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Published on June 22nd, 2016 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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RICHLAND TWO GAME ON: WORKING TOGETHER FOR SUCCESS

Pictured Dr. Debbie Hamm, Superintendent, Richland Two, with students.

We did it! Another successful school year has come and gone. The 2015-2016 school year unquestionably, had its share of challenges with floodwaters racing through our homes and hearts, and international notoriety received for all the wrong reasons. We also had our share of successes. While the list of awards and honors is quite long, nothing could top the heroic efforts of school leaders who saved a young girl’s life.

On what started out as a routine day in February at Summit Parkway Middle School, a student came in for a common complaint that escalated to a critical medical emergency. The student went into full cardiac arrest while resting in the health room. Nurse Stacy Harris acting on training and muscle-memory began to perform CPR. Nurse Harris called for assistance and Coach Debbie Bernhagen responded as a member of the school’s medical crisis team. While waiting on EMS to transport the student to the hospital, Nurse Harris and Coach Bernhagen performed CPR continuously for 30 minutes unassisted. Even after EMS arrived, they continued to administer this life-saving technique. They saved a child’s life that day. Because of their actions, this young student has a fighting chance.

At Westwood High School, when 16-year old Mark “MJ” Mickens suffered a neck injury while playing football for the Redhawks, it was not just a few coaches and players stepping in to help. The entire school and surrounding community showered Mark’s family with much-needed support in the days and weeks immediately following the injury. Moreover, that support, grows and grows, from an auction and fundraiser that has raised more than $22,000 for medical expenses to providing innovative technology that puts Mark back in school even when he cannot leave his home.

These are just two of many examples of the Richland Two family doing the right things for all the right reasons. Giving all students a fighting chance at success by focusing on our Four Squares — Learning, Character, Community and Joy — continues to be our mission. Our district has so much to be proud of and yet there is still much work to do.

In business, you measure your success by return on investment. Your profit is your bottom line. In public education, when students succeed our profit is achieved. In Richland Two, our success is intentional. It occurs because we are executing a visionary plan, using best practices, with strong evaluation, and continuous improvement. One of the best measures of our success is whether our students graduate. I am pleased to report more than 1,700 seniors graduated this month. The Class of 2016 received nearly $103 million in college scholarship offers. That is a lot to smile about because it’s $13 million more than last year. Here is a short list of even more achievements:

  • One Gates Millennium Scholarship winner – Jekima Hibbert, Richland Northeast High School
  • Three National Merit Scholarship winners- Itai Almor, Richland Northeast High School, Krishna T. Gorrepati and Samuel H. Bell, Spring Valley High School
  • Several students earned perfect scores on the ACT and portions of the ACT and SAT college entrance exams.
  • Students took classes as part of Richland Two’s Institute of Innovation (R2i2), an educational entity unlike any other. From app development to seeing the future of alternative energy in action, R2i2 will provide a unique opportunity for juniors and seniors from all five high schools. The facility’s doors will officially open in August.
  • Five Schools celebrated anniversaries: Blythewood High School (10th), Blythewood Middle School (20th), Center for Inquiry (20th), Pontiac Elementary School (25th), Summit Parkway Middle School (25th)
  • 693 National Board Certified (NBC) teachers call Richland Two home. No other district in the state has more NBC teachers!
  • Matthew Owens, high school math specialist is an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow.
  • Employees donated more than $115,000 to the United Way campaign.
  • The Project Care Coalition hosted a town hall meeting on preventing drug-use and underage drinking.
  • Our social workers and family intervention team dedicate countless hours to helping families struggling to provide a stable home environment. All of our schools participate in the Richland Two Back Pack Program. Each weekend of the school year, 550 students take home back packs filled with non-perishable, nutritious, and easy-to-eat food.
  • The S.C. Association of School Social Workers named Brenda Creighton the School Social Worker of the Year.
  • Kelly Mill Middle School Counselor Lee York was named S.C. Counselor of the Year by the American School Counseling Association.
  • This year we restructured our child development program and now have at least one four-year-old kindergarten class in every elementary school, which is free and provides transportation if needed.
  • Richland Two Ready to Read campaign collected more than 10,000 books for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade to enjoy during the summer months.
  • The Center for Inquiry Legos Team won first place in Strategy and Innovation at the State Lego Competition in Myrtle Beach.
  • Bookman Road Elementary School was named a Champion of the Environment by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
  • Let’s Move! Active Schools National Recognition was achieved by Joseph Keels Elementary School and Ridge View High School.
  • The Richland Northeast High School Model United Nations won the First Place Award of Distinction at the international competition for the 27th time.
  • The Ridge View High School girls 4 x 400 relay team won first place at the state 4-A Track and Field championships.
  • The Spring Valley High School Girls Basketball Team won the 4-A State Basketball Championship for the second consecutive year for the third year.
  • Richland Two bus driver Deheja Harris won first place in the S.C. Association for Pupil Transportation’s ROAD-E-O in the Regular Education Category. Drivers Dorothy Wilson and Sharon Skinner won first place in the Special Education Category.
  • Employees from Forest Lake Elementary, Blythewood Middle, Ridge View High, Spring Valley High, Westwood High and the Department of Communications and Strategic Partnerships won Rewards for Excellence and Golden Achievement Awards from the South Carolina chapter of the National School Public Relations Association.
  • Richland Two continues to have a solid AA credit rating from national rating agencies. This rating saves our taxpayers money.
  • The Behavioral Education Supports and Training (BEST) program, our own behavioral intervention program, piloted at four schools: Bridge Creek, Rice Creek, and Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary schools, Kelly Mill Middle School.
  • School Board members and I met with the newly formed student advisory committee and received useful feedback from the students. Throughout the year, I also met with the Faculty Advisory Council, Parent Advisory Council, our Business and Education Alliance, and faith-based leaders.
  • Richland Two became one of the first public school districts in the nation to hire a Chief Diversity and Multicultural Inclusion Officer as questions about race relations, equity, equality, access to opportunities, engagement, acceptance, and tolerance sweep across our country.
  • Richland Two Stadium and Turf Manager Billy Petoskey and his crew of Larry Medlin, Adam Woodley, Stan Ford, and Ron Howard had three fields selected as winners of the 2015 Fields of Excellence Award.

All of the successes our schools and centers experienced are too numerous to list here but many more can be found on the district and school websites. A special “thank you” goes to everyone who has helped Richland Two be so successful because we absolutely could not do it without you.

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