Tracy Allen’s kindergarteners at Cainhoy Elementary love it when she reads a book about a silly teacher named Mrs. Millie.
Allen has a love for books and reading, and reading is a big part of kindergarten curriculum. Her classroom is packed with books, but a favorite is “Don’t Be Silly, Mrs. Millie!” where the titular character has fun with her own kindergarteners by telling them to hang up their goats, eat gorilla cheese sandwiches, and wear bats and mittens.
Whenever Allen does something “silly” herself, she dons the nickname “Silly Mrs. Allen.”
Allen has a laundry list of funny memories from teaching kindergarteners; one time a student brought her a “breakfast burrito” that consisted of a flour tortilla wrapped around a pickle and mustard – Allen said the child was so proud of the delicacy when he bestowed it upon her.
Another time a child fetched a basketball to play with at recess, got a whiff of the ball and remarked, “This basketball smells like you, Mrs. Allen!”
“They say some of the strangest things, and you just have to laugh and go on with it,” Allen said.
Allen knows how to laugh at herself too, which is why she is okay with “Silly Ms. Allen”.
“Sometimes I do silly things too and make mistakes, and we can just laugh about it and move on,” she said.
Allen is originally from New Mexico and moved to South Carolina a few years ago. She spent two years teaching in Colleton County before coming to Berkeley County School District. This is her third year teaching kindergarten at Cainhoy Elementary, where she was a Teacher of the Year nominee last year. This is also her 23rd year teaching total.
While she has taught a couple of different elementary grade levels, most of her teaching career has been spent in kindergarten.
Allen is very active with Red Ribbon Week, a drug-abuse prevention campaign. She is a supporter of anti-bullying and other initiatives. She is part of her school’s Sunshine Committee, which highlights Cainhoy Elementary staff members on their birthdays and provides words of encouragement throughout the year.
Allen comes from a big family with seven children who grew up in a rural area in New Mexico. Four out of the five sisters in her family all grew up to pursue teaching at some point in their careers. Allen recalled her older sisters would play “school” with her; she knew her ABCs before she even started school.
Allen said it is very much the students that has kept her in the classroom.
“I love the kids. I love it when they say, ‘I can read that!’ – that’s the best part, when they can read their first word and they light up,” Allen said, adding, “This age group is just wonderful.”
Allen started off getting an associate’s degree in early childhood education through Eastern New Mexico University, and then went back for her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She also has a master’s degree in reading and literacy.
Kindergarten covers a lot of material; identifying 3D and 2D shapes, counting to 100 and adding/subtracting within 10, to name a few areas.
However, reading is huge – recognizing sight words, phonics, guided reading and being able to get students to where they can read two to three sentences on a page are all part of what they learn during the school year.
Allen loves books and tries to get her students excited about reading – she likes a lot of “Dr. Seuss” and “Curious George” material. Her students have a lot of room in her classroom where they can enjoy a book.
When her students move on from kindergarten, Allen said she wants them to remember how much she loved them and that they are special.
“They are special and they can do whatever they set their mind to, and achieve great things,” she said.
Her favorite thing about Cainhoy Elementary is the school leadership; she gave high remarks to Principal LaWanda Glears.
“She really works with us and wants the best for every kid in this school,” Allen said. “She is a wonderful administrator.”
Allen has been married to her husband, Robert, for 36 years. They have two grown children and three grandchildren.
Outside of school Allen enjoys reading, crafts and going to movies. She resides in Summerville.
If your student is interested in attending AFTER SCHOOL STEP for the 2021-2022 school year, please complete this form. To register for an afterschool STEP class your student must be GT qualified in either the Visual or Performing Arts.
**DUE TO LIMITED CLASS SIZES, THIS IS FIRST-COME - FIRST-SERVE**
Six Berkeley County School District educators scored funds for their schools and classrooms through Berkeley Electric Cooperative’s Bright Ideas Education Grant Program. The co-op recently posted its 2021 grant winners on their website.
The Bright Ideas Education Grant Program supports innovative and effective classroom education curriculum that cannot be covered by traditional school financing.
Individual teachers can apply for grants up to $1,000 while teams of teachers are eligible for grants up to $1,500.
Teachers in public and private schools, K-12 in Berkeley Electric Cooperative’s service area are eligible to participate. Grants are awarded for projects in any discipline and are intended to help teachers within Berkeley Electric Cooperative’s service area produce a better-educated workforce. The grants are designed to help teachers introduce innovative teaching methods.
Grants are awarded annually in a competitive evaluation process.
BCSD’s teachers’ earnings ranged from $1,000 and $1,500.
Cowdrey teaches music at Berkeley Intermediate. She wrote the grant to be able to order a class set of mini pianos for her students – she called the project “Rocking the Keys”. The project will use mini pianos and STEAM as inspiration to discover a new way of learning about sound and playing music.
Cowdrey said her classroom will turn into a mini piano lab where every student will be able to be creative in their own way. Students will experience hands-on learning through reading, melodic patterns and creating with Makey Makeys. Students will work together, play piano and move their hands like never before, she said.
“Students will receive lessons daily in school as if they had a private lesson instructor,” Cowdrey said. “Students will also be using a piano app where they will keep track of their own progress and growth.”
Cowdrey also said the school's media specialist will be able to assist students in making music through STEAM activities. Students can code music with their Chromebooks and use the Makey Makeys to create piano music.
McLean teaches third-grade at Goose Creek Elementary; he will use the grant to fund various STEAM projects for his students.
He applied for the Bright Ideas Grant with a project called Superhero STEAM Stories. He requested funding for literature and science materials so that his third-grade students could investigate and imitate super powers with science.
“The students and their teachers love superheroes,” McLean said. “I thought it would be a great way to use their interest in superheroes and explore scientific principles such as magnetism and electricity.”
For example, students can complete an experiment where they explore the power of flight with paper airplanes, or read a story about Iron Man and then investigate the power of an electrical circuit,. They could read a story about Batman and then work on their problem-solving skills – detective-style.
They could also take a story from Star Wars and then simulate “the force” using magnets.
“I love to share my nerdiness with our students and use it to build relationships with the kids and show them that the things they are interested in can be launching points for significant learning,” McLean said.
Tobin is a fifth-grade teacher at Philip Simmons Middle, and plans on using the grant money to lead a collaboration between her school's fifth-graders, and the first-graders at Philip Simmons Elementary.
The collaboration will be cross-curricular, studying the impact immigrants have had on the United States as well as determining/analyzing theme.
The fifth-graders will study this material in class and create a virtual, interactive experience for the first-graders to teach them about finding theme, the immigrant experience and building global citizenship. The collaboration will all be virtual for the time being.
The mentor text they will use for the lesson is “All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel” by Dan Yaccarino. A description about the book reads Yaccarino’s great-grandfather arrived at Ellis Island with a small shovel and his parents’ good advice: “Work hard, but remember to enjoy life, and never forget your family.” With simple text and warm, colorful illustrations, Yaccarino recounts how the little shovel was passed down through four generations of this Italian-American family—along with the good advice.
“The grant money will go toward buying a copy of the book to give to each first-grader to use in the lesson taught by the fifth-graders, and then to keep afterward,” Tobin said.
Guerry is now an assistant principal at Berkeley Middle but was working as a resource teacher at the school last year when she applied for the grant.
The name of her project is Berkeley Brew, and it will be run by the school’s students with disabilities. It will be a school-based business that provides coffee, tea, hot chocolate and snacks for teachers (and, eventually, for other students in the school). Guerry hopes to get the project up and running next semester.
Students will handle everything from making displays in the display case, running the cash register, pushing the delivery cart and more.
“It’s related to career and college readiness because it’s all about those transition skills needed to work,” she said, adding, “It’s all about food prep and the socio-emotional skills that you would need to work with others.”
Guerry drew inspiration from Sangaree Middle, which has a similar student-run coffee shop called Exceptional Coffee.
Guerry is also hopeful to look for business partners to provide anything that can support Berkeley Brew.
“The other part of that business partner is for those kids to come and see how food prep works in the real world,” she said.
Hopkins is one of the art teachers at Cane Bay High; she teaches Art 1, Art 4 and AP/Studio Art – 2D and drawing.
