As was reported in the media, the district has had a handful of confirmed cases of the MRSA virus. Please know that we are working very proactively to address and manage this issue. Our school nurses are closely monitoring the situation at each school and additional cleaning protocols are being implemented using products that are formulated to eliminate the virus. We are also strongly reinforcing the importance of frequent hand-washing with students and staff. Please feel free to contact your school nurse if you have any questions or concerns. There is also information about MRSA on our website. Because of a recent grant from the state, we have four additional nurses, which has helped a great deal. As always, we appreciate the cooperation of our families and the community as we work through this issue.

Breakfast at Doby’s Mill and Stover

There was a great article in The State newspaper this morning on the creative ways in which Doby’s Mill Elementary and Stover Middle are providing breakfast for their students. I thought that the best quote in the article was something to the effect that students function on glucose and not on starvation. Thanks to the folks at both schools for their work to help their students to be as ready to learn as possible!

Two Excellent Lessons

When I was at Bethune Elementary yesterday, I visited Ms. Vincent’s fourth grade class, where I saw her working with students on comprehension skills in reading. It was a lively lesson which really engaged her students. I also saw a similar kind of lesson at Midway Elementary in Ms. Morgan’s kindergarten class. It’s extremely important for us to help our students develop phonics skills and the ability to comprehend and utilize what they are reading. These two classes were shining examples of how this is done!

A Great Game!

The annual clash between Lugoff-Elgin and Camden was an outstanding high school football game. Both teams played hard to the very last play of a 31-28 overtime win by Lugoff-Elgin. I was tremendously proud of both teams. I am also very pleased that all three of our Kershaw County teams will be in the playoffs this Friday night, Lugoff-Elgin will be at home and Camden and North Central will be on the road.

Saturday with “HomeWorks”

This past Saturday, I had a great time working with “HomeWorks,” a program sponsored through the United Way that repairs homes for the elderly and disadvantaged. There were a number of students from both Camden High School and Lugoff-Elgin High School participating in the repair of a home in the Camden area. I was really impressed with their willingness to give up the better part of a Saturday to reach out into the community. Kudos and thanks to Marie Sheheen at the United Way for her leadership of this effort.

Riding the Big Yellow Bus

This morning, I had the privilege of riding a North Central area bus driven by Ms. Jacqueline Cornelius. Ms. Cornelius is an outstanding driver and a credit to bus drivers everywhere. She is highly skilled in driving an extremely large vehicle on a series of narrow and winding roads, including several dirt roads. On this route, which serves Baron DeKalb Elementary School, North Central Middle School, and North Central High School, Ms. Cornelius leaves the bus lot at North Central High School at 5:15 a.m. and doesn’t drop off all of her students until about 7:45. Ms. Cornelius also has wonderful rapport with the students on her bus!

By nature, rural routes are going to be long because the students are very spread out over a large area. But I hope that we can work in partnership with the state to establish additional routes so that students in our more rural schools will be able to spend less time on the bus. Spending as long as four hours on a school bus each day cannot possibly have a positive impact on achievement. This is not simply a Kershaw County issue. The same kind of route I rode this morning is replicated all over South Carolina.

I also want to say that the students on this bus were outstanding. Their behavior and manners were excellent! There were some television and newspaper reporters on the bus with us this morning, and they were extremely complimentary of these young people.

A State Education Leader

During this week, the Fall Professional Conference of the South Carolina Association of Title I Administrators (SCAIA) was held at Myrtle Beach. An outstanding program for the week was developed under the leadership of SCAIA President Tim Hopkins, the Executive Director of Elementary Education here in Kershaw County. Tim has had a distinguished career as an administrator in Kershaw County, and it is gratifying for me to see that the entire state recognizes his tremendous leadership capabilities.

Technology at North Central High School

I visited North Central High School yesterday morning (Wednesday) and was really impressed with the technology applications being used. I saw one class using the Internet to research projects on American folklore and another group using the Internet to research medieval culture. I also saw the “credit recovery” lab, which enables students to use a program called “Novanet” to make up failed courses in a shorter period of time. This opportunity will do a great deal to help more students to graduate. The faculty and staff at NCHS deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the work they are doing to infuse technology into the instructional program.

Breakfast with the Optimists

It was a real pleasure for me to be able to speak at the breakfast meeting of the Lugoff Optimists on Wednesday, October 24. This is a group that is truly concerned about education and is especially focused on arts education in our schools. After my remarks, we had some excellent discussion about issues facing education. I’m especially grateful for the “artist in residence” program the Optimists are helping to bring to Wateree Elementary School. This is an outstanding opportunity for our young people!

Outstanding Enrollment Projection

Projecting enrollment is always a difficult task. Usually projections for the next school year are done in the late fall. Oftentimes, some of the factors that will impact enrollment cannot be anticipated nine months or so in advance. That being said, enrollment for the 2007-08 school year in Kershaw County was projected to be 10,313. Actual enrollment came in at 10,312. I’d say that 99.9903% accuracy is pretty darn good! Kudos to Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson and Assistant Superintendent Agnes Slayman for a great job on a difficult assignment.