News

Education Superintendent looks to Florence 1 for early education ideas

on Tuesday, 05 May 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Monday, May 4, 2015 7:29 pm

BY NICOLE CARTRETTE Morning News This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FLORENCE, S.C. –In her first official trip to schools in Florence School District 1 Monday, State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, got a closer look at early childhood education programs that she would like to see implemented in other school districts around the state.  Spearman’s visit included a stop at Alfred Rush Academy’s Montessori classrooms. At the R.N. Beck Early Childhood Education Center, she visited preschool classes and held roundtable discussions with district employees and school board members.  Spearman, who said Florence 1 is doing a great job in early childhood education, was impressed with what she saw in the classrooms.  “I keep thinking in my mind when I see all those children what would they be like coming to first grade or kindergarten without these programs. It makes a huge difference in their lives. You are catching them early,” Spearman said.  “It is the right thing to do but it also the best return on investment that you can make in education. You are not just doing it. You are doing it really, really well. You are using the right programs and I just appreciate your willingness to help others.”

Dr. Floyd Creech, director of the Office of School Readiness for Florence 1, said the early childhood program involves many different people.  “It’s not just the schools,” Creech said.

The district’s Start to Read Program seeks to improve early reading opportunities for children by partnering with businesses. Employees receive tips on reading with their children and free books for children three- years-old and younger through the workplace.

Jean Leatherman, wife of Sen. Hugh Leatherman who was speaking on the budget in the Senate on Monday, was one of several individuals who toured R.N. Beck with Spearman. Jean Leatherman participated in discussions about a need to make early childhood education centers structured like R.N. Beck easier to duplicate across the state.

Creech sought and received a waiver to utilize certain state funding to pay for center managers and curriculum coordinators.  Spearman said her office was paying close attention to such waiver requests and looking for ways to eliminate the need for them in some cases.  Porter Stewart, chairman of the Florence 1 school board, told Spearman that while many districts have needs greater than those of Florence 1, the district still has financial needs.  Many of the district’s early education initiatives are supported with local funds.

Spearman said she had wanted to come to Florence but that Sen. Leatherman had also extended an invitation more than once with hopes she would see the benefit of bringing early childhood programs like those in Florence 1 to other districts in the state.  “He called me twice,” Spearman said. “That’s why we are here –just to look and to learn.”  Spearman finished up her visit serving as guest speaker at the Florence Rotary Club meeting held at Victor’s Bistro in Florence where 150 or more were in attendance.  Spearman said the district, community and supporters are “concentrated on early education” and that she had seen “wonderful ideas”.  “Hats off to your county and your school district,” Spearman said.  “We don’t have to always be going outside of South Carolina to find good things happening that we need to replicate.”  Every child whether from “Florence, Lake City, Saluda, Greenwood or Charleston” should have opportunities in education that prepare them for the “next step.”

Spearman said for “too long” technical education has been overlooked as a viable education path.  Though manufacturing needs are great in the state, Spearman said, when surveyed, few high school students identify manufacturing as a career choice.  “We need to let our young people know this is a great career,” Spearman said.  She pointed out that smaller school districts need to work together to meet the needs of students without regard for district lines.  Spearman said a young man in her church is good with working with his hands and would excel in mechatronics.  “The problem in Saluda is, we don’t have a mechatronics program,” Spearman said of the district with roughly 2,400 students.  “They need the opportunities,” Spearman said.  Economic growth is tied to education, she said.  “If we can’t meet the needs of our workforce that growth will stop,” Spearman said.

She was questioned about the recent state Supreme Court ruling on inequity in education across the state. While the courts ruled that the state had failed to provide equitable education across the state in the 20 year old case, lawmakers are left to decide how to remedy the inequity.  Lawmakers in the senate and house have appointed taskforces to focus on the issue.  Spearman serves on a taskforce created by Rep. Jay Lucas.

“We are not working to negotiate with the schools but to develop a solution together,” Spearman said.  Teacher recruitment and retention, transportation and capital needs are among the issues the taskforce is hearing about.  The taskforce is to make recommendation to the legislature by Jan. 1, 2016.  “I’m just so dedicated to making sure this isn’t just a report but becomes a reality,” Spearman said.

Spearman, a native of Saluda County and former music teacher and principal, received a B.A. in Music Education from Lander College, holds a Masters of Arts in Education Supervision from George Washington University, and an Education Specialist Degree from the University of South Carolina. Spearman served four terms as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives representing Saluda County and portions of Lexington County (House District 39). In 1998, she became the Deputy Superintendent of Education for the South Carolina Department of Education.