Cane Bay High offers 3D art to students but Hopkins is not teaching that class right now because nobody signed up to take the class – “which is why I was very excited to get this grant so I can hopefully increase the interest in 3-dimensional art,” she said.
Hopkins plans to purchase a pottery wheel, clay and glazes. She will have her students create a pot or vase that expresses who they are, while teaching them the basic throwing techniques on the pottery wheel.
Her students will use etching tools to depict pictures and symbols into their vases to reflect their own stories.
“So they’re expressing who they are – but in a vase,” she said.
The school should receive the pottery wheel next semester.
Hopkins herself particularly enjoys printmaking and mixed media/collage, both of which are 2D art, but said she believes her job as an art teacher is to get her students to work with every art material while they are at Cane Bay High.
“They’re going to get their hands dirty with clay – we’re going to do these things because I want them to love it and…experience it,” she said.
Wilson is a special services teacher at Devon Forest Elementary. He partners with a fifth-grade class, and the grant funds will go toward creating Makerspace areas that can be utilized by both general education and special needs students as a place to come together to build and learn.
This will also serve as a mentor program between the general education fifth-graders and the special needs students.
Makerspace is an area where students go to "create"; they are geared toward students collaborating on projects which promote creativity, critical thinking and problem-sovling – all elements of STEAM.
Makerspace materials differ from school to school but many of them are equipped with a combination of items like computers, 3D printers, art supplies, LEGOs and more.
Wilson created a Makerspace last year with his own students and this year wanted to branch out to the general education students. The grant funds will purchase Makerspace materials like robots the students can design, consumable materials for building and deconstructing electronics, and possibly a new 3D printer.
Wilson's goal is to provide hands-on learning for the students, and get the students college and career-ready.
"They're able to use their creativity, and it was amazing what we did last year," he said.
Berkeley County School District is seeking certified teachers for the 2021-2022 school year.
Eligible candidates MUST be able to begin work in January 2022.
Those interested are asked to attend our Teacher Recruitment Drop-In on November 17. Pre-registration is preferred by November 14.
Ready now? Don't wait! You can view and apply for opportunities to teach with BCSD year-round at bcsdschools.net/jobs.
PLEASE NOTE: Berkeley County School District does not sponsor work Visas. International teachers in our district are contracted through Educational Partners International (EPI).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Berkeley County School District continues to implement the following safety operations and protocols:
- Face coverings are strongly encouraged.
- Hand sanitation stations are available.
- Social distancing is required at all times.
Berkeley Educational Center
107 East Main Street
Moncks Corner, SC 29461
A Cane Bay High senior is being recognized by the College Board organization in two different areas for excelling in his PSAT and AP scores.
Jamie Baker has been designated as a College Board National African American Recognition Program Scholar, as well as a College Board National Indigenous Recognition Program Scholar.
Both designations are contingent on a student’s performance on the PSAT and/or AP. Baker’s most recent AP scores included five 4s and two 3s. He is still waiting on his SAT scores, but made a 1260 on the PSATs. He also made a 31 on the ACT last year.
Baker is currently ranked 22 in his class.
Tiffany Brown, interim principal at Cane Bay High, praised Baker for doing a phenomenal job on the PSAT and several AP exams.
“We’re thrilled that Jamie has earned this recognition," she said. "We are very proud of Jamie’s achievements in the classroom and on College Board Assessments. These programs help students from underrepresented backgrounds stand out to colleges during admissions.”
College Board, which administers the PSAT and SAT, recognizes academic excellence through its National Recognition Programs, which grant underrepresented students with academic honors that can be included on college and scholarship applications and connect students with universities across the country, helping them meaningfully connect to colleges and stand out during the admissions process. Colleges and scholarship programs identify students awarded National African American, Hispanic, Indigenous and/or Rural/Small Town Recognition through College Board’s Student Search Service.
Students who may be eligible have a GPA of 3.5 or higher and have excelled on the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10, or earned a score of 3 or higher on two or more AP Exams; and are African American or black, Hispanic American or Latinx, Indigenous, and/or attend a school in a rural area or small town.
Baker has previously been recognized by College Board as an AP Scholar with Distinction, as well as an AP Scholar with Honors.
Baker is very active at Cane Bay High; in addition to taking AP classes, he is as a member of the school’s symphonic band and the Cane Bay Chorale. Baker is still deciding on where to go for college after graduation, but is interested in studying music.
Baker remembers filling out the applications for the National Recognitions Programs without knowing if anything would come from it, but knew he has worked hard during his high school years.
“It makes it worth it to receive some recognition for it,” Baker said.
Baker advises other students studying for these major tests to go into them with confidence.
“You've just got to go in like you know it,” he said.
Foxbank Elementary fourth-graders got a little “taste” of different books with this restaurant-themed activity.
“Book tastings” are a great way to get students to step outside their comfort zone and check out different genres that might interest them.
Fourth-grade teacher Haley Stuart worked with librarian Jackie Bresse-Rodenkirk to pick out books that fourth-graders are highly interested in, and also considered the interests of her own students. Students were each given a chef’s hat as Stuart called them to their table “reservations” – tables were covered in red-checkered table clothes, similar to what one would find in an actual restaurant.
Stuart said her students loved so many different aspects of the activity: acting as though they were in a restaurant, the restaurant music playing while they read, the picture walks of new books, realizing wordless books have endless storylines, finding new books to love and recommending books to friends.
“I couldn't have asked for a better outcome of this lesson,” Stuart said. “My students were excited to explore different genres and afterwards understood the differences in genres.”
-Books with bookmarks describing the type of genre the text was
-Menu to summarize and rate each book
-Napkin to reflect on the activity
Each student got four to five texts to “taste” through, and had to complete a summary of each by reading the title, back of the book and the first few pages. Students also had to rate the book on a scale of 1 to 5 and explain why they would recommend the book to a classmate.
As students reflected they were asked to give feedback of how the tasting went, what books caught their interest that surprised them and what books they hoped to see in the next "tasting".
Since doing the book tasting, Stuart said her students enjoy silent reading in class, as they are more engaged and not rushing through books as quickly as they have before.
“They now know how to see if a book is right for them and have a better understanding of what to look for when searching for a book that will keep their interest,” she said.
The Goose Creek High School Choral Department has been invited to perform in the Windy City Choral Festival, in spring 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. The event will take place in one of the world’s most renowned concert halls; Chicago’s Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The ensemble, led by director Emily R. Bohl, will join several other select choruses on stage en masse as they celebrate their choral heritage together. They will sing under the artistic direction of Dr. Z. Randall Stroope, conductor, composer, and Director Emeritus of Choral Activities at Oklahoma State University.
The 2022 Windy City Choral Festival is produced by Music Celebrations International, LLC. For more information, including ticket orders, please visit windycitychoralfestival.org.
For additional information about the Goose Creek Choirs, please visit bcsdschools.net/gcchoirs.
Harry Potter fans are very familiar with the house system concept used at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: in the stories, at the beginning of every school year, new students are sorted into one of four houses – done so by a magical hat called the Sorting Hat – and their house becomes like their new family.
Westview Elementary has introduced such a concept at its school as a way to build camaraderie and school spirit, and provide more leadership opportunities for its students.
School staff credits the Ron Clark Academy as the real inspiration behind the new concept. Ron Clark Academy is a grades 4-8 school in Atlanta. The founder, Ron Clark, began using the house system in his classroom as a teacher in the Bronx 20 years ago. He found that the house system encouraged competition, comradery and connection while teaching communication and collaboration. He credits it with allowing him to truly reach those students.
When he moved to Atlanta to begin his school, the house system became embedded in it. The school now offers training for teachers around the world. Six Westview Elementary faculty members attended training at his school over the summer.
Westview Elementary Principal Shawn Wimmer said several faculty members texted her during the training to express interest in the house system; "life-changing" was one of the actual terms they used.
Wimmer said the house system has the potential to transform school culture in many positive ways: relationships, social-emotional learning, leadership development, service-learning and more.
"Research shows there is a strong correlation between student success and students' connectedness within a school community," Wimmer said. "This program is a framework to build out that connectedness for our students."
Westview Elementary librarian Jennifer Beaver said the school got students pumped for the house sorting ceremony during the first two weeks of school; staff explained to the students that they would “spin” a wheel that would decide their house, and that the wheel may choose to sort them by their strengths, or sort them into a house that represents an area the child needs to grow in. The students will stay in their assigned house for their entire enrollment at Westview Elementary.
