baker said.
Not only did Singleton attend Goose Creek High, he also spoke at the school’s graduation a couple of years ago. Canfield started e-mailing Singleton directly, explaining to him that the theater department wanted to take on this project, and that it would be special to the theater department given his family’s connections with the school.
BCA was not the only theater company to approach him about adapting the book – “but we’re the one he chose, so we feel really honored and lucky to have the opportunity,” Canfield said.
Singleton said one of the main reasons he was skeptical about letting a theater production take his story on was he was not sure how much say he would get in changing any elements of the book. However, BCA allowed him to be a part of the process.
“Before it went to production I had to give the okay – and I definitely did, they did a phenomenal job,” he said.
Baker said the production felt very powerful, and when the theater department reached out to Singleton, he was very happy to grant access to the project.
“He was very helpful in a lot of ways,” Baker said. “He also gave us a lot of freedom, which was nice because it can be tricky when it comes to such creative work; he was unfamiliar with the process of theater, and we are unfamiliar with the process of writing a children’s book, so it took a lot of back and forth on that.”
The senior theater students started working adaptations of the book last year; Baker said the students learned about what it means to adapt a published work before it hits the stage, and then the students either individually or in groups worked on their own adaptations of “Different.”
Baker read over the drafts and selected senior Jasmine Diaz’s adaptation, saying it captured the best version of the book and what was most conducive to what the students could do on stage. In talks and in collaborations with the BCA senior class, the students worked together to make Diaz’s adaptation a reality.
Baker said the hardest part about making an adaptation is taking a children’s book, which is often very short (“Different” can be read aloud in a matter of minutes), and expanding the story without taking it down a path not true to Singleton.
What stood out about Diaz’s version was her ability to expand scenes, and how she fleshed out the characters.
“I think that you get to know these characters in a great way, and Chris being happy with it makes me know that Jasmine really stuck true to his vision for these characters and for this story,” Baker said.
Diaz served as the assistant director of the production. Diaz had a personal connection with the book as she is a child of an immigrant.
Diaz said theater always creates something that speaks to people and always leaves them learning something; she said she was glad to be a part of a story that speaks to diversity because of her own experience.
In addition to understanding the importance of embracing each other’s differences, Diaz said she wants viewers to walk away knowing it is never too early to start talking to children about accepting differences.
“Children of color definitely immediately know…all of these experiences and go through them and acknowledge right after that, they’re different,” she said. “I think a lot of parents need to know that you don’t need to shield your child from knowing these things happen…They can be there for people, and not treat people like how the children treat Obinna in this (story).”
There is a cast of 11 students, plus four on the creative team and a student crew. Auditions were open to all students.
Freshman Aniyah Gordon plays the lead character, Obinna. Gordon said she wanted to be a part of the production because she was able to relate with her character in certain ways.
“I wanted to be a part of ‘Different’ because I saw it as a way kind of to bring myself into a story,” she said. “I’m a black woman in America so, in a way I can relate to Obinna – obviously it’s not the same because I was born and raised here.
“There are things in there (the story) that I could relate to, like how I call my grandparents different things or how people would make fun my hair,” Gordon said, adding, “I wouldn’t say I’m him (Obinna) now – I think I’ve progressed and I’ve become more comfortable with myself, and you can see Obinna become comfortable with himself in the show, and I think it’s just great that we got to bring ourselves, in a way, to the show.”
Senior Sahmaya Busby portrays Obinna’s teacher, Mrs. Sharonda.
Busby said when they were first given the assignment to adapt the children’s book into a play, she felt the message behind the book is especially important to younger children as it teaches a lesson about diversity and acceptance.
“I think that it’s just an important story that needs to be told and…I think that the fact that it has roots connected to where we live right now was also something that would make it even better for kids to hear who live here, and make it more relatable,” Busby said.
Busby also said she thinks this production was a great way to end her high school theatrical career.
“I feel like Mrs. Sharonda was a really important role because this is the first role I’ve played where it was based on someone real, and I…tried to bring a great deal of care to that, so I feel like it was my final act of maturity playing this role, and so I guess ending with it feels good,” she said. “I feel very satisfied and content in the work I did on this show.”
Gordan said she hopes the production speaks to minority children as well, and encourages them to just be themselves.
“I want little kids who look like me, or look like Jasmine, look like Sahmaya, or just anyone who’s a minority and has to go through that realization as…a child that you’re different, I just want them to know: it’s okay,” Gordan said. “There’s no reason to change yourself, there’s no reason to try to hide who you are, there’s no reason to change how you speak around people.
“At the end of the day, you’re you, you’re always going to be you, and changing yourself is never going to let people know the real you,” Gordan said. “So just always be yourself and be okay with that.”
Making a video
With the ongoing pandemic, BCA’s theater department decided to make this production a video instead of performing in front of a live audience (view the trailer).
Filming has already wrapped up. Baker said they built something like a sound stage with three different playing areas on the stage, and the camera shot from the middle. Rather than messing with editing, they opted to do it all in one shot.
“We tried to bridge the gap between what we know we could do best and what we had the capability to do – because we are theater people, not film people,” Baker said.
The show will air May 7-9 to ticketholders. The video is 20 minutes long, but it concludes with a 10-minute speech from Singleton.
“I just tell people...this is a mission to bring people together, regardless of where they’re from or what they look like, and that I’d love them to help me out in that mission,” Singleton said.
Singleton said something he says in his talks is that “nobody chooses their skin color, so I wouldn’t judge them for theirs and they shouldn’t judge me for mine.”
Singleton saw a dress rehearsal of the production. Baker said the cast felt vulnerable with him watching, as they were wary of honoring his story in the best way.
But he loved it.
“It was definitely something I didn’t take for granted – I loved it,” he said.
Baker said Singleton offered to bring in more professional filming options, and that she thinks he was overall happy with what he got to see.
“I think it was special to him to see it really come to life,” she said.
The theater department worked with dance teacher Tameika Ramseur to pull off a dream sequence at the start of the show; a student choreographer put together some traditional West African dances that are featured for about a minute at the beginning of the play.
“That’s always a nice element of BCA, trying to involve other disciplines, so rather than just keeping it in theater, we were will able to have Ms. Ramseur’s expertise in helping us out with dancers who are featured as well,” she said.
Singleton said the dream sequence was probably one of his favorite parts.
“I didn’t have that part in the book, and they implemented it really well,” he said.
Diaz said the hardest part was figuring out how to put the project together as a video, and learning the logistics of working with a camera. She also said the tech crew had to come up with original stage directions.
“I give them props for having to…build some of the hardest parts of making a performance from scratch,” she said.
Busby said playing a character who is so important to the author in a respectful manner, and making sure she played it well, was the biggest challenge for her.
“I’m not scared about seeing my performance, I’m just more excited to see it pushed out there, and (to) originate a role…because I am the first person to play this role (Mrs. Sharonda), so I feel like that’s exciting,” Busby said.
Baker and Canfield said they are very proud of their students.
“I’m honored to have been a part of this experience, and I think it’s going to be really special – it already has been very special,” Baker said.
Canfield said she thinks the project is a very fitting project for the students.
“I think they’ve done an excellent job of stepping up and being the leaders of the theater program this year, despite all of the challenges,” she said.
At the Tuesday, April 27 Berkeley County Board of Education meeting, members voted to confirm the hiring of three central office positions. Mr. Ronald Burnette was promoted to Executive Director of Facilities and Maintenance, and Dr. Tiffany Richardson and Mr. JoNathan Roberts accepted new positions as In-House General Counsel and Executive Director of New Construction and Capital Projects.
Ronald Burnette, Executive Director of Facilities and Maintenance
Mr. Burnette joined BCSD in 2010 as an inventory clerk, and most recently served the district as the Warehouse/Inventory Control Manager and Grounds Supervisor.
"It is an honor to have been selected for this position," Burnette said. "I very much appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve BCSD and am looking forward to getting started in my new role."
Prior to joining BCSD, Mr. Burnette worked as warehouse/shipping and receiving specialist at Pitney Bowes Management Services, responsible for all warehouse, shipping and receiving, and mail services for MeadWestvaco and Kapstone Corporations.
Dr. Tiffany Richardson, In-House General Counsel
Dr. Richardson, a Stratford High School graduate, is coming to the district after serving seven years as General Counsel and Director of Policy and Legal Services for the South Carolina School Boards Association.
"I am so excited to come back home. I have spent years working with districts and special schools across the state so it will be different focusing my attention on just one entity," Richardson said. "I am proud to say that this is the district that educated me and continues to educate my family and friends. Thank you, Berkeley County School Board, for such a wonderful opportunity."
Dr. Richardson has previously worked as a South Carolina Supreme Court staff attorney, an associate attorney with Boykin & Davis LLC, and a South Carolina Judicial Department Clerk for the Honorable Judge L. Casey Manning. Dr. Richardson holds a Bachelor of Science, Juris Doctor, Master of Business Administration and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of South Carolina.
Mr. JoNathan Roberts, Executive Director of New Construction and Capital Projects
Mr. JoNathan Roberts joins BCSD after serving the past five years as a project manager for Cumming Corporation where he supervised and managed school construction projects.
"I would like to thank BCSD for the opportunity to serve the community," Roberts said. "I take my work very seriously and will exercise my duties and responsibilities with integrity."
Mr. Roberts has also worked as a project manager at Construction Dynamics, Inc. and as a project engineer at H.J. Russell & Co. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Construction Science from Georgia Southern University.
At the Tuesday, April 27 meeting of the Berkeley County Board of Education, two actions were taken to increase the pay of all BCSD employees.
In two separate agenda items, the board voted to provide all employees with a two percent salary increase and to provide all employees a step increase. Votes by the board received applause as the action items moved through the process.
BCSD Chief Financial Officer Ashley Smith said the two percent pay increase will begin on May 1 and the first paycheck to reflect the increase would be the normal check issued on May 30.
Smith said the measure allows BCSD to be “competitive and more comparable to other school districts in the area.”
Step increases were suspended statewide due to financial uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 virus. In March, South Carolina lawmakers passed a bill that would fund the step increase for most teachers in public school districts. The BCSD board took the measure a step further by voting to fund a step increase for all employees – including those not funded by the state.
