Last Friday, Greenville Forward and Greenville County Schools partnered to present Eye on Education. To me, it is one of the best programs we are involved with facilitating because it connects civic leaders, community leaders, government servants, and anyone in between with the schools in our community. With minimal commitment (only your time), anyone can visit at least two schools in the school district, hear a speech from our superintendent, and interact with the principals on the ground in our community. It is truly dazzling and an opportunity to understand what is really happening in the schools.
Often, we talk about how frustrating it is to shoulder the weight of South Carolina’s negative education stereotypes when our schools have so much to celebrate. We talk about how we wish comedians wouldn’t disparage our state on the national stage. But the fact is, there are many schools in South Carolina that are struggling — and we acknowledge that there are students struggling in our own community.
Last Friday wasn’t about the struggle. It was about the triumph. Our schools in Greenville County have much to celebrate.
The session began last Friday morning with an address from Superintendent Dr. Penny Fisher. She threw out a few statistics and morsels of information that I found very worthy of sharing. She said that Greenville County no longer has a single school on the bottom priority list. She celebrated the healthy lunch programs. And she said that all schools are moving towards a model of project based learning where students are able to learn why they are learning what they are.
Overall, our participants visited four schools: Cherrydale Elementary, League Academy, AJ Whittenburg Elementary, and Wade Hampton High School. I took some notes that our participants said after the buses returned us back to the Resource Center for follow-up discussion.
- Passionate principals make all the difference.
- Cherrydale is made up of 97% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch plans. However, they are still focusing on innovative education tools like single gender classes, multiple intelligences styles of teaching, character development, and looping (where teachers travel with students from grade to grade). Cherrydale also has a 25% male staff, which is highly unusual. The students also take college field trips even though they are in elementary school so they will set their sights to going to college now.
- League is a magnet school for communication arts and strives to incorporate creativity in every capacity. There is a camaraderie of support among staff and students.
- “I was impressed by the commitment and dedication of the Cherrydale principal despite challenges of poverty.”
- “The importance of good teachers is still the most important thing.”
- “Community involvement is key to the successes of schools and you can become involved with that process by serving on school improvement councils.”
And when asked to choose one word to describe what they saw at Eye on Education, participants used the following:
“Innovation” “Leadership” “Inquiry” ”Community” ”Respect” ”Technology” ”Character”
Eye on Education 2012 certainly was successful in every sense of the word. We intended to open the eyes of legislative leaders and community members to the good work happening in our schools. We wanted to celebrate our principals who work so hard to give students in Greenville the best education possible. And we wanted people to leave surprised, pleasantly and passionately surprised.
Next year, we are hoping to expand the school visits and offer lunch at one of the schools’ healthy lunch cafeterias. If you missed this year’s session, know that you can always do a visit of your own — all you have to do is schedule a tour with the school.
Thank you for following our journey last Friday, whether you attended, read our live tweets, or are now reading this blog. Learning even the smallest facts about our schools in Greenville is important and we are delighted to facilitate this process. We truly believe that creating a community that values learning can happen in Greenville and we were delighted to move towards that goal with this edition of Eye on Education.