NEWBERRY COUNTY -- South Carolina Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman stopped by Newberry County last week to visit Mid-Carolina Middle School and Little Mountain Elementary School.
“We are at the end of the school year and I wanted to come and see how folks are doing, it has been very motivational. I had a great visit meeting students, talking with teachers to find out they’ve had a pretty good year. They’ve got some work to do over the summer, but all-in-all they’ve had a great year,” said Spearman following her MCMS visit.
Spearman said that they are evaluating how the year went at the state level, but most of the comments she has heard from students have been, “I was virtual, but I sure am glad I’m back face-to-face.”
“We are not requiring a virtual option (next year), and listening to leaders here in Newberry (County) they are not planning a virtual option, so if students want to go virtual next year, they’ll have to go through one of our virtual charter schools or either the virtual program through the Department of Education,” Spearman said. “That’s mixed across the state, we had some areas where more families are asking for a virtual option and those districts are planning on some type of service to comply with that. I think the bottom line is that most students do best when the are in school, working with a teacher by their side and their friends around them. So that’s the option we want families to take.”
During her visits, Spearman said she could see it in the faces of students that it has been a difficult year. She said they have learned a lot, but they made it together.
“I can see it in the students’ eyes, that they’ve made it through a year they’ll be able to talk about for the rest of their lives,” Spearman said.
During her tour, Spearman spoke to multiple teachers and learned about what the schools are doing. At MCMS, Spearman said they work with their students every morning to build character.
“One thing they told me is they talk about controversial subjects, things they disagree on — sometimes they get a little angry, but they learn how to get along and shake hands. That is a valuable asset,” she said.
Prior to heading to LME, Spearman said they are working right now on how they will appropriate federal funding coming down, adding that much of it will go to social, emotional support, not just for teachers but for students.
“We are working with the Department of Mental Health to make sure we have resources available, working to make sure teachers have the training to recognize issues with students,” she said.
While at LME, Spearman held a round table with teachers, administrative staff and students. During that conversation, teachers and administrators talked about needs and suggestions. One teacher talked about how Wednesdays being cleaning days for the district, meaning students were virtual that day, gave them time for planning. The suggestion was made for something to be built in at the state level, even a half day, for planning purposes.
One teacher brought to Spearman’s attention about not being able to meet all of their students’ needs. The teacher noted that they have noticed weight gain and stamina decline in some of their students. Spearman thanked the teacher for bringing that to her attention, as that is something that has not been mentioned.