“I don’t ever recall a time a time that there was an increase in which all employees weren’t included.” said board chair David Barrow. “…Seems like it would be a shame to allow some employees to get the benefit of a step increase and not allowing everyone. Because, everyone is important. Every job matters. Every person is responsible for something that kids need in this school district.”
Employees not funded by the state will be asked to sign an agreement stating that they plan to work through June 15, 2021 to qualify for the retroactive step increase.
The school district will provide a one-time, lump sum payment of the entire step increase due to employees by June 15th. Payments to employees not funded by the state are not automatic. There must be a signed agreement on file from those employees before payment can be made.
A new club at Hanahan High is gearing its efforts to lifting students’ spirits, and spreading awareness on mental health needs.
The CARE Club now meets weekly for the purpose of providing an outlet for students to connect with each other, brainstorm ways to spread kindness, and give back to the community. CARE stands for “Creating Awareness, Reaching Everyone,” and it is the brainchild of 11th-grader Thea Denney.
Denney is an advocate for mental health awareness. She said she saw a need for a social circle in a safe space for students to call their own.
“We’re aware of mental health issues, but we need to be more aware of how it’s impacting our lives on an individual basis, and how we can help,” she said. “There’s so many things that we can personally do that are very simple.”
For example: give somebody a smile.
“I know it doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re having a bad day it helps,” Denney said.
Resource teacher Reta Hanna is the advisor of the club. She alluded to some of Hanahan High’s blended distance learning (BDL) students who are still working from home, and need that extra engagement. Hanna herself has implemented ways to keep all her students involved in class with treat incentives, and will go visit BDL students’ houses with bags of treats to keep them engaged.
The club is “COVID-safe”; BDL students (or anybody who cannot get a ride to school that early) are invited to tune in virtually.
The club has only met up a few times since February – they meet every Thursday morning before school in Hanna’s classroom – and it is still a small group, but the members have stayed busy working on fleece blankets that will be donated to the Berkeley County Mental Health Center. The club currently has enough material for three blankets.
It is a group effort, with club members tying knots on the ends of the blanket. Eleventh-grader Ethan Gossett said he joined the group because of the safe space aspect, and said he hopes the blankets will brighten someone’s day.
“I hope that they know…that someone’s there for them, whatever they’re going through – that they’re not alone,” he said.
Denney is a very artistic student who enjoys crocheting blankets for newborns as a hobby, so she wanted to create a project that anybody can do. Denney said she hopes whoever receives a blanket will know: “someone cares, and even though we don’t know them on a personal level, there’s still people out there doing things and trying to help out in the community,” she said.
Denney said she received a pillow and a blanket once – and it was a gift that meant something to her.
“People who are struggling…feel alone, and just that single gift that people don’t really notice, can change someone’s whole perspective on life,” she said.
The club is not a counseling session; the goal is to show others what they can do in their personal lives to help others.
“We just want everyone to know we care, and this is a safe place that they can come and work, have friends, and just connect with people,” Hanna said.
Hanna referenced a quote she read: “The best way to cheer yourself up, is to cheer someone else up.”
“It helps us to feel good when we can help others feel good,” she said.
When one thinks of a tandem bike, they might envision a long bicycle with two seats – one in front of the other.
Philip Simmons Middle’s new tandem bike is still a two-seater, but one that resembles more of a giant tricycle with two seats, side by side.
Special services teacher Tara Girch now has her students utilizing the bike daily in the school gym, and it is just one of a few new things she has implemented at the middle school to build connections between her students and the general education students.
Girch is a former physical education teacher – and formerly an adaptive P.E. teacher – and said she tries to expose her students to new experiences. Her classroom caters to children with autism and focuses on behavior and communication.
Girch is new to Philip Simmons Middle this year and has hit the ground running with finding funds to support her class. She did a fundraiser involving selling t-shirts and other promotional items like pins and jewelry, and raised $400 to buy classroom items.
She also earned a $2,000 grant from Special Olympics South Carolina that she used to purchase the bike and create a unified classroom with new equipment.
This year, Philip Simmons Middle is officially registered with the Special Olympics as a Unified School. The school has also implemented a new “peer buddy” program where students apply to serve as buddies to Girch’s students.
Girch received the tandem bike in January and students ride it around the gym in the morning. Up to two students can fit on the bike, and they work together to steer and pedal. Girch has two students in particular who previously had not ridden a bike before – they can do it together, or they can ride around with a peer buddy.
“So I’m trying to get them more physically acclimated to everything because this is a social skill they can use in a real world,” she said.
In the afternoon her students head outside to the unified classroom – which was previously a courtyard that Girch said hardly anybody used.
There are currently six stations Girch created for the outdoor classroom – one for riding scooters, a basketball hoop, a cornhole area, a throw-and-catch activity, a washer toss game and an alligator-themed balance beam.
These are cross-categorical stations; all the activities the students do are physical but there other subject areas involved including math (because some of the games involve adding).
Girch’s students rotate through the stations with their peer buddies; these students had to apply to be part of the program and explain why they wanted to work with and help students with disabilities. The peer buddies rotate out every two weeks or so to take turns working with Girch’s students.
Fifth-graders Cece Crook and Annabelle Griswold are two peer buddies who have been helping out in the peer buddy program.
Crook said she has had a good time being a part of the program.
“I want them to have fun and learn…When you play with them it’s probably fun for them,” Crook said.
Griswold said she enjoys being a buddy because she enjoys working with children with disabilities.
“I like doing it because it helps them learn, it makes me happy – it makes them happy,” she said.
April happens to be Autism Awareness Month, a time to focus on increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism.
Girch has worked with students with disabilities since she was 14, and said it is important for others to be aware of autism, and how it contributes to millions of people’s lives on a daily basis.
“I think having people be more aware means them being more accepting and tolerant of children with disabilities – and people with disabilities,” she said.
Principal Charla Groves said the addition of Girch’s program has created an opportunity for students to build connections with each other.
“It is important for us to remember and to teach our students that it’s not necessarily ‘disability,’ it’s that someone has a different ability,” she said, adding, “The unified program has really been a great opportunity for our Gen-Ed kids to interact with Ms. Girch’s students.”
Dep. Brad Scrio happens to be a huge Marvel fan.
His office at Sedgefield Middle is covered with all sorts of Marvel paraphernalia – there are bobble head action figures on his desk. He had a birthday recently and the Sedgefield Middle staff gifted him with superhero-themed balloons. Behind his desk sits several cardboard cutouts of notable characters including Captain America, Thor, Black Panther and Ant Man.
Ant Man happens to be his favorite, because Ant Man has a felony background – yet he is a superhero.
“He’s kind of like Robin Hood, but at the same time, he’s got a good heart,” he said.
Scrio added that he uses such character traits as lessons for students to help them understand that different backgrounds do not matter: “The common theme with all of them (the heroes) is their desire to be good – to do good.”
Scrio has served as the school resource officer (SRO) for Sedgefield Middle and Mount Holly Elementary since the beginning of the school year, and he has worked for the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) for about a year and a half.
Scrio’s journey to becoming a SRO is a unique one – but one he took for the sole purpose of wanting to be in the schools, making a difference in children’s lives.
While he initially went to school to study criminal justice, becoming an SRO was actually a big career change for Scrio, who started working for a logistics company out of Washington, D.C. in 2005. His family moved back to the Charleston area in 2011 and he continued working remotely for the company.
The family settled in Cane Bay and Scrio became very active in his children’s schools. He started substitute teaching through Kelly Services, all while still working for the logistics company.
Scrio was friends with a BCSO deputy, who one day told Scrio about a reserve program – which would make him a volunteer deputy. Scrio participated in the program for about a year until the Sheriff’s Office offered him a full-time position. Scrio told them yes…but only on the condition that he could be an SRO.
“I specifically only wanted to be an SRO,” he said, adding, “I enjoyed being in the school substitute teaching, and I have always been fascinated by the law…I figured, well, we’ll just put those two things together and be an SRO.”
BCSD photo / Monica Kreber
With a pay cut, it was not only a big career change but overall lifestyle change as well – one that Scrio’s family supported as they sold their house to move into an apartment.
Scrio has been with his wife, who is a nurse, for more than 18 years. They have three children – two in high school and one in middle school.
“They were really supportive of the whole thing,” he said.
Scrio is passionate about helping others and making a positive impact on students – particularly at this level.
“Here, in the school, we’re interacting with these kids from kindergarten through high school,” he said. “So that gives us more of an opportunity to build a rapport with these kids.”
Scrio starts his day at the car arrival line at Mount Holly Elementary, and then alternates between the elementary and middle school throughout the day before helping out at Mount Holly’s dismissal.
Scrio engages with the students in a variety of ways. If the schools do dress-up days, he will don goofy wigs and glasses – he walked around in a turkey suit the week of Thanksgiving.
Something he likes to do with the middle school students is participate in their class assignments. He has a short stack of tests that he has taken with them – his grades range from a 46 to a 100. He recently helped with a dissection in a science class.
He said he tries to build a level of communication with the students.
“We can’t help them if they can’t talk to us and don’t feel comfortable enough to talk to us,” he said. “I want this to be a safe place.”
Beyond school, Scrio has helped Sedgefield Middle’s social worker in conducting home visits and delivering food to families. He is an assistant softball coach at Goose Creek High. His family is a registered host family for foreign exchange students.
As an SRO, Scrio said his objective is to serve as a resource for the two schools, their students and families.
“Use me as a resource – that’s what I’m here for,” he said.
Scrio has been described as “a social worker with a badge” because he does not look at everything as a law enforcement officer and tries to find underlying issues for a student’s behavior; BCSD’s SROs have been learning about restorative practices this past year, which focus on building more support and relationship-building within schools.
“You have to look at the root of the problem… What is the issue that’s causing these other problems?” Scrio said.
Sedgefield Middle Principal Heather Ducker and Mount Holly Elementary Creighton Eddings both doted on the impact Scrio has made at their schools.
Ducker described Scrio as one of the most passionate SROs she has worked with.
“He dresses up every single spirit day (as his uniform allows) to show the kids that he is a part of our school culture,” she said. “He does home visits, serves as a mentor, is always in the hallways, and does any other tasks asked of him to help our students have one more adult in their corner. Our school is very lucky to have Deputy Scrio as our SRO.”
