Coach Smoak

I am absolutely remiss in not recognizing the fact that Camden High School Boy’s Tennis Coach Roger Smoak recently achieved his 500th win, most of which have come at CHS.  This is obviously an outstanding accomplishment.  But what comes to my mind first when I think about Coach Smoak’s impact is not the record, but rather, the way in which he motivates his athletes to simply work hard to be the best they can be.  I’m not sure how many of Coach Smoak’s players will compete in tennis beyond high school, but I am sure that the lessons in work ethic and sportsmanship they learn from him will last a lifetime. 

North Central Area Construction

I had the opportunity this morning to drive up into the North Central area and see the progress on the project at both North Central High School and Midway Elementary School.  North Central simply looks like a different place!  What was really exciting was to see the new score board at the stadium.  The old one worked sporadically at best.  Thanks to Keith McAlister for making this happen.  The asphalt base of the new track should be ready for the final surface within a couple of weeks.  At Midway,  the new roof is progressing well, thanks to dry weather.  Classroom renovations in the exisitng sections of the building are moving right along.  The new multi-purpose gym is absolutely wonderful.  I really can’t wait for these projects to be finished and for students to be using them! 


Twice a year, the district publishes Schools, which is distributed in the community as an insert in the Chronicle-Independent.  I particularly enjoyed the one that came out yesterday because it focused primarily on instruction and all the innovative and exciting things that are happening in classrooms across the district.  I also really liked the picture of the chemistry students from North Central High School on the front cover.  I sincerely hope that folks in the community get a chance to look at this publication. 

Sharing Best Practices….

At last week’s State Summer Leadership Conference, a number of our folks were invited to make presentations on “best practices” occurring in our district. I was extremely proud of the fact that so many programs and practices in our district are seen as models for other districts. Our folks who presented include:

  • Ginger Catoe, Jennifer Ard, and Vickie Norton from Doby’s Mill Elementary – “Keeping the Class of 2017 on Target”
  • Betty Turner from Camden Elementary (soon to be principal at Baron DeKalb) – “Best Practices for Reducing Discipline Strategies”
  • Theodore Jackson and Judy McFarland from Bethune Elementary – “Best Effective Teaching Strategies”
  • Reggie Dean, Byron Johnson, and Karen Bullard from Camden High School – “B.U.L.L.D.O.G. – Journey to Success”
  • Dan Matthews and April Jacob from Lugoff-Elgin Middle School – “A Journey Towards Being a School to Watch”
  • Tylisa Hill from the Continuous Learing Center – “Increasing Achievement Through Collaboration in Professional Learning Communities”

Moved In – Finally!

I’ve been here for almost a year.  Since my wife, Jean, got down here in August, we have been living in an apartment at Fox Run (a really nice complex) while we built a house.  This week, we finally got moved in.  Since we had stayed in our previous house in Virginia for 20 years, I had forgotten how hectic moving is.  But it was all worth it Wednesday night when we were in the new house with all our “stuff,” a lot of which had been in storage for the last 10 months.  Finally! 


This past Tuesday night, the School Board adopted a budget which I believe will have tremendous impact on the quality of education in Kershaw County.  It was a budget that reflected a great deal of community input and involvement.  I’m really proud of that.  As I’ve said all along, the budget is the most important public process of the district because it determines what we can do for young people. 

As adopted by the School Board, the budget address many needs, including funding projected enrollment growth, maintaining current programs and services, addressing competitive compensation for all employees, funding insurance and other inflationary increases, funding K-8 technology, Increasing school-level tech support – K-12, implementing elementary class size caps, funding the first phase of an arts initiative, funding an occupational diploma program, funding an early literacy initiative, funding an assessment software package for grades K-12, funding summer guidance time for high schools, funding a middle school teacher for the CLC, funding mentoring positions for middle schools to decrease suspensions, and funding an assistant principal for the Ninth Grade Academy at NCHS.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the budget process! 

More on the Ron Clark Academy Visit….

I continue to get really great feedback on the recent visit a number of our teachers made to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta.  Following is an email I received from Jody Lackey, a teacher at Camden Middle School:

 I want to thank you for providing the opportunity to the teachers of this district to attend the Ron Clark Academy seminar this past weekend.  This is one of the most exciting seminars I have ever attended, and I see all types of applications for the students at Camden Middle School.

All of the teachers who lead the seminars were dynamic, and the students who were attending school Saturday in Ron Clark’s math class were super.  It is impossible to pick out one thing that was the best.  It was all encouraging.  The one thing I (along with Barbara Culler, Kim Morgan and Lori Cooper) did come away with is that Ron Clark and staff build community in their school, support and lift up each other, hold very high expectations, believe in accountability for students and parents, and actively engage students in learning. 

They do not brush lightly over any of these aspects, and their students are achieving lofty goals. This was powerful for me because his students are very much like the students that walk through the doors of my school every day.  The four of us came up with many ideas to implement at the beginning of the school year because we believe our students can achieve the same goals.

I want to thank you again for providing the opportunity for me to attend this seminar.  It was a great ending to the 2007-2008 school year and a great beginning for many years to come.