FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Beaufort County achievements, challenges
spotlighted at 2016 State of the Schools event
BEAUFORT – More than 100 community members, business and government representatives, elected officials, Board of Education members, educators and students were briefed today on the status of Beaufort County’s public schools at the district’s annual State of the Schools breakfast.
Superintendent Jeff Moss pointed to significant achievements in 2016, including improvements in student achievement that he attributed to the hard work of district educators.
“Our teachers and administrators know that in their classrooms, there are potential Nobel Prize winners,” Moss said. “They know that in their classrooms are tomorrow’s leaders.”
District achievements highlighted at the 2016 State of the Schools Breakfast included:
- The district’s on-time high school graduation rate – the percentage of students who earn a diploma “on time” in four years – has improved for six consecutive years and is now at an all-time high.
- Graduating seniors in the Class of 2016 earned $30.9 million in college scholarships, an all-time high.
- The district’s average SAT score has improved by 61 points over the past five years, and African-American seniors have reduced the achievement gap with white seniors by improving their scores by 87 points while white students improved by 30 points.
- Fifty-five percent of high school students taking Advanced Placement courses scored high enough to qualify for college credit in 2016, an all-time high for the district. In addition, the number of students completing college-level courses while still in high school has increased from 308 to 532 in just two years.
- National publications rank two district high schools among South Carolina’s best. Hilton Head Island High is ranked No. 5 in South Carolina by U.S. News and World Report, and Bluffton High is ranked No. 7. In addition, Hilton Head Island High ranked No. 6 in South Carolina and Bluffton High No. 12 in The Washington Post’s annual listing of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools.”
- The district has created “schools of choice” in all buildings, meaning that parents can apply to send their children to any academic program at any school in district, regardless of where they live. More than 2,300 students are taking advantage of the opportunity this school year.
- The Connect2Learn program has put a mobile computer in the hands of every student in grades K-12.
- The district has added 260 full-day prekindergarten slots, which has allowed schools to reduce or even eliminate waiting lists of at-risk children who need focused attention before they start classes. The district won the Champions for Children Award from the Institute of Child Success for its efforts to improve early childhood education.
- The new Building a Better Beaufort Scholarship, also called “B3,” pays up to two years of tuition costs at the Technical College of the Lowcountry for qualified local high school graduates.
- The district earned a renewal of its national accreditation from AdvancED, a nonprofit organization that provides on-site external reviews of school systems around the world. AdvancED said that the district’s accreditation scores exceeded the national average in all three categories rated. In addition, AdvancED awarded specialized STEM certification to all six district schools that applied.
- The district is dramatically expanding Career and Technology courses designed to prepare students for high-paying jobs and industry certifications in rapidly emerging fields. Two new high-tech CATE facilities are at Battery Creek High and May River High.
- Two new cutting-edge schools now serve the fast-growing Bluffton community. PreK-Grade 8 River Ridge Academy opened in August 2015, and May River High opened in August 2016.
Moss also noted significant challenges that district educators face.
“There are achievement gaps, here in Beaufort County and around the nation, he said. “We also have students arriving in our schools who speak no English at all, and that’s also a significant challenge for teachers. We have to do a much better job of making the teaching profession attractive and making it pay well enough so that we can attract students from colleges and universities.
Charles Kresch, a board member of the Coastal Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, noted that the organization had invested $325,000 in expanding “Child Find” efforts that identify hundreds of Beaufort County children who receive developmental screenings and educational intervention to prepare them for kindergarten. “To me, that’s a bargain,” Kresch said.
Business executive Carlton Dallas reflected on the mentoring he received growing up, something that led him to mentor young students on Hilton Head Island. “Success stories start small, and they start early,” Dallas said. “But the upside is tremendous.”
Newly named District Teacher of the Year Elizabeth MacMurray, who teaches English at Hilton Head Island High, expressed confidence in the district’s students and classroom professionals.
“School is fun, but it’s work, and our kids come to school ready to work,” MacMurray said. “And believe me, they are going to be ready to move on academically or enter the workforce, because in our classrooms they are being guided by teachers who are caring and passionate and determined. We take care of kids. We take care of business. And the business is teaching.”
University of South Carolina Beaufort junior Josue Urbina, who participates in the “Call Me Mister” program that grooms future educators, said he was particularly challenged in Beaufort County’s schools because his mother didn’t speak English. The support he received from district schools enabled him to succeed academically, and today he tutors Spanish-speaking adults and looks forward to becoming an elementary school teacher himself.
“This is what I want to do,” Urbina said. “Everything that was given to me, I want to give it back. I want to give back to the community that got me to where I am today. I look out at all of you today, and I know that one day some of you will be my colleagues. And I’m ready to join you. I can’t wait, I really can’t.”
Breakfast participants also heard performances by Battery Creek High School band students and Hilton Head Island High School choral students.