NEWBERRY — Bennie Bennett is one of two leaders in South Carolina education who received the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously from the S.C. Association of School Administrators to honor their dedication to educating children, serving the community and serving as an example for those who inspire to lead.
Bennett’s award was presented to his family June 22 at the Innovative Ideas Institute. A scholarship was presented to the Newberry County School District in his honor. Bennett was killed April 16 in a wreck in front of Newberry High School. He had been superintendent of Newberry County Schools since 2006.
The family of Lucy Beckham, former Principal of Wando High School in the Charleston County School District, was also presented the award posthumously. A scholarship was presented to the College of Charleston in her honor.
“This year we also mourn the loss of two of South Carolina’s most dedicated educators,” said Elizabeth “Beth” A. Phibbs, executive director of SCASA. “Lucy Beckham and Bennie Bennett modeled the type of leader we should all strive to be on a daily basis. It is an honor to present this award and scholarship in memory of their distinguished careers in education.”
Bennett’s and Beckham’s awards were the first time the SCASA has made posthumous presentations.
The SCASA, in making the announcement, said Bennett’s focus was on the children, whether on a basketball court, in a classroom, a principal’s office, or a school board meeting.
“The children knew that they were special in the eyes of Bennie Bennett. There are many children and families today who have a better future because of the care and concern given to them,” they said in a statement. “The career and personal accomplishments in his short life were laudable, but he would never allow the spotlight to be on him. Immediately upon his arrival in Newberry, Mr. Bennett began to develop a culture where teamwork and collaboration were expected.
“He was a man of character, honesty, and integrity,” the statement continued. “He lived a life of service and was committed God, his family, and excellence in education. Newberry County Schools and the state of South Carolina are better because of the life and commitment of Bennie D. Bennett.”
In choosing the award winners, the Lifetime Achievement Award selection committee looks for evidence of outstanding leadership as an educational administrator; a record of service and leadership as a member of SCASA and its divisions; community service not directly related to the education profession; and, service to the profession above and beyond normal job responsibilities.
Dr. Billy R. Strickland, superintendent of Laurens County School District 55, and Dr. Gregory Owings, principal of Dutch Fork High School in District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties, received the awards this year.
“Gregory Owings and Billy Strickland are highly respected among the state’s education community and have been a driving force in the growth and success of our association,” said Phibbs. “They exemplify outstanding leadership among educational professionals. We are thrilled to recognize their exceptional service to public education.”
Owings and Strickland were honored June 22, at the SCASA Innovative Ideas Institute before 1,500 school leaders. Each winner received a cash prize, presented by S.C. Association of School Administrators, a commemorative plaque, and a ring presented by Herff Jones.
SCASA is the professional organization for school leaders in South Carolina, with a membership of more than 4,000. From professional development opportunities and research, to publications and legislative advocacy, SCASA’s focus is to support school leaders in providing the best possible education for South Carolina’s young people. As a state affiliate of three national associations for school leaders, SCASA also works on the national level.