Eddings said Scrio looks for every opportunity to build lifelong connections with Mount Holly’s students and community.
“His actions have illustrated his commitment to our school community, and his service shows that he is genuinely invested in our students and their families,” Eddings said. “He may be technically assigned to the middle school, but he makes sure to provide high level support to all of us here at Mount Holly Elementary. We appreciate everything he does and wish there were more Deputy Scrios.”
Does trash in Berkeley County need a face? That question is among several approaches being considered by groups of students at Macedonia Middle.
In observance of Earth Day on Thursday, April 22, MMS students learned that they will be studying the lifecycle of waste and what is done to processes and recycle waste in their area. They also learned that they would be developing a campaign to better educate residents of Bonneau and elsewhere in Berkeley County on the technology used by RePower South, the company that uses machines to sort what goes to the landfill from what can be recycled into other materials and/or fuel.
Bottom line – there are things that should and shouldn’t go into residential trash carts.
MMS Instructional Coach Melissa Meverden said the project is perfect for the students as it identifies a concern to which they can all relate. Like many BCSD schools, MMS began integrating STEAM units (lessons) into instruction about two years ago. A true STEAM unit presents a real-world problem. Through the use of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math (STEAM), students research, evaluate and think critically to present solutions.
“Sometimes you have to go out of your way to find something that the students can relate to,” Meverden said. “This is a truly authentic problem for them. …We can do something about that.”
Students began work immediately after being presented the news. Within minutes, several had completed rough sketches of potential logos, informational graphics and mascots.
“We just want to get the community to start recycling so that the roads won’t look so bad and trash won’t be laying around,” said 8th-grader Johnae Martin. “We can really start recycling more things to make new materials.”
The program is being piloted at MMS in partnership with the Town of Bonneau – where students will tell you that “community” is a big deal.
“Our school is very involved in the community,” said 8th-grader Laci Goeller. “I’m looking forward to being able to be creative with my thoughts and the assignments.”
Goeller and Martin are both in a graphic design class that will be working on visual elements for the campaign. In English, students will work on public service announcements and persuasive writing. Seventh grade science students will review and research the impact of waste on the environment.
“There’s a lot that we can tie in, so we are really excited to see what they come up with,” Meverden said.
The in-school programs are just one piece of a three-pronged waste education campaign being launched by a coalition of Berkeley County stakeholders. The group includes Berkeley County School District, Carolina Waste, the Coastal Conservation League, Keep Berkeley Beautiful, RePower South, and the Town of Bonneau. The campaign also includes the production and release of an educational video, as well as informative stickers that will be placed on every wastebin in the Town of Bonneau. This will help citizens recognize which items can be recovered and recycled from the bin such as plastic bottles, cans, and paper, as well as which items can’t be recovered, like garden hoses and old clothes, which must be taken to a convenience center or thrift store.
April is the official Month of the Military Child, and Marrington Elementary has gone all out this past month with dress-up days.
This recognition is particularly meaningful for Marrington Elementary, as the school is located on Joint Base Charleston. A majority of the students that attend Marrington are from military families.
Marrington Elementary has a saying: "Every child is either a military child, or a friend of a military child, and we all need each other."
April 22 was "Military Kids Superhero Day". Students and staff dressed as their favorite superheroes. Check out the photo gallery showcasing some of the outfits students and staff brought to school.
More than 30 BCSD teachers were recognized this year as Rookie Teacher of the Year at their schools. From those, three teachers have now been recognized as finalists for BCSD Rookie Teacher of the Year.
Emily Pohl – Cane Bay Middle
Madison Sherriff – College Park Middle
Kaitlin Simonides – Daniel Island School
A committee selected the finalists after reviewing nominations from their principals, recommendations from their mentors and applications from the teachers. Next, the committee will observe and interview each of the three finalists. The BCSD Rookie Teacher of the Year will be selected based on the committee’s observation and interview rankings. The announcement of BCSD Rookie Teacher of the Year will be made in late May or June.
BCSD photo / Monica Kreber
When her third-graders took an interest in keeping their school campus clean, Lauren Brazell applied for a grant to purchase equipment to make picking up trash a little easier.
Brazell said the school yard is a place that people often cut through, leaving behind trash. Up until recently, a small group from her class at Westview Elementary were cleaning up the school yard on a regular basis using disposable gloves and trash bags, but they were not able to reach into ditches or tree lines.
Brazell is currently on maternity leave but before she left she applied for a grant via Keep Berkeley Beautiful, a volunteer organization geared toward reducing litter, promoting recycling and beautifying communities. Brazell received $100 to purchase several trash grabbers and resuable gardening gloves that her students now use to make trash pickup a little easier.
Brazell said her students are determined to make their school a more beautiful place.
“I am super proud of my students; they’re wonderful earth warriors,” Brazell said via e-mail.
Third-graders Abigail Crook and Gabrielle Greene said the idea to clean up around school initially started with them, and then friends asked to join in. It is usually a group of about six girls who donate their time during recess to help out – but the group said sometimes other students will contribute as well.
They do not clean up during every single recess, but the students have printed schedule for different areas around the school to cleanup when they do so.
“Every time we go to the fields there’s always more trash,” Crook said.
Greene said it feels good to help keep the school clean.
“I just like picking up trash,” she said.
Third-grader Danni Harris joined the group after observing Greene and Crook collecting trash. She said it has become a group effort “because we want the environment to be clean.” The team will collect litter in a trash bag as they walk around outside and then dispose of it in a garbage can.
“We’ve been wearing gloves, but now that we’ve got these (the grabbers) we don’t have to wear gloves anymore,” Harris said.
Harris added she would like other students at the school to participate in keeping the campus clean by being more mindful about leaving their trash behind – especially around the picnic tables, where sometimes items can be blown off onto the playground.
“I think they should be more careful about that,” she said.
Brazell said to make it more fun, they have turned it into a competition of who can get the most/biggest items, or who can fill their bag the fastest. The whole class created posters teaching other students how to care for the earth with specific, actionable steps that would benefit the environment. They brainstormed and researched the ideas on their own and hung them throughout the school.
"It is my wish that my students inspire others of all ages to see that kids can make a huge difference in their communities, and that the future of our earth is in their care," Brazell said. "I also hope other students see my kids having fun while they do it, and that they are encouraged to do the same in their own neighborhoods."
Instructional coach Julia Rowland said it is very important to Westview Elementary to allow for student-led initiatives.
“They saw a need and they worked hard and worked together to fill that need, and we’re really proud of them,” Rowland said.
Principal Shawn Wimmer echoed similar thoughts.
“I can only imagine the impact they will make as they continue to grow as young leaders determined to make a difference in our world,” she said.
Cloé Runion is known for being a student who offers help to her peers.
“I always ask them if they have any issues, how they’re doing…and I just try to make them better people, as well as myself,” she said, adding that is exactly what a leader is: “A person that reaches out to people and helps them.”
Runion is an eighth-grader at Sangaree Middle. She is a part of the varsity cross country and track teams for Stratford High; Runion comes from a line of runners, as her dad also did cross country and track at Stratford, and her grandfather was a cross country coach at the school. Both her father and grandfather still volunteer as assistant coaches.
As a rising ninth-grader, Runion said she is looking forward to challenging herself when she gets to high school next year. She likes to study math; she took geometry this year and next year she will move on to Algebra II. She also looks forward to seeing more of her track and cross country teammates.
“I’m really excited for the challenges,” she said.
Runion is an accomplished writer, and she is a fan of fantasy and young adult novels. She enjoys writing short stories, and has gotten published through short story contests hosted by online literary magazine Short Fiction Break. She was working on her third publication at the time of this interview.
Her work can be found on Short Fiction Break’s website.
Runion is also passionate about environmental issues like stopping deforestation, cleaning up beaches and waterways, and overall pollution reduction.
“I know there’s other problems too but…without us living a healthy life, we won’t survive,” she said.
Runion’s advice for her peers: “Don’t feel pressured to fit into the mold that our society has for each of us. Just be yourself.”
Be sure to check out her full Student Spotlight interview.
It might have been a short season this year, but Philip Simmons High’s lacrosse teams are looking forward to expanding the program in the years to come.
The school particularly looks forward to adding a varsity boys lacrosse team next school year.
While lacrosse is growing in popularity in the south, it is not necessarily a sport found in every school. The program is still new at Philip Simmons High – and it is the only school in Berkeley County School District to offer it.
Philip Simmons High’s lacrosse program started with Assistant Principal Daniel Minkin, who is also the school’s athletic director.
When Minkin interviewed with former principal Anthony Dixon, Minkin mentioned he had an extensive lacrosse background from playing in third grade through college, and also started two boys lacrosse programs in the upstate. Dixon informed Minkin that there was a high interest in starting girls lacrosse at the school.
Minkin said when first came to South Carolina and started coaching in 2008, lacrosse was a club sport – until fall of 2009 when it became officially sponsored by the SCHSL. The first sanctioned playoffs were in spring 2010.
Back then it was in pockets across the state, but as time has gone on, more and more teams have started lacrosse and have become more competitive. In-state colleges including Newberry College, Lander University and North Greenville University are among some of the schools who have started their own programs.
“It’s great for the state and it gives our players options if they want to play and stay in state,” Minkin said.
Once Minkin was hired, Philip Simmons High hit the ground running, and one of the first things it did was announce a girls lacrosse program within a month of Minkin coming on board – and he knew a boys program would be the next step.
“Lacrosse is the sport of all sports,” he said. “It has aspects of so many sports. It has the subbing on the fly, and the ability go behind the goal like hockey, the contact (in boys) like football, the running like soccer, and more than anything, the offense and defensive sets of basketball with just an extra player.
“Once you see a game, you are hooked, and you’ll hear parents in the stands say, ’I wish my school had this when I was in high school,’” Minkin said.
Philip Simmons High’s program has had a fairly short season this year – in part because of COVID. Otherwise, Minkin’s goal is to grow lacrosse at Philip Simmons every year – and he is hopeful that more schools in BCSD will eventually start their own programs.
“We (PSH) have who I feel are the best and most passionate coaches in the state, who understand how to coach a sport to new players, while also keeping the players who have some experience engaged,” he said.
The girls play under the direction of head coach Elizabeth Smiley.
