Take time to thank an educator this week

11-20 Page 4A.inddNovember 18-22 is American Education Week, a time to reflect on our country’s legacy of education and to give thought to what we want for the future of our kids.

Pickens has provided a variety of new opportunities over the past few years. Academically, we are doing more. Our on-time graduation rates have risen a full four percentage points, our students’ performance on standardized testing at the elementary, middle and high school level continues to surpass their peers around the state. SAT and ACT performance has been at or above the national average, and in 2012 Daniel High School was named the best traditional public high school in the state by US News and World Report.

Much of our students’ success can be traced back to enhanced opportunities. Recent years have seen the increased integration of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). For example, next month our students will take part in the Second Annual SDPC First Lego League “Coopertition,” a robotics competition that lets our budding engineers sharpen each other’s skills before heading to a state-wide contest. STEM labs have been added at ten of our elementary schools, with more on the way. Our students have also participated in sail boat competition for 2nd graders, hang-glider competition for 8th graders, and a jet toy competition for 5th graders. Our Clemson Elementary students even won 2012 International JetToy Challenge in Detroit.

Students who are struggling academically now have the opportunity to attend C3, a program that provides a smaller learning environment for at-risk students. Students with interests in agriculture, law enforcement, culinary arts, mechatronics, medicine and more can find classes at our Career and Technology Center that aren’t offered at any other school in the county. For our most creative students, the district’s opportunities in the arts have consistently ranked “Excellent” on the South Carolina school report card. In terms of success beyond our classrooms, members of our 2013 graduating class were accepted at Harvard, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The students of School District of Pickens County have had the opportunities they need to succeed at the highest level. As financial pressures force our district to do more with less, it is our goal to make sure these opportunities remain intact and to retain the highly-qualified teachers who make these programs possible. We will continue to work to ensure that the chance to succeed is available to every student who walks through our doors. This week is the perfect time to thank our educators and our support personnel for all that they do each day for the students of Pickens County.

Dr. Kelly U. Pew is the Superintendent of the School District of Pickens County.