The School Foundation receives $550 from Florence Golden K Kiwanis Club Foundation

on Tuesday, 05 May 2015. Posted in News

The School Foundation received a check for $550 on May 5th from the Florence Golden K Kiwanis Club Foundation.  The funds were earmarked to purchase books for their StartSMART program. 

Dancing With The Stars of Florence rocks SiMT, raises thousands for schools

on Wednesday, 01 April 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 10:48 pm

FLORENCE, S.C. – “Dancing with the Stars of Florence” rocked the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology on Tuesday night with riveting performances from 12 celebrities and their professional dance partners, all in the name of raising funds for The School Foundation.

The competition came down to a three-way tie for the coveted judges’ technical skills award but Chris Warner of St. Jude Medical and professional dancer Meggie Baker wowed the audience with their Samba routine to “Treasure” in the dance-off.

Judges called the performance, which included Warner throwing himself to the floor for three repetitions of the “electric worm,” one that had real “crowd appeal.”

“It was my favorite of the night,” said Donna Protho, one of the three judges. The other judges were Robert Rodgers and Amanda Kinseth-Rodgers.

“I had a great time,” Warner said after the win. “My partner, Meggie, was awesome. She made me look great. When we got on stage I knew we had it in the bag.”

Warner said he was thankful he had been asked to participate. “What a great cause and I think they were the big winner tonight,” Warner said.

Warner and Baker edged out fierce competition from Susan Ninichuck of Roche Carolina and professional dancer Jovan Kindred and Robert Watkins of Johnson Controls and professional dancer Drew Arnold, who also preformed in the dance-off.

Watkins and Arnold’s salsa to Usher’s “Caught Up” was an attention-getter. Judges called it a “smooth” and “outstanding” performance.

All three dance duos earned perfect 10s from the judges in the main competition.

Ninichuck and Kindred racked up on special awards, winning the social stars, most entertaining and People’s Choice awards for their highly energetic jive to “Shake It Off.”

“I knew this would be a lot of fun,” said Ninichuck, stealing the spotlight with her spunky retro hairdo and colorful 1980s dress.

“Energy – you had it,” Kinseth-Rodgers said. “The facial expressions –it was so entertaining to watch.”

Ninichuck and Dr. Deepak Chowdhary had trailed Honda’s Michele Pridgen in People’s Choice votes by what seemed like a long shot most of the night. Just minutes before voting closed, Pridgen had 3,386.5 votes, Ninichuck 2,159 and Deepak 2,065.5. Each of those votes is worth $10 to the nonprofit Schools Foundation, which provides grants to Florence School District 1.

By the end of the night, Ninichuck’s online votes surpassed Pridgen’s and totaled 3,580 for $35,800 in donations to the School Foundation and put her in the lead for the People’s Choice Award.

Pridgen and professional dancer Jacob Coward with a jive to “All About that Bass” took second in the People’s Choice with 2,518.5 votes.

Chowdhary and professional dancer Brandi Williamson entertained the audience with their salsa routine to “Dilliwali Girlfriend.” The “Bollywood” influenced dance drew cheers from the audience and ultimately tons of new online votes. The duo took third in the People’s Choice award with 2,085.5 votes ($20,855 in donations.

Others in the celebrity lineup with performances Tuesday night were Mike Miller of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce and dancer Cheyanne Beck; Ashley Nance of King, Love & Smith Law Firm and dancer Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood of Lawson Turf Farm and dancer Tiffany Welsh, Steve Wade of the Morning News and dancer Kayce Smith, Will King of W. Lee Flowers and Co. and dancer Amanda Smith, Cedrick Kennedy of Florence School District 1 and Shandi Cox and Rick Ryan of NBSC and dancer Georgeanna Kelley.

The sold-out event, which included a buffet, drew as many as 800 guests and raised more than $187,180 from voting alone.

Dancing With the Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Steve Wade

on Saturday, 28 March 2015. Posted in News

Melissa Rollins
Morning News
Published March 26, 2015

What is your previous dance experience?

I changed high schools when I was a sophomore. I still very clearly remember going to my new high school and going to a group dance and literally getting laughed out of the gym. I have taken a little bit of swing, just to try to get familiar, but this is way outside of my comfort zone. I was in band; that is the extent of my performance experience.

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?

My go-to move at a wedding would be guarding the punch bowl and clinging to the back door. It is just not my thing.

How was the first practice? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

The first practice was about what I expected. Bernadine (Kelley) is just so good. She asked some questions and was pretty good at tailoring the dance to what our experience levels were. I don’t believe anybody got put in over their heads.

Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?

