Review Category : School News

District test scores mirror state

Beaufort County students saw slight declines in performance on South Carolina PASS tests and high school exit exams for 2013-14, the first declines following several years of improvement. Scoring decreased statewide at rates higher than in Beaufort County, according to data officially released today by the South Carolina Department of Education.

“Educators generally look at long-term trend data rather than year-to-year fluctuations,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss.  “Over the last few years, our student performance has improved significantly, and our challenge now is to analyze these new data and look for places where we can target our efforts and stay on an upward track.”

Moss said that some of the statewide declines in PASS performance this year were expected because two of the tests — Mathematics and Reading and Research — were different from last year’s assessments and included material that educators considered to be more rigorous. Lower exit exam scores also were expected because first-time test takers, mostly 10th graders, knew before taking the tests that the General Assembly was eliminating the state law that required students to pass the exit exam before earning high school diplomas.

PASS highlights

South Carolina and federal laws require end-of-year accountability tests based on state academic standards. PASS (Palmetto Assessment of State Standards) tests students in grades 3-8 in five subjects: English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies and writing.

PASS has three scoring levels, and students are said to have met the state standard if they score at either of the top two levels:

• Exemplary: The student demonstrated exemplary performance in meeting the grade-level standard.

• Met: The student met the grade-level standard.

• Not met: The student did not meet the grade-level standard.

For 2014, Beaufort County’s percentages of third through eighth-grade students meeting the state standard — a score of Basic on the three PASS scoring levels — improved in 18 of 30 combinations of grade levels and subjects tested, compared to 18 of 26 in 2013 (Writing exams were given in only two grades last year but in six grades this year).  Statewide, PASS performance improved in eight of 30 grade levels and subjects tested.

The numbers of Beaufort County students scoring in the highest category (Exemplary) increased in 22 out of 30 subject-grade configurations (six grades each in Writing, Math, English Language Arts, Science and Social Studies). The numbers of students scoring in the lowest category (Not Met) increased in 19 out of 30 subject-grade configurations.

HSAP (high school exit exam) highlights

HSAP (High School Assessment Program) testing serves as both a state-mandated exit exam required for a South Carolina high school diploma and a federally mandated assessment program to measure high school progress.

Public school students must pass both the English language arts and mathematics sections of HSAP to meet the state’s exit examination requirement for a diploma.  The tests are initially administered in students’ second year of high school, and students who don’t pass both sections on their first attempts have additional opportunities to retake the tests they have not passed.

During their initial attempt last spring, 81.2 percent of Beaufort County test-takers passed both sections of the exit exam.  That represented a 3 percentage point decrease from 2013’s passing rate of 84.2 but still 9.5 percentage points higher than five years ago.

Beaufort County’s 81.2 percent passing rate surpassed the state average (77.4 percent).  As a whole, South Carolina’s percent-passing rate dropped 4.6 percentage points, from 82 to 77.4.

Among individual high schools, Battery Creek High had a 67.1 percent passing rate in 2013 (down from 80.1), Beaufort High was 82 percent (down from 85.5 percent), Bluffton High was 89.8 percent (down from 89.9), Hilton Head High was 86.9 percent (up from 85.2 percent) and Whale Branch Early College High School was 66.2 percent (down from 75 percent).

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School Notes


• Operation Ball Gown: The BCHS SADD Club is collecting formal gowns for the Marine Corps Family Team Building project “Operation Ball Gown”. This program offers gowns free to the wives of active duty Marines for use during the military ball season. Gowns of all sizes, plus accessories are needed. Gowns may be dropped off with Mrs. Grooms in the front office through September 4.

• Little Dolphin Cheer Camp: August 23, from noon to 3 p.m., check-in at 11:30 a.m. $20 per cheerleader. Contact Lydia Williams at 322-5632. Ages 5 to 12.

