Police Chief James Hudson visits West Hartsville Elementary

Offers advice to fourth and fifth graders

Hartsville Police Chief James Hudson visits with fourth and fifth graders at West Hartsville Elementary

Hartsville Police Chief James Hudson visits with fourth and fifth graders at West Hartsville Elementary

As students grow up, it is the responsibility of parents and teachers to provide education on how to make good decisions. Sometimes, however, it is the voice of an outside influence that children respond to. On Feb. 19, at West Hartsville Elementary School, fourth and fifth grade boys met with Hartsville Police Chief James Hudson who talked about the importance of making good decisions and how those decisions can change a life.

During his presentation, Chief Hudson said, “We need to establish self-discipline as a lesson of respect. When one person is talking, show the respect needed to give them your full attention.”

The conversation centered around a question Chief Hudson asked: “What do you want to do in life and what will it take to get there?” The answers are the stuff dreams are made of. One fourth grade student said, “I want to be a professional football player. I have to work hard and play hard in order to be successful. I also have to do well in school and pass my classes." Another fourth grader said, “I want to play in the NBA or help others.”

Chief Hudson listened to the students, considering their desire to play professional sports. “You need self-discipline and tremendous listening skills to be an athlete," he explained. "If you cannot listen or cannot control yourself, then you cannot respond in an appropriate manner.

“Making bad decisions in life will prevent you from moving up in life or living that amazing life you all hope for. But it starts now. Now, you have make those decisions that impact your life in a positive manner,” Hudson added.

When asked why they attended the meeting with Chief Hudson, two fourth graders clearly understood the purpose of the visit. One said, “We are here to learn how to make good decisions.” The other said, “So we can learn right from wrong.”

Chief Hudson wants to keep in touch with the students, and plans to have weekly meetings where he can see how they are doing and introduce them to other male role models in the community. “You’re worth the effort to help change you for a better future,” Chief Hudson told the boys. 

Gabriel Fonseca, TEACH Foundation intern, says she was surprised at the learning that took place during Chief Hudson's visit. “I never expected to hear what I did,” she said. 

(Story submitted by Gabriel Fonseca)


On the front lines

Clerical staff training identifies areas for improvement

Staff from four Hartsville elementary schools piloting the Comer School Development Process learn about the pathways

Staff from four Hartsville elementary schools piloting the Comer School Development Process learn about the pathways

The first face that any parent, student or community member meet upon entering a school is in the main office. Recently, Tara King, Comer facilitator for the Darlington County School District, held a training session to teach clerical and office staff members how they connect to the Comer Developmental Pathways. Data entry managers, bookkeepers and secretaries from Southside Early Childhood Center, Thornwell School for the Arts, West Hartsville Elementary and Washington Street Elementary were able to evaluate their personal pathways and work on those needing improvement.

Pam Grantham, secretary at Thornwell School for the Arts, she learned to be a better listener and be more observant in the office for the students, parents and other stuff members of the school. “My role at the school is to offer direction,” she says. “ I truly do serve as the first person they meet or the first contact.”

The training focused on the many ways the office staff is the face and voice of the school. The session reviewed the basics of communication and how to build a community within and among the schools.

Nancy Blackwell, student data manager at Southside Early Childhood Center, understands what she needs to do. “My role at the school is to meet and greet parents, students and other staff as they come into the main office. I talk with them and share information they request. I believe I serve as a representative of the school as well.”

The training also gave the staff a chance to understand how the developmental pathways of the Comer program help them do their jobs, and how to help others. “I learned how to be aware of the developmental pathways and the importance of them. I noticed during the training that everything went together,” Blackwell added.

Alice Funderburke, secretary/bookkeeper at West Hartsville Elementary and Thelma Brewer, student data manager at Washington Street Elementary shared similar experiences during the training. Brewer believes she needs to be a better listener, and both see how they serve as the connection between the school and the parents.

All the participants work at different schools, but each understood what others are going through in their respective jobs. “The opportunity to get together with my fellow staff members was amazing. I really did like the training,” Grantham said.

For more information on the clerical and office staff training session, please contact Tara King at Washington Street Elementary.