My partner, Kayce Smith, teaches dance in Cheraw for the studio (Kelley’s Fine Arts) so she has been very patient. She’s let me ask questions. We got the initial footwork down pretty quickly and she has been very good helping me with some of the details, like working with my hands, which will make the dance a lot better. As we’re practicing, if I’m not doing something, she’ll nudge me.

Why were you interested in taking part in Dancing with the Stars of Florence?

I don’t think anybody says ‘no’ to Debbie (Hyler, executive director of The School Foundation); if anyone has, I’d like to meet them. Really, we are doing this for the kids. If the kids weren’t involved in this, I don’t think most of us would be doing this; I wouldn’t be doing this. When you see the passion behind what they do at The School Foundation and you realize what they do, that’s why you do it. If I can make a fool of myself on stage and raise a couple of extra bucks, then oh well.

How does it feel to be the ‘celebrity’ in your pairing?

I laugh at that. Kayce will tease me about it every once in a while. If we have a decision to make, and the costumes were one of them, she’ll just say ‘You’re the star, this is on you.’ During introductions, we have a two 8-count intro and we haven’t touched that yet. I asked her what we were going to do and she said ‘That’s on you, you have to figure that one out,’ so I have to choreograph that.

What is your job title and what are your day-to-day responsibilities?

I am the publisher for the Morning News. Day-to-day responsibilities for me are primarily administration. We are fortunate to run a media organization that covers the Pee Dee. We think we do a good job of covering local news and local sports. My job is handling the business side of that.

Stephen Wade and his partner Kayce Smith are dancing a jive to “Blame it on the Boogie.”

Watkins, Arnold added hip hop to salsa dance for DWTSF

on Wednesday, 25 March 2015. Posted in News

The News Journal
Brenda Harrison, Editor
Published March 24, 2015

Celebrity dancer Robert Watkins and professional dancer Drew Arnold have infused their salsa dance with a little hip hop for Dancing With The Stars of Florence on Tuesday, March 31. They'll be fast-stepping to "Caught Up," by Usher. Watkins is no stranger to the stage. He has performed in talent shows and events during his college years and is excited to participate in Dancing With The Stars of Florence. After seeing the dance competition last year, Robert said he knew "this is something I really want to do."

Watkins is Formation Manufacturing Area Manager at Johnson Controls. He is married to Teara and step-father to Brendon Tye. His hobbies are exercise and fitness. Drew has been dancing and competing in jazz, tap, and hip hop since the fifth grade. She is a fourth-grade teacher at McLaurin Elementary where she shares her love of dance at McLaurin in her newly formed dance club. She also is a dancer for the Pee Dee Vipers and a Zumba instructor at the Florence Family YMCA. Drew has high praises for her dance partner. "He is confident and doing very well. I was surprised at how fast he caught on," Drew commented, adding, "It's a really cool routine."

Completing this year's line up of dancers are Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Michael Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Chris Warner and Meggie Baker; Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward; Cedrick Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgie Kelley; and Stephen Wade and Kayce Smith. A panel of judges will name one couple "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges.

The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. The Social Stars trophy, a new addition this year, will be awarded to the couple receiving the most online votes. Fans may vote online for Drew Arnold and Robert Watkins or other couples, at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 per vote. You can follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list. To learn more about The School Foundation, visit their website at www.theschoolfoundation. org.

Wade-Smith dance team preparing to jive

on Wednesday, 18 March 2015. Posted in News

Brenda Harrison, Editor
The News Journal
March 18, 2015


Celebrity dancer Stephen Wade and professional dancer Kayce Smith are getting ready for the upcoming Dancing With The Stars of Florence event on March 31. They will perform a jive routine to "Blame It On the Boogie," by The Jacksons.

Wade admits his dance experience is "none." As publisher of The Morning News, he doesn't have much time for dancing and his thoughts about appearing on the DWTSF stage could be described as "sheer terror." However, he is doing this for the kids, he said, praising the efforts of The School Foundation.

"I've worked on foundations and I think The School Foundation is phenomenal. A lot of kids will benefit from me making a fool of myself on stage," he quipped.

Wade added that he is having a lot of fun learning to jive and his partner Kayce has been fantastic.

This will be Kayce Smith's first time with DWTSF. She is also dancing with a similar event in Cheraw prior to this event. Kayce studied dance for 14 years and teaches with KFA in Cheraw. She resides in Darlington where she also is a waitress at the Mayflower Seafood Restaurant. Kayce, age 20 attends the Professional Medical Training Center studying to be an EKG technician. Her sister Amanda Smith is another professional dancer in DWTSF.

