Three schools named Palmetto’s Finest

South Carolina Association of School Administrators honors schools across the state

Columbia, SC — Three schools have been named 2019 Palmetto’s Finest Schools.

They are:

Waccamaw Intermediate School in Pawleys Island, Georgetown County Schools
River Bluff High School in Lexington, Lexington School District One
Spring Hill High School in Chapin, Lexington-Richland School District Five

Over 1,000 excited teachers, school supporters, and education leaders gathered in their respective schools on Tuesday, March 19, to learn which schools would take the top honors. The schools underwent an intensive application process requiring self-evaluation, peer review, and two on-site examinations. The application and visits verified evidence of exceptional student achievement, instructional programs, professional learning communities, and school culture.

Waccamaw Intermediate School (Pawleys Island, principal, Timothy Carnahan) serves 474 students in grades four through six. The school’s mission, “Cultivating Excellence in Education,” permeates the school as students participate in fine arts productions, First Lego League, STEM Lab, Project Lead the Way, Steel Drum Band, First Tee Golf Instruction, Advanced Art classes, overnight camping trips, and community service activities. Waccamaw Intermediate has demonstrated significant academic improvement in ELA for their students of poverty and in writing for all students. Authentic reading and writing during 75 percent of the day allows students to analyze texts and guide their own learning. Waccamaw Intermediate has received the Palmetto Gold Award ten times for Overall Achievement and Closing the Achievement Gap, the National Blue-Ribbon Award, and an “Excellent” Report Card rating.

River Bluff High (Lexington, principal, Luke Clamp) serves 2,054 students in grades 9 through 12. In 2008, River Bluff opened as a new learning system centered on students. Students make decisions and manage their day through 25 modules of time (10 to 30 minutes each) within an innovative Flexible Modular Schedule. Students are expected to be leaders of their own learning, and each day, they have Independent Learning Time where they choose to work in the Learning Commons on a research assignment with a peer. A partnership with EL Education solidified the school’s path toward student engaged learning experiences and assessment, where achievement is viewed in three dimensions: mastery of knowledge and skills, character, and high-quality work. With a 90 percent graduation rate, over 96 percent of River Bluff students participate in some form of work-based learning.

Spring Hill High School (Chapin, principal, Michael Lofton) serves 1,069 students in grades 9 through 12. A Career Pathways Magnet, Spring Hill High School offers five academies to students: Engineering, Entertainment, Entrepreneurial, Environmental Studies, and Exercise Science. Students take classes in one or more of these academies to engage in highly technological, real world application in core subjects, enhancing college and career readiness. The academies ignite imagination and make student learning relevant by using themed, standards-based curriculum. With open enrollment, non-criteria-based admissions, Spring Hill has a 96 percent graduation rate and exceeds state and national averages in EOC passage rate and AP, ACT, and SAT scores. Spring Hill was awarded a Magnet Schools of America Merit Award-School of Distinction for three consecutive years and is ranked in the top 100 schools in the nation by

“The Palmetto’s Finest award winners are models of innovation throughout our state,” said Beth Phibbs, South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA) executive director. “They set the standard of excellence by creating an outstanding school culture which includes setting high expectations and providing opportunities for personalized learning.”

Presenting the awards to the three winners were Brenda Byrd (Chairman, Palmetto’s Finest Committee), Penny Atkinson (President, SC Association of School Administrators), The Honorable Molly Spearman (SC Superintendent of Education), and Judi Gatson (Emcee and Anchor, WIS-TV).

SCASA is the professional organization for school leaders in South Carolina, with a membership of more than 4,400. From professional development opportunities and research, to publications and legislative advocacy, SCASA’s focus is to support school leaders in providing the best possible education for South Carolina’s young people. As a state affiliate of three national associations for school leaders, SCASA also works on the national level.

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