More than 120 community members, business and government representatives, elected officials, board of education members, educators and students were briefed recently on the status of Beaufort County’s public schools at the district’s annual State of the Schools event.
The district also recognized outstanding individual contributions and achievements by students, educators and community volunteers.
Special recognitions for 2017 were:
• World Impact Award: Art students and teachers from Bluffton, Hilton Head and May River high schools were honored for their work with the Memory Project. Using photos as guides, local students created portraits of children living in desperate circumstances in other countries, including children at refugee camps in war-torn Syria and Afghanistan. The Beaufort County students’ portraits were delivered to children overseas.
• Service to Community Award: Broad River Elementary teacher Angela Brown and her husband, Lt. Daniel Byrne, community support officer for the Burton Fire District, were honored for developing trauma kits that classroom teachers could use in emergency situations to keep severely injured students alive until emergency responders could take over. Teachers were trained on emergency procedures in August by Byrne and other Burton Fire District personnel. Additional trauma kits are being sought for other district schools.
• Home-Grown Hero Award: St. Helena Elementary School prekindergarten teacher Merriam Browne was honored as an outstanding classroom professional who attended St. Helena Elementary as a student, went to college, became a teacher and then came back to her hometown roots to work. Browne is the 2017-18 Teacher of the Year at St. Helena Elementary.
• Spirit of Success Award: Ivan Collier was honored as a student who had experienced hardships and setbacks as young adult, but turned his life around and got on track for a successful future.
Collier, a 2017 graduate of Islands Academy, is currently working toward a college degree at the Technical College of the Lowcountry while also working as a manager at a local restaurant.
Superintendent Jeff Moss highlighted a number of 2017 achievements by the district, including:
• The seventh consecutive improvement in the district’s on-time high school graduation rate, which is at an all-time high.
• The fifth consecutive increase in college scholarship dollars, with 2017 district seniors earning more than $40 million, also an all-time high.
• For the first time ever, district high school students outperformed their peers across the state in all four end-of-course assessments (Algebra 1, Biology, English 1 and U.S. History and Constitution).
• District students in grades 3-8 outperformed their peers across the state in Mathematics (all six grades tested) and English Language Arts (three of six grades tested).
• A dramatic increase in the number of community volunteers in schools, from 1,300 three years ago to more than 7,200 today.
• An increase in the number of students taking advantage of the district’s school choice program, with more 3,500 students currently enrolled in schools outside their attendance zones.
• Nearly a quarter-million dollars raised for B3 scholarships that allow qualified Beaufort County students to attend the Technical College of the Lowcountry tuition-free.
Moss pointed out academic areas that remain as significant challenges, but he emphasized that district students and educators are making progress.
“Are we where we want to be? No,” Moss said. “But are we doing well? Yes, I believe we are.”
Breakfast participants also heard performances by Beaufort High School’s Sea Island Sound Brass Quintet.