Back-to-School: D29 principals share goals

Kelly Edwards Elementary School

Kelly Edwards Elementary School wants to be a school where students are loved. That’s why their theme is: “Kelly Edwards, Where We Love First”.

“There is no better way to start off letting our kids know that before we teach them, we have to love them and get to know them,” said KEES Principal Nakeisha Baxley.

Baxley said she is excited to build relationships with “my babies and the staff” because she believes relationships are the most important piece in schools. “If you genuinely don't care about people, who they are, and where they come from, you can never build a relationship,” she said.

Her goals this year include increasing family engagement and student achievement. “We have seen much growth of our students over the year, but we all know that we can get better,” said Baxley.

Parents need to be aware that the car line will be slightly different. Morning drop-offs will start at the second grade wing and children will be unloaded between the orange cones and last white line near activity wing. Parents are asked to pull directly behind the car in front of them. For afternoon pickups, parents are asked to put vehicles in park to minimize health issues such as asthmatic and bronchial flares with the students and staff. “Students will be allowed to go up 2nd, 3rd, and activity wing, whichever the student is closest to,” said Baxley, who reminds everyone that the campus is smoke-free.

Baxley also reminds parents that the new Read to Succeed legislation passed by state lawmakers takes effect this school term. “If a child is not reading on grade level by the end of third grade, he/she can be retained,” she said.

The principal also encourages parents to be actively involved in their children’s lives. This includes reading every night with children at home to help with their “reading fluency” and volunteering to read in the classroom.

Open House will be held on Thursday, August 31 from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Williston-Elko Middle School

Two new technology improvements will help enhance the new school year at Williston-Elko Middle School.

“The 2017-2018 school year is going to be awesome. There is a great deal of excitement on campus,” said Principal Greg Sweet.

Some of that excitement comes from the addition of Chromebooks so the district will comply with new state requirements for online testing. This will allow “students to connect with others, and keep abreast of assignments. Students will use these laptops to run Classworks, a computer-based instructional program that helps to assist teachers to expand instruction,” said Sweet.

Another improvement is the use of telehealth by the school nurse to provide better health care for students. “These technologies and strategies will allow the nurse to deliver virtual medical, health and education service to our students. It virtually brings a doctor right on campus,” he said.

In addition to new technology, the school has been cleaned and received some work to the building, including new awnings installed at the end of last school year and a new roof over the eighth grade wing over the summer.

He cited the August 6 Back to School Bash as a perfect way for the community to come together in advance of the new year and provide students a big bag full of supplies. Teachers also received supplies to begin the school year. “We are so fortunate to have loving, caring, and supportive communities,” he said.

Sweet said he welcomes the “help and experiences” of parents. He cited how parent Tiffany Zieman developed an afterschool art program last year.

He also welcomes parents and community members to join the school’s School Improvement Council. “Come help us invest in this goal. It is a great time to be a Blue Devil,” said Sweet.

Williston-Elko High School

Williston-Elko High School is focusing on activities that promote growth and development among students, faculty and staff.

The addition of “Blue Devil Den Time” will provide “daily time for students to focus on various skills such as test-taking, organization and time-management, literacy, character development, and teamwork. At the end of each quarter, there will be activities that highlight life skills that are applicable within and beyond the den,” said WEHS Principal Alison Brady.

“I hope this will build a sense of community within our school,” said Brady.

As they strive to provide the best high school experience possible for students, Brady said, the Blue Devil Den Time pairs well with their new theme: “Within and Beyond the Den: A Focus on Personal Development”. It also works with last year’s theme of “Relationships, Rigor, and Relevance”.

“Our Blue Devil Den Time will be the perfect opportunity for us to develop meaningful relationships with our students and build a sense of community throughout our school. We will place a strong emphasis on data analysis and progress monitoring in order to ensure the rigor in the classroom prepares our students to enter college, the military or the workforce. Finally, we will continue to examine our instructional practices for relevant and real-world applications. Working on these three R’s together, along with a new focus on personal development, will help us develop the characteristics of the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate in all of our students,” she said.

New classes will also benefit students, such as Project Lead the Way classes through Denmark Technical College. Students interested in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field will have the opportunity to take Introduction to Engineering and Principles of Engineering Design. The high school has a brand new STEM lab for the course.

WEHS is also implementing a daily advisor time, instead of weekly meetings with advisors as has been done in the past. “Each day, students will focus on various aspects of their development (centered on this year’s theme): Monday (test-taking strategies); Tuesday (Character Education and College and Career Readiness); Wednesday (writing strategies); Thursday (SSR and “One School, One Book” implementation); and Friday (Club Day-for example, walking, knitting, comic books/graphic novels, film, etc.).

Brady has several goals for the year, such as increasing the percentage of students who pass End-of-Course exams in Algebra 1, English 1, Biology and U.S. History. “We are going to strive for all of our students to score at a Level 3 or higher (A, B, or C), which is going to be used in the state’s new accountability model,” she said.

Other goals include: increasing their ACT Composite score and average SAT score; increasing the percentage of students who score at a Bronze level or higher on the ACT WorkKeys; increasing the graduation rate; focusing on using data and progress monitoring to drive instruction; focusing on educating the “whole child” and working to meet their social, emotional, and educational needs; engaging in collaborative learning to implement research-based lesson planning, data analysis and instructional strategies; and using formative and summative data to evaluate the impact of what was learned and implemented, she said.

While Brady and her staff will do all they can to ensure students meet these goals, she encourages parents to be involved, including asking their children about his/her day at school. Other ideas include: log into ParentPortal to monitor their grades; contact your child’s teachers with any concerns; attend conferences if requested; attend School Improvement Council meetings (usually held the last Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m.); volunteer (there is an application process for this); visit the webpage and/or Facebook page for information; attend your child’s Individual Graduation Plan, or IGP, meeting with the school counselor; and talk to the school counselor about important information regarding post-secondary plans (college, military, work, etc.) and the requirements for each.

Students also need to be aware that they are required to wear ID badges this year. The consequences for not wearing one are outlined in the student handbook.

A new policy is the addition of CPR and AED instruction, which is being mandated by the state. Each student will be required to receive instruction in CPR at least one time during their entire high school career.

Several important dates are coming up, including: Senior picture make-up day/MAP testing for ninth graders on August 28, Labor Day holiday on Sept. 4, Picture day for students in grades 9-11 on Sept. 8, CSRA College Night in Augusta, Ga. on Sept. 14, Jostens meeting with juniors and seniors on Sept. 15, Open House from 6-7:30 p.m. on Sept. 18, Jostens taking ring orders on Sept. 22, SIC meeting on Sept. 26 at 6 p.m., and SAT/ACT Workshop on Sept. 29 (register by Sept. 13).