2016 Palmetto’s Finest – finalists named

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From John Griggs The New Irmo News

Two schools in Lexington-Richland School District Five have been named finalists for the 2016 Palmetto’s Finest Schools Awards.

Oak Pointe Elementary and Dutch Fork Middle are two of eight schools statewide selected after extensive evaluations by fellow educators and previous winners of the prestigious award. Fourteen South Carolina schools submitted applications last fall, applying for the Palmetto’s Finest distinction. They received an onsite examination visit by a review committee, and finalists will now undergo a second onsite evaluation.

“We are extremely proud to have two Palmetto’s Finest Awards finalists this year,” said District Five Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hefner. “Honors and accolades like these are not possible without the combined efforts of students, staff, parents and the entire community working to make our schools the best they can be. It’s a testament to the great schools we have, and the entire District Five community celebrates this recognition for Oak Pointe Elementary and Dutch Fork Middle schools.”
The finalists will gather in their schools on March 15 to learn which have won the top honors. SCETV will stream the 1:45 pm announcement live to each of the finalist schools. The Association of School Administrators (SCASA) presents the awards annually to schools which “offer the best in innovative, effective educational programs.” Now in its 38th year, the Palmetto’s Finest Awards are among the most coveted and respected awards among educators. District Five’s Chapin High School earned the award in 2015.

“We are excited to recognize some of the outstanding and innovative schools in South Carolina. They represent the many excellent school communities serving South Carolina’s families,” said Beth Phibbs, SCASA Director.

Oak Pointe Elementary School is ranked the number one elementary school in South Carolina by national reviews website Niche.com. The school also is a three-time state winner of the Reading with the Gamecocks program and a Professional Development School in partnership with the University of South Carolina. Several staff members have earned state and national awards, and Oak Pointe Elementary has earned recognition for its programs and services for students with autism.
“We work very hard at Oak Pointe to give students the best education and the very best that we have every day, so it’s an honor just to be named a finalist among hundreds of great schools in our state,” said Cassy Paschal, principal of the school. “What makes our school stand out is the fun learning environment…we really believe that if a child loves coming to school, they will love learning. We call ourselves The Best School Ever, so being named a finalist just reaffirms everything we already believe about our school community.”

Dutch Fork Middle has an overall “A” grade and top South Carolina middle school ranking by Niche.com for academics and student programs. Among its many initiatives, Dutch Fork Middle School launched a Hate Won’t Win campaign this school year as part of an effort to encourage diversity and tolerance. In 2014, the school received recognition for its Project Lead the Way Gateway to Technology program, and a teacher at the school earned the prestigious national Milken Educator Award in 2013.
Dutch Fork Middle Principal Dr. Gerald Gary said world-class staff, great students and parental support help make Dutch Fork Middle a top South Carolina school.

“In order to become a finalist, the first visiting team looked at our entire school program, from academics and student programs to community involvement and professional development,” Gary said. “Being a Palmetto’s Finest Awards finalist is an honor for our school and our entire Dutch Fork community. We’re proud to be recognized, and even prouder of the staff, students, parents and community that make Dutch Fork Middle School a great place for learning each day.”

The 8 finalists are as follows:
BC Grammar Elementary, Lexington District 2
Holly Springs Motlow Elementary, Spartanburg District 1
Oak Pointe Elementary, Lexington-Richland District 5
Boiling Springs Middle, Spartanburg District 2
Dutch Fork Middle, Lexington-Richland District 5
Lexington Middle, Lexington District 1
St. James High, Horry County Schools
Seneca High, Oconee County Schools

The SC Association of School Administrators (SCASA) presents the awards each year to schools which offer the best in innovative, effective educational programs. The Palmetto’s Finest Award is celebrating its 38th year and is one of the most coveted and respected awards among educators.
“We are excited to recognize some of the outstanding and innovative schools in South Carolina. They represent the many excellent school communities serving South Carolina’s families,” said Beth Phibbs, SCASA Executive Director.

SCASA is the professional organization for school leaders in South Carolina, with a membership of more than 3,900.