D19 highlights recent improvements

  • The Blackville-Hilda High cafeteria has been updated with new seating and tables.

The Nov. 13 Barnwell District 19 School Board meeting highlighted curriculum and facility improvements.

Curriculum Director Blue Huggins said they are starting the third round of benchmark tests, which they do every four-and-a-half weeks. These tests are done in certain subjects.

“We are getting a handle on where our kids are,” said Huggins.

The district is also providing professional development to teachers about high progress literacy.

“The goal for classrooms is to have all students highly engaged with reading and writing text at least 75 percent of the time in order to learn content. High progress literacy is not a program, but an outcome that itself leads to measurable achievement gains in all academic content areas,” according to www.highprogressliteracy.com.

Huggins said high progress literacy teaches students to think and break apart text, a skill that will be helpful on state tests where they have to write about something they read. “It teaches them how to understand deeply everything they read,” she said.

District 19 has a professional learning committee at each school and trains teachers weekly during planning periods. A district team trains monthly which includes half a day spent in the schools.

Huggins along with the district’s curriculum staff and reading coach recently spent time in the classrooms so they can gain experience and understand what the struggles are. “We want to decrease teacher talk and increase student achievement,” said Huggins, who spent two weeks teaching English 1 at the high school.

Superintendent Dr. Shawn Johnson also updated the board on ongoing improvements to facilities, such as the keyless entry doors and security systems that will be installed soon. These are projects that are on state contract and he is hopeful the district will receive more funding so they can accomplish other projects.

The board also brought up how nice the new furniture looks in the middle/high school cafeteria. The district recently purchased a combination of booths and tables with chairs to replace the old seating.

Johnson also commended Bishop George Burckhalter for taking on the playground replacement project at Macedonia Elementary. The district provided $50,000 using general obligation bond funds to help purchase the equipment. Burckhalter, who had been leading a fundraising effort through the Barnwell County Ministerial Association, volunteered to make sure the new equipment was installed. A number of volunteers helped with the installation in recent weeks. Johnson said Save the Children is possibly going to replace the playground equipment on the other side of the school.

In other news:

• The board approved bonuses for employees, including $1,500 for certified employees and $500 for classified employees.

• The board accepted the resignation of Christopher Lark as a coach and physical education teacher at the middle school.

• A committee is being formed to search for the next high school football coach after the resignation of long-time coach David Berry. Johnson said they have already received 15 to 20 applications. The committee will be comprised of two board members, two community members, the high school principal, and a teacher.

• The district will start videoing board meetings in December as part of their reaccreditation process through AdvancED.

• Interim Finance Director LaPrecious Rivers reported the district had $431,906.44 in expenses for October.

• The board approved the first reading of five policies, including BEC (Executive Session/Open Meetings), GDBC-R (Support Staff Supplementary Pay/Overtime), GCB (Professional Staff Contracts and Compensation), GCQF-R (Discipline, Suspension and Dismissal of Professional Staff), and IKA-R (Grading/Assessment Systems).