Principal celebrates successes at LHS

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

LIBERTY — “We have a wonderful high school,” Liberty High School Principal Josh Oxendine said. “We have 700 young people who are doing what they’re supposed to on a day-in and day-out basis.


“For me, it’s an easy job,” he continued. “I show up and I smile. They go about their day and do what they’re supposed to do.”

Oxendine was one of the speakers at the recent State of Liberty event, sponsored by the new Liberty Area Chamber of Commerce.

Negative news often makes the headlines in today’s world, and Liberty High School has been portrayed negatively in the past, he said.

“If you want to know about Liberty High School, if you want to know the truth, pick up the phone and call me,” Oxendine said. “A lot of times I get a phone call about a situation, and it’s really no situation, it’s just misinformation.”

“Sometimes, there’s a misconception, that budget-wise, we’re in bad shape,” Oxendine said. “Liberty High School is in the black. We have a budget moving forward with the school district that’s one of the best budgets in the district. We finished up in the black finishing up the year and we don’t see that changing.”

The school has the normally high school issues, he said. Like most schools, LHS’ athletics run at a deficit.

“So if you want to support the school, buy a ticket on Friday night,” Oxendine said. “That’s an easy way that you can help.”

There’s much to celebrate about the school, with more successes to come.

He said the chamber’s mission – economic growth – starts “on the front lines” at the high school.

“We led the district this year in WorkKeys scores,” Oxendine said.

Part of the district’s federal accountability now is a test to determine whether its students are “workforce ready,” he said.

“Our young people led the district, led Pickens County, with their certificates that they received for the WorkKeys test,” Oxendine said. “Ultimately, what that says in layman’s terms is we’re preparing our young people. When I was in high school, I was told the only way I could be successful is if I went to a four-year college or university and I think we all know that’s not true. I had a lot of people that I finished high school with, that grew up in Pickens County, that received a good education in Pickens County. They felt that they only way they could succeed was to go to a college or university. Ultimately they were not successful there.”

The school has some high-achieving students and “we’re providing opportunities for them, to make sure that they continue to achieve,” Oxendine said.

“They will go to our colleges and our universities,” he said. “But we can’t overlook our population that are really going to be the backbone of this community and neighboring communities, that are going into the workforce. Some of them may get a two year degree or a training certificate. But, ultimately, that WorkKeys tests, the results have told us, that our young people are being prepared for reality, for real life, for the workforce and colleges and careers as well.”

This year, Liberty High School hosted a Manufacturing Day.

“We had a lot of our businesses, a lot of our manufacturers, come speak to our young people,” Oxendine said. “We really just did it for our junior class this year, so they could make some decisions going into their senior year about what they wanted to do. We showed them, ‘Here’s what you get with a high school diploma and a WorkKeys certificate. Here’s what you get with a two-year degree or a trades certificate and with a four-year degree or higher, here are the opportunities with the manufacturing corporations here in our community.”

This year, the school targeted a group of its seniors before graduation, helping them with job prep and resume prep, Oxendine said.

“We brought in a lot of employers who knew that they would have vacancies,” he said. “For these young people who knew they were going right in to the workforce, we had a Career Fair just for these people at our school. Some of our seniors knew they were going into the workforce, so we put that employer with those students, and prepared them.”

Oxendine said the school will double the number of Advanced Placement courses it offers its students.

“We’re very excited,” Oxendine said. “When I came in this past year, I said ‘I think our students need more high-learning opportunities.’ We have 10 AP courses that we will be offering our students next year.

Liberty High School has partnered with Tri-County Technical College to offer dual-credit courses. The program is open to all Pickens County students but will be housed at Liberty High School, Oxendine said.

“We have two classrooms that will be full of professors, all day long,” Oxendine said. “A young person in Pickens County can take advantage of this, get high school credit and college credit at the same time. And when the bell rings, they can walk into our cafeteria to get something to eat and at the end, they can get on a bus and go home if they want to.”

“Previously, dual-enrollment courses were for a certain group of society,” Oxendine said. “If your parents had the money to pay for it, if your parents had the money to buy you a car, put gas in that car, and send you to Tri-County or wherever you may go. It was just for a certain section of our community. Now, you can catch a bus, we’ll feed you breakfast, we’ll feed you a hot lunch, you can walk down the hall, and if you qualify, you can take a college-level course and get college credit.

“For a lot of our young people, we have it set up, where in two years, they can get a high school diploma, a WorkKeys certificate and the first year of college taken care of, with very minimal cost,” he continued. “We’re excited about that program.”

He said the school is laying the groundwork for a program that will begin in the 2017-2018 school year,

“We’re partnering with the South Carolina Governor’s School and the Engineering Department at Clemson University,” Oxendine said. “We’ll have an engineering program for young people that qualify housed at Liberty High School moving forward. It’ll be a little different from traditional coursework that students take in high school. Higher-level math and science courses.

“With this opportunity, a young person can leave our high school with a high school diploma, a WorkKeys certificate and also their first year of engineering taken care of when they leave,” he continued. “That’s actually at no cost, for the young people who qualify for. It’s all about preparing our young people.”

Raising the school’s graduation rate is an important goal for Oxendine and his staff.

“Our graduation rate is the lowest in the district,” he said. “We’ve made strides this year in starting addressing some of that.”

Another goal is helping its young people become not just great students, but great citizens. Oxendine said character-building is important.

“I think sometimes we place too much emphasis on test scores and certain types of achievement,” he said. “At the end of the day, the lessons we teach the young people in our building will ultimately continue to make this community great in the future.”