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Beaufort Middle School and Hilton Head High School are among nine finalists announced for the 2012 Palmetto’s Finest Schools Awards.

The extensive judging process includes evaluations by fellow educators and previous Palmetto’s Finest winners who focus on elements of student achievement, faculty training, program goals, teaching quality, office practices and community involvement.

“We’re very proud of these schools,” said Superintendent Valerie Truesdale. “This statewide recognition shows how students can thrive when they’re supported by strong leaders, creative and hard-working faculty, and consistently receiving excellent support from their communities.”

Entrants in the Palmetto’s Finest competition submitted 20-page applications last fall and received on-site visits by a review committee. Beaufort Middle, Hilton Head High and the other seven finalists will now undergo additional on-site evaluations.

Representatives from the nine finalists will gather at Columbia’s Koger Center for the Arts on March 27 to learn which four—two elementary, one middle and one high school—have won the top honors. The finalists are:

• Beech Hill Elementary, Dorchester District 2

• Brushy Creek Elementary, Greenville County

• Burgess Elementary, Horry County

• Stone Academy of Communication Arts, Greenville County

• Beaufort Middle, Beaufort County

• Kelly Mill Middle, Richland District 2

• Blythewood High, Richland District 2

• Fort Mill High, York District 4

• Hilton Head Island High, Beaufort County

This is Beaufort Middle School’s second consecutive year as a finalist. A Red Carpet award winner, the school’s strong academic focus resulted in 24 Junior Scholars in 2011 and also 67 seventh graders who qualified to participate in Duke University’s Talent Identification Program. The school also has a strong arts curriculum that has earned it designations as both a Distinguished Arts Program School and an Arts in the Basic Curriculum School. Beaufort Middle’s football and basketball teams both won Lowcountry championships in 2011.

Hilton Head Island High School is the first high school in Beaufort County to receive Excellent ratings in both the Absolute and Improvement Report Card rating categories. A Red Carpet and Palmetto Gold winner, Hilton Head High boasts students who win top honors in both academics and athletics, an outstanding faculty and strong community and business partnerships. Hilton Head High students also devoted nearly 17,000 hours of community service last year to the local community.

The South Carolina Association of School Administrators presents the awards each year to two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school that SCASA says “offer the best in innovative, effective educational programs.” The Palmetto’s Finest Award is celebrating its 34th year and is one of the most coveted and respected awards among educators.

SCASA is the professional organization for school leaders in South Carolina, with a membership of more than 2,900.  From professional development opportunities and research to publications and legislative advocacy, SCASA’s focus is to support school leaders in providing the best possible education for South Carolina’s young people.

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