Smiley is originally from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and has coached for almost 30 years. She has been in South Carolina about four years and is working to help build lacrosse programs at different age levels; she also coaches the Fins Lacrosse travel program, as well as younger children at Daniel Island Academy, among other programs.
“I coached it for so many years, I thought I was stepping away from it all when I came here,” she said. “Now here I am, four years in, doing everything.”
Girls lacrosse started with a JV team last school year. The team’s 25 girls went three games undefeated until COVID shut them down for the remainder of the season.
This year there is a varsity girls lacrosse team with 22 players, and a JV team with another 18 players. Varsity wrapped up this year with two wins and nine losses (they were also winning a game against Socastee High until a storm broke out) while JV finished with three wins and two losses.
“Usually it takes a few years to get a program up and running,” Smiley said. “The odd thing about us is a lot of our talent is held in our seventh and eighth-graders that have been playing travel (lacrosse) and have been playing at least four years.
“A lot of my high school girls are either just coming back to the sport, or they’ve only had one year, and I actually think it’s nine of them that have never played the game before – including my goalie…but she has picked it up, she’s been amazing,” Smiley said.
Smiley said the girls program continues to garner a lot of interest.
“It’s such a great group of girls…they care about each other, they have each other’s back, they care about the game, and I really, really look forward to building this program,” she said.
The game itself is actually just a small part of the program; Smiley works to empower her players, boost their confidence and better prepare them for life beyond high school. The team follows a “little sister/big sister” format where the older players are paired up with a seventh or eighth-grade to build camaraderie.
“They learn how to get beat down and get right back up, and just to keep going – life’s not easy,” she said, adding, “I’ve been coaching almost 30 years now and that’s the biggest thing that I’ve always taught my girls, besides empowering them and telling them they can do it, is that everything that they’re learning out on the field, they’re going to use it in college and in life past that.”
Ninth-grader Emmy Wood is a freshman captain and midfielder on the varsity team. She has been playing since she was about six years old, starting off recreationally before she joined Fins in sixth grade.
“I really like the team, and it’s just a really fun sport to play,” she said, adding, “and I get to travel with a bunch of my friends, which is fun.”
Wood is looking forward to adding more of the younger players to the program.
“I think they’re going to help the team a lot,” she said.
Eleventh-grader Sydney Barton, another captain and midfielder, has been playing for about six years after being introduced to the sport by a friend and then falling in love with it.
“I like that you can be aggressive, and that it’s a really big team sport – you have to work with everybody,” she said.
Barton said playing against other varsity teams has been challenging for the girls this season – though the players have been doing well thus far.
“Coach Smiley is amazing,” she said, adding, “She’s not only a coach but she’ll…be there for you, give you advice…I love her. She’s awesome.”
Twelfth-grader Olivia Holleman, a senior captain who plays defense, just picked up lacrosse last year. She previously played basketball and said she wanted to try something new.
“I really enjoyed it,” she said, adding, “This sport I feel like it’s just a lot more fun for me, and I really like just getting a stick in my hand and playing.”
Smiley has dubbed Philip Simmons Middle eighth-graders Audrey Ann Porter and Hannah Patterson “a duo” because they are always together; they even spent their Spring Break in Disney World together. Porter and Patterson are captains on the JV team.
Porter is a midfielder and has been playing lacrosse since fifth grade. Patterson is on defense and has been playing since third grade. Porter was introduced to the sport by her brother, while Patterson joined just to try it out.
The two described lacrosse as a fast-paced sport, where the players are always on the run.
“I think we play really well together as a team,” Porter said.
The fact that they are part of the only lacrosse program in the school district was news to all of the girls.
“Hopefully we can spark an interest in other schools to try and create the same thing,” Patterson said.
There are notable differences between girls lacrosse and boys lacrosse – coaches may say they are completely different games.
“The girls’ game should be a finesse game – it should be pretty to watch,” Smiley said.
The boys’ game is a much more contact sport, meaning they are allowed to hit each other – the girls can hit each other’s sticks. Because of they are allowed to hit, boys wear padding and helmets; girls wear goggles and mouth guards while padding is reserved for goalies. Boys and girls also use different size sticks in their games.
Girls fields are measured in meters, boys use yards. Girls have one more player on the field than the boys do. The boys’ game has penalties with time, while the girls game gives out cards – similar to soccer.
The boys play under the direction of head coach Nathan Gowan, who coaches travel lacrosse with Charleston Elite. Gowan is originally from New York.
This year all the boys are on JV but next year the school will have a varsity team. The boys wrapped up their first season with a 4-2 record, with 84 goals total and 37 goals against. They took down James Island High and Waccamaw High twice each – their best score came from their second game against Waccamaw, which they won 19 to 2.
Gowan said he had no idea what to expect we he first started but he ended up having more than 30 boys come to try out for the team. He is looking forward to more player development with a varsity team being added to the boys program.
Gowan said a lot of his players are new to the sport and he is ready to see what they can do in the off season and next year.
“Also on varsity…that's when it really gets to that higher level,” he said. “I want to see how these boys can compete.”
Gowan said he is trying to build a culture of hard work, and teaching the boys to understand it is a team sport – they are playing for each other, not themselves.
“It’s one of those things where they need to know that their actions have an effect on the entire team, and we play as a team,” he said, adding, “I want to build a program where kids want to come play for us...(and) play for each other.”
Next year, Gowan expects the number of players to double.
“It’s just exciting to have a program,” Gowan said.
Sophomore Lucas Mullaney has played club lacrosse for two years. He is a goalie. Mullaney noted that Philip Simmons High is still a new school, and he was hopeful it would get a lacrosse program.
“I think if we put a stick in a lot of people’s hands, it’ll be a lot better for them,” he said.
Mullaney said they are working on getting better at snatching up ground balls – and feels confident if they can get that down, they can take down Bishop England.
“If you are coming to Philip Simmons, I highly recommend you come and try out lacrosse,” he said.
Ninth-grader Ke’Shaun Gladney plays d-pole on defense. This is his first year playing. He was encouraged by Mullaney to give the sport a shot.
Gladney is excited about getting a varsity team.
“We’ll be playing more challenging teams than we are right now, and then…we’ll be better people, be a better team and know each other team,” he said, adding, “I don’t feel like we’re a team anymore, I feel like we’re a family. …We back up each other.”
Daniel Island School eighth-grader Pinckney Smith is in his first year playing. He said he wanted to try it out because it looked like fun.
Smith said he felt confident they would finish their season on a high note (their last game was a win against James Island).
“We’ve improved a lot since our first game,” he said.
Eleventh-grader Matthew Lemmon played the sport when he was younger and left to pursue other sports, and now he is back. He is a long-stick middie on the team.
Lemmon said next year he is looking forward to having more middle school-aged boys join the team and watching the program grow.
“We’ll have a bunch of younger people playing on the older team, so just to see some of the eighth-graders just completely dominate against people who are…18 is just crazy,” he said.
The players all spoke highly of Gowan.
“He always has enthusiasm,” Lemmon said. “He’s always outgoing…and at the end of the day, it’s just about responsibility and how we all come together to achieve one goal.”
Lemmon encourages others to try out for lacrosse.
“If you want to be involved in something bigger than just a team, then it’s a fun sport to play,” he said.
Nexton Elementary’s Rocket Robotics team scored big in the recent state competition.
These fifth-graders are now among the top 28 teams in South Carolina.
The South Carolina First Lego League competition was a virtual one this year. Nexton Elementary’s team placed second for their core values presentation and also placed in the top five for their project. The group works under the direction of fourth-grade teacher Alexis Drummond.
“They did fantastic,” she said. “I am beyond proud of them this year.”
There are different aspects of the robotics competition, and three presentations students have to deliver when they compete – one for their core values, one for the students’ research project and one on the robot design. All of their presentations were done via Google Meet with judges.
The league stands for seven core values, and the students have to present on how their team best represents the core values inside and outside of their robotics program – they discuss innovation, teamwork, professionalism and more.
This year’s project prompt was all about movement and exercise. The students were challenged to find a way to promote exercise among their peers. Drummond said her students noticed how their classmates sit so much during the day, so they developed a system of kits for kindergartners up through fifth-grade to allow them to have movement activities at their seats. All of the kits involved crossing the midline to allow brain function to improve while children are doing the activities.
To accommodate for all the COVID restrictions, students did their robot runs via a fully unedited video.
Now, the team would normally go onto a Southeast Regional team in another city, but they will not be doing so this year because of the pandemic. Therefore, for the rest of the school year, the robotics students are going to lead a virtual coding club to third and fourth-graders who want to learn about robot coding. The club is completely student-run, from the applications that were put out to the lesson planning.
Drummond praised her students for finding ways to hone their skills – and discovering new skills – by being a part of robotics.
“It just shows that you can find your strength anywhere,” Drummond said.
A promotion filling the Safety/OSHA Officer role at the Berkeley County School District central office was among items approved at the Tuesday, April 13 Berkeley County Board of Education Meeting. The promotion was announced following discussion by board members in executive session.
Mrs. McCormack joined BCSD in 2018 as the OSHA Safety Support Specialist and brings with her approximately 10 years of experience in safety management, safety support, workplace safety compliance and training.
"As you have heard us say before, safety is our top priority in this school district," BCSD Superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram said. "We want the safest learning environment possible for our students and our staff members. Mrs. McCormack has played a large role in training, supporting and developing our safety procedures and precautions. She has done an excellent job in preparing our schools and employees for worst-case scenarios, and we look forward to what she will accomplish in her new role."
Prior to joining BCSD, Ms. McCormack worked as a safety specialist at Gildan Activewear Inc. and Charleston Marine Containers, a Kratos Defense Company.
Outside of Michelle Wilson’s classroom door is a sign that reads “Enter if you dare, there’s cameras everywhere.”
The sign does not lie – there really are cameras everywhere.
She currently has a unique setup inside the room. Instead of turning the lights, the room is filled with a soft glow from a strand of string lights. Most of the desks have been stacked onto one side of the room, but perched in the center of the class is a leather accent bench. Directly across from the bench is a teacher’s desk, accented with a couple of globes and a bulletin board.
Near the classroom door is a yoga mat where Wilson’s students recently challenged her to do a headstand (and she did).
The ongoing pandemic has challenged teachers to think outside the box when it comes to teaching, but Wilson, who teaches seventh-grade world history at Sedgefield Middle, has found a way to make the best of a tough situation and keep her virtual students engaged.