Kayce said Stephen is easy to work with and a quick learner.

Noting that DWTSF is very competitive event, Stephen added that he and Kayce are pumped and going for the win. Completing this year's line up of dancers are Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Michael Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Chris Warner and Meggie Baker, Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward; Cedrick Kennedy and Shandi Cox; and Rick Ryan and Georgie Kelley.

A panel of judges will name one couple "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges. The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. The Social Stars trophy, a new addition this year, will be awarded to the couple receiving the most online votes. Fans may vote online for Steve Wade and Kayce Smith at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 per vote. Follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence.

Dancing With The Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Cedrick Kennedy

on Tuesday, 17 March 2015. Posted in News

NICOLE CARTRETTE
Morning News
Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2015 8:00 pm

What is your previous dance experience?
I don't have any dance experience –just weddings and I danced in college. That's the extent of my dance experience.

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?
The same old two-step. You step side-to-side and rock and snap your fingers.

How was the first practice? Was it easier or harder than you expected?
I actually thought it would be a lot harder to learn a dance routine but we found out the key to learning is repetition. If I keep doing the same thing over and over again I won't have to think -- I can just do.

Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?
Just relax, look over the dance moves during the week and keep practicing.

Why were you interested in taking part in Dancing with the Stars of Florence/What do you think of The School Foundation's mission?
I want to start with the School Foundations mission. It's a great mission and I am really excited to take part in this event. It's for kids. It's for schools. It's a neat idea. The School Foundation is a great help to Florence School District One. Actually, I got a call from Neal Vincent, the director of secondary education. I was at lunch duty and came in and answered the call. He asked me if I would be willing to do it and I told him anything that would benefit this district I'd be willing to do.

How does it feel to be the 'celebrity' in your pairing?
I don't know about being a celebrity but it's a lot of fun and any way that I can represent this district in a positive way I am willing to do.

What is your job title and your day-to-day responsibilities?
I am assistant principal at South Florence High School. The life and responsibility of a principal –where can I start? I guess I can make it simple. The most important part of my job is the safety and well - being of our students, instructional supervision and seeing that initiatives and programs are put in place to help our students be more successful.

Cedrick Kennedy and his partner Shandi Cox will perform to "Let's Hear it for the Boy."

Florence's School Foundation honored as Champion for Education

on Friday, 13 March 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2015 10:06 pm
By NICOLE CARTRETTE Morning This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Florence, S.C. --The School Foundation has long been a champion in the eyes of Florence School District 1 officials, but Thursday night the nonprofit organization officially became a champion in the eyes of the South Carolina School Boards Association.

The foundation earned the state association's Champion for Public Education award earlier this year but was officially recognized on Thursday during the school board's meeting.

Robert Gantt, S.C. School Board Association president and member of the District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties School Board, presented the prestigious award to representatives from the foundation.  Florence 1 officials nominated the Schools Foundation for its work in supporting public education in the district.

The award goes to community residents, organizations or local businesses/industries whose contributions to public education have significantly benefited the entire school district or public schools statewide.

"The School Foundation's Board of Directors consists of a diverse group of businesspeople, civic leaders, and educators," the nomination reads. "Their role is a constant, never-ending task born from the heart and intellect of citizens who make the education of each student a top priority."

Jean Leatherman of the School Foundation said the organization was "glad to partner" with the district. "It is always wonderful to be recognized for the work you have done," Leatherman said. She commented that much had been done but the work was not finished yet.  "We have only just begun," Leatherman said.

To receive the S.C. School Board Association award, recipients must, among other things, show leadership in support of ongoing or special programs authorized by the school board, demonstrate, through actions, pride for the school district and effectively work for the betterment of the schools in the district as a whole or for public schools statewide.

"The School Foundation is to be commended for his invaluable support, service and leadership to the students in Florence County School District One," said Paul Krohne executive director for the state association. "The organization models the support and care that we want for every school in our state."

The School Foundation became the largest education foundation in the state in 2006 with an endowment exceeding $1.4 million. Since the organization's inception it has awarded nearly $1 million in grants to Florence 1.
The organization's highly popular fundraiser, Dancing with the Stars of Florence, is scheduled for March 31 at the Southern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology. The event is sold out but votes for this year's celebrities can be made at florencedancingwiththestars.com.

