Summer Vacation: District 56 Style


School in District 56 ended for students on Wednesday, June 5 and teachers on Thursday, June 6…or at least took a break…a four-day break. What used to be the three best reasons for being a teacher—June, July, and August—are evidently a memory of a by-gone, now extinct era. With school ending in June and starting back in mid-August school matters may slow down but they certainly don’t stop…not by a long shot.

On Monday, June 10, summer school started for identified students at MS Bailey, in our elementary reading summer camp at Eastside Elementary and in our middle summer school. On Monday, June 17, our high school credit recovery program began.

Also, on Monday, June 10, our summer lunch program began at Clinton High School, at no-cost to all students nineteen and under. Closed summer lunch programs are at Eastside and MS Bailey too. 

As you read this article, a contingent of teachers and administrators from each of our schools are in summer professional development focusing on ways to help reluctant learners and to strengthen instructional practice.

This past week, administrators and I attended the Innovative Ideas Institute (I3) sponsored by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators. The three-day conference provides our district and school leaders with opportunities to network with other administrators from across the state.  

In fact, this conference allows districts opportunities to share what they know or do with others. District 56 held two sessions, one focusing on district and school safety and the other one focusing on the new GEAR UP grant (with Calhoun County, Laurens 55, Richland 2, and Sumter County School Districts). 

The first session was an update on the district/school safety plan we have established with county agencies. Joey Avery, the director of the Laurens County Emergency Management Agency, along with former Chief of Clinton Public Safety, Robin Morse, discussed how multiple agencies work with our school district to coordinate safety walk-throughs in all district schools. Dr. David Pitts and Mr. Eddie Marshall showcased how efforts continue to build partnerships with first responders in the event of a need. District 56 is very grateful to all participating agencies and their continued efforts to make our schools as safe as possible.

The second session was a first-year reflection on the second GEAR UP grant the district received. GEAR UP is a nationally competitive grant where students in a specified grade level are provided opportunities to expose students to higher education pathways, to build a college-going culture, to increase graduation rates, and to increase college bound attendance rates (two- and four-year colleges). This GEAR UP grant follows the rising eighth grade class from identification through their first year in college. Ms. Brenda Schrantz discussed how the grant was going and what early perceived benefits we’ve noticed.

To gauge the impact of this conference on our administrators, I asked attendees to give me their best “A-HA” moments. Too often we attend to matters without ever reflecting on what we learned. School administration is often seen as reactive; however, the most effective school and district administrators must be proactive. Opportunities to attend summer learning are great incubators for proactive thinking and planning.

A smattering of answers from the I3 conference included:

Melodie Edwards, principal at CES: Setting the rigor high in all classrooms and not making assumptions about students’ knowledge;

Dr. Greg Moore, director of Special Programs: Being recognized as a leader among peers and [receiving] support from peers in the same positions;

Dr. Martha Brothers, principal at CHS: [Taking] care of your people and being a reflective leader; [Being] an advocate for EVERY student and teacher.

Tina Daniels, coordinator of Special Programs: [Receiving] information on MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports) and [working] to revamp our current forms.

Dr. David Pitts, assistant superintendent of operations: Attending the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Deep Dive (three-hour session) and [listening to] the number of things that went wrong and benefiting from others’ learning;

Ms. Brenda Schrantz, assistant superintendent of instruction: Attending the session on the new state law concerning MTSS and [working to] purchase a universal screener to meet state requirements for Fall 2019.

Josie Kate Haupfear, director of federal programs: [Learning about] the three basic types of professional development and how to tier these for teachers depending on the purpose.

Mr. Chris Winkler, principal at CMS: [Attending] sessions dealing with change and how to make an impact on culture and student performance. 

Although it is summer and school’s out, it is evident for many of our teachers, administrators, and students that learning never stops or takes a long vacation. A power nap, maybe but certainly not a vacation…at least not three months worth!


(Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of Laurens School District 56.)

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