Basically, Wilson has a few “stations” in her class: she is either lecturing her students on camera while looking all comfy on the bench; doing her best to lead a quick yoga session on the mat from another camera; or sitting at her desk during independent learning – all on camera.
Wilson came to Sedgefield Middle in January of last year. Teaching is career change for her; she initially coached college soccer – her most recent coaching position was at the College of Charleston. She is still active in coaching club soccer with the Charleston Soccer Club.
The career change is a result of Wilson just wanting to do something that involved working more with youth. Her club soccer children are between the ages of 10 and 14.
“When I was thinking about career changing, I really liked that age group in teaching,” she said, adding, “The connection you make with youth was important to me. I found it rewarding so I just wanted to continue to do that.”
She studied psychology at Converse College, where she also played soccer. She has a master’s degree in sports management through Liberty University, as well as a master’s degree in teaching from The Citadel.
Her first full year at Sedgefield Middle has been an interesting one with the pandemic – this semester all of her students are learning virtually.
Wilson built the stations in her class as a way to benefit her online students as well as herself. Having all the cameras turned on enables her to move about the classroom while she is teaching.
“Sitting in front of a screen all day is not my forte,” she said, adding she would feel that same way if she was teaching face to face. “I was just trying to think of ways of how I could move.”
Wilson also wanted to find a way to keep her students from getting distracted while they work from home, so she started the stations to make it more interesting.
Wilson misses the face-to-face interaction, and said it was a hard adjustment – “but…throughout the school year we had to be open-minded.” The open-mindedness led to the success of developing the stations.
Wilson incorporates mindfulness into the start of class, where they do something like yoga, or maybe have a little “dance party”, or maybe watch a motivational video. Wilson does everything with them.
“The first three minutes of class are dedicated to mindfulness – ‘let’s get ready for this class,’” she said.
Wilson is actually not really a yoga person (“Soccer, yes. Running, yes – but not yoga,” she said) but she will put on a yoga video for the students to follow along to and she will try it with them, and the students enjoy it.
“Sometimes you just need this release, or just to get up,” she said.
Aside from teaching, Wilson is on the Renaissance committee at Sedgefield, and specifically serves on a subcommittee called Beautification, where teachers try to do different things around the school to beautify it.
The school is working on rolling out a program focused on rewarding students for positive behavior. Wilson said students can be rewarded with things like snacks, school gear, books, pencils – “fun stuff,” she said. This is harder to do with students working online, so she and Title I Facilitator Caitlin Murchie-Chapman have gone out a few times to personally deliver such items to students.
She said teachers receive a lot of support from the administration team to implement new ideas.
“It’s nice that if you have an idea, and run it by them, and they’ll pretty much be supportive or help you figure out how to do it,” she said, “and during COVID that’s been really helpful, because we’ve all had to think outside of the box.”
Her favorite thing about Sedgefield Middle is the bond between the staff/faculty members. Wilson is particularly close to her block – or her core group of teachers she works with.
“We are extremely close, in school and outside,” she said, adding, “I couldn’t have been as positive as I am now without them.”
At Sangaree Elementary, Jaxson Bellanger believes he makes a good leader because he tries to follow “The 7 Habits”, and he has played an active role on his school’s Safety Patrol.
Bellanger is a second-grader in Shelley Jenkins’s class.
As a Leader In Me school, Sangaree Elementary implements “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” a school transformation model focused on building leadership among students and staff.
The concept of a Leader In Me school is implemented in multiple ways, including following a leadership model that teaches students to set, track and achieve their goals; learning and applying the leadership principles in school staff work; and giving students leadership roles at school.
Sangaree Elementary’s Safety Patrol offers such leadership opportunities for which students have to apply. He is not currently on Safety Patrol – “but I did like Safety Patrol,” he said. “It was my first time being on Safety Patrol.”
Even though he is not on the patrol now, Bellanger can re-apply if he wants. He does not know if he will apply again, but he said wants to be back on Safety Patrol.
When he was still serving, Bellanger’s responsibilities included greeting everyone in the morning, walking other students to class, doing temperature checks and reminding others to wear their masks the appropriate way (over the nose and over the mouth). He also got to talk into Title I Facilitator Tammy Alessandro’s walkie talkie.
Bellanger’s favorite subjects in school are math, recess and lunch – “because I’m always hungry, I don’t know why.” When he grows up he wants to be a police officer.
Bellanger enjoys playing baseball in Gahagan Park in Summerville – he plays short stop.
“I just like catching the ball and hitting, and defense,” he said.
He likes being at Sangaree Elementary (“It’s a cool school”) and is looking forward to hanging out with his friends when he heads to third grade at Sangaree Intermediate.
Bellanger has an older brother and a baby sister. In addition to baseball, he enjoys playing freeze tag, climbing trees and jumping on his trampoline.
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CPT Brittany Lawrence believes in the gift of service, and that is why she juggles three very different careers: she is a fourth-grade teacher at Foxbank Elementary, she works in a funeral home and is studying to be a funeral director, and she serves in the military.
“The key thing that brings all those together is service,” she said. “I believe in service to my community, I believe in service to my country, and I believe in service to my state. So everything I do is all about service.”
Whenever she is asked how she does it all, Lawrence says service does not have a price tag.
“You really can’t get tired because you know you’re doing something so meaningful to change somebody’s life,” she said, adding, “The service I render to people is what drives me to continue to keep pushing every day.”
Lawrence grew up in Cainhoy and went to Hanahan High, where she was part of the school’s JROTC program. She has known ever since she was in high school that she wanted to be in the military.
Lawrence continued with JROTC at Voorhees College, where she studied business. She went on to receive a master’s degree in business from Ashford University, and then a master’s degree in education from Francis Marion College. She received her teaching certification through Teach For America.
Lawrence was honored in a Change in Command ceremony on March 7; she is now the company commander of the 741st Quartermaster Company. Her unit specializes in water purification. During any type of stateside mission involving a hurricane or other natural disaster resulting in a loss of drinking water, her unit is able to provide what's needed.
“Even though we don’t deploy to different countries, we still have to stay ready for our stateside missions,” she said.
Lawrence is a big believer that life comes in full circle: this is the same unit where she first commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. She got promoted to First Lieutenant, and now she is the Commander.
“I did not pick that unit – that unit picked me,” she said.
Lawrence said one’s legacy speaks for themselves; “I preach to (my soldiers)…that you have to be careful how you treat people and you have to always do what’s right, even when nobody’s looking, because you never know when it’s going to come back full circle.”
She has been teaching fourth-grade for six years, and has worked at Foxbank Elementary ever since it opened. She said she loves fourth-grade because that is when they start to explore their creativity and learning style.
“I allow them to express themselves to where they can tap into how they learn,” she said.
Lawrence previously taught at Main Street Elementary in Lake City, where she was Teacher of the Year in 2018.
One day Lawrence was inside a Bi-Lo grocery store with her nieces and nephews and ran into Karen Whitley, chief human resources officer for the district, who was then the principal of Philip Simmons Elementary. One of the children recognized Whitley and greeted her. When Lawrence spoke to Whitley she learned the school district was about to open Foxbank Elementary, and the new school needed teachers.
“I was very destined to be at Foxbank because I just learned about this school when I was in the grocery store,” she said. “Again – I talk about full circle all the time.”
She dotes on the support she has received from the school staff. Lawrence was deployed in 2019 to Kuwait for nearly a year. Her daughter was six months old at the time when she left. When she returned home last June, Lawrence had only invited her mom, sister and daughter to greet her at Charleston International Airport, but Foxbank Elementary staff surprised her by coming along as well, welcoming her with signs and balloons.
“My favorite thing about Foxbank would definitely be unity, because everyone is so unified,” she said. “I appreciate everybody who took the time out to come to the airport to welcome me back home. I’ll never forget that.”
Her military aspirations might have started in high school, but Lawrence was even younger when she became interested in working with a funeral home. She was a little girl when her grandfather passed away, and it was Lawrence’s her first time learning about the concept of death. She ended up quizzing the funeral home director about how they take care of the deceased and subsequently started learning more about the funeral home business.
She was in college when her grandmother died. When her family made contact with the funeral home staff, Lawrence asked if she could job shadow them. She is still doing her apprenticeship with that same funeral home and is studying to get her funeral director license.
“I always wanted to work in the funeral home – always wanted to serve families,” she said.
Lawrence is very self-disciplined. Her day starts with taking her 2-year-old daughter to daycare. She goes to Foxbank Elementary, and then after school on Mondays she heads to the funeral home. The next day, instead of heading to the funeral home, she’ll go to the gym – the days alternate.
Her day ends at 6 p.m. She’ll pick up her daughter and they’ll enjoy their evening together, and she commits her Sundays to spending time with her daughter.
“People think I’m so overwhelmed with work but I’m not, I just balance my time really well,” she said.
While she is a company commander and a future funeral home director, Lawrence said she is actually very low-key at Foxbank Elementary, and considers herself more of a follower in that area.
“Here I get to follow – everywhere else, I’ve got to lead,” she said. “You’ve got to have both aspects in order to be a leader.”
Lawrence continues to have a lot of support from her school; Principal Natalie Lockliear was among the audience members in Lawrence’s Change in Command ceremony.
“Ms. Lockliear is a great leader,” she said. “I take a lot of her leadership skills and I use them in my unit.”
In addition to a supportive school staff, Lawrence said she has a class of very sweet fourth-graders, and everything she does for them is to support their learning.
“You just got to let them be themselves,” she said. “Don’t think students have to be one way.”
As we continue to see a decline in new COVID-19 cases, Berkeley County School District (BCSD) leaders have approved for high schools to host their annual proms. As high schools and venues vary in size and location, each school will communicate safety protocols and expectations directly to their students and parents. Students, their approved guests, and parents assume responsibility for any COVID-19 risks due to attending prom. BCSD quarantine protocol will be utilized in the event we need to identify close contacts due to a known positive case.
BCSD high school event venue contracts include a cancellation clause that does not require the payment of any fees as a result of necessary cancellation. This is important to protect school interests in the event of a concerning increase in COVID-19 positive cases and/or implementation of state or local health and safety restrictions, such as a return to limits on large gatherings.
