Smalls now permanent MES principal

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Jonathan Vickery - Staff Writer

The principals of Blackville-Hilda Public Schools, including the now-permanent principal of Macedonia Elementary, say they are united in their efforts to improve student achievement.
The Barnwell District 19 School Board made Eryl Smalls, who had been the interim principal since the summer, the permanent principal during their regular Dec. 10 meeting. He previously spent five years as the assistant principal.
"He has history with Macedonia," said Superintendent Dr. Teresa Pope. "He knows the staff, children and needs of the school."
Smalls said he's "delighted" to be the permanent principal and will work with the students and staff on those needs. "I'm looking forward to great things at MES," he said.
His number one goal is student achievement and improving their below average rating on the annual S.C. report card.
"We're not a failing school," said Smalls, citing their above average student attendance and how all teachers are highly qualified. "I have a commitment from all faculty and staff members to improve that rating," he said.
He's already eliminated single-gender classes, which he thinks has hurt the third and fourth graders. "It did not work for us," said Smalls.
A new science lab has also been added, plus the use of science kits to give students "a little more exposure," said Smalls. He also wants to increase technology use and continue using data to drive what they do in the classroom so they can evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.
At Blackville-Hilda Junior High, Principal Ernie Dotson said they are also working to improve their at-risk rating.
"It's not what we're looking for," said Dotson. "We're looking for improvement."
To accomplish that, Dotson said they are working on staff development, including training at the Ruth Patrick Science Center. They are also looking to increase technology use in the classroom and working to increase rigor through test prep programs.
Work is also being done at Blackville-Hilda High to improve their grade, which dropped from excellent to good.
Principal David Norman said a big focus is being placed on student attendance and ensuring students graduate on time - two factors in the state grade. They are checking on students who are out of school and documenting everything. He told the board of a senior who quit attending this year, but is back in school after encouragement from Norman to earn his diploma.
Norman said their graduation data has sometimes hurt their report card grade, such as students showing up as not graduating who in reality transferred out of the district.
"If we don't have the paperwork, it counts against the school," said Norman.
Pope, who acknowledged there is work to be done, said she appreciates the principals' ideas.
"We see you working hard," agreed Evelyn Coker, the board chairwoman. "You're trying to keep everything on top and in line."