• The Battery Creek High School Athletics Department is selling 2014-15 Athletics season passes at half price. The tickets will be on sale through August 29 at the half price rate. See Coach Drafts or Ms. Ballenger in the front office. The prices are:

Adults, $40; Students $25(6th grade-12; Elementary, $10(K-5th grade). The tickets are valid for all Battery Creek home contests, excluding state playoffs, jamborees and tournaments.


This is the 50th school year at Beaufort Academy! They are kicking off the year on Monday, August 18, with an opening convocation at 8:15 a.m. Dr. J. Lee Bollman will be the special guest speaker, joining the new Head of School, Mr. Stephen Schools, to open the year.  Dr. Bollman started at BA as a faculty member in 1969, and was the Head of School from 1975-1990.  He is by far the longest standing head of school BA has ever had.


Bridges Preparatory School will be offering a “Young Buccaneers” after school program that will assist students’ development, creativity and learning through fun activities and games. This early fall program begins Monday August 18 and sign ups will be taken until August 29. Contact Kay Keeler at for more details about the program.


Taking a virtual guided walking tour of the Hilton Head Gateway and Historic Beaufort campuses at the University of South Carolina Beaufort is now just a mouse click away. Prospective students and their families can access virtual tours, 360-degree panoramas and videos of the two campuses on three key platforms: Facebook, Mobile (Android, iPhone, iPad) and the YouVisit website. The tour of the Historic Beaufort campus includes a visit to historic Beaufort itself, plus the university’s Beaufort College Building, the Center for the Arts, and more. “One of the primary ways students choose a college is by visiting a campus, and we definitely want them to do so,” says Mack Palmour, USCB’s vice chancellor for Enrollment Management. For more information or to take a virtual walking tour of USCB’s campuses, see or contact Candace Brasseur, USCB public information director, at

Annual Beaufort County Youth Conference

The 22nd Annual Beaufort County Youth Conference: For Teens By Teens is a one-day conference that will feature workshops on subjects that the youth planners (middle and high school students who attend county schools) selected. This year’s theme is “Stay on Track”.  Also there will be free food and free T-shirts for all attendees. This year, Candice Glover, Season 12 “American Idol” winner and a former Beaufort County Youth Conference participant, will make an appearance. Seating will be limited, so pre-registration is highly encouraged. Attendees will have a chance to win door prizes, all of which are donated from area businesses and community  members. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 27, at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, 921 Ribaut Road. It is free and open to children in sixth through 12th grades in Beaufort County. To sign up and for details, call 843-812-4399 or 838-7922.
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Beaufort High teacher earns national honor for geography

A Beaufort High School teacher has earned top honors from the National Center for Geography Education.

Debi Kidd, a 22-year veteran of Beaufort County’s public schools, was one of only 13 teachers nationwide to be named a 2014 Distinguished Teacher of geography.  Kidd teaches Advanced Placement Human Geography, World History and Teacher Cadets. She is Beaufort High’s social studies department chair, acts as the Interact Club advisor and is a national grader for Advanced Placement tests.

“It was a huge honor, and I was pleasantly surprised,” said Kidd, who was recognized with the other 12 teachers at the National Center for Geographic Education’s annual conference in Memphis. “My hope is that this recognition will give me a platform to stress the importance of geography education in America’s schools. Today more than ever before, our kids need to know how the world works and how people and cultures interact with one another.”

Kidd also coaches Beaufort High’s teams that compete in the district’s annual Academic WorldQuest Competition, sponsored by the Hilton Head Island World Affairs Council.  Beaufort High teams coached by Kidd have won the last two competitions and represented the county at the national competitions in Washington.

“Debi Kidd is the kind of teacher who makes her school and her entire district proud,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss.  “She’s an inspiration to her students and to other teachers, and we’re thankful to have her here.”

University of South Carolina geography professor Jerry Mitchell nominated Kidd for the national honor.

“This year alone, Debi devoted nearly the entire month of June — her personal vacation time — to training and professional development,” Mitchell said.  “Her dedication to her profession is extraordinary.”

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USCB history professor awarded NEH grant

A history professor at the University of South Carolina Beaufort has been awarded a grant of nearly $200,000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct a three-week institute for school teachers on the history of Reconstruction and its aftermath along America’s Southeastern coast.