BCSD district and school leaders are committed to preserving traditional educational and school social/emotional experiences for students, as much as is practical, during this school year marked by a worldwide health pandemic. BCSD leadership will continue working with our high school principals to monitor conditions, and remain committed to making decisions that best protect the health and safety of our students, staff and communities.
Please continue to check the BCSD website for updates.
When she was growing up in Cordesville, Renata Cumbee was fascinated whenever she saw the night sky lit up with stars.
Seeing that star-speckled sky made her want to learn more about the universe.
“It was so beautiful and there were so many stars,” Cumbee said. “I just really wanted to understand how they were there and what they meant.
“Just looking over the Milky Way is an amazing experience, and I did that every day of my life,” she said.
With that, Cumbee wanted to grow up to be a scientist. When she was 12 years old, she decided she was either going to study something really big or really small.
In astronomy, one studies both.
“There’s so much in the universe we don’t understand, and I’ve always been drawn to it,” she said.
Cumbee is now an astrophysicist, and a product a Berkeley County School District. She is a contractor for NASA, working for the University of Maryland as a research faculty member.
March is National Women’s History Month. Cumbee recently shared her story of growing up in BCSD, and recalled the teachers who supported her on her journey to break into the science field, and the challenges she overcame to get to where she is now.
A product of BCSD
Photos courtesy of Renata Cumbee. On left: Cumbee is in the center wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt. On right: Cumbee is seated, swearing a NASA shirt.
Cumbee grew up as a Berkeley "Fawn", "L’il Buck", "Buck" and "Stag"; she graduated from Berkeley High in 2006.
She remembers a few teachers from BCSD who supported her in her learning: she had a female science teacher in fifth grade who knew Cumbee enjoyed science.
“She gave me a little bit more leeway during experiments and testing experiments during class,” Cumbee said. “She was very encouraging to help me learn more about science, even if it was a little bit more work for her.”
She also remembers Laddie Jones, who she had for eighth-grade social studies at Berkeley Middle – where he is still teaching.
Jones can remember exactly where Cumbee sat in his class: right in the front row, where Jones liked to keep her, because Cumbee was often his go-to student for someone to contribute on a higher level.
“I remember one thing that impressed me about her was, even in the eighth grade, she could think in the abstract,” he said, adding, “She could take lots of pieces of information and analyze them, and come up with her own take on things…that’s hard for a lot of eighth-graders – that’s a skill that they’re just starting to develop.”
Jones said Cumbee always “walked to the beat of her own drummer”, which is also not easy in middle school.
“I just always encouraged her to be herself, and to not be ashamed of being smart,” he said.
Cumbee did not expect to go to college when she was younger, but she knew Jones saw things differently.
“I know that he had high expectations of me and I felt that he was the first person who had those high expectations of me,” Cumbee said, adding Jones envisioned her going to college and graduate school and fulfilling her wishes to become a scientist.
Cumbee ran into Jones while she was visiting home during college; she laughingly recalled he was disappointed that she did not graduate Valedictorian from high school.
Photos courtesy of Renata Cumbee / Photos of Cumbee in high school.
In addition to her fifth-grade teacher and Laddie Jones, Cumbee also received support from a ninth-grade physical science teacher during an experiment in class. She could not remember exactly what the experiment was, but said she and another girl in the class were elbowed out of the way by the boys, who were confident they had the right answer (but didn’t).
“I kind of noticed that…sometimes guys just don’t think I have the answer,” she said.
However, her teacher could tell that the two girls knew the answer and needed to step out of their comfort zone, and thus went over the right answer with the girls and encouraged them to speak up.
Cumbee described herself as a very shy person, and that this teacher’s influence left a major impact on her, particularly when she went to graduate school, when she saw similar traits with her male classmates.
She took biology in addition to physics, and she noticed that biology classes had more female students while physics classes were more male-dominant; sometimes Cumbee would be the only girl (or one of two girls) in a larger class.
During class it was not so much an issue – and she enjoyed her professors – but sometimes if she was struggling in lab or had questions, she felt like she was treated differently by her male classmates.
“People would just treat me as though I’m an idiot…and then a male peer would ask the same question to the same person and they would treat him very differently,” she said.
However, it hasn’t been an issue since coming to NASA, and Cumbee said she has a lot of female peers in her field.
Photos courtesy of Renata Cumbee. On left: Cumbee's senior yearbook photo. On right: A recent headshot from NASA.
Working for NASA
Cumbee had a physics teacher that told her about a program at Francis Marion College that showed how fun physics can be – instead of it just being a hard subject.
Cumbee said those prying questions about college – such as where she wanted to apply, when she was taking the SATs, whether or not she was hearing back from colleges yet – showed her that her teachers really did expect her to make it into college.
"They had no doubt as to whether I would be accepted into at least one of the schools I wanted to go to, and it made me feel just a tiny bit more confident," she said.
Cumbee studied physics at Francis Marion College. She later obtained a doctorate from the University of Georgia (UGA) – she studied physics for her undergraduate degree but her research was in astrophysics.
UGA profiled her life and work in its graduate school magazine in 2016. Laddie Jones actually has a hardcopy of this magazine; another UGA graduate Jones knows happened to come across it, read the article about Cumbee, saw Jones’s name in the story, and then mailed the magazine to him.
“When I saw it, I smiled from ear to ear, and I was just thinking… ‘no surprise at all’,” he said. “I was glad to see that she had taken opportunities that her mind has given her, and is able to climb as high as she has.”
He now keeps the copy of the magazine in his classroom and shows it to his students, sharing the story of how he knows her.
Cumbee got her first position at NASA through the NASA Postdoctoral Program. She had to write a 15-page proposal to earn a spot with NASA.
“I was very lucky to have been accepted. …The work here, I wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else,” she said. “I wanted to stay, and I started to work at NASA through the University of Maryland following the fellowship.”
Cumbee knew she wanted to do research in astrophysics. She is currently studying x-ray radiation produced in the galaxy. She does laboratory astrophysics, and works on physics experiments that can be used to better understand x-rays in the universe.
With help from a satellite, Cumbee can observe x-rays within the solar system, and x-rays in other galaxies.
She is part of a team helping to build a satellite with Japan called XRISM, which is going to be used to look at x-rays in greater detail. Part of it was built in America but a bigger portion was constructed in Japan. It is slated to launch in January 2022.
“I’m mostly working to make sure it’s operating properly,” she said.
With the ongoing pandemic, Cumbee is working from home, doing everything via computer.
“It’s a little bit more difficult to get stuff done, especially when you’re working with teams in other locations – you’re not able to travel as easy,” she said. “But I’m lucky I have the ability to work from home.”
Cumbee has lived in Washington, D.C. since 2016 but still comes back to South Carolina to visit family.
"I like to relax and have a bonfire," she said. "I love to go the beach...the beaches are so much better in South Carolina."
Cumbee defines success as someone following their dreams.
“I feel that I’m successful because I followed my dreams, and I got as far as I could while following my dreams,” she said.
Cumbee said she was afraid to go to a large university, and was apprehensive about leaving home. However, she felt prepared to work as hard as she needed because of the direction she received in grade school.
While there may have been time when she did not think she would get the degrees or job she worked hard for, she did not want to let herself down.
"I never gave up even when I felt that I wasn’t smart enough or good enough to be successful, and that lead me to where I am today, and I will continue to work my hardest so that I continue to be successful," she said.
Her advice for students: “Do the best that you can do and be as successful as you can possibly be. Don’t compare yourself to other people.”
Her overall message, particularly to female students, is to do what’s in your heart; she said she knows she is much happier doing what she is doing than she would have been doing something else.
“If you’re a scientist in your heart, don’t try to change that so you fit in better with what people think you should be,” she said.
Hearing a former student’s success story can be very meaningful to a teacher.
Jones said Berkeley Middle offers training to instruct teachers on how to build relationships with students to support their education.
Jones has had lots of other success stories too; it is easy to reference a local orthodontist or pediatrician who Jones taught years ago, and point to them as examples of what students can achieve – “but you don’t always see astrophysicists in your everyday life.”
“Berkeley prepares you for whatever you want to be, from a rocket scientist, to an NFL star, to an actor or dancer who appears on TV,” he said. “Whatever you want to be, you can achieve it here in Berkeley County School District.”
Cumbee said she is glad she had the support from Berkeley County School District’s teachers to do what she wanted to do.
“I think it’s super important for girls to know they can become an engineer, a physicist, a scientist, even if people think that they shouldn’t want to do that,” she said. “I’m so glad that people felt that I could do this. It’s so important to have the support of your teachers to follow your dreams.”
Cumbee has a niece in BCSD who works hard to get good grades, and Cumbee said she is proud that her niece knows she has opportunities to go to college and graduate school if she wants.
"While she's smart and hardworking on her own, I think Berkeley has helped to set her up for success," she said.
Photo courtesy of the UGA Graduate School
Stratford High School Athletic Director John Chalus is big on teamwork. As arguably one of the greatest baseball coaches to step on a diamond in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, one would expect nothing less.
Before taking the role of athletic director at Stratford, Chalus and the baseball teams he coached amassed more than 450 wins. He does not take the credit. In fact, if you ask, he’s quick to point at photos of players and teams he coached throughout the years that cover nearly every inch of wall space in his office.
“We’re not big for individual things,” he says.
His belief and emphasis on teamwork as a coach is exactly why he was shocked and humbled by the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association naming him 2020-2021 South Carolina Athletic Director of the Year. It’s also why he was selected.
“It’s a great honor,” he said. “It’s the coaches.”
Chalus and three other athletic directors in the state were nominated by their peers in the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association (SCACA), which is more than 6,200 members strong.
“There’s a lot of ADs (athletic directors) in the state that do a great job. I’m very fortunate. …I have great support. If there is something I can’t jump on or get to, there is another administrator to say, ‘I got it.’ …If there is something that they (SCACA) noticed that we did great, it wasn’t just me. It had to be them (admins and coaches) that helped.”
SCACA Executive Director R. Shell Dula said Coach Chalus’ efforts “certainly reflect our SCACA motto of ‘Kids Need Coaches.’”
“We’ve always been very impressed with John,” Dula said. “He has always represented Stratford High School, the district and our organization in a positive way.”