(Story submitted by Gabriel Fonseca)

Puzzling about puzzles

Washington Street Elementary School

Students at Washington Street Elementary School use puzzles to develop classroom skills

Students at Washington Street Elementary School use puzzles to develop classroom skills

Did you ever think that puzzles could be a great way to teach students something? Did you ever think that they could gain knowledge and understand teamwork and hard work by simply putting a puzzle together? At Washington Street Elementary School, guidance counselor Roblynne McDuffie put this idea to the test. The results were tremendous.

Each week the students discussed the Darlington Country School District character word of the week. One week, the word was perseverance.

McDuffie says the students look up the meaning of the word and she shares real-life scenarios of what the word means. To help students understand perseverance more clearly, McDuffie developed a simple activity using puzzles. Students were put into groups and each group had to work together to complete the puzzle.

“Working together gave the students hands-on knowledge about perseverance, hard work and teamwork,” McDuffie says.

McDuffie was not the only one who witnessed students displaying perseverance. First grade teacher Porsche Jackson witnessed a group of students taking this task to the next level.

“When I arrived to pick up my first grade students from guidance, I observed them working collaboratively to put together a puzzle,” Jackson says. “Some puzzles were more complete than others, some students were working more appropriately than others, but they were all working on the task at hand. Who knew such a seemingly simple task of putting together a puzzle could develop such great skills?”

The puzzle activity showcased skills developed in students that have a hard time in the classroom. Jackson was quick to notice that the most completed puzzle was done by a group of students that are not usually recognized for having such skills. “After speaking with the adults who facilitated the activity, I learned that one of my students, who is often off task in the classroom, was the student in the group who excelled and had done the majority of the puzzle. This was mind blowing,” Jackson explains.

The teacher wondered what it was about doing a puzzle that inspired him. “I knew that whatever it was about the puzzle, I could use it to meet this student’s needs and the needs of all my students,” Jackson adds.

Joshua Jackson, first grader in Mrs. Jackson's class was excited about using puzzles at school. “I was really happy when I finished the puzzle first,” he says proudly. “The puzzle was really easy.”

For more information about the using puzzle activity to teach students about perseverance, contact Washington Street Elementary School guidance counselor Roblynne McDuffie. For more information on the benefits of using the puzzle in the classroom, contact Mrs. Porsche Jackson, first grade teacher at Washington Street Elementary School.

(Story submitted by Gabriel Fonseca)

Washington Street Elementary launches Roadrunners Race for Reading

Program off to a great start

Roadrunners Reading Program at Washington Street Elementary: January winners are 1st grader Jordan Hollimon (center), 2nd grader Saniyah Prescott (left) 3rd grader Aliyah Muhammad (right)

Roadrunners Reading Program at Washington Street Elementary: January winners are 1st grader Jordan Hollimon (center), 2nd grader Saniyah Prescott (left) 3rd grader Aliyah Muhammad (right)

Reading is one of the most integral components in an elementary school curriculum, and Washington Street Elementary knows just that. In early January, Washington Street Elementary school kicked-off a new reading program, Roadrunners Race For Reading, to encourage more students to read both at school and at their homes. “This is an exciting time for our students because they are more excited and encouraged to read,” says Stacy Bannister, curriculum teacher for Washington Street Elementary school. Washington Street Elementary school currently is one of four elementary schools in Hartsville that is participating in the Comer Student Development Program through the P.U.L.S.E program.

Washington Elementary school noticed that students needed to improve reading skills. And, as the teachers know, the more you read, the better you read. To get students more excited about reading, they introduced Roadrunners Race for Reading. “We've started with great energy, and with full student and teacher participation,” Bannister says.

Students are able to take books home to read as part of their homework or leisure time. “Our main goal is to provide each student with a mini-library of books at their homes,” Bannister adds.

The students are provided with a universal reading log where they record how many pages they have read each day. Every month, one student from each grade level is recognized based on how many pages he/she has read that month. Student names will be posted in the cafeteria for the whole school to see and to encourage a little friendly competition in the classrooms.

In January, the top three students in each grade level were recognized.  First grader Jordan Hollimon read 699 pages, second grader Saniyah Prescott read 808 pages, and third grader Aliyah Muhammad read 1,975 pages. In total all of the students at Washington Street Elementary School read an outstanding 44,059 pages in January.

“This program does more than just instill a love for reading. Each student learns responsibility and honesty when it comes to maintaining their logThey even learn a little math because they are responsible for adding up how many pages they have read,” Bannister explains.