J. Brent Morris, Ph.D., an assistant professor of history in the Department of Humanities and Fine Arts at USCB, will share in a total of $34 million in grants awarded by the NEH for 177 humanities projects nationwide. Dr. Morris earned a B.A. degree magna cum laude in History and English Language and Literature at the University of South Carolina in 2001, and an M.A. degree in History at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., in 2008. He earned a Ph.D. at Cornell in 2010, specializing in United States and African-American History. Dr. Morris’s research and academic interests involve Nineteenth Century United States History; South Carolina History;  Slavery, Abolition and Antislavery; the Civil War and Reconstruction; and African-American History.

In the latest NEH award, announced July 21, the University of South Carolina Columbia will receive an outright grant of $199,157 to fund a three-week institute in the summer of 2015 for 30 K-12 teachers selected from across the country. Dr. Morris, the project director, has assembled a virtual who’s who of nationally renowned American history scholars to teach the courses. They will explore the topic of Reconstruction and its aftermath in South Carolina, Georgia and the Sea Islands. The project is entitled, “America’s Reconstruction: The Untold Story.”

Besides Dr. Morris, instructors for the institute will include Lawrence S. Rowland, Ph.D., the university’s distinguished professor emeritus. Dr. Rowland is a noted historian, scholar and chronicler of Beaufort County. He can trace his family’s ancestry back to 1679 when Sgt. Lawrence Sanders, an English property owner, migrated from the Caribbean island of Barbados to the nascent colony of South Carolina. The Sanders family has been in Beaufort ever since.

USCB historian Steve Wise, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina, has agreed to teach at the institute. His scholarly interests involve military history, American history and the history of South Carolina.

Yet another luminary is Eric Foner, Ph.D., the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University in New York. Dr. Foner is widely regarded as the leading contemporary historian of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. A former president of the American Historical Association, Dr. Foner is the author of The Fiery Trail: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, which won the Pulitzer Prize, the Lincoln Prize and the Bancroft Prize in 2011.

“This period in history is known for the federal government’s attempts to grant equal rights to former slaves as well as the political leadership of African-Americans in the former Confederate States,” Dr. Morris says.

“Reconstruction actually began in Beaufort County (Port Royal) in 1861, the first year of the war, and, though the era fell short of many Americans’ expectations, it laid much of the groundwork for the ‘Second Reconstruction,’ or the Civil Rights Movement, of the 20th century.”

The institute will be housed on the Historic Beaufort Campus of the University of South Carolina Beaufort. The class also will spend extended time at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, Mitchellville on Hilton Head Island, and Sapelo Island, GA.

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School district announces 2014-15 Teacher of the Year finalists

Five classroom teachers were named today as finalists for the Beaufort County School District’s 2014-15 Teacher of the Year. The finalists are Michelle Henry, a master teacher at Whale Branch Elementary School; Caroleen Hodge, a third-grade teacher at Port Royal Elementary School; Annette Lee, a special education teacher at Hilton Head Island High School; Sharon McMahon, a seventh-grade math teacher at Bluffton Middle School; and Amy Simmons, a band teacher at Whale Branch Middle School.

Superintendent Jeff Moss announced the five selections before an audience of more than 1,000 teachers at the opening session of Summer Institute 2014, the district’s annual summer professional development conference.

“Great teaching is the No. 1 ingredient in an excellent education, and today we announced five top-notch professionals who epitomize great teaching,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss.  “Our finalists are terrific representatives for all of our district’s teachers.”

Becoming District Teacher of the Year is a three-step process that begins when school-level teachers of the year are selected in April.  Those wishing to compete for District Teacher of the Year submit detailed applications by the end of July.

In the second step, a selection committee consisting of parents, former educators and community leaders from across Beaufort County reviews the applications and rates them using a numerical scoring system.  The five highest-scoring applicants are named as finalists.