With the challenges presented by the 2020-2021 school year, Chalus is quick to admit that things aren’t perfect. He also admits that he feels a little guilty for being honored when he knows his fellow administrators, his principal and his administrative assistant all work hard, help one another and do the best they can each day.
“We always try to make sure we do the right thing. You can’t get in trouble if you follow the rules. How can you teach a kid to follow the rules, if you aren’t following them. …And you get it all done with the help of other people.”
Doing the right thing, teaching kids to do the right thing and working hard are things that he said have long been part of the culture at Stratford High. He credits great coaches before him like Ray Stackley.
“I was the youngest one when I first started here, so they were always telling me how we do it. It was instilled very young. You’re supposed to respect your sport, respect your profession, do what’s right for the kids and lead by example.”
When asked how he hopes students of Stratford will remember him when they graduate, Chalus without hesitation says he hopes they remember it being fun and safe.
As he stands in his office, surrounded by memories of championships, accomplishments and recognitions, Chalus also gives credit to a supportive family that has understood his passion for coaching, calling of teaching and his competitive nature. There are days when he has worked from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. in attempt to get ahead. The support at home, he said, can’t be measured.
“A good coach knows the future,” he said. “He can predict what might happen. …The consequences. He can plan ahead that way.”
Cross High School’s Robert Seay is one of 10 teachers in the state to receive the 2021 Dr. Elizabeth Gressette Professional Development Scholarship this week.
The scholarship sponsored by the Palmetto State Teachers Association’s Foundation for Professional development is awarded annually to encourage PSTA members to pursue advanced degrees.
Mr. Seay, department chair of Social Studies and ELA at Cross High, said being awarded the scholarship will be extremely helpful to his lifelong goal of earning his Doctorate Degree. He will have the degree in 2021, and his work to achieving the Ed.D. in Global Training and Development has not come without sacrifice. He plans to use the funds to offset expenses incurred.
"I am grateful for the love and support I've received from my coworkers, administrators, friends, family, and of course, the Palmetto State Teachers Association," he said.
Additional information about the PSTA can be found at www.palmettoteachers.org.
New student registration for Berkeley County School District (BCSD) opened on Monday, March 29 at 10 a.m.
In an effort to streamline the efficiency of enrolling students and to simplify the registration of your child, we have implemented a web-based registration process in which all aspects of student registration, including document submission, can be completed online. Those without the ability to register online will need to contact the school and arrange a date and time to register in person.
If you are interested in enrolling your child into the Head Start program, please complete this pre-registration form and then you will receive an email with additional information. Please call 843-899-5048 or 843-899-5092 with any questions or concerns.
If you are the parent of a student currently enrolled in Head Start, you must re-enroll with BCSD when registration opens on March 29.
BCSD CERDEP and Pre-K
Enrollment for the SC Child Early Reading Development & Education Program (CERDEP) will open online March 29, however there may be additional steps required.
If you are the parent of a student currently enrolled in BCSD CERDEP or Pre-K, you do not have to re-register. However, you will need to complete the returning student update process expected to launch in July.
Additional information about pre-k programs can be found at www.bcsdschools.net/preschool.
Registration for Cane Bay Elementary and Cane Bay Middle
If you are the parent of a student zoned for Cane Bay Elementary or Cane Bay Middle, please click this link for additional registration information.
When she learned that all of her band students are “Star Wars” fans, Christina Mixon had the perfect song for them to learn.
This is why anybody walking near the cafeteria early Wednesday morning might have heard bits and pieces of the “Star Wars” theme song during fifth-grade band rehearsal.
Beginner band is still a somewhat new program at H.E. Bonner Elementary, but Mixon, the school’s music teacher, said her students have stepped up and are enjoying being part of their own little “home” at school.
The beginner band program actually started last year at the start of quarantine. The students – then in fourth grade – began to practice with Mixon virtually.
She was then on maternity leave at the beginning of the school year, so it was October when the students finally got to start practicing face-to-face with Mixon at the school.
About eight fifth-graders are practicing in person but Mixon has three additional band students who are learning from home. She also has 15 fourth-graders this year who are not part of rehearsals but are receiving individual lessons with her.
Mixon is from Connecticut originally, where she said beginner band typically starts around third-grade. She took on the beginner band program at H.E. Bonner Elementary to bring a similar opportunity to her students.
“I just think it’s a really great opportunity for kids who maybe excel in music to take that next step,” she said.
However, it’s not just about providing an outlet for musically-inclined children, but also offering an experience to students who maybe want to see if they have a passion for music and are still trying to find their niche at school.
“I think they’re doing awesome,” Mixon said. “I could not be more proud of this group.”
The fifth-graders also take on a leadership role in the band program; they help lead individual practices Mixon holds with the fourth-graders.
So far this past year the students have participated in a virtual winter concert and will do another one at the end of the semester.
The school was able to take on a beginner band program after receiving a Distinguished Arts Program grant last year, which was used to buy 10 instruments for the 2019-2020 school year, and then buy 15 more instruments for this school year. Mixon puts out an interest form for fourth-graders in the fall semester. Students do not audition to be a part of band; they instead write an essay to Mixon saying why they want to be a part of it.
Mixon has asked the students themselves what they enjoy about the program – and their answers were enough to know that the program was a good idea.
“They said they feel like they have a new home, a different group of friends, and know how to work together as a team,” she said. “That’s all I needed.”
Mixon does not take any credit for the work the students have put into the program.
“I don’t lead this group,” she said. “It’s definitely the students. (They) make this what it is.”
Mixon also said she has received a lot of support for the school’s administration. Principal Melissa Willis said H.E. Bonner Elementary’s arts programs offer students opportunities that they may not have otherwise.
“In the case of our beginner band, students have the opportunity to explore and pursue passions in instrumental music while in fourth or fifth grade during the school day at no cost to families,” she said. “They then have more time to develop that talent which can possibly change the trajectory of their futures. Collaboration between our fine arts and general education teachers provide all students a wonderful arts education.”
Parents interested in learning more about the beginner band program can reach out to Mixon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Berkeley County School District’s school resource officers and social workers recently came together for special training that encourages more support and relationship-building within schools.
March 19 was a teacher work day. During that time, SROs and social workers attended a workshop in Moncks Corner focusing on restorative practices.
This is an initiative the district wants in all of its schools. BCSD’s social workers have worked with the SROs on this initiative since last summer. The plan is continue to meet up quarterly during a teacher work day for more training.
Elaine Swain, district coordinator of at-risk programs, led Friday’s training.
A restorative mindset encourages building more connections and a sense of community across a school, and it involves really digging into factors that could contribute to a child’s behavior if they are acting out at school.
With a restorative mindset, someone would speak with a student about what they were thinking at the time of their misconduct, discuss changes needed to set things right, who might have been affected by their misconduct, among other questions. This puts responsibility on the student to make things right with those affected by their behavior (for example: verbally apologizing to a teacher or fellow student with a promise of contributing more positively in the future).
“With restorative practices we’re talking about finding out what are the underlying issues for a student to…make negative choices,” Swain said. “We have to provide consequences, but…in addition to the consequences, you’re also asking: what’s behind all the behavior? So having a school resource officer build that perspective creates opportunity for deeper, more meaningful relationships with the students – more connections.”
Swain alluded to Corporal Anthony Carlo, Whitesville Elementary’s SRO, who is very active in the school beyond the safety aspect. BCSD’s SROs serve to provide safety at the schools, but restorative practices encourage more connectivity with individual students.
“Their mission is truly to serve the students and families and schools with a safer climate,” Swain said. “If they can build those connections then it just makes it so much easier.”
Swain said Friday’s training is so beneficial to the school environment.
“These guys are really, really committed to the work of serving kids, and they just wanted more tools to build community and create (more productive) relationships with students,” she said.
Throughout Friday’s training, SROs and social workers also participated in teambuilding activities geared toward building trust and rapport with each other. The district has an SOS (“student outreach and safety”) Team, which is made up of the social workers and SROs. These teams conduct home visits to check on students who maybe are not coming to school or logging into their online classroom regularly.
“They’re out there finding these students,” she said.
Tim Knight, director of safety and security for the district, said he felt like Friday’s training went very well.
“I like it when not only can you get our SROs together…and get some hands-on training, but it is also nice when we can bring another department in and do some collaborating,” he said.
Knight said the district plans to expand on this training this upcoming summer and include guidance counselors and administrators, and have everybody work on other scenarios like risk assessment, suicide prevention and more.
“We’re excited about the summer training program,” he said.
Knight added discipline is not always the best answer in certain situations with students.
“We’re giving our SROs the training and the tools they can use to maybe find the root cause of where…this behavior is coming from, and maybe not try to discipline with a criminal record or criminal charge,” he said.
The BCSD Board Art Show is normally a huge event. This school year has been so many things, but it hasn't been normal. Like so many events, we could not hold this event the way that we have in the past. We also saw this as an opportunity to share the event with a larger audience. Please enjoy this virtual art show featuring the work of the students in South Carolina's fourth-largest school district.
About a dozen Philip Simmons middle and high school students recently came together on a Sunday to clean up trash around the high school campus.
Their efforts resulted in 12 bags of litter that were sent off to the Berkeley County Trash Center. Now the students are hopeful to make this a quarterly event with more student participation, and expand its efforts to keep the three Philip Simmons schools’ surrounding areas clean.
The big clean up started with ninth-grader Maverick Heater, who noticed a large amount of litter while running on the trails in the woods surrounding the high school when he was training for cross country.
“There’s a lot more trash build up, especially with all the sports events happening now,” he said.
Maverick teamed up with his friend and fellow ninth-grader Sophia Shulse to round up some classmates and spend a few hours on March 14 to come out to the school and collect trash. The group signed up as a PalmettoPride Clean Team, calling itself the “Cainhoy Clean Team”. PalmettoPride supplied the students with gloves and bags to collect the garbage.
“I felt really good about it and definitely wanted to keep…doing it,” Shulse said. “Even when we were done we are kind of…starting to plan the next one. We all felt good about it – it felt like we actually did make a difference. We left knowing it was cleaner.”
Maverick and Shulse were joined by ninth-graders Walt Gregg, Macey MacGloan, Miller Cannon, Benton Scafano, Mia Cobb and Liam Floyd, and 11th-grader Ella Floyd.
