Editorial: There are some good things happening in District 56
As part of its preparation for a visit from the AdvancED team this month, School District 56 is hosting meetings with people in the community – they call them stakeholders – to talk about what is happening in our schools. AdvancED is the country’s largest accrediting organization. District 56 is within weeks of completing the re-accreditation review for another five years. It will be 56’s second AdvancED accrediting. One of the stakeholder meetings was held last Tuesday at Clinton High School. Six of the seven members of the district’s board of trustees, the mayor Clinton, one city council member, the city manager, the director of public safety, two representatives of Presbyterian College and others heard a presentation from Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields. The talk was all positive – and there is much to be positive about. But, our district has problems, to be sure, and the people who govern and administrate our schools are well aware of our shortcomings. Our students need to score higher on standardized testing – though most in public education decry having to teach to the test. More of our students need to graduate with a diploma. We must embrace and be driven by technology. It’s a new day. We’re going to have to spend money – lots of money – on facilities, both academic and athletic. There’s no way to get around that fact. We can’t let our buildings get in the condition they were just a few years ago. Continuous maintenance and upkeep is a priority and we have one of the best maintenance staffs in the state. Wilder Stadium is an embarrassment. It must be completely renovated or replaced. We were promised improvements that we didn’t get. A private fund-raising project has failed. Our young people and our community deserve better. When people talk about Clinton, they usually talk about one of three things: Presbyterian College, our Science Olympiad teams, or Red Devil football. During his presentations, O’Shields has highlighted the recent accomplishments in District 56. As mentioned, our middle school Science Olympiad team (now Clinton Middle School) has won the state championship for 14 straight years. Clinton High School’s team has won seven of the last eight years. The other “academic points of pride” listed by the superintendent are: middle school/high school academic team, LINKS competition, the district’s Confucius Institute partnership with PC, Special Olympics, the Clinton High Beta Club and Future Farmers of America, silver and gold National Healthy School awards, the 56 News Crew, Palmetto Gold and Silver award recipients, CHS being a finalist and receiving a site visit for Palmetto’s Finest award, and implementation of AVID and Project Lead the Way. O’Shields also pointed out that a recent refinancing of the $48 million bond issue in 2008 that led to the construction of Clinton High School will save taxpayers more than $4 million over the remaining life of the bonds. CHS is also getting a new baseball/softball complex, thanks to the taxpayers. The old Clinton High is a not-new, but very impressive, functional and roomy Clinton Middle School. Sixty-five percent of the CHS class of 2015 members entered either a two-year or four-year college, taking more than $4 million in scholarships with them. Our student count is down to 3,000 because our city and our county are losing population. People are going other places to live and to work. Many of the people who work here do not live here. O’Shields acknowledged that Clinton and all of District 56 needs more job opportunities if we are going to grow. The city leaders know that, of course, but the successes are few. We can’t require people who work here to live here. We can’t require people to locate their companies or businesses here. All we can do is prepare for success. And educate our new workers, which District 56 is doing.