In the third step, the finalists are interviewed by a separate review committee again composed of judges from across the county.  Those panelists begin by reviewing a video of the teacher doing a classroom lesson.  The judges then score candidates based on how well they respond to questions about their teaching methods as shown in the video, as well as how they respond to questions about current education issues.  After those interviews, the panel selects the District Teacher of the Year in September, and that person represents Beaufort County in the South Carolina State Teacher of the Year program.

The 2014-15 District Teacher of the Year will be announced on Sept. 19. The current Teacher of the Year is Kristen Karszes, an English Language Arts teacher at Hilton Head Island High School.

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Advocating for agriculture

Beaufort County students, Marcus Cook, Hezzie Jordan and Dima Shipsey, were among a select group of high school juniors and seniors from around the state who recently participated in the 2014 South Carolina Farm Bureau (SCFB) Youth Leadership Conference.

“Our Youth Leadership Conference allows students to explore opportunities within agriculture while developing their skills to be leaders in the industry,” SCFB Ag Literacy Director, Vonne Knight, said.

The conference was based at Newberry College and featured a number of workshops focused on leadership and teamwork. Programs that foster understanding and awareness of agriculture and government were also emphasized. Attendees learned about their local, state and national governments and how they can be advocates through the legislative process.

A highlight of the conference included a visit to the South Carolina State House where the students witnessed the swearing in of Interim Lieutenant Governor State Senator Yancy McGill of Williamsburg County.

Pictured from left to right: Marcus Cook, Hezzie Jordan and Dima Shipsey

Pictured from left to right: Marcus Cook, Hezzie Jordan and Dima Shipsey

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Beaufort Academy at the Water Festival

teamTeam BA competed in the Bed Races at the 59th Annual Beaufort Water Festival!  The team of BA parents to the right (from left) Jay Roberts, Bruce Melville, Blair Hines and Phillip Lynn, raced to the finish with BA student Somers Cherry (center) as the rider. Beaufort Academy students had a wonderful time taking part in the Water Festival Grand Parade last weekend.  Special thank you to 2nd grade teacher Abby Mitchell and 1st grade teacher Bradi Dinkins for organizing this.


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Catholic school students raise money for charities

Students from St. Peter’s Grammar School in Beaufort and John Paul Catholic High School in Ridgeland raised $570 during Lent to help fight hunger in their community.  The money was donated to two local charities, Second Helpings and Our Lady’s Pantry.  A local business, Beaufort Rentals/ Bluffton Rentals was the sponsor of the event and generously matched the student’s donation.  To learn more about either organization or volunteer, contact Second Helpings at 843-3689- and Our Lady’s Pantry at 843-785-9595.

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TCL offering three new high-tech industrial programs

The Technical College of the Lowcountry will now offer programs in solar photovoltaic technology, solar thermal technology and avionics to prepare students for high-tech careers that are in demand now and in the future.

TCL industrial technology instructors Rick Eckstrom (left) and Tim Newsome (right) work together on a 3,000 watt inverter and solar panel that will be used in TCL’s new solar technology programs.

TCL industrial technology instructors Rick Eckstrom (left) and Tim Newsome (right) work together on a 3,000 watt inverter and solar panel that will be used in TCL’s new solar technology programs.

“Because these programs focus on current and emerging technologies, graduates will gain the skills and training they need to be competitive in the job market of today and tomorrow,” said Dr. Ken Flick, Dean of Industrial and Business Technologies.

The Solar Photovoltaic Technician Certificate program requires 19 credit hours and will train students to install, maintain and repair solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. These systems are the solar panels and associated parts used to produce electrical energy to power buildings. Courses will include wiring techniques, concepts of solar energy and solar PV design, sizing and safety. After completing the program, students will have substantial knowledge of solar technologies and installations.

The Solar Thermal Technician Certificate program also requires 19 credit hours. It will teach students to design, install, maintain, and repair solar thermal systems, which provide sun-powered energy for hot water in homes and buildings.

The new solar programs will be a good option to help current electricians and plumbers advance in their careers but also will include background courses for beginners.