Maverick’s younger sister, Saylor, a sixth-grader at the middle school, also joined in along with her two friends, fifth-graders Lily Bryson and Grace Hatcher.
Maverick was pleased with the turnout for the first clean up event.
“It gave me a lot of faith that people wanted to actually help out around the school, and that people have noticed it,” he said, adding, “We filled up all the bags we had.”
To accomplish their goal, the students split up into groups to cover more ground. Students reported all sorts of bizarre items they found while cleaning up: a pair of pants, a hammer, and even a giant plastic kiddy pool from off the side of the road.
“There was a lot of questionable things we found out there,” Maverick said.
Saylor now wants to organize her own clean-up team with more middle school students. The girls particularly want to tackle the area around the middle and elementary schools’ shared campus.
The girls said they anticipated only finding a little bit of trash but were surprised by how much they found – Styrofoam, pieces of cardboard, cigarette buds, glass bottles, coke cans and more.
The fifth-graders said they are currently learning about pollution in terms of minimizing pollutants to help the environment. Saylor said the sixth-graders are learning about the good and bad effects COVID-19 has had on the environment.
One of the bad impacts is how with more people working from home, they are not driving as much and therefore walking a lot more and subsequently littering more as well. The girls found a lot of thrown-out masks during their cleanup – even some brand new ones still preserved inside of their original packaging.
Saylor encourages other students to take pride in their school.
“You shouldn’t just throw trash everywhere,” she said. “You should try to help clean up your school and want to have your school (be) clean.”
Lily Bryson said the experience taught her that maybe people do not put a lot of thought into properly disposing their trash and how it can hurt the environment.
“I feel like people…think when they eat something, ‘well this tiny piece of trash isn’t going to hurt anything’ – but actually it hurts a lot of things, like animals,” she said.
Grace Hatcher added that if people did not litter then these big group clean-ups would not be needed – but she said she was happy to do it.
“I’ve seen a lot of trash when we’re driving to school so I was actually really excited about it,” she said.
The middle and high school students said they hope their actions show others that they need to be accountable for themselves when it comes to throwing their trash away, and maybe
“I feel like there’s a lot more for us to do but I also feel like this is very promising,” Maverick said. “I think it’s just a very cool prospect that I can make a difference in my community and my environment – that I can go out there and help clean up.”
Shulse said she hopes their efforts will garner interest from more classmates wanting to join the next cleanup.
“Just because you’re in high school, doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference in your community,” she said.
Philip Simmons middle and high school principals Charla Groves and Chris Buccholz applauded the students for their efforts.
“I thought it was great,” Buccholz said. “It think it’s great that, especially the younger kids, they are taking pride in their school.”
Groves said she is proud of her middle schoolers’ efforts.
“I was just really proud that they, on their own, were motivated to go out and do good works for the community, for the schools, for the environment,” Groves said. “It makes me proud that they’re responsible and they care, and they’re young people taking action. That’s important for them to know and for everybody to know: you don’t have to be an old person to make change.”
At Whitesville Elementary, Corporal Anthony Carlo enjoys letting the students see him as a "giant kid."
It is not unusual to see Carlo riding through the hallways on a scooter, or tossing a football with students during recess.
"I come to school every day and I have fun," he said. "How can you not have fun when you get to play and run around and ride a scooter?"
Carlo has served as a deputy with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office for seven years. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserves for five years.
Carlo is originally from Long Island, New York. He is married to Erin Carlo, a school psychologist at H. E. Bonner Elementary. When they were still dating and living in New York, Erin was finishing her Master’s degree while Anthony was getting ready for deployment to Afghanistan, and both were interested in eventually moving south. As Erin was looking for work, she found a job in Berkeley County School District.
Last school year, a $200,000 state grant allowed Berkeley County School District to hire four new school resource officers (or SROs). At the time when the position at Whitesville Elementary became available, Carlo was working in BCSO’s detective unit and wanting to transition back to patrol. He was not immediately interested in the SRO position, but the Sheriff’s Office asked him to hold the position while potential hires finished training.
Carlo instantly fell in love with the school and asked if he could stay longer to see if the position was something he would really enjoy. He ended up telling his supervisor that he wanted to stay.
“It’s a lot more freedom in a sense, because it’s more of ‘what can I do with the kids?’” he said.
He said he was surprised by the students, who would run to him in the hallway and hug him. He has become very involved in the school, whether it is working one-on-one with a student who needs a role model or communicating with another student to ease whatever fears they may have of someone who works in law enforcement.
Carlo said SROs work to engage children at their different levels of development in life.
“Every kid’s unique, so we have to kind of figure out what works with one kid and what works with another kid,” he said.
He is able to have a more serious and engaging conversation with the older children about why they may feel a certain way about an officer while he explains to younger children that he is at school to help them out.
“I look at them and I say…’I’m here to walk you to class and make sure you get there safe, and make sure you have a good experience today,’” he said.
Carlo starts his day directing traffic in the morning in front of the school building. He has a couple of students who walk to school, and he makes sure they cross safely.
He may help some children find their way to class, and then later check on classes or meet with students who need the extra guidance.
Carlo particularly enjoys hanging out in the school’s multipurpose room when the students are doing fun activities. He recently owned some fifth-graders in a game of cornhole, and he entertained a class of second-graders doing yoga by attempting a few of the yoga positions.
He will sometimes go outside during recess and play football or soccer with the students.
“I try not to do the same thing every day,” he said. “I try to keep it interesting.”
Teachers have included Carlo on some of their lessons too; when a few classes learned about World War I, Carlo brought in some of his body armor to talk about his experience overseas.
His armor contains 30-pound plates, which he wore while running across a desert in 120-degree heat.
“It kinda gave them an idea of what I went through versus what they’re learning about,” he said.
Carlo is interested in implementing a weekly board game get-together with the students, but the pandemic has postponed such plans. He also wants to get fellow members of the BCSO to visit the schools and serve as mentors with the children.
A contributing factor to him wanting to stay at Whitesville Elementary is the administrative staff.
“(Principal Katie Taie) is definitely a strong driving force for why I wanted to stay,” he said. “She and I both have a similar vision of what we see my position being and how to go about it.”
Taie echoed similar thoughts about Carlo.
“We love having Officer Carlo at our school,” she said. “He has made a positive impact on our students and school community by building relationships. Officer Carlo does much more than safety walks and directing traffic. He mentors students, participates in school events, teaches safety lessons, and communicates with parents. He has a huge heart and an even bigger desire to make a difference.”
Nearly 300 of Berkeley County School District’s employees received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Thursday through the district’s long-standing partnership with Walgreens.
The single-shot vaccine was provided by appointment with approximately 240 employees expected to receive the shot on Friday, March 12.
“This was an emotional day for many,” said BCSD Superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram. “So much has happened since we began to first feel the effects of this pandemic a year ago. There have been so many challenges. I will be forever thankful for the partnerships that made today and our other upcoming vaccination events possible.”
In attempt to provide multiple opportunities for employees to get vaccinated, BCSD also partnered with Fetter Health Care Network and Liberty Doctors. Employees received emails with instructions on how to make appointments for the upcoming Fetter Health Care vaccination event, and instructions for employees requesting the Pfizer two-shot vaccine from Liberty Doctors should be expected soon.
Additional vaccination opportunities will be offered as needed. In the meantime, BCSD employees wishing to get a vaccine are encouraged to find more information about other vaccination clinics in the area by visiting the SC DHEC website: https://vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov/
Berkeley County School District (BCSD) has launched a COVID-19 safety concern voicemail tip line and expanded its mobile app-based anonymous tip line to accommodate COVID-19 safety concerns in response to federal guidelines.
Updated OSHA guidelines, released in late January, encouraged employers to set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19 related hazards. BCSD has responded to and expanded upon this request by adjusting the current BCSD anonymous tip line, available on the BCSD app, to receive COVID-19 related concerns from employees, students, and parents. Those who prefer to make an anonymous report via voicemail are asked to call 843-899-8891.
"We remain committed to offering high quality, in-person instruction supported by safe working and learning environments for our staff and students," said BCSD Superintendent Eddie Ingram. "We cannot address a problem if we are not aware so we hope that our staff, especially, will utilize this tip line to report any concerns related to the health and safety of our schools."
Examples of what may be reported utilizing the anonymous tip line:
- Staff/students not following BCSD COVID-19 health and safety guidelines on our campuses
- Concentrated cleaning products used instead of the diluted product
- Not cleaning areas properly
BCSD OSHA/Safety Officer Steve Brandenburg said school and district staff have worked harder than ever to adhere to ever-changing health and safety guidelines this year.
"I commend all of our staff for their flexibility, adaptability and commitment to ensuring safe working and learning environments," Brandenburg said. "We have trained our custodial staff and administrators monthly with support from our cleaning solutions vendors and nursing services department. We also have a COVID Response Team that reviews COVID-19 related concerns weekly, and leadership that is very supportive and sensitive to safety concerns. This has been a difficult year but BCSD has risen to the challenge. Receiving reports we confirm as accurate will help us to adjust our training and address issues as they arise."
BCSD staff will monitor the BCSD app and voicemail tip lines daily, and will assign reports received to the appropriate department and/or school for investigation. Leaders expect that volume may be high initially so they ask for patience as they offer this new resource.
"The pandemic has been on the forefront of many minds this year and some remain understandably concerned as we continue to navigate school during the pandemic," Ingram added. "We know that tip lines can become overwhelmed when first accepting reports, and the volume may be similar for ours, so we ask for patience as we validate and address reports received. Additionally, we ask that everyone understand that this is to be used for legitimate reports that will help improve health and safety on our campuses.”
Report a BCSD COVID-19 related concern:
As the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) works to track cases of COVID-19 across our state, there is an understandable delay in reporting confirmed cases in public schools. Berkeley County School District is committed to providing stakeholders with accurate and timely information so the BCSD COVID-19 Case Dashboard has been updated to reflect the number of confirmed cases reported directly to BCSD. These numbers will be updated every business day to provide our community with a more accurate accounting of confirmed cases in Berkeley County schools.
The content of this database is general information for each location. Any necessary contact tracing is conducted by SCDHEC. This info is updated at the close of each business day. Please note the numbers provided are numbers of confirmed cases reported to the Berkeley County School District and are 14-day cumulative counts.