District administrative building looks to April completion

By Natalie Netzel

January 29, 2014

NEWBERRY — The Newberry County School District administrative building is looking at a tentative completion date for late April, Jim Suber, assistant superintendent of operations, said at Monday’s school board meeting.

Suber said that as long as everything goes according to schedule, staff will move in in April. He said there has been a 30-day delay due to the weather.

The water, electricity and gas are connected, Suber said, adding that concrete curbing is underway, window framing is about 85 percent complete and drywall in the hallway and offices is being installed. Furniture delivery is tentatively scheduled for mid-March, Suber said.

The district has contracted with A3 to move all electrical work and units from the old Gallman school, said Suber. The old Galllman school currently houses technical equipment. The company will start after spring break starts, Suber said.

The board also heard from four principals who presented plans for improvement at their schools due to having an average or at-risk absolute or growth rating on their state report card.

The Newberry County Career Center’s Director Buddy Livingston, Newberry Elementary’s Principal Reggie Wicker, Reuben Elementary’s Principal Mike Stroud and Whitmire Community’s Principal Joey Haney presented their reports for improvement.

The Career Center received an at risk growth rating, Newberry Elementary received a below average growth rating, Reuben Elementary received a below average growth rating and Whitmire Community (Middle) received below average in absolute and growth and Whitmire Community (High) received a below average in growth.

In Whitmire’s case, Haney explained that middle school and high school data were combined with high school having very little data, adding that they will continue to implement strategies for improvement on report cards.

As for the drop in graduation rate from 81.6 percent in 2012 to 66.7 percent in 2013, one or two dropping out can have that much of an impact. The smaller community at Whitmire doesn’t help with ratings as is the case at Reuben Elementary, the smallest school in the district.

Whitmire’s plan for improvement includes school wide initiatives to focus on data analysis, including having data meetings with core content area teachers, Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) analysis, goal setting for student performance, making data visible to students and teachers with charts, stickers, brochures, etc., a vertical team planning and data analysis for all grade levels, analyzing quarterly grade reports to identify at risk students among other action plans.

The school will also provide opportunities to enrich, re-mediate and enhance instruction with different fun activities, labs, extra help sessions, a Zap the HSAP program on Saturdays to help prepare students for the test, dual credit opportunities, study skills and utilizing the nature trail in different subjects, among other plans.

Whitmire will also provide faculty and administrative professionals with development opportunities and time for collaboration such as utilizing early release days, having a District Wednesday planning session, utilizing professional development days with conferences and workshops, promoting graduate classes, Common Core sessions for English and math and workshops for MAP, Testview, Teacher Toolbox, Planet HS and PowerTeacher.

For the Career Center, Livingston said they will review each student’s grades eight times a year to try and catch students not maintaining at least a C average in Career Center classes and also utilize multiple methods to better track students and post secondary placement. This includes keeping in touch via phone, Facebook, email or just within the community.

The Career Center is also looking into program trends and analyzing prerequisites and working on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives.

At Newberry Elementary, Wicker presented a four-step action plan for improvement. In Wicker’s case, the school was .5 points away from having an average rating.

The school will utilize MAP analysis and common assessments for instruction and assessments, utilize computer software to re-mediate, enrich and progress monitor classroom instruction for all students, provide enrichment for students in need of academic assistance and intervention and continue to provide instruction on Saturdays during Saturday school in the summer for those facing math and reading challenges when it comes to PASS testing.

At Reuben Elementary, Stroud pointed out that the school was also .5 points away from having an average rating. However, they will make progress by implementing a six step action plan. This includes morning enrichment time for PASS and MAP assistance, after school enrichment for those who need extra help on PASS testing, promoting professional development opportunities, purchasing resources for classroom libraries to help with reading and math, and providing incentives for students who reach goals.

The board approved all of the strategies for the schools.

In other business:

— The board announced the evaluation of the superintendent which they agreed is exemplary.

“We feel an exemplary evaluation is in order. The excellent/excellent report card (for the district) is a summary of your tenure and we ask you to keep up the good work,” said Jody Hamm, board chair.

— The board approved the election of officers which will remain the same. Hamm continues to be board chair, Lee Attaway continues a vice chairman, Clyde Hill continues as secretary and Lucy Anne Meetze continues as the legislative liaison.

— Superintendent Bennie Bennett also recognized and thanked all of the school board members for School Board Appreciation Month.

— Bennett presented two drafts of the school calendar for 2014-15 and asked for comments. The drafts are on the school district’s website at for the public to view and comment on.

— Chief Financial Officer Susan Dowd presented the upcoming budget planning calendar to the board. On Feb. 18 and Feb. 24, the budget planning begins with the district’s cabinet or administrative team. On March 10 and March 11, the district meets individually with the principals.

The work sessions are as follows: April 14 and May 12 at 6 p.m. A first reading is at the May 19 regular board meeting and a public hearing is at 7 p.m. June 9. A second budget reading will be at the June 23 regular board meeting.

— The next regular board meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at The Learning Center.