The "wheel" was project on a screen, operated by Jennifer Beaver from the sidelines.
Also during those first two weeks, students learned the chants of all four houses so they would be prepared to cheer for other classmates. They also discussed the characteristics of each house, and what those characteristics should look like at school.
“Our hope is that houses will give students a crew and a cause, allowing them to feel rooted in our school community and grow as leaders,” Beaver said.
On Aug. 27, Westview Elementary’s media center was brimming with energy as classes were called in throughout the morning for students to be sorted into the school's four new houses: Isbindi, Amistad, Reveur and Altruismo.
Each house name derives from a different country and language, and each house is associated with a color and two animals (or some type of creature/character).
Isbindi - the House of Courage
- Country: South Africa
- Color: green
- Language: Zulu (Isbindi means “courage” in Zulu)
- Icons: lion and mute swan
Amistad - the House of Friendship
- Country: Mexico
- Color: red
- Language: Spanish
- Icons: peacock and knight
Reveur - the House of Dreamers
- Country: France
- Color: blue
- Language: French
- Icons: wolf and unicorn
Altruismo - the House of Givers
- Country: Brazil
- Color: black
- Language: Portuguese
- Icons: griffon and snake
The enthusiasm was palpable as students entered the room; faculty members had already set up the media center with a “red carpet” leading up to a projector screen that featured a digital “wheel” for students to spin to be sorted into their new houses. Faculty had also set up four different stations around the red carpet for the four houses: each station was covered with balloon reefs, manned by faculty and students who had already been sorted into their houses (faculty members had already joined different houses the week prior). Teachers and students greeted entering students with their house cheers, plus lots of music.
A student reacts to watching the wheel spin and reveal her new house.
Students were called up individually to spin the wheel; they used a wand – adorned with a Westview Whale at the tip – and were instructed to wave the wand at the digital wheel to make it spin.
Results were typically met with lots of jumping and fist pumping and grins as students headed over to their new house’s station to cheer on more classmates.
The sorting ceremony took place throughout most of Friday morning, as classrooms were called into the media center two at a time.
Beaver said the houses will meet weekly; each house will be led by a student leader – a fifth-grader – but there will be additional leadership opportunities as houses form their own committees; these committees will cover cheers and chants, social aspects, outreach, dance, technology, academics and Spirit Day.
Students can earn points throughout the school year for going above expectations in their behavior, citizenship, school spirit and academic performance. The house with the most points at the end of the year will be crowned House Champion.
"We're so excited about the potential it offers for our children," Wimmer said. "My hope for our students is that each one of them knows they have an extended 'family' who cares about them individually and will be there through thick and thin."
Students already sorted into a house would greet newcomers with a bracelet reflecting their house color.
Photos provided / Rebecca Coyer and Regina Hamilton, both with Kaela McDonald from Sonic.
Two teachers at College Park Middle got a special treat Friday morning when a Sonic representative stopped by to deliver some goodies.
Reading interventionist Regina Hamilton and sixth-grade science teacher Rebecca Coyer were both surprised with Sonic goodie bags, provided by Kaela McDonald, a new Operating Partner with the Sonic drive-in restaurant on College Park Road. She came into the position in December.
McDonald said she is trying to get more involved in the community while supporting local teachers; she said a lot of Sonic employees are current or former Berkeley County School District students and parents. She has also visited Stratford High to deliver gift bags to two faculty members, and hopes to reach more teachers.
"This is their (our employees') community, so I'm supporting them," she said.
Gina Maxie, Title I Facilitator at College Park Middle, has been in communication with McDonald about working with the school. Coyer and Hamilton were selected as lucky winners after their names were drawn from a hat.
College Park Middle wishes to thank Sonic for supporting its teachers.
"We are working with Kaela on some fundraising opportunities and are excited about building relationships to support one another and our community," Maxie said.
The gift bags included a $50 Sonic gift card, as well as new ceramic coffee cups, pens and pencils, keychains, coupons, notebooks and "thank-you" cards.
Hamilton and Coyer both said winning a gift bag made their entire day.
"We as teachers and staff are working so hard right now to make sure kids are taken care of and are getting everything they need so it was just nice to get a treat today," Hamilton said.
Coyer said it is great to know that local businesses support their teachers and recognize their hard work.
"It's always nice to feel appreciated for what you do," she said.
As a new school year starts, Berkeley County School District’s school resource officers are ready to make a positive impact on students.
Travis Dodd, the lieutenant over BCSD’s SROs with the Moncks Corner Police Department, is hoping to use this year as a chance to change the narrative behind school resource officers, and show everything they bring to the table beyond the safety aspect.
These SROs are handpicked to serve in BCSD’s schools as they have a passion for advocating for children.
With that in mind, Dodd is optimistic about this school year.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “We’ve got some great people in some great positions. Each of them has a different vision for each school. …We look forward to bringing some new programs and some new ideas to different classrooms.”
Dodd has served in law enforcement for 16 years. He is originally from Hanahan and is a product of Berkeley County School District schools; he attended Fishburne when it was an elementary school before heading on to Hanahan Middle, and then graduated from Hanahan High in 2003.
Dodd studied law enforcement through the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, and is still actively pursuing his education through the academy; his ultimate goal is to someday serve as a police chief.
A law enforcement career was not initially part of his plan; Dodd was working for the City of Hanahan’s parks and recreation department when the city needed someone to fill in for animal control. Dodd ended up getting involved in Hanahan’s police explorer program, went on some ride-alongs and fell in love with the job.
“It was the whole thing in general – the interaction with people, the different calls we went on…it was something that I had never seen before, something that most people don’t get to see,” Dodd said. “It was very intriguing.”
Dodd left the Hanahan Police Department in 2017 and came to the Moncks Corner Police Department. He is the lieutenant over patrol, SROs and traffic.
During his career, Dodd has served as an SRO for a total of seven years at three different schools in BCSD, including his alma mater.
“That was a fantastic adventure,” he said. “I got to work with some of the greatest administrators and coaches in Berkeley County. Through my experiences, I got to meet a lot of different people, build a whole different, new network.”
He recalled one time, when he was working at Berkeley High, when he participated in the school’s first home game in 2018 by doing push-ups on the push-up board being held up by students during the football game.
“It was a lot of fun – I enjoyed doing that,” he said. “It was a good night.”
Dodd’s goal is to highlight all the positive things officers bring to schools, starting with reaching children.
“If our officers are in the schools, in classrooms, making day to day contact with students, it is going to definitely help change the narrative.”
Dodd named a few SROs who have hit the ground running to positively impact students; Officer Antwan Richardson at Foxbank Elementary is working to implement the LEAD (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) program in the school district; Officer Robert Arcuri at Berkeley Middle is establishing a role-model type atmosphere at his school; Officers Sean Baber and Brittani Bensoussan at Berkeley High have plans to get more involved in leading classes, especially when prom gets closer.
Berkeley County School District is highlighting its SROs at individual schools through online profiles – read more.
Beyond drugs and alcohol, BCSD’s SROs plan to address bullying and social media safety with children.
Something Dodd wants residents to understand about SROs: they are all approachable, and do more than provide safety and security.
“They’re also there to be a mentor, to be someone that you can come to with a problem,” he said. “Having been an SRO for so many years, it’s not just the enforcement aspect – it’s the relationship aspect.”
Outside of the police department, Dodd enjoys supporting local athletic events. He has been operating the PA sound and announcements for Berkeley High softball for the last three years. He is also part of the board for the 9/11 Heroes Run – Charleston, which raises money to support first responders.
Dodd is married to Michelle, and they have three children – two at Hanahan Middle and one at Hanahan Elementary.
Dodd doted on his experience with working with BCSD.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a favorite memory, just the memories in general, and the experience itself, was very rewarding,” he said.
Residents can contact Dodd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Per the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) August 26, 2021 memorandum, "Face Coverings on School Buses", the SCDE will again enforce the CDC’s Order requiring the use of face coverings by students and staff on state owned and operated school buses. All districts must be in compliance with this requirement no later than Monday, August 30, 2021.