South Florence assistant principal to dance 'for the kids'

on Wednesday, 04 March 2015. Posted in News

Brenda Harrison, Editor
The News Journal
Published 3/3/2015

Cedrick Kennedy and Shandi Cox are working on their "jive" for the upcoming Dancing With The Stars of Florence event on March 31. The pair will dance to "Let's Hear It For the Boys." Cedrick is an assistant principal at South Florence High School. He is a 2000 graduate of Wilson High and graduate of S.C. State University. When asked to participate in this annual School Foundation event, he agreed without hesitation because he knows first hand what the School Foundation does for Florence School District One. "It's a neat idea and a great fund raiser. I'll do anything for the kids," he said. Cedrick is not a trained dancer, but enjoys "cutting the rug" at social events. He has been working out to prepare for his dance routine.

Shandi is a trained dancer and has been teaching dance for 16 years. The petite mother of five children has danced in three of these events, but sat out last year because she was pregnant. Her youngest is now six months old. Her twin sister Brandi Williamson also participates as a professional. Completing this year's line up of dancers are Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Michael Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley, Chris Warner and Meggie Baker, and Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward.

A panel of judges will name one couple "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges. The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. The Social Stars trophy, a new addition this year, will be awarded to the couple receiving the most online votes. Fans may vote online for Cedrick Kennedy and Shandi Cox or other couples, at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 per vote. You can follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list. To learn more about The School Foundation, go onlline to www.theschoolfoundation.org

http://www.florencenewsjournal.com/images/cleardot.gif

 

 
   

March 4, 2015


 

3/3/2015 12:09:00 PM
South Florence assistant principal to dance 'for the kids'

 

CEDRICK KENNEDY AND SHANDI COX REHEARING FOR DWTSF

+ click to enlarge

CEDRICK KENNEDY AND SHANDI COX REHEARING FOR DWTSF

 

Brenda Harrison
Editor

Cedrick Kennedy and Shandi Cox are working on their “jive” for the upcoming Dancing With The Stars of Florence event on March 31. The pair will dance to “Let’s Hear It For the Boys.” Cedrick is an assistant principal at South Florence High School. He is a 2000 graduate of Wilson High and graduate of S.C. State University. When asked to participate in this annual School Foundation event, he agreed without hesitation because he knows first hand what the School Foundation does for Florence School District One. “It’s a neat idea and a great fund raiser. I’ll do anything for the kids,” he said. Cedrick is not a trained dancer, but enjoys “cutting the rug” at social events. He has been working out to prepare for his dance routine.

Shandi is a trained dancer and has been teaching dance for 16 years. The petite mother of five children has danced in three of these events, but sat out last year because she was pregnant. Her youngest is now six months old. Her twin sister Brandi Williamson also participates as a professional. Completing this year’s line up of dancers are Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Michael Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley, Chris Warner and Meggie Baker, and Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward.

A panel of judges will name one couple “Technical Skills Winner” based on the contestants’ overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as “Most Entertaining” by the judges. The “People’s Choice” mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. The Social Stars trophy, a new addition this year, will be awarded to the couple receiving the most online votes. Fans may vote online for Cedrick Kennedy and Shandi Cox or other couples, at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 per vote. You can follow the dancers’ progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list. To learn more about The School Foundation, go onlline to www.theschoolfoundation.org

 

 

 

Florence businesses sign on with reading program

on Tuesday, 03 March 2015. Posted in News

BY JOHN D. RUSSELL Morning News
Published in The Morning News March 1, 2015
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FLORENCE, S.C. – Some businesses in Florence are helping parents help their children learn to read through a new program sponsored by Florence School District One. The Start 2 Read program puts educators in businesses and books in the hands of parents.

Dr. Floyd Creech, director of school readiness for the school district, said part of the goal is to help parents who may have limited time by reaching them at their workplace.  "We thought this would be a good place to approach them," Creech said. "Then the parents would be able to get a book, learn about it and read it to their child at home."

Studies show that the earlier parents start reading to their children, the better prepared they will be when entering school. The Start 2 Read program is geared toward children from birth to age 3. It provides age-appropriate books free to parents to read to their children.

Experienced early childhood educators ensure that parents get their questions answered and are on the right track. After 30 years of teaching in the Darlington County School District, Glenda Cottingham retired but wasn't quite ready to completely give up teaching. She said that in many ways she feels like she's having an even bigger effect with children by working with parents in the Start 2 Read program.

"It's exciting to know that reading is actually getting into the homes," Cottingham said. "Parents say their children are excited to read, and the parents can't wait to read to their children. You can't do anything in this world without reading. Children want to read but if you don't read to them, they're not going to care."

Assurant was one of the first companies to sign on with the program late last year. Early childhood educators pay a visit two days a month to meet with parents and give them tips on how to read to their child.

