Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Thanksgiving message from Superintendent Debbie Hamm

In a few days on Thanksgiving, many of us will gather with loved ones over an amazing meal to celebrate our blessings. As superintendent of Richland Two, I am thankful for so many things.

I am thankful for the dedication and hard work of our teachers; instructional aides; school and district office administrators and staff; educational office professionals; maintenance and custodial workers; transportation and food service workers; technology staff; physical, speech, occupational and family therapists; audiologists; instructional coaches; athletic coaches; psychologists; social workers; intervention specialists; career specialists; family liaisons; security officers; School Resource Officers and everyone who makes a difference in the lives of our students. Each day these caring individuals make sure our students arrive safely, enjoy nutritious meals and receive innovative instruction in technology-infused classrooms at safe and clean schools. They make sure students receive the services and assistance they need to succeed in class and in life.

So, it's fitting that American Education Week always falls close to Thanksgiving. The staff and students at our 40 schools and centers found fun and creative ways to recognize the tireless work of our educators during this week-long celebration of public education in America. I visited each school and saw so many friendly faces, energetic teachers and administrators, and students who couldn't wait to show me the projects and activities they were working on. My "Around Richland Two in Four Days Tour" totaled 130.4 miles and lasted a total of 23 hours and 15 minutes.
Click the image to see more photos of Dr. Hamm's tour of schools. 

Here are a few of the many memorable highlights:

  • A pre-K student who asked, "Are you old?" Then, asked if I was 20 after I answered the first question.
  • Kindergarten students who, after I read a story, exclaimed, "Read it again!" 
  • Students who gave me a bag of popcorn with a note signed by every student in the class that said, "Thanks for popping in."
  • High school students who were proud of their schools and especially excited about their winter projects to benefit those less fortunate.
  • Hot chocolate waiting for me when I had a flat tire and had to walk to a school in the cold. (We have a great walking path to the school!)
  • Beautiful student art work on hallway walls. I'm so glad the arts are important in Richland Two.
  • Parents in schools supporting their kids and our teachers.
  • Student greeters who welcomed me to their class and could clearly articulate what they were learning.
  • Watching a 3-D printer in action run by a program created by seventh-graders.
  • Seeing the giving spirit of Richland Two in action during National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Many schools have collected and donated food so that families less fortunate can enjoy the holiday season.
  • The excitement on the faces and in the voices of teachers who learned they earned their National Board certification.
  • Meeting new teachers who say how happy they are to be in Richland Two and whose principals can't stop bragging about them. 

We have so much to be thankful for in Richland Two. That would not be possible without all of us working together. Thank you for your support. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

School Board member installation

Click on image to see more photos on Flickr!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Richland Two has a new Pinterest board!

Click on image to visit the Community Events Board!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Choice Fair featuring magnet programs December 2 at Westwood High School

Richland Two will hold its annual Choice Fair Featuring Magnet Programs at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 2 at Westwood High school. Families are invited to come learn about the many Magnet programs and schools in the district. Representatives from each program will be on-hand to chat with parents as well as provide program descriptions, orientation schedules and important dates.
In September, the board approved the following expansions, modifications and additions to Magnet Programs.

Academy of Language Immersion at Polo Road Elementary School:
The purpose of the Academy of Language Immersion (ALI) at Polo Road Elementary School is to provide Richland Two students the opportunity to begin second language acquisition at the elementary level and effectively acquire language in a meaningful social context.

Center for Achievement Expansion:
The purpose of the sixth-grade expansion of Center For Achievement (CFI) is to provide a continuum of success for students who have not been successful in a traditional classroom setting. Students would maintain gains via a small learning environment and ease the transitions to middle school.

FAME Program Expansion at Dent Middle School:
Opening the FAME application to students not zoned to Dent will allow all Richland Two students an opportunity to apply for entrance and provide a better K–12 feeder system for students with an interest and aptitude in Fine Arts areas of study. Due to Dent being at capacity for the past few years, the FAME program has not been an option for students not zoned to Dent Middle School.

The Elementary Learning Collaborative at Forest Lake Elementary School:
The Elementary Learning Collaborative (eLc) at Forest Lake Elementary School is designed to maximize the potential of students to maintain academic momentum. Students will participate in enrichment and acceleration in English Language Arts/Social Studies (Humanities) and Math/Science (STEM-G). Academic acceleration, integration of subject matter, critical thinking skills, research and leadership training will be incorporated through the use of inquiry/project-based instruction.

iMeda Program at Richland Northeast High School:
iMedia will merge the current iLink and Convergence Media programs to offer students a technology magnet program that will remain at the forefront of communication technologies while maintaining a full-time, college-prep program. The focus of the magnet will be on communication and technology with technology-centered core classes.

Expansion of the LAW Program to Muller Road Middle School:
The Leadership Academy at Muller is an innovative academic program with a strong integration and emphasis on developing and cultivating leaders. It couples the Core Knowledge curriculum with an emphasis on leadership skills. This program is an expansion of the LAW program on the EL Wright campus to better serve students and families living in the northern area of the district. The Leadership Academy at Muller will also provide the continuation of Core Knowledge instruction for students attending the Center for Knowledge north campus.

Informational sessions on all Magnet Programs will be held throughout the month of January. A schedule of the meetings, information about each school and Magnet Program and a link to district’s YouTube page where visitors can watch commercials about each Magnet are available on the Choice page on the Richland Two website.

Expanded Choice:
The Richland Two Choice Program also includes Expanded Choice. Students are traditionally assigned to schools based on their residential address. Expanded Choice offers parents and students residing in Richland Two the opportunity to apply to attend a school other than their residentially assigned school. Choice is only available to Richland Two residents.