“The courses will build on the electrical and plumbing knowledge of existing tradespeople and teach them how to design and install solar systems,” instructor Rick Eckstrom said. “For those new to the electrical trade, background courses in tools and safety, electrical system design, codes, and practical hands-on skills will be needed. For those new to the plumbing trade, background courses in tools and safety, plumbing system design, codes, and practical hands-on skills will be needed.”

Job opportunities in solar technologies are on the rise across the country. According to the National Solar Jobs Census, solar employment is expected to grow by nearly 16 percent over the next year, representing the addition of approximately 22,240 new solar workers nationally. About 45 percent of all solar establishments expect to add solar employees during this period.

Jobs are available locally, too.

“Our service area should see an increase in installer jobs as costs are falling rapidly,” Eckstrom said. “With experience in installation, the certificate holder should be able to progress to system design.”

The Electronics Technology-Avionics Pathway Associate Degree program will also begin this fall. Avionics is the study of electronic systems used on aircraft, artificial satellites and spacecraft. Though TCL has already offered a few courses in avionics through a partnership with Battery Creek High School, this will be the first time avionics classes are offered onsite at TCL. Students will be required to take 64 credit hours in electrical and avionics courses such as avionics general regulation, technical troubleshooting, aircraft electricity, and aircraft and weather radar systems.

TCL has already purchased a radar training system and other equipment through funds provided by its participation in the S.C. ACCELERATE Program, which supports the expansion of advanced manufacturing and industrial technologies.

Avionics instructor Jason Moore says technology is changing, which is making current avionics professionals come back to college. “Now that technology is changing, students, including military men and women, want to come back to school and advance in the communications field,” Moore said.

The avionics program will also prepare students to receive a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license, which will put them a step ahead in landing entry-level positions at aviation companies such as Boeing, Gulfstream, Parker and XRDI. Jobs are available in the Lowcountry, including Beaufort County, Charleston, Savannah and surrounding areas.

Registration for the fall semester ends August 15, and classes start August 21. Prospective students can apply online for free at

TCL has campuses in Beaufort, Bluffton and Hampton. For more information about these programs, please contact the Industrial Technologies Division at 843-525-8241.

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Annual Back-to-School Expo events scheduled

The Beaufort County School District is teaming up with government agencies and private-sector business partners to hold a pair of “Back-to-School Expos” designed to give students and their families a day of fun, food, door prizes and valuable information about the upcoming school year.

The annual expos are scheduled at Bluffton High School on Saturday, July 26, and at Whale Branch Early College High School on Saturday, August 9.  Both events will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and free transportation will be provided from several centralized locations.

“Getting ready for a new school year requires some planning,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss, “and these events are terrific ways for families to gather a lot of practical and helpful information. “It’s also gratifying to see how much assistance we get from business partners, civic groups and faith-based groups.”

Participating business partners include Hargray, Walgreen’s, Wal Mart, Sodexo and Durham School Services.

Students and their families are encouraged to attend the events, which will feature:

• Booths operated by district schools that can supply information about school activities.

• Door prizes that will include bicycles, theme baskets as well as gift certificates to local restaurants and businesses.

• Free school supplies for students, courtesy of Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s and the district’s “Pack the Bus” campaign.

• Free health screenings for adults and children will be provided, including free HIV testing, by Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services and Beaufort Memorial Hospital.

• Sodexo Food Services will be taking early school lunch applications.

In addition, there will be a special keynote presentation designed to energize and inspire students and families as they begin the new school year.  This session will be conducted by Leading to Change, a Charlotte professional development and training company with corporate clients across the Southeast.

For families needing transportation to the August 9 expo at Whale Branch Early College High, school buses will make pickups at St. Helena Elementary School (8:10 a.m.) and Lady’s Island Middle School (8:30 a.m.). Another bus will make pickups at Beaufort Elementary School (8:15 a.m.) and Robert Smalls Middle (8:30 a.m.).

For additional information on the two expos, contact Lakinsha Swinton at 843-322-5451 or at the Beaufort County School District.

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