Deb Davis, Assurant site manager and vice president, said the program doesn't just help children.  "Our associates see we're interested in helping them with their children and it helps us be more engaged with them," she said. "Twenty years from now these kids could be applying to work at Assurant. We're not saying they aren't good parents. We feel everybody could learn to better use the resources available to help children."  

Assurant employee Wendy Stang, a mother of a 3-year-old boy, said that since participating in the program her son really loves to read.  "When the educators explain to us what we can do to help, it really helps us help them learn," Stang said. "It means a lot and shows they (Assurant) care about your family; that's not happened at other jobs I've had."

PGBA is another participating company, letting program representatives meet with employees up to three times per month. PGBA human resource generalist Rozlyn Ford said participating in the Start 2 Read program is unprecedented with the PGBA.
"On an educational level we've never had anything like this before," Ford said. "We do all kinds of things in the community but this is the first hands-on program geared to children. Overall, I think it helps build morale and employees' spirit."

PGBA employee Shatannah Johnson, a mother of a 4-year-old son, said having the books readily accessible at home helps when there may not be time to go out and get them on her own.
"I love it," she said. "It's so much easier because it's at my disposal. I come home with them and my son encourages me to read to him. Anytime you have a child that would rather read instead of play video games, it's a success."

Florence One provided $30,000 in funding for the program, with grants from The School Foundation and donations from other businesses in the area. So far, there have been more than 5,000 books distributed this year. Creech said he expects about 10,000 books to be distributed every year, once the program is fully operational.

Foundation executive director Debbie Hyler said supporting Start 2 Read fits right in with its goal for a well-educated community. The School Foundation supports schools and educational programs in Florence One through grants.
"We felt if children have a better chance at success when they come to kindergarten, through this program, why wouldn't we want to support it?" Hyler said. "It's important to remember, this is a very inexpensive way to reach parents. Think how expensive it could be down the road if a child is not where they need to be and needs tutoring, specialists or other programs to catch them up."

Hyler named FMU’s Outstanding Alumnus; three others honored

on Saturday, 28 February 2015. Posted in News

Hyler named FMU’s Outstanding Alumnus; three others honored

Posted: The Morning News
Thursday, February 26, 2015 8:02 pm
Francis Marion University press release

FLORENCE, S.C. – Francis Marion University honored four at its annual Alumni Appreciation Dinner held at the university's Performing Arts Center in Florence Thursday night.

The 2015 Outstanding Alumnus award went to Deborah W. Hyler ('82), executive director of the School Foundation.

Emily Brandenburg McMillan ('10) of Columbia received the Benjamin Wall Ingram III Young Alumnus award. Stacey Y. Brayboy ('94) of Washington, D.C., received the Professional Industry Award in Public Service and Law. Brad Sponic ('04), of Florence, received the Professional Industry Award in Education and Arts.

Hyler received a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology from FMU in 1982 and has been executive director of The School Foundation in Florence since 2006. Under her leadership, The School Foundation has funded and awarded more than $900,000 in grants to local public schools. She is an accomplished organizer with more than 20 years of experience in community-related activities. In 2014, she was the recipient of the Mary Dean Brewer Woman of Distinction award from the Girl Scouts of the Eastern South Carolina. She is married to Dr. Daniel Hyler, a 1981gradute of FMU. They have three children: Jonathan, Jennifer, and Julia.

McMillan received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from FMU in 2009 and is a third-year law student at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Prior to enrolling in law school in the fall of 2012, she served as event coordinator for Governor Nikki R. Haley and assistant to the First Gentleman. She is the research editor for the ABA Real Property, Trust & Estate Journal, a member of the Moot Court Bar, and vice president of the Pro Bono Board. She has won numerous awards as a law student and worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Jean Hoefer Toal and at the law office of Sweeney, Wingate & Barrow. After her spring 2015 graduation, she will work as an associate at Sweeney, Wingate & Barrow in the areas of estate planning and appellate advocacy. Emily and her husband, John, a 2013 graduate of the FMU who holds a Masters in Business Administration from the university, reside in Columbia.

Brayboy received a Bachelor of Science in political science from FMU in 1984 and a master's degree in public administration from Clark Atlanta University. She is chief of staff for the Food and Nutrition Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., where she manages the daily priorities of FNS. Previously, she served as director of Economic and Community Development for Rural Development at USDA, as a member of the transition team for President Obama and Vice President Biden, director of the Obama campaigns in South Carolina and Virginia during the Presidential primaries, deputy director in Indiana and Virginia during the general election campaign, and deputy director of the Virginia Council on Human Rights. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her daughter, Madison Lilli Philhower Brayboy.

