“E to the Power of Elevate”

The final segment of our district’s “E to the power of” series is perhaps the most important and most essential…in Clinton for sure, but across the state and country as well. Our fourth and final “E” statement is this: “Elevate the academic performance of each student to ensure readiness for the next level.” To elevate oneself is defined as “to lift (something) up; to increase the level of (something); to make (something) higher; and to raise (someone) to a higher rank or level.” (Source: www.merriam-webster.com) I find this noteworthy; in that, the first three definitions involve the lifting, increasing, and making of something; the fourth definition involves the raising of someone! Note the difference…the first three are about things (e.g., performance, ability, conduct, capacity) but the fourth is about the person. That really is education in a nutshell, isn’t it? Teachers work to refine the knowledge and understanding of the students. Students must learn how to read before they read to learn; students must learn how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide before they can assume advanced mathematics. Don’t be misled to think it isn’t about the student. Ultimately it is; however, the knowledge, skills, and life and career characteristics (as articulated in the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate) are the foundation upon which the fourth definition is built. It is impossible “to raise someone to a higher rank or level” without the prerequisite understanding of what education is truly about…making things better for yourself and your fellow man…leaving your mark on the world in a notable and positive fashion. My mom and dad were both mill workers. Our family would never have come to Clinton had it not been for the resettlement of a group of Drayton Mill (Spartanburg) employees to open the Bailey Plant in the mid-1960’s. My mom and dad were dead-set certain their only son would have opportunities never afforded to them, most poignantly a college degree. They knew the sum total of the educational experiences would eventually pay off for me in ways they could only hope and imagine. And so it is for me with my 3,000 children! All of the children in District 56! Our schools are filled with compassionate, competent, and caring individuals who provide meals, transportation, safety, warmth, and learning on a day-to-day basis. Our district employees, like my very own parents, want our children to be elevated to dream and to achieve new and unscaled heights regardless of circumstance, limitation, or hindrance. We stand willing to teach concepts and skills, to provide corrective discipline, and to promote healthy relationships…in the hope and expectation of elevating student performance incrementally one year at a time. We have so much in Clinton. We really do; however, we often look at things from a deficit mentality. This ought not to be the case. We have top-notch facilities, excellent staff, and a clear vision, mission, and goals. We know every child is important and every child can excel. Not all children will go to a four-year college but all children deserve the chance to go to college. The only way for any of them to get there is to recognize each moment matters, each year is essential, and life must be lived looking ahead and not behind. We have much work to do in Clinton but our community is worth the investment. Our schools offer a new and higher perch from which to gaze. Remember as Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” May it be so! (Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of Laurens School District 56.)

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