As BCSD school buses are owned, funded and maintained by the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE), students and staff utilizing these buses for transport to and from school will be expected to adhere to the following requirements of the CDC Order per the SCDE's memorandum.
To facilitate adherence to the CDC Order, the SCDE will equip all state-owned school buses with an adequate supply of face coverings that meet CDC Order requirements. If a student boards a bus without a face covering, bus drivers should offer the student a face covering. However, no student should be denied transportation for failing to adhere to the CDC Order.
The following are attributes of masks needed to fulfill the requirements of the CDC Order.
• A properly worn mask completely covers the nose and mouth.
• Cloth masks should be made with two or more layers of a breathable fabric that is tightly woven (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source).
• Mask should be secured to the head with ties, ear loops, or elastic bands that go behind the head. If gaiters are worn, they should have two layers of fabric or be folded to make two layers.
• Mask should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.
• Mask should be a solid piece of material without slits, exhalation valves, or punctures.
The following attributes are additionally acceptable as long as masks meet the requirements above.
• Masks can be either manufactured or homemade.
• Masks can be reusable or disposable.
• Masks can have inner filter pockets.
• Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel may be used to facilitate communication with people who are hearing impaired or others who need to see a speaker’s mouth to understand speech.
• Medical masks and N-95 respirators fulfill the requirements of the Order.
The following do not fulfill the requirements of the Order.
• Masks worn in a way that do not cover both the mouth and nose.
• Face shields or goggles (face shields or goggles may be worn to supplement a mask that meets above required attributes).
• Scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, or bandannas.
• Shirt or sweater collars (e.g., turtleneck collars) pulled up over the mouth and nose.
• Masks made from loosely woven fabric or that are knitted, i.e., fabrics that let light pass through.
• Masks made from materials that are hard to breathe through (such as vinyl, plastic or leather).
• Masks containing slits, exhalation valves, or punctures.
• Masks that do not fit properly (large gaps, too loose or too tight).
The following narrow subset of persons with disabilities are exempt from the CDC’s requirement to wear a mask based on factors specific to the person:
• A person with a disability who cannot wear a mask because it would cause the person to be unable to breathe or have respiratory distress if a mask were worn over the mouth and nose. A person with a condition that causes intermittent respiratory distress, such as asthma, likely does not qualify for this exemption because people with asthma, or other similar conditions, can generally wear a mask safely.
• A person with a disability requiring the use of an assistive device, such as for mobility or communication, that prevents the person from wearing a mask and wearing or using the assistive device at the same time. If use of the device is intermittent and the person can remove the mask independently to use the device, then a mask must be worn during periods when the person is not using the device.
• A person with a severe sensory disability or a severe mental health disability who would pose an imminent threat of harm to themselves or others if required to wear a mask. Persons who experience discomfort or anxiety while wearing a mask without imminent threat of harm would not qualify for this exemption.
A driver does not need to wear a mask if they are the only person on the bus.
To review the SCDE memorandum (in its entirety) please visit: https://ed.sc.gov/newsroom/school-district-memoranda-archive/update-on-school-bus-face-covering-requirements/update-on-school-bus-face-covering-requirements-memo/
Additional guidance for safe school bus operations and the CDC Order can be found in the references below.
This page provides general information relevant to students at most Berkeley County School District campuses. Be sure to click the headline links in each section for detailed information.
If you are looking for school-specific information, we encourage you to visit your school's website or contact the school during regular office hours.
This page will be updated daily through the first few weeks of school.
Do you think your child (grades 3-9) may be gifted? If you are not sure, here is a link to some common characteristics, according to the National Association for Gifted Children.
Students who are properly registered with Berkeley County School District will be screened with the Otis Lennon School Abilities Test (OLSAT) in the fall. To nominate a student please complete this form by September 30, 2021.
All BCSD students are screened in second grade by the state’s assessment system and we analyze State Assessments along with Reading Inventory/Mathematics Inventory scores for all students each year to look for potential GT students. If would like us to screen your child again, please complete the linked form above.
Berkeley County School District (BCSD) has made several changes in school administration ahead of the 2021-2022 school year.
The changes were made in an effort to make the most of the strengths of various administrators and strengthen school leadership teams as a whole.
“We look forward to the impact these adjustments will have on our schools and how they will impact the overall educational experience for students,” said BCSD Superintendent Mr. Deon Jackson.
Changes announced on Thursday, July 1, 2021 include but are not limited to the following.
- John Rose, College Park Middle Assistant Principal, will serve as Assistant Principal at Berkeley Alternative and St. Stephen Middle.
- Leslie Howder, Berkeley Middle Assistant Principal, will serve as Assistant Principal at College Park Middle.
- Amy Ray-Smith, Berkeley Middle Assistant Principal, will serve as Assistant Principal at Westview Middle.
- Sefronia Smith, Westview Middle Assistant Principal, will serve as Assistant Principal at Berkeley Middle.
- Ezra Cowan, Hanahan Elementary Assistant Principal, will serve as Assistant Principal at Westview Middle.
- Jim Haynes, PSH Assistant Principal, will serve as Interim Principal at Berkeley High.
- Taylor Bradley, CBH Assistant Principal, will serve as Assistant Principal at Berkeley High.
Berkeley County School District's Beta Club students took home a number of individual awards following the National Beta Club Convention, held in Orlando last weekend.
In particular, Berkeley High Beta Club students were named national champions in Group Talent after performing a medley of Disney classics on stage. Berkeley High and Goose Creek scored a number of individual awards, along with other BCSD schools who competed.
Beta Clubs focus on achievement, character, leadership and service, and strive to build well-rounded students who are successful in the classroom as well as in the community. Students do a certain amount of service hours as part of their participation. At conventions, students can join different academic and art competitions for individual and group awards.
The national convention was held at the Walt Disney Swans and Dolphins Resort.
About 45 Berkeley High Beta Club students participated in the Group Talent performance. Students covered “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” “Under the Sea,” “Heigh-Ho” and “Let It Go” on stage, and were up against more than 50 other schools from across the nation. Watch the full video.
Math teacher Brittany Colley serves as one of the club sponsors, and said two years ago the students came in fourth place in the group talent, and then placed second last year.
Winning was the goal, but it still came as a pleasant surprise to the group.
“I was shocked,” Colley said, adding, “We’ve pretty much been practicing every day since March, and that’s the best they’ve ever done it. They definitely ‘brought it’ to the stage.”
Colley also said the students normally do a showcase for their families prior to the main event, but could not pull that off this year because of the pandemic, so very few people had seen the full performance until it was brought to the stage last weekend in Orlando.
Students also entered multiple academic and art competitions during the convention. An additional six students competed virtually (see list of awards below).
With the pandemic this year, students were limited on what they could do for service hours; rather than volunteer work, Berkeley High Beta students participated in different drives to benefit the community.
Colley is hopeful this upcoming school year her students can do more volunteer work, while continuing their success on a state and national level.
“They did a really good job,” she said. “Our future’s bright.”
Rising senior Caroline Ballentine was elected Beta Club Vice President for the state back in February. She ran for the national position during her time in Orlando. While she did not win the national position, the school took first place in the Vice President Campaign Skit.
Ballentine has been involved in Beta since middle school. Her favorite part about Beta is the people she gets to work with.
“They’re amazing – they’re really passionate about everything we do,” she said. “It’s just great to be around them.”
Her role as the state Vice President includes helping to plan next year’s state convention, which will be held in Myrtle Beach.
Ballentine was not able to compete in anything else in Orlando but said one of her favorite parts was when her classmates won the Group Talent award.
“Everybody was just so emotional – we were just so excited,” she said.
Rising senior Bishop Vieira participated in the Group Talent as the singing voice of Simba in “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.” Vieira has previously been active in chorus at Berkeley High. She has also been a part of Beta Club since middle school.
Going into the convention, Vieira said Berkeley High Beta Club had not seen any other schools’ performance so they did not know what they were going to be up against.
“We felt very confident just because we had worked so hard, and we felt like we wanted the National Championship title the most,” she said.
When students heard their performance made the top five, it became much more real.
“Once we won, I don’t think there was one dry eye in Berkeley Beta Club,” Vieira said.
Now Vieira is excited for next year’s conventions, and while she is hopeful the school will defend its title, she is glad she got to experience the first-place win this year.