Sponic received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts from FMU and a Master's of Education in literacy from Walden University. He is currently working towards a Master's in Education in educational leadership from Arkansas State University . He has been employed by Florence School District I since 2008, where he teaches theatre arts in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program at Williams Middle School. He began his teaching career in Marion County. Sponic is a frequent volunteer at the Florence Little Theatre, where he has acted, directed, and designed lighting. He also leads the theatre's 7-12 grade "Rising Star" workshop.

It's All About That Bass For DWTSF's Michele and Jacob

on Wednesday, 25 February 2015. Posted in News

Brenda Harrison, Editor
The News Journal
2/14/2015


Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward are having a blast rehearsing for the upcoming Dancing With The Stars of Florence competition and benefit to be held on March 31 at the SiMT Building. The event is hosted by The School Foundation. The couple will present an energetic jive swing choreographed to "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor. Celebrity dancer Michele says her dance training is almost nil having given up tap dance classes around age 7 in favor of softball. She is a good sport, however, agreeing to take one for her company, Honda of South Carolina, which has participated in this popular fund-raising event since its beginnings four years ago.

"They told me it was time for a female representative and that I was the best candidate to support the company," she quipped. Michelle is assistant manager of administration with Honda. She considers participation as an adventure, but with her competitive nature and desire to win, she is trying to remember to have fun. This will be 17 year-old Jacob's first time dancing in Dancing With The Stars of Florence, but not his first time under the spotlight. The senior at Florence Christian School has been performing for four years with Surrendered Drama Team at Grace & Glory Ministries in Coward where he resides.

Jacob plans to enter the nursing program at Francis Marion University in the fall with the ultimate goal of becoming a nurse practitioner. Jacob says their routine is challenging, but he has confidence that he and Michele can pull it off. The real goal, both agree, is the opportunity to support The School Foundation's efforts to better the education in the community. This year's celebrity dancers paired with professionals include Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Cedrick Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley; Mike Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Chris Warner and Meggie Baker.

The dancers will be competing for the following trophies: Technical Skills Winners – to be awarded by the judges based on dancers' overall skills. People's Choice – to be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes,Most Entertaining - to be awarded to the most entertaining couple, and Social Stars - to be awarded to the couple receiving the most online votes. Fans may vote online for Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward or other couples, for $10 a vote at www. FlorenceDancingWithThe Stars.com. Visit the Dancing With the Stars of Florence website, www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com, for dancer photos, updated news and to follow the votes.

Program takes early education home to parents

on Tuesday, 24 February 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Saturday, February 21, 2015 2:08 pm

By NICOLE CARTRETTE Morning News This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dulce Cruz wants to be a good mother.

Two days a month she welcomes a child development specialist into her home to offer parenting advice, discuss developmental milestones and talk about ways to boost learning at home for her daughter , Odaray, who is 18 months old .

The first-time mother and her husband, Sergio, have been finding extra parenting support and advice from the Parents as Teachers program since Odaray was 3 months old.

The early learning initiative is offered by the Start Smart/ early childhood education component of Florence School District One.

The program comes at no cost to participants and is open to pregnant mothers or those with children up to age 3 .

Cruz, a graduate of West Florence High School, said her little sister benefited from a similar early education experience.

“I saw that she did well in school,” Cruz said.

Wanting the best for Odaray, Cruz said , she decided to participate in the program. As a first-time mom at 19-years old, Cruz has lots of questions.

She is not afraid to look up information or talk to family but she thinks the extra source of support is helpful.

“I look up things on websites,” Cruz said, adding that she recently asked herself: “O K , when am I supposed to start potty training?”

“She has already learned so much,” Cruz said, adding that her daughter looks forward to visits with their home visitor, Melanie McMillan.

McMillan is a supervisor for the program. She makes home visits but also observes five other parent educators who provide services to a total of 127 families in Florence One.

McMillan said at the heart of the curriculum is the idea that all parents, regardless of personal circumstances, can be empowered, gain control over difficult circumstances, and interact with their children in a way that facilitates healthy development.

The ultimate goal is to help children learn, grow and develop to their full potential.

“The early years of life are so crucial,” McMillan said.

Parent educators, like McMillan, build on a parent’s strengths with an emphasis on the latest research about child development and early learning. They model best practices in interacting with children and open the door for parents to become the teachers.

“I want you to color with her,” McMillan told Cruz during a home visit this week. She demonstrated ways to capture the excited and busy Odaray’s attention.

McMillan also brought a book for Odaray . McMillan read each sentence of the short, colorful book in English while Cruz repeated her words in Spanish.

