PBS documentary premiers at Center Theater on March 12

 180 Days: Hartsville offers inside look at local education

After a year of filming in Hartsville schools, PBS will premier 180 Days: Hartsville at Center Theater on Thurs., March 12 at 6:30 p.m. The 45-minute, edited version will be followed by a live panel discussion featuring some of the documentary's leading characters. The event is free and open to the public. The full-length (2-hour) program, co-produced by the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) and South Carolina ETV, (SC ETV), will air on Thurs., March 17 from 8-10 p.m. (check local listings for station information.)

180 Days: Hartsville tells the story of a fifth grade student struggling with behavioral issues that threaten his academic performance. It illustrates actions taken by his principal, teachers, mother as they use the Comer School Development Process (SDP) to work together and identify solutions to bring about a positive resolution for the young boy. The documentary also details a year in the life to two principals: one, the daughter of sharecroppers, and the other, a first year principal.

180 Days: Hartsville was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) as part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative to stem the dropout crisis by supporting community-based solutions. While not specifically mentioned in the documentary, the community-based solution in Hartsville features the Comer SDP, underway at four Hartsville elementary schools since the 2011-2012 school year. Now in its fourth year of a five year pilot program, teachers and staff at the schools foster an atmosphere of consensus and no-fault problem solving as they focus on links between behavior and learning. Dr. James P. Comer, founder of the Comer SDP, and Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine's Child Study Center, has spent his career promoting the collaboration of parents, educators and community to improve social, emotional and academic outcomes for children that, in turn, help them achieve greater school success.

The Comer SDP is part of the PULSE initiative announced in February 2011. Partners for Unparalleled Local Scholastic Excellence (PULSE) include the Darlington County School District (DCSD), Coker College, the South Carolina Governor's School for Science (GSSM) and Mathematics and Sonoco. Coker College, GSSM and DCSD staff provide flexible and innovative teaching programs for Hartsville students. Sonoco has provided $5 million in funding over five years to improve collaboration in and among schools, strengthen the local school system, provide students with incomparable educational opportunities designed to help them excel academically, and prepare them with skills necessary to be successful in the work force.

“PULSE was created to improve academic and behavioral outcomes by enabling educators, parents, families and community partners with tools to bridge the gap between education and development in learning,” says Sharman Poplava, executive director of the TEACH Foundation, the not-for-profit organization that manages funding for PULSE. “The documentary highlights one success story at the elementary school level, and we have hundreds more similar stories. We hope other towns and cities will assess their own unique public and private resources and develop workable plans to improve education in their schools.”