“I’m just excited that I was able to have that first-place national experience,” she said.
James Brown III was one of the few graduating seniors on the trip, and he played a big role in the Group Talent performance. Brown played Li Shang in the “Mulan” sequence and Sebastian in “The Little Mermaid” sequence, and was one of the students who helped with the choreography and movement on stage.
Brown joined Beta Club last year and has a background in performance arts. During the convention, Brown said he felt like Berkeley High had a good chance to win the Group Talent because of their hard work.
“Every time I watch the video, I still feel immense pride in my Beta Club,” he said. “We’d been working so hard throughout the last five months, and I was happy to pass along the torch for those who remain in next year’s (club).”
While “Under the Sea” was a personal favorite among a lot of the Beta Club members, Brown said he enjoyed the lyrical dance moves to “Let It Go.” Brown is also seen receiving the award on behalf of his school at the end of the video, and then bringing it down to his fellow club members.
“The moment was nerve-racking – I could feel my heartbeat through my ears,” he said.
Brown is heading to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the fall to major in global conflict studies. He said he will miss the newest members of the Beta Club, and encourages them to never stop doing what they love – “even if it turns into a hobby, keep pushing for that hobby in life.”
The students also gave high remarks about working under Colley.
“Ms. Colley has been a wonderful sponsor who has greatly (utilized) her time for the betterment of Beta Club, and I was so proud help her achieve a national win,” Brown said.
BHS individual/group awards
- Tori McCay placed fourth in Division I Speech
- Savannah Ballentine, Dylan Burnett, Graham Jones and Amy Reichard placed sixth in Rapid Response
- Abby Whitaker competed virtually and placed sixth in the Division I Onsite Art
- Baylee Tatara placed seventh in Division II Color Photography
- Teagyn Gawronski placed seventh in Division II Woodworking
Beta Club across the district
Provided photo - Goose Creek High Beta Club
Goose Creek High Beta Club took home a number of individual and group awards in the National Beta Club Convention.
As the group returned home earlier this week, social studies teacher Taryn Davis said everyone was exhausted, but had a great time. Davis serves as one of the sponsors of Beta Club, along with assistant band director Tyler Holliday.
Holliday and Davis are actually new sponsors for Beta Club; they took over in April. Goose Creek High had 14 students who participated in the national convention (see list of winnings below).
“We’ve got kids with talent and we wanted to give them a chance to showcase that and compete,” Davis said, adding, “It just overall was a fantastic experience, so I’m glad that we got to do it."
In addition to Goose Creek and Berkeley High's individual accolades, Eric Cody from Cane Bay High placed 10th in 12th-grade math.
GCH students who competed at the convention
Lewis Lee placed second in 12th-grade Social Studies
Logan Dowdell, Mackenzie Godfrey, Madison Godfrey and Ellie Elrod placed fifth in Engineering
Andrea Fletcher and Alexia Bourne placed first in Service Snapshot
Maria Boone placed fifth in Solo Performing Arts
Sophia Heckman placed seventh in Division 2 Sculpture
Maddie Humphries placed eighth in Division 2 Painting
GCH students who competed virtually
Maddie Barron placed sixth in 11th-grade Language Arts
Nuvia Garcia placed 10th in 12th-grade Spanish
Jasmine Diaz placed 10th place in Division 2 Speech
Abigail Szala placed third in Division 1 Mixed Media
Philip Simmons High is being recognized as having the top AA program in the state after being named this year’s recipient of the Carlisle Cup by the South Carolina Athletic Administrators Association (or SCAAA).
Philip Simmons High is the first school in Berkeley County School District to win the award since at least 2002.
The school received word that it earned the reocognition June 25, though the award itself will not arrive until later this year. Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Dan Minkin called it “an unbelievable accomplishment.”
“It’s a whole community award…from the coaches, the athletes, the parents, the staff – everybody working together to get this award,” he said. “This was not just one group or one team that got this.”
The Carlisle Cup is presented each year by the SCAAA to the most outstanding athletic program in each classification. The cup, formerly known as the AD Cup, is named for John Carlisle, a former Eastside head football coach who the SCAAA Board named Executive Director Emeritus in July 2016 and subsequently renamed the award.
Winning schools receive a Carlisle Cup Trophy and a wall banner, and schools qualify through a point system – the more state championships a school places in, the more points that school receives. Learn more about the Carlisle Cup.
Philip Simmons High won three state championships this year: the boys and girls track teams each won state championship titles, as did boys tennis.
The school serves students in the Cainhoy, Huger, Clements Ferry Road and Daniel Island communities. Minkin came on board on the school wanting to get its athletic programs on the map statewide.
“I believe, with this cup, we’ve made that known,” he said.
Minkin praised Philip Simmons High’s athletes for navigating a difficult year with the added challenge of the pandemic.
“Athletes and coaches were the ones who set the example of what needed to be done to have a successful school year,” he said. “They were the ones who did the social distancing first. They did the masks first. They did all those things because they wanted to have a successful year.”
Students are occupying the school grounds this summer, participating in different athletic summer camps to get ready for the upcoming school year. Minkin is hopeful the school will defend its title, and is looking forward to the addition of a varsity boys lacrosse team, a girls golf team, and both boys and girls swim teams.
“We want to defend our title and help our student athletes continue to be successful on the fields and courts, and off as well,” he said. “This is a special place.”
Registration for BCSD schools offering before and/or after school programs will open on July 7 at 9 a.m.
Additional information about programs and fees can be found on our program parent information page.
* PLEASE NOTE: Some fees have changed, and details on some programs are subject to change prior to the opening of the registration period (July 7).
Updated Tuesday, July 13, 2021
On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plans (ARP) Act was signed into law. In it, the U.S. Department of Education is providing an additional $121.9 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER III Fund). This legislation will award grants to state educational agencies (SEAs) for providing local educational agencies (LEAs) with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation.
South Carolina will receive $2,112,051,487 in ESSER III funds from the Act, with 90 percent being awarded to school districts with amounts determined in proportion to the amount of Title I, Part A funds they received in summer 2020 from funds under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The remaining funds will be used for state-level activities to address issues caused by COVID-19. Berkeley County's ESSER III allocation is $72,478,919 for the three-year period through September 2023.
This plan describes how Berkeley County School District will provide a safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services for all schools, including those that have already returned to in person instruction. This report template complies with all reporting requirements of the ARP Act (Public Law 117-2), the ESSER III grant terms, conditions, and assurances (CFDA Number 84.425U), and the interim final rule established by the United States Department of Education, 86 FR 21195.
Maintaining Health and Safety
Overview of ESSER Requirements
The district’s plan must include how it will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and LEA staff, and the extent to which it has adopted policies or practices and a description of any such policies or practices, on each of the CDC's safety recommendations including: the universal and correct wearing of masks; modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding); hand washing and respiratory etiquette; cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation; contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the state, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments; diagnostic and screening testing; efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible; appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies or practices; and coordination with state and local health officials.
Description of maintaining health and safety
Berkeley County School District will continue to follow the recommendations and guidance by the SC DHEC and CDC. We anticipate many changes/revisions/modifications to these health and safety protocols for the 2021-2022 school year as we continue to utilize practicable measures, to provide the safest situation possible for our students and employees.
- COVID-19 approved disinfectants will continue to be used in all spaces.
- Surfaces and common spaces will be cleaned and sanitized daily. Those items to be cleaned frequently include but are not limited to doorknobs, light switches, classroom sink handles, countertops, desks and chairs.
- Desks and chairs will be wiped down with an appropriate/approved disinfectant.
- Hand sanitizing stations are placed in common areas, inside the entrance of buildings, and in classrooms.
Student Health/Health Clinics
- If your student is sick, please keep them home.
- Students will not share supplies.
- Students will wash and sanitize hands often.
- Non-essential visits to the school health room will be minimized or eliminated. All teachers are expected to call the nurse with concerns, prior to sending a student to the health room.
- Parents should administer medications at home (if practicable) to limit possible exposure.
- Parents will only bring "as needed" medication to be used at school only if absolutely necessary. (i.e. inhalers, EpiPens, Benadryl, etc.)
- Each school will identify an isolation area in close proximity to the health room or if space permits, in the health room.