(Story submitted by Gabriel Fonseca)

Comer King and Queen

Thornwell School for the Arts adds new dimension to Friendship Dance

Thornwell School for the Arts adds Comer dimension to Friendship Dance

Thornwell School for the Arts adds Comer dimension to Friendship Dance

Thornwell School for the Arts crowned its Comer King and Queen as part of the Friendship Dance celebration in late February. The program was developed by parent liaison, Raven Legette, and Thornwell principal, Julie Mahn.

The students in each classroom nominated peers who exhibited positive qualities based on the Comer developmental pathways. The school has done a King and Queen in the past, but this year, they added the Comer title and princes and princesses.

“The Comer School Development Program has benefited the students at Thornwell,” Legette says. “It teaches childrent to connection behavior and actions to outcomes, consequences and rewards. The parents of my students understand what is expected of each child and we all collaborate with each other to achieve a common goal.”

During the Friendship Dance, princesses and princes were crowned from first through fourth grades. The fifth graders were crowned King and Queen at the dance. Parents gave permission for children to participate. Families, friends, school staff and Comer facilitator Tara King were present for event.

“Our children know Dr. Comer and that he wants them to do well in school and life,” says principal Mahn. “We are all learning that the Comer pathways lead us to greatness when we follow them will all our hearts.” She believes the Comer King and Queen process exemplified this. “The children seemed to stand a little taller and work a little harder when they know what is expected of them.”

For more information about the Comer King and Queen or to get involved with the program next year, contact Raven Legette at Thornwell School for the Arts. For more information on the Comer School Development Program, contact Tara King at Washington Street Elementary. 

(Story submitted by Gabriel Fonseca)

Around the World in Three Days

International Fair at Southside Early Childhood Center

In early March, Southside Early Childhood Center hosted an International Fair for its students in an effort to teach them about diversity. Mixing education and fun at the fair made it easy for students learn in a creative way. 

Anita Goodwin, school guidance counselor and coordinator of the fair says students gained insight on about the differences among cultures. They discussed character traits like consideration, friendship and compassion, and how those traits surface during interaction with people who are alike and with people who are different.

“They were able to compare things people share in common with different ways of life,” Goodwin adds. “I believe the most valuable lesson the students learned is that even though we are different, we are still all people with feelings.”

The International Fair featured Africa, Mexico and Japan. “It was a school effort to pull it all together and expose our students to various customs, traditions, foods, music and cultures,” Goodwin explains.

“This was an easy way to expand our students understanding of culture,” she adds. “The students looked forward to learning new things about these different cultures.”

Goodwin says the entire school participated, adding that support from the teachers was tremendous. “The kids enjoyed the food and dressing up,” she says. “We are already talking about ideas for next year.”

For more information about the International Fair, contact Anita Goodwin at Southside Early Childhood Center.

(Story submitted by Gabriel Fonseca)

The Comer Pathways in action

Southside Early Childhood Center


The Comer Developmental Pathways are in action at Southside Early Childhood Center in Mrs. Sheila Brodie’s classroom. Students visually experienced the physical, ethical, social, physiological and cognitive pathways. They learned and performed Zumba as part of the physical pathway. They wrote stories to express ethical and cognitive pathways.

Zumba, a dance and fitness program created in the 1990s, is a fun way to begin developing the physical pathway. Brodie says that it's important to assist children as they learn about the physical pathway, and help them learn to make decisions that promote health.

“Helping children learn the importance of exercise at this young age ensures that they will continue as they grow up,” Brodie explains. Just in its second month at Southside, big smiles on the students' faces demonstrated they were all excited about Zumba.

“The students understand the physical pathway so much that we developed a hydration song,” Brodie adds. The song teaches students the importance of staying hydrated after doing any form of exercise.

The students are also learning about the ethical, social, physiological and cognitive pathways at school. After reading The Little Yellow Chicken’s House, the students wrote letters to the little chicken, in an effort to make her feel better after being mistreated by other animals in the story. Students also wrote a second letter telling the other animals that they were not following the pathways, and that their behavior to the little chicken was not acceptable.

Brodie believes the pathways open doors to learning that children understand in many ways. “We were able to see more understanding from the story even before it was over,” she says. “We want our students to use and understand the pathways as experience stories and everyday life,” she adds.

For more information on the Southside Early Childhood Center's Zumba and writing program, contact Sheila Brodie