District celebrates beginning of new school year

By Derik Vanderford dvanderford@civitasmedia.com

August 13, 2014

UNION COUNTY — The Union County School District ‘s 2014-2015 Opening Session — held Tuesday morning at Union County High School — included the recognition of several district schools and employees as well as words of encouragement for the upcoming school year.

Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall introduced guest speaker Frank Hart, who Woodall said is a friend of Union County Schools and a retired superintendent of Marion County Schools.

“You are the ones who are going to move them if they move,” Hart said to district employees.

Hart told the story of a student he encouraged by showing the student how to incorporate his own interests in his writing.

“I found his hot button,” Hart said. “You can find that hot button. You need to say something to that student that will encourage him.”

Woodall also introduced the 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year from each school, and District Teacher of the Year Renee Rogers spoke to those in attendance. Rogers discussed a week last year in which she lost her voice. Rogers said she has a reserved nature, and she described losing her voice as a slightly humorous and annoying situation which became frightening. She said the realization of the power held by her words was sobering. She also encouraged everyone to express love for others.

“Real love is the sacrifice of ourselves for the benefit of others,” Rogers said. “I grew up in a Christian home, but my adult realization of Jesus Christ’s love was so overwhelmingly humbling, it rearranged my life.”

Rogers said love can be shown through both words and actions, and she has adopted the philosophy, “The students who are most difficult to love are often the ones who need it the most.”

Each school was then recognized for various grants, scores, programs and activities, and district technology director Tim Barnado recognized employees with perfect attendance.

Woodall then read a story entitled, “Who Moved My Cheese?” which was based on a book of the same title by Spencer Johnson, M.D. The story was about two mice — Sniff and Scurry — and two little people — Hem and Haw — who were looking for cheese in a maze.

“The four characters represent different parts of ourselves,” Woodall said.

The mice in the story are flexible, learning by trial and error, while Hem and Haw let beliefs and human emotion cloud the way they look for the cheese. Woodall’s remarks encouraged teachers to embrace change rather than being afraid of it or resisting it.

“What you fear is never as bad as what you imagine,” Woodall said, asking teachers to remember strategies they need to use to make the school year a successful one.

Tuesday’s event also included a prize drawing for district employees with prizes from local businesses including Founders Federal Credit Union, Dairi-O, Midway Barbecue, Something Special, Two Sisters Floral and More, Gwinn’s Florist, Sanders Garden Center, Sam’s Club, Murphy’s Florist, Nonie’s, Union Oil Mill, Almost Pink, and Bell Exxon.


Schools were also recognized for their PASS (Palmetto Assessment of State Standards) testing scores, and Jonesville Elementary/Middle School (JEMS) stunned everyone with scores achieved by last year’s 5th grade class.

District Instructional Coordinator Tabitha Talley announced that the rising 6th grade class at JEMS ranked 6th highest in the state out of 614 reporting 5th grades in math, 10th in the state in PASS writing, and tied for 1st in the state with five other schools in social studies, with 100 percent of their students achieving “Met” or “Exemplary” ratings.

JEMS 5th grade teachers are Jackie Adams and Stephanie Hastings, and one parent, Tricia Miller, commended Adams and Hastings.

“I think both are amazing individuals,” Miller said. “They worked students extremely hard and had extremely high expectations for students in their class, and it’s reflected in their scores.”

Miller’s daughter, Erin, was in Adams’ and Hastings’ class last year.

“As a parent, I appreciate the extra work and time they put into teaching their students,” Miller said, explaining that Adams and Hastings stayed late and adjusted lesson plans each day last year. “It’s absolutely phenomenal how much these students worked and accomplished.”

After reading about PASS testing, Miller looked up scores online and was excited about what she found. She sent Principal Rene Pryor text messages of congratulations.

“High expectations lead to high performance,” Miller’s message read in part. “These teachers expected the moon, and these students gave them the stars.”