DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Following several major transitions in the previous year, the Darlington County School District indeed made great strides in 2018.

With a new superintendent, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer, we focused quickly on reorganizing the district’s office in order to streamline operations and better distinguish roles. The creation of a new, focused Senior Leadership Team proved a vital first step.

We created a foundation of “pillars” upon which all future goals will stand. My pillars for the district include community, understanding our students, technology tools and “weather the storms.” Our goals and objectives for each year will change, but our pillars will remain.

Backed by the Darlington County Board of Education, we moved from a seven-period schedule to a four-by-four block schedule. This schedule better facilitates chances for students to gain real-world experience at the Darlington County Institute of Technology, to enroll in dual-credit courses and to participate in internships and apprenticeships.

We implemented Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) across all grade levels. These intensive, collaborative groups give teachers and administrators regular opportunities to share experiences, best practices and improvement goals. PLCs enable our teachers to be intentional about student progress on a consistent basis through the use of data teams that identify where students “are” throughout the year.

All of our schools implemented new means of increasing community interaction. We want the citizens of Darlington County to know they have valuable input for and a place in our schools.

Every student is now paired with an adult mentor other than their classroom teacher. We want to focus on the whole child, and consistent engagement with a positive role model is critical to that extent.

The board, working closely with our project managers and contracting partners, made great progress on the construction of three new elementary schools.

Our Key to Career program, central to a new business engagement initiative in the district, put dozens of students in paid internship and apprenticeship positions. These opportunities will give them real-world employment experience to better prepare them for life after high school.

For next year, we already have plans to expand Key to Career opportunities to more than 100 students and double that figure by the following year.

Our board is moving forward with a comprehensive, districtwide upgrade to safety and security. This first step is critical in providing a safe, welcoming environment for all of our students.

By next year, we will fully implement our “1-to-1 take-home” program. Not only will every one of our students have a personal computing device but also they will be able to take those devices home to aid them in their pursuits of academic achievement.

Also, all three of our new elementary schools will open in the fall of 2020.

We made exciting and significant progress during the past 12 months in the Darlington County School District. We fully expect our momentum to intensify and endure into the future.

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