- The student will be asked to wear a mask while sitting in the isolation area. (The nurse will call the parent of the child to ask permission for the child to wear a mask while displaying symptoms.)
- Isolation area will be disinfected between each use.
- If a student is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, he/she will be escorted to an isolation area for further monitoring until he/she is signed out.
- If a student is sent home from school with COVID-19 symptoms, a letter will be given to the parent(s) explaining when the student may return to school.
- All positive cases will be reported to DHEC by the district’s Nursing Services Coordinator.
- Health rooms with 2 entrances will designate an entrance for “sick” visits and an entrance for “healthy visits” (students coming for medications, treatments, etc.). These entrances will be designated by proper signage for students and staff to follow. This will protect healthy students and staff from potential infectious students/staff.
- Health rooms that do not have multiple entrances will keep healthy students (children receiving medications or procedures) separate from students who are ill.
- Nurses will train school staff on proper wear and removal of protective equipment.
- Commonly touched areas in the health room will be cleaned throughout the day.
- All medical procedures must be conducted in the nurse’s clinic; unless the student has a one on one nurse. Toileting may be conducted in designated restrooms for students with high support needs.
- Schools will implement frequent hand-washing and/or hand-sanitizing opportunities.
- Sharing of food or any other item should not occur; this includes cupcakes or cookies for a celebration. Schools will be encouraged to communicate to parents that the only food allowed for celebrations should come in individual packaging.
- Limit any non-essential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations as much as possible, especially with people who are not from the local geographic area.
- Students that are ill will not be permitted to ride the school bus.
- Buses will be disinfected following unloading of students using electrostatic cleaners.
- Personal protective equipment will be distributed based on need and availability.
- Bus staff will use gloves and eye protection when using disinfectant supplies. Gloves will be discarded after use.
- Each student will be assigned a seat on the bus. Each driver will maintain a seating chart as documentation of the students’ location on the bus. When possible, members of the same household will be assigned the same seat.
- The driver will maximize the circulation of outside air to the extent practicable. The opening of roof vents and windows will be utilized as weather permits.
- Posting of COVID-19 prevention in prominent areas on school buses.
- Training options will be made available for cleaning.
- Parents are encouraged to educate their students on positive behavior at bus stops, to include all general safety rules.
- School building guidelines and disinfecting protocols will be followed.
- Per a July 6, 2021 memorandum from the South Carolina Department of Education, masks and face coverings will no longer be required on school buses.
- School cafeterias will be open to all students. Additional school-specific plans for meal services are to be followed.
- If there is a student with allergies, arrangements will be made for the student to eat in an allergen-free zone.
- Schools will offer extracurricular activities consistent with student, classroom, and school building guidelines.
- Before and after school programs will operate when school is open to students.
- Programs will adhere to the CDC and DHEC guidelines.
- Health and safety guidelines for athletics are provided by the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL). Information compiled for the guidelines was carefully reviewed and vetted by SCHSL staff; South Carolina school superintendents; South Carolina athletic directors and coaches; the SCHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee; the South Carolina Department of Education's AccelerateED Task Force; the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) and members of the office of S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster.
- Visit the SCHSL website to review all guidelines and restrictions for high school athletes and athletics staff.
Policies or Practices Regarding CDC Recommendations
Universal and correct wearing of masks
- Berkeley County School District (the “District”) is mindful of the continuing need for safety measures to respond to COVID-19. Students, employees and visitors to BCSD schools/property will not be required to wear masks or face coverings. In accordance with local, state and federal guidelines, mask and face covering use will be allowed for all individuals choosing to continue the use of masks and/or face coverings.
- Per a July 6, 2021 memorandum from the South Carolina Department of Education, masks and face coverings will no longer be required on school buses.
Modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding)
Social Distance Practices
- When and if practical, classrooms, the cafeteria, and any other area should be set up for appropriate social distancing to the extent possible.
- Avoid students congregating in common areas.
- Limit people on-site to only students and essential faculty and staff.
- Assemblies or other congregate events are allowed.
- Students should have with his/her own bag/bin of supplies
- Outdoor play will follow designated school health and safety protocols.
- Classes will utilize recess equipment.
Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
- Handwashing will be encouraged and modeled.
- Students wash/disinfect hands before/after physical education class.
- Everyone will sanitize/wash hands before and after eating.
- Everyone will sanitize/wash hands after using the restroom.
- Everyone will cough or sneeze into a tissue or elbow, covering mouth and nose with an arm and immediately throw tissue into a trash can and wash hands with soap and water.
Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation
- Each facility must follow custodial requirements for the daily cleaning and disinfection of any portion of a facility used. The building principal or facility lead is to properly train and supervise custodial staff on implementing intensified cleaning, including of frequently touched surfaces and shared objects.
- Custodial training will also be provided by the OSHA Compliance Manager throughout the year.
- Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, classroom sink handles, countertops). Using an appropriate disinfectant, wipe down items (e.g., desks, chairs) and equipment.
- Students will use alcohol wipes to wipe down keyboards and computer mouse after using the computer lab.
- Ensure heating, ventilation, and air conditioning settings are maximizing ventilation.
- Filter and /or clean the air in the school by improving the level of filtration as much as possible.
- Use exhaust fans in restrooms and kitchens.
Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine
- BCSD will follow the SC DHEC requirements when reporting positive cases and contact tracing.
- Students exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms will wait in a protective isolation area until picked up by a parent/guardian (within the hour). While in the isolation area the student will be asked to wear a mask covering nose and mouth per the SC DHEC guidelines.
- BCSD will follow the most up to date quarantine and isolation guidelines as recommended by SC DHEC.
- The principal and/or the school nurse will report all positive cases to the BCSD COVID-19 Dashboard/Database. The Nursing Services Coordinator will compile information from the COVID-19 Dashboard/Database and will forward to SC DHEC.
- Students and staff will not be required to quarantine if they provide verification of vaccination.
Diagnostic and screening testing
- All positive results will be reported as directed.
Efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible
BCSD is partnering with Fetter HealthCare Clinics and MUSC and has scheduled voluntary vaccination clinics at various school locations to provide the COVID-19 vaccines to students, educators, other staff, and community members who elect to receive it.
Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies and practices
- All plans will continue to be followed for Individual Health Plans, 504 Plans, and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).
- Students will continue to receive their specialized instruction and related services (if applicable) through special education teachers and related service providers.
- School teams will follow district guidelines and safety precautions.
- In addition, schools will ensure entry and exit points are accessible to all students.
- All medical procedures must be conducted in the nurse’s clinic, unless the student has a one on one nurse. Toileting may be conducted in designated restrooms for students with high support needs.
Coordination with state and local health officials
- BCSD will continue to work closely with state and local health officials to ensure the most up to date guidelines and recommendations are implemented.
- BCSD will continue to follow the School and Childcare Exclusion Lists as recommended by SC DHEC.
Continuity of Services
For the 2021-2022 school year, Berkeley County School District will be face-to-face, five days a week, for all students grades K-12. BCSD will address Learning Loss among students and implement evidence based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students through virtual learning option.
BCSD will be responsive to Social and Emotional needs of students, staff and families by providing increased access to personnel such as social workers to respond to high risk needs identified through SEL screener and protocol. Pearson 360 Social Emotional Screener of grades PK-12 will be used as the required Social Emotional Learning (SEL) screener as required by SCDE Act 213
We have provided meals to all students without interruption since the beginning of Covid-19. We will continue to provide hot meals to our students at no cost.
District response on ensuring periodic updates to its plan
Berkeley County School District will review its "Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services" plan, in accordance with federal guidelines set forth in ESSER III legislation, and will update that plan, following public input from stakeholders, every six months.
Overview of ESSER Requirements
The ARP Act requires that school districts make their Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan available to the public online and that the plans be in an understandable and uniform format; to the extent practicable, are written in a language that parents can understand or, if not practicable, orally translated; and upon request by a parent who is an individual with a disability, provided in an alternative format accessible to that parent. Before making its plan publicly available, school districts must seek public comment on the plan and develop the plan after taking into account public comment.
District response on public input in the development of its plan
Berkeley County School District will, in accordance with ESSER III guidelines, seek public input on its "Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services" plan from all district stakeholders every six months. This input will be gathered in a combination of methods, including but not limited to a public survey posted on Berkeley County School District's website (https://www.bcsdschools.net/).
