Review Category : School News

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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Whale Branch Middle School student counseling program earns national recognition

Whale Branch Middle School has received national honors for its student counseling program.

The school is one of four South Carolina schools — and one of only 72 nationwide — to receive a Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) designation during recent ceremonies at the American School Counselor Association’s annual conference in Orlando.

The RAMP designation, awarded to schools that align with the criteria set in the ASCA National Model, recognizes schools that are committed to delivering “a comprehensive, data-driven school counseling program and an exemplary educational environment.”

“This year’s RAMP honorees have shown their commitment to students and the school counseling profession,” said Jill Cook, ASCA’s assistant director and RAMP coordinator. “This designation distinguishes these schools and encourages school counselors nationwide to continue to strive for success.”

In applying for the award, Whale Branch Middle School put together an advisory council consisting of two teachers, two parents, two community members and Jim Bergin, a professor and counselor education expert at Georgia Southern University.

“We looked at the needs of our students and compared them against national school counseling standards,” said Principal Matt Hunt.  “Then counselor Rebecca Burkhart developed and coordinated a comprehensive counseling program around the needs we identified in our students.  While it’s great to be recognized with this award, what we were really focused on is improving the services we provide to our kids.”

RAMP applications are reviewed by a panel of school counseling professionals who assess school counseling programs in 12 different areas of program expertise.

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TCL offering new certificate in agriscience

It’s more than green grass that unites farming, golf course management and landscaping. Agriscience is also a common bond.

Agriscience encompasses the application of science and technology to the plant and animal industries and includes a wide range of fields such as conventional and organic farming, turf management and landscaping.

TCL agriscience instructor Dr. Natavia Middleton reviews agriscience textbooks for program curriculum.

TCL agriscience instructor Dr. Natavia Middleton reviews agriscience textbooks for program curriculum.

This August, agriscience is coming to the Technical College of the Lowcountry. The new agriscience certificate program will provide students with fundamental knowledge in this rapidly growing field and prepare students to enter and advance in occupations in farming, landscaping, and golf course and pest management industries.

“We hope that people who work locally will continue their education in the agriscience program to receive higher positions in their current jobs, form their own businesses or even change their careers,” instructor Dr. Natavia Middleton said.

The program requires 29 credit hours and emphasizes three separate occupational areas: diversified agriculture production, landscape occupations and turf occupations. An internship in their chosen pathway will also be required to give students additional hands-on experience.

Area employers agree that the agriscience certificate is needed. Jerry Ashmore, Director of Workforce Development and Safety at The Greenery, serves on the TCL advisory committee that helped shape the program.

“I know the value of an education and appreciate this program as it gives students real-life experience as well as a solid foundation and enables them to grow in their careers,” Ashmore said. “We hope to offer folks careers after completion of the program.”

Agriculture is very strong in the Lowcountry as well as in the state of South Carolina. “The industry provides jobs to thousands of folks locally, from landscape contractors, golf courses to farmers,” he said.

The agriscience program also will benefit existing workers who are looking to advance in their careers. “The program will give them the opportunity to strengthen their skills, broaden their knowledge and enhance their professionalism, making them more valuable to their employer and give them the opportunity to grow in their career,” Ashmore said.

TCL has campuses in Beaufort, Bluffton and Hampton. And with S.C. Lottery Tuition Assistance, South Carolina residents pay about $850 a semester for full-time tuition, regardless of need or income. In addition, TCL offers in-state tuition to military members and their spouses who are stationed in Beaufort and to residents of Chatham and Effingham counties in Georgia.

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

For more information about the agriscience program, please contact instructor Dr. Natavia Middleton at or 843-470-5964.

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Bridges Prep finalizes purchase of main campus

As announced this past May, Bridges Preparatory School executed the final purchase of the Boys & Girls Club facility and its 1.22-acre property on 1100 Boundary Street — the charter school’s main campus — on July 1.

Bridges Prep is now officially the first area charter school to own a facility, as well as land for further school development, which gives the school several building options, and a sense of place with roots in historic downtown Beaufort.

“This is a great source of pride and stability for Bridges,” said BPS Head of School Bob Cook. “Having secured our campus in our first year is certainly an important benchmark for us as a public charter school. We will develop the property in stages, yet we have sufficient and adequate classroom space for all grades K-7 this upcoming school year, and we look forward to sharing more of those details with stakeholders as arrangements are finalized.”

For a glance at Bridges’ first year achievements, see

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Dale Westcott Nature Award presented to students

The 8th annual Dale Westcott Memorial Nature Awards were presented on Monday, June 23 at the Photography Club of Beaufort. Each year the club sponsors a nature photography contest for local high school students in memory of Dale Westcott, one of the club’s early members. Mr. Westcott was an educator and a nature photographer and the award encourages students to creatively photograph the beauty of our natural surroundings.

Barbara Westcott, his widow, and Donald Westcott, his son, are benefactors to this award, as is the Photography Club.

The winners were: First Place:  Jessica Westmark (Bluffton High) for “Gator”; Second Place: Rex Leonard (Bluffton High) for “The Pelican”; Third Place: Cassandra Knoppel (Battery Creek) for “Patterns in Nature.” Honorable Mentions were awarded to Bart Hill for “Majestic Creature” and Abigail Rasmussen  for “Porcelain” (both of Bluffton). A special award for creativity was awarded to Sara Kardohely (Battery Creek) for “Sea Shell.”

From left: Dennis Vernon (Bluffton HS teacher); Jessica Westmark; Rex Leonard; Barbara Westcott (award patron); Cassandra Knoppel; Rebecca Bass (president of Photo Club Beaufort); Sara Kardohley; and John Cullinen (Battery Creek High).

From left: Dennis Vernon (Bluffton HS teacher); Jessica Westmark; Rex Leonard; Barbara Westcott (award patron); Cassandra Knoppel; Rebecca Bass (president of Photo Club Beaufort); Sara Kardohley; and John Cullinen (Battery Creek High).

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