Each school open for Expanded Choice is allowed 20 transfer slots through the process. The 20 slots may increase based on the number of students leaving that school through the Choice Program. Available slots for Magnet programs vary based on each program. Parents must provide transportation for students who choose programs that are not at their residentially assigned school.

To apply for Choice programs parents must complete an online application. Applications will be available on the district’s website beginning January 6, and the deadline to apply is January 30. Beginning in March, parents and students will be able to log back into their application account to see whether students have been accepted into the Choice Program.

For additional information on Magnet programs, contact Dawne Whitley at 803.738.3230 or on Expanded Choice, contact Roger Wiley at 803.738.3265.

Richland Two celebrates educators!

Richland Two State Report Card rating

Richland Two received an Excellent Absolute rating and a Good Growth rating on the 2014 South

Carolina Education Oversight Committee State Report Card. This rating marks the third straight year Richland Two has received an Excellent Absolute rating. As reported on the state report card, the district’s graduation rate increased to 82.9 percent, which is 1.7 percent higher than last year and still above the state graduation average.

Fourteen schools and centers in the district received an excellent rating, including Polo Road Elementary that improved from an average to an excellent rating in just three years. Nine schools improved their absolute rating from 2013: Catawba Trail, Forest Lake, Joseph Keels, Lonnie B. Nelson, North Springs, Polo Road, Pontiac and Windsor elementary schools, and Blythewood Middle.

“These accomplishments reflect the hard work of our dedicated teachers and the outstanding teaching and learning happening in our schools. Our expectation is that everyone in the organization will make it their job to make each day is a good learning day for each student. That requires focusing on our students, providing support for the good work our teachers do, and maintaining an enriched learning environment at each of our schools,” said Superintendent Debbie Hamm.

Richland Two’s growth rating did move from excellent to good due to a drop in HSAP scores that mirrored a statewide trend during the last year of the HSAP administration.

This will be the final year of the state report card system as South Carolina transitions to a new accountability system. See the summary report.

The full state report card ratings can be found on the South Carolina Department of Education website using the following link: http://ed.sc.gov/data/report-cards/2014/.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Veterans Day in Richland Two

Click on image to visit our Flickr album.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

School Bus Update

The safe transportation of our students is of the utmost importance to us in Richland Two. We understand parents’ and schools’ frustration when buses break down and students are delayed.

We hope to see some improvement now that we have received 11 new buses from the State Department of Education to replace some of our oldest and most unreliable route buses. The buses we received, along with older buses we get to keep and use as spares, will help improve the consistency and reliability of the transportation services we provide our students.

Additionally, our Transportation Department will continue to make every effort to maximize our resources. For example, all of our 75 regular buses are triple-routed, which means they run an elementary, middle and high school route before and after school.

The limitations of our diminished and aging fleet, however, present unavoidable issues that affect students and families around our district. When buses break down in the morning, which is a common occurrence, our students miss valuable instructional time. If this occurs in the afternoon, students are not getting home until much later in the day, sometimes more than an hour after school has been dismissed. It is important to note that these delays can often times impact the same students due to an unreliable bus, which magnifies the concerns even more. Parents and school employees are justifiably upset when these incidents occur, and we are left with no immediate remedy or forecast for relief.

Our School Board has reached out to State Education Department to share details about the challenges and frustrations we face because:
  • We have more than 27,000 students in Richland Two with a bus fleet size of 125.
  • Fifty-six percent of our fleet is older than 15 years, the state target age for replacement. Our percentage is higher than many other Midlands area districts including Lexington One: 51%; Lexington Three: 52%; Lexington/Richland Five: 50%; and Richland One: 50%.
  •  Of our 12 spare buses, 11 of them are older than 15 years (1988 = 4, 1990 = 1, 1991 = 2, 1994 = 3, 1995 = 1, 2008=1).
  • Our operable fleet includes 13 buses from 1988.

Richland Two recognizes that the problems that the State Department of Education faces may be due to issues with funding, and we have offered our assistance in working with the state legislature to secure adequate funding for the state’s public school bus fleet.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What's Better Than One Lake Carolina Elementary School? Two Lake Carolina Elementary Schools!

At the conclusion of the dedication of Lake Carolina Elementary Upper Campus, the student body performed the song "Home" for the standing-room-only audience of parents, community members, elected officials and staff. The ceremony was held on Wednesday, October 1, 2014, in the school's cafeteria.

With lyrics like to "Hold onto me as we go/as we roll down this unfamiliar road...Just know you're not alone/cause I'm gonna make this place your home," it was a perfect fit. Lake Carolina Upper is the district's newest elementary school and is part of our first two-campuses, one school model. It houses students in grades third through fifth, while Lake Carolina Lower houses kindergarten through second grade.

"We're off to a great start, and our journey is just beginning," Principal Jeff Williams told the audience.

The ceremony was filled with student participation and songs. Their "Top 10 reasons we love our Lake Carolina Upper Campus" included the glass doors they can write on with dry-erase markers, getting to keep all their old friends and make new ones and having two playgrounds.

Dr. Andrea Berry, principal of Lake Carolina Elementary Lower likened the school to a sequel to a really good book. "You're the next chapter," she told the students.

As they offered visitors tours, it was clear students were excited about and eager to show off their new school. The facility features outdoor spaces connected to classrooms, furniture that promotes collaboration and a multipurpose room and cafeteria connected by a double-sided stage. The building was designed and built to LEED Silver standards.

See photos from the dedication in Lake Carolina Elementary's Flickr album.