During the visit, Cruz and McMillan also talked about potty training and motor skills and how Cruz’s part-time tutoring endeavors were going.

Part of the Parent as Teachers philosophy is that family well-being is as important as development-centered parenting and parent-child interaction.

“We help the parent as well as the child,” McMillan said. “A lot of parents just don’t know about child development or what to expect. We help the parent, model for the parent and guide them.

“We let the parent know what things they can be doing with their child right now, at home, before they get to school.”

McMillan said some children come to pre-K lacking a lot of basic things that could be taught at home.

“Some are ready and some are not ready,” she said.

“Our job is to go in to make sure that the parent is working with the child. If the child has a delay we will pick up on it,” McMillan added. “We can offer referrals to try to get the child help. We might find a child who may need speech therapy. Sometimes we may run into a 3- year - old that can only make sounds and not speak words. We get that intervention in the home before the child gets to school.”

Preschool teachers can tell the difference, she said.

“They can tell that we have been working with them. We follow … (children in the program) from the time we have them all the way through school,” McMillan said.

The results are promising.

“They do very well,” she said.

Participation in Parents as Teacher is not income based. It is available to people who live in the school district.

“We definitely have available space,” McMillan said.

Pregnant mothers and parents of child up to 3 years old can participate in the program. All participants need to commit to two home visits per month. For more information contact the Florence One Office for School Readiness at 673-1129.

Dancing With the Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Robert Watkins

on Friday, 20 February 2015. Posted in News

What is your previous dance experience?

I did a lot of dancing in college with friends and classmates from 2004 to 2008.

 

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?

Popping or locking has always been the go-to move for me. It all depends on the song, though.

 

How was the first practice? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

The first practice was good.  It was actually harder. Most of the dancing I did in the past was free- style.  I never had to count steps, but I caught on quick.

 

Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?

Show off your talent, show your strengths and what you’re good at.

 

Why were you interested in taking part in Dancing with the Stars of Florence?

I always thought how fun it would be to be on stage. Last year, my boss did it and I knew automatically I wanted to the next year. 

 

How does it feel to be the ‘celebrity’ in your pairing?

Not too bad. I’m usually on the other side.

 

What is your job title and what are your day-to-day responsibilities?

 

Formation area manager. I recently was promoted to this position and moved from Kansas City, Missouri. My background is in engineering, so this is my first role that is more about managing people and production.

As an area manager for a battery manufacturing facilitymy main focus is supplying a quality product to our customers in the safest way possible.  My day-to-day task is managing production in my formation area, which includes giving direction to my four salary supervisors and also providing assistance to my 70 hourly employees on anything they need help with. This can range from simple tasks such as purchasing supplies for my team or can also be leading projects to resolve quality or productivity issues.

Robert Watkins and his partner Drew Arnold will be performing to Usher’sCaught Up.

Warner-Baker dance team rehearsing samba routine

on Wednesday, 18 February 2015. Posted in News

Brenda Harrison, Editor
The News Journal
Published 2/17/2015

Chris Warner and Meggie Baker are rehearsing a lively samba routine for their presentation at Dancing With the Stars of Florence. They will be quick-stepping to the music of Bruno Mars' "Treasure." The pair are practicing weekly at the KFA dance studio perfecting some spins and dips for the March 31 competition to be held at the SiMT Building. Chris is a sales representative for St. Jude Medical. He grew up in Aiken where he attended Cotillion classes during seventh through tenth grades. As for dancing, that's the extent of his experience, he says.

However, nine year-old daughter Ella, a ballet dancer in training, is helping him practice at home. He and wife Heather also have a six-year-old son, Gray. Meggie began dance training at an early age and today she serves as a ballet mistress with the S.C. Dance Theatre. An attorney, she is Director of Corporate Compliance and Risk Management for HopeHealth Inc. And, she is a cast member for the Florence Little Theatre's upcoming production of "Noises Off," rehearsing four times a week for that play.

Both Chris and Meggie say they are having a good time rehearsing for a good cause. "This is such a great event," said Chris. "It raises a lot of money and it all stays here." He added that his children are in the public school system. The School Foundation will host its 5th Annual Dancing With The Stars of Florence fund-raising event on the evening of March 31. Over $480,000 has been raised from this event in the last four years.

Completing this year's line up of dancers are Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Michael Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Cedric Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley.

A panel of judges will select one couple as "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges. The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. A new edition this year, The Social Stars trophy, will be awarded to the couple receiving the most online votes. Fans may vote online for Chris Warner or Meggie Baker, or other couples, at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 per vote. You can follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list. To learn more about The School Foundation, visit their website at www.theschoolfoundation.org.

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