Hartsville named All America City

PULSE program key component of application


The city of Hartsville and its residents are still celebrating the victory of being named an All America City (AAC). Sponsored by the National Civic League, the AAC designation is given annually to towns, cities, counties, tribes, neighborhoods and metropolitan regions for outstanding civic accomplishments. The 2016 award program highlighted community efforts to "ensure that all our children are healthy and successful in school and life."

The process to become an All America City is daunting. The application asks direct questions about race, crime and employment. Specifically, each city must elaborate on three key community-driven programs, and make presentations to a jury of civic experts focusing on those examples of collaborative community problem solving. The application states: “We welcome descriptions of projects that ensure the success of all children, including at-risk children, through health or healthy community strategies and/or education strategies particularly seeking to improve attendance in school and/or projects that reflect the intersection of health and education.”

The Partnership for Unparalleled Scholastic Excellence (PULSE) was an integral part of the application's success story. The public-private partnership began in 2011, when then Sonoco president, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Harris DeLoach approached local leaders to improve educational opportunities and academic achievement for Hartsville students. Those leaders, Robert Wyatt, president of Coker College; Murray Brockman, president of the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics (GSSM); and Dr. Rainey Knight, superintendent of the Darlington County School District, brainstormed ideas that eventually become PULSE.

PULSE initiatives create the framework for student success by providing an elementary school environment that supports and encourages whole child development and offers academic challenges for high school students. The goal is that at graduation, students will be prepared, contributing members of society and the workforce through the combined resources and collaboration. The two key components of PULSE—the Comer School Development Program (SDP) at four Hartsville elementary schools and the Accelerated Learning Opportunities (ALO) at the high school for students excelling in science, math, the arts and language.

ALO students benefit from collaborative teaching program between GSSM and Coker College. Classes through GSSM include Advanced Chemistry, AP Calculus AB, Robotics, Molecular Biology, Pre-Engineering and Mandarin Chinese I, II and III. Classes at Coker include art, music, theater and dance. Dual credit is available for the arts classes and Mandarin Chinese.

The Comer SDP uses a no-fault problem solving strategy among three teams at the school. The teams encourage parental involvement and participation. By creating and working a comprehensive school plan, the SDP focuses on nurturing the whole child along six developmental pathways. The Comer schools have seen an increase in student growth and academic achievement as well as a reduction in disciplinary issues.

The application also outlined numerous successes in both the elementary and high school initiatives. Also mentioned were the PULSE mentor program, and Scoutreach, which is active in all four of the Comer elementary schools. The former enlists citizens to mentor elementary school children and the latter is an extension of the Boy Scouts of America, designed to provide leadership skills to children in rural areas.

Sharman Poplava, executive director of the TEACH Foundation, which oversees the administration of the PULSE program, and member of the AAC team, says she is proud of the town's accomplishment. “It's a wonderful testament to the residents of Hartsville that we have been named an All America City. There is a tremendous amount of ground work that has to be done to prepare and participate in this process.

“This year's theme of student success is what the PULSE program is all about,” she adds. “Hartsville is a special place that strives to improve educational outcomes for students. It's nice to be recognized for all the things that our community is doing right.”

Poplava was joined by two ALO students, Stone Martin and Archie Torain. Tara King, principal of West Hartsville elementary, a Comer school, also attended on behalf of the PULSE program.

Hartsville is one of 10 cities that earned the All American City designation for 2016. The small South Carolina town was also an All America City in 1996.

Read the entire application and the numerous PULSE successes here.

After 180 Days: Hartsville/A Community Perspective wins award

A video produced by the TEACH Foundation earned an Award of Excellence from the South Carolina Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. After 180 Days: Hartsville, A Community Perspective was evaluated by independent judges from Nashville, Tenn., Altanta, Ga., and St. Louis, Mo.

The entry consisted of two parts: a work plan outlining the objectives and results of the project and supporting documentation illustrating the outcome. The work plan focuses on storytelling, and explains how Hartsville schools became the subject of a year-long video project managed by the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). The project, called 180 Days: Hartsville was a two-hour documentary and part of the PBS public media initiative American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen. Co-produced by South Carolina ETV (SCETV) and NBPC, it aired in March 2015.

The documentary primarily focused on a fifth grader struggling with behavioral issues throughout the 2013-14 school year. Interspersed throughout the film, viewers could catch glimpses of key community outreach and involvement. However, the documentary was a snapshot and didn't explore the details of the Partnership for Unparalleled Scholastic Excellence (PULSE) initiative that played a significant role in the successful outcome of the student’s challenges.

PULSE is an inventive and repeatable path to improving education outcomes in rural schools through collaboration, innovative community resources and increased parental involvement. One of the programs within PULSE is the Comer School Development Program (SDP) which directly set into motion the success that ultimately ends the full, two-hour PBS documentary. In addition to elementary school programs, PULSE is implemented in the high school through Accelerated Learning Opportunities (ALO) not brought out in the documentary.

According to Sharman Poplava, executive director for the TEACH Foundation, After 180 Days: Hartsville, A Community Perspective explains the scope of PULSE and how it has impacted education in a small southern town. “The PBS documentary tells an important story about the redemption of a young student,” she says. “It is just one of many stories. We wanted to share a broader perspective on how the PULSE program created the environment for that redemption and success.”

In After 180 Days: Hartsville, A Community Perspective, the outcomes of PULSE are highlighted in different segments using interviews from community members who are committed to improving education in Hartsville. Also participating is the Comer SDP team at Yale University, including Dr. James P. Comer himself, who puts missing facets from the documentary into perspective. The TEACH Foundation was able to compile a video that answers pertinent questions about both aspects of the PULSE program and provides a roadmap other communities can follow for similar success.

Judging criteria for the awards included: effective writing integrated with design and visuals appropriate for the medium and the audience, creative and innovative approaches communicating with the target audience, and documented measurement of objectives. In the evaluation, the judges commented, “I was impressed with the quality and content of the video. It does an excellent job of describing PULSE's goals and aspirations.”

Poplava agrees enthusiastically. “We are delighted about receiving the award,” she explains. “It validates our belief that PULSE has an outstanding and pertinent message to share on education in South Carolina, particularly in the Hartsville schools.” 

The video can be viewed here and is embedded below.

Sharman Poplava receives Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

Recognized for outstanding contributions to community

Sharman Poplava, executive director of the TEACH Foundation, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. Coker College presents the award to a community member each year to acknowledge and recognize individuals whose “nobility of character” and service to others sets them apart as examples to all. It may be presented to graduating seniors, alumni or community members who meet the criteria set forth by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation.

In addition to her duties at the TEACH Foundation, Poplava is the host of Good Morning Hartsville with Sharman Poplava on WHEZ 95.9FM. She currently serves on the boards of the United Way of Hartsville, Hartsville-Coker Concert Association, Darlington County First