Shortly after she crossed the stage to receive her diploma in Hanahan High’s graduation ceremony, Dabria Aguilar crossed a different stage in Columbia sporting a nifty new head accessory.
Aguilar was crowned Miss South Carolina Teen last week, and now she is preparing to take on a national title in July.
Aguilar is actually a newbie to pageants – she competed in her first state pageant in March after being discovered in a dress store. She placed first runner-up to Miss South Carolina Teen USA, and then was contacted by a local executive director for the Miss South Carolina organization to fill a role in the Miss South Carolina Teen state pageant.
Aguilar was eager to participate with the Miss South Carolina organization as the pageant includes a talent portion; Aguilar grew up as a competitive dancer, dancing on both a state and national level.
“I took a chance and I decided to go through with it, where I ended up winning Miss South Carolina Teen 2021,” she said.
For her talent in the pageant, Aguilar performed a contemporary ballet piece called “Brotsjor.” Aguilar won the talent preliminary award plus the overall talent award. She also won the Rachel Wyatt Dance Award and the Rookie Award for first-year talent competitors.
Going into the pageant, Aguilar did not know what to expect, but she said the experience was a lot of fun, and all the competitors were very supportive of each other.
“There’s this whole false image of what pageantry is like, especially in the Miss South Carolina organization,” she said. “It’s not just walking on stage in an evening gown and teasing your hair up; there’s so much more to it – the sisterhood, the connections you make, the networking, everything you learn about life in general.
“The Miss South Carolina organization is preparing young women for the world, and preparing the world for strong young women,” Aguilar said.
Now Aguilar is gearing up for her third pageant, the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen event in Orlando, which is for all the states’ teen titleholders.
“We’re hoping to pull out a national title in Miss America’s Outstanding Teen,” she said.
Aguilar has received $13,500 in scholarships from the Miss South Carolina organization. She is currently taking a gap year, during which she will focus on her dance career, but does plan on going to college with the help from her scholarship earnings.
Aguilar served as a teacher’s assistant at Hanahan High, and worked closely with special services teacher Aly Formichella. Aguilar was active with Club Joy at the school, which integrates students of all abilities – Aguilar was an event planner for the club.
Aguilar said Formichella’s class really motivated Aguilar’s social impact initiative, which is called “make everybody feel like somebody” and addresses the crippling effects of low self-esteem.
“I keep in touch with them (the class) every day – they were so excited when I told them I won,” Aguilar said.
Formichella said her students love Aguilar.
“Dabria has gone above and beyond since she stepped foot into our classroom many years ago,” Formichella said. “It is obvious that she has created life-long friendships with all of my students who absolutely adore her, look up to her, and are her biggest fans. We are so proud of Dabria and can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Aguilar said she will miss the support she received at Hanahan High.
“I could not be more thankful for my Hanahan family,” she said. “They have 100-percent prepared me to get up on that stage and speak confidently and to know what I’m talking about.”
Aguilar’s advice to other girls interested in pageantry is “to be yourself.”
“There is no one who can do it like you and there’s no one better to be you than you,” she said. “Having your own personality and showing who you are, your uniqueness, goes such a long way, and that’s all anybody wants to see on stage.”
Aguilar said she appreciates the support of her parents, Dawn and Omar Aguilar, and extended a thank-you to the Miss South Carolina organization “for welcoming me with open arms.”
Ground was officially broken on Friday, June 25th on a 50+ acre piece of land that will eventually become a large park adjacent to Bowen’s Corner Elementary.
The Hanahan Park (currently unnamed) will not only provide a place of recreation to area residents, but it will also be an additional space for BCE students during the day and Hanahan High athletics and programs in evening hours.
Several representatives of Berkeley County School District and its schools attended the groundbreaking ceremony in support of the project.
Plans for the park include:
- A field with synthetic turf
- Three soccer fields
- Six tennis courts
- One basketball court
- One sand volleyball court
- One playground
- One dog park
- Walking trails
- Pavilions for gatherings
- A recreation building with a concession stand and restrooms.
- A standalone restroom
- Animal control facility
- Maintenance facility
Tuesday, June 22nd marked the final Berkeley County Board of Education Meeting for retiring superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram.
In his final Superintendent's Report, Dr. Ingram shared his thanks with those in attendance and recognized his wife, Sue Ingram, for being his biggest supporter. Following his report, Teacher Forum, members of the board and local artist and BCSD retiree Willis Sanders, took time to thank Dr. Ingram for his accomplishments while leading the school district.
Dr. Ingram was hired in August 2017, having previously served as the Darlington County School District Superintendent for several years.
On July 1st, Mr. Deon Jackson will officially assume the role of BCSD Superintendent.
MUSC PFIZER Vaccine Clinic
Wednesday, June 30, 2021 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Philip Simmons High School (auditorium)
- This indoor event is free and open to all eligible individuals age 12 and up. If available, please bring insurance card and photo ID. These items ar enot required in order to receive a vaccine, and you will not be charged.
- While appointments are encouraged, they are not required. To schedule online, visit: MUSChealth.org/covid-outreach.
- If you do not have internet access and need assistance, please call 843-876-7227 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
- Your 2nd dose appointment is automatically shceduled for July 21st at the same time as your 1st dose appointment.
UPCOMING FETTER HEALTH CARE NETWORK COVID-19 VACCINE CLINICS
Moderna, Dose 1
- June 30, 2021 from 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. at Stratford High School
- July 1, 2021 from 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. at Hanahan High School
Moderna, Dose 2
- July 22, 2021 from 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. at Berkeley High School
- July 28, 2021 from 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. at Stratford High School
- July 29, 2021 from 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. at Hanahan High School
These clinics will serve members of the public who have not yet received their COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals who qualify should arrive at the clinic and complete an on-site registration. Individuals are requested to bring a state-issued photo identification and insurance card, if applicable. Fetter serves both insured and uninsured patients.
Individuals who receive the Moderna vaccine must be 18 years or older.
EXCHANGE PARK VACCINATION EVENT
MUSC Health, Fetter Health Care Network and Palmetto Project will host a vaccination event at the Exchange Park in Ladson on June 23, 2021 from 2:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine for recipients who attend this event will be administered on July 14 between 2 to 7 p.m. at Exchange Park.
The Pfizer vaccine will be offered at this event. Appointments are accepted at the Exhange Park event, but walk-ins are welcome! Call 843-876-7227, or visit https://
muschealth.org/ vaccine-scheduli ng to make an appointment for the vaccine event at the Exhange Park Fairgrounds.
In addition to COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Palmetto Project’s Insure SC team will be on site providing free education, application and enrollment assistance for Medicare, Medicaid and Affordable Care Act insurance plans. Palmetto Project is a one-stop-shop for health coverage options and all services are at no cost.
All attendees 12 years of age and older are currently eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Recipients are asked to provide a photo I.D. and insurance card, if applicable, but neither are required to receive the vaccine.
On the last day of school, Sangaree Elementary Principal and Assistant Principal Ruth Butka were called to one of their classroom pods. Unbeknownst to them, students had lined the walls of the pod to wait for them. When the administrators appeared they were greeted with a chorus of “THANK YOU” from the students.
It was an emotional moment for Baker, who is finishing up her first year as principal at Sangaree Elementary – the same school she did her student teaching at when she pursued her career in education.
Now her desk is covered with handwritten cards and artwork from her students – many of whom are heading off to the intermediate school next year.
“I’m going to cry thinking about it again,” she said as she recalled the big surprise "thank you" from her students earlier that day.
Baker has served at different schools throughout the district. She first worked as a special education assistant at Whitesville Elementary before transitioning to a resource teacher. Baker then participated in the admin cohort supported by the district and received her admin degree. She became the title I facilitator at Sangaree Intermediate before serving as an administrative assistant principal at Howe Hall Aims.
She was the assistant principal at Nexton Elementary prior to becoming principal at Sangaree Elementary.
“This is definitely a dream job,” she said.
While the school faced a lot of obstacles this year with the pandemic, Baker praised her staff for keeping everything “student-centered”. As a Leader In Me school, Sangaree Elementary made progress with its student leaderships.
The Leader in Me is Franklin Covey’s whole school transformation process. It teaches 21st century leadership and life skills to students and creates a culture of student empowerment based on the idea that every child can be a leader.
“With all of the restrictions, we were still able to get students starting to collaborate and talking about their goals, and what strategies they were using to achieve their goals,” Baker said.
Sangaree Elementary became a Leader in Me school in the 2019-2020 school year. Students have taken on leadership roles within their own classrooms, but they have also taken on roles to better their school through Safety Patrol, Morning Crew, Cleaning Crew and other student groups – the school wants to expand on student jobs next year.
Baker said she thinks her students handled this year like champs.
“They rose to the occasion,” she said, adding, “They were just leaders. They shined, and I just couldn’t ask for a better school.”
Baker also said the school was able to close some of the achievement gaps they had from having to leave abruptly when COVID shut everything down in March 2020, and she feels confident that her Sangaree Stars will “shine” even more next year.
When the students return in August, Baker said she is looking forward to seeing her students collaborate with fewer restrictions, and seeing them join clubs and after-school activities. She is also looking forward to meeting the students who learned from home this past year.
Baker highly praised her teaching staff.
“They just kept it student-centered…whatever needed to be done they were willing to step in and just make the learning environment as welcoming and engaging as they could,” she said.
Overall the year had its challenges and obstacles, but Baker said she feels like the school did a good job keeping everything positive, and saw growth academically and socially.
“I think for the most part, for what we had to endure, it was a positive year,” she said.
Berkeley County School District is holding a Summer Teacher Fair on July 15th for teachers available to start on August 10, 2021, in the following areas: SPECIAL EDUCATION (all areas and grade levels), MIDDLE LEVEL, and HIGH SCHOOL (secondary).
All other certification areas are welcome to apply on our Frontline page.
Please complete this registration form to participate in the in-person event. Representatives from schools in our district will be available to meet with potential candidates. You must have, or be eligible for, a South Carolina teaching certificate. REGISTRATION MUST BE COMPLETED BY MONDAY, JULY 12.
Berkeley County School District does not sponsor work Visas. International teachers in our district are contracted through Educational Partners International (EPI).
While Tim Evans described his first year as principal of Timberland High as a challenging one, it was also one that came with a learning curve.
As he reflected on the experience, Evans said he overall feels good about how his school, and the community, came together to make it a good year.
“I think it prepared me even more for my second year,” he said.
Evans began his career in Berkeley County as a band director at Cainhoy and Marrington Middle. He spent two years directing the band program at Denmark-Olar High School before joining the Timberland High and St. Stephen Middle staffs as the band director. Prior to becoming an assistant principal at Berkeley Middle in 2019, Mr. Evans was a director of bands at Northwoods Middle School in North Charleston, and he served as an administrative assistant and assistant principal at Cane Bay Middle.
In March 2020, Berkeley County School District named Evans as the new principal of Timberland High for the 2020-2021 school year following the retirement of former principal Kerry Daugherty.
Evans said he loves the community feel of Timberland High.
“When you work at Timberland, it holds a special place for you, even after you leave,” he said. “I know colleagues that I worked with here when I was band director that still hold Timberland in high regard."
“You always have that connection, and I think it’s because of that family feel that we have here at school that makes it special,” Evans said.
Evans said the school enjoyed a number of highlights despite the pandemic. The school’s softball team won its regional championship. The wrestling team shined with three state champions and several track athletes claimed state titles.
The school was also able to pull off its annual turkey drive at Thanksgiving. Timberland High leadership coordinated with Northwood Church to distribute 70 meals by inviting families to come to the school for pick-up.
Timberland High has hosted the annual turkey delivery since 2011.
Evans said the school received great support from parents and the community. In October, Santee Cooper employees came out to the school to partner with students from Ronnie Ford’s agriculture class and Kevin Taylor’s manufacturing class to completely renovate, repair and refurbish the high school’s nature trail, boardwalk and outdoor classroom.
“It was just a great year in terms of all the experiences and seeing how things work from this aspect,” Evans said.
Evans also commended his teaching staff for their hard work, calling them rock stars.
“I could not even begin to say how proud I am of our teachers for everything that they had to deal with in terms of teaching both traditional and blended distance learning simultaneously,” Evans said, adding, “They did a totally awesome job.”
Next year Evans is looking forward to having all his students back in the building, and everything that comes with it – being able to have pep rallies again, Homecoming events and a lot of other things the school could do not do this year because of the pandemic.
“Although it’s been a challenging year, I’ve learned a lot,” Evans said. “It really has helped me grow as a leader, and I’m looking forward to next year.”
Three Berkeley County schools received recognition on Thursday, June 17 for their commitment to STEAM education.
Bowen's Corner Elementary, Philip Simmons Elementary and Philip Simmons Middle were each named BCSD STEAM Endorsed Schools, and several teachers at those schools were named STEAM Endorsed Teachers.
For the honor of becoming a STEAM Endorsed Teacher, educators completed three years of STEAM training through the ongoing collaboration between BCSD and Clemson University. Each of those teachers were provided a classroom wall plate, sticker and digital badge access key.
Each school recognized received a banner, which was presented by BCSD Coordinator of Science Michael Huff. Mr. Huff said for each of those schools, STEAM is not just a collection of subjects and an approach to learning -- it's a mindset and a part of the school culture.
"There's no doubt that the students carry that STEAM mindset with them, no matter where they go. Now, each aspect of STEAM has equipped them with certain skills that will be important to their future success," Huff said.
Bowen’s Corner Elementary started off the 2020-2021 school year with a special theme coined by the famous Aladdin song “A Whole New World,” because for everybody, it was “a whole new world of learning.”
Principal Kimberly Murray said the school knew things would be different, but also knew if everyone stayed goal-focused, “that dark cloud that we knew as the pandemic would somehow not be in our building.”
This year happened to be Murray’s first year as principal at the school, and while it was a challenging year, she said it was still a great one.
“It really was a rewarding year,” she said. “We saw achievement gaps being closed with our students…We saw students getting their needs met every single day, and that’s what we’re here for and that’s what we were able to offer our students.”
Murray is a product of Berkeley County School District; she attended College Park Elementary, College Park Middle and Stratford High. She began her career as a first-grade teacher and then a second-grade teacher at Devon Forest Elementary. She then became a school counselor, split between Sangaree Elementary and Goose Creek Primary (now Elementary). When Cane Bay Elementary opened, she started the counseling program at the school.
In 2016, she joined College Park Elementary as an administrative assistant principal, then moved on to Hanahan Elementary as an assistant principal in 2017 before heading to Bowen’s Corner Elementary. She has her doctorate in leadership through Capella University.
When she came to Bowen’s Corner Elementary, Murray said her faculty and staff kept their sights set on what they could do for the students this year instead of dwelling on what they could not do.
“This year we ran the theme of not only a whole new world of learning, but meeting students where they are,” she said. “That meant backing up a little bit and…giving them what they needed – that love, that support, and the academic piece.”
This school year, Bowen’s Corner Elementary found alternatives to the events it would ordinarily do without the pandemic. It hosted virtual Family Nights with great attendance via Google Meets, Murray said. The school still held its award ceremonies; not only were third through fifth-grade Honor Roll students recognized, but kindergarten through second-grade teachers invented new awards for their students to celebrate their own accomplishments.
The school held monthly birthday parades for students that parents could participate in by decking out their cars and driving around the building.
Bowen’s Corner Elementary was not able to do anything like a fall festival or spring carnival but the school participated in an online Read-a-thon and raised more than $30,000.
The school also recently celebrated its new solar panel, made possible by art teacher Lauren Rice.
Murray praised her teaching staff for stepping outside of their comfort zone and learning new ways to reach their students.
“I believe that everyone is in a place for a reason, and I believe that our teachers and staff…were predestined for a moment like this,” she said. “Nobody could have done the job that we did this year – this was our assignment for this year.
“They had to adapt and change and grow and collaborate, and be all the things that we want our students to be when they leave this place,” Murray said.
Murray is looking forward to what next year has to bring, and implementing the innovative lessons everyone learned this year to enhance their classroom experiences.
“If we could do so much with so many restrictions, what can we do when the restrictions are lifted a little?” she said. “We can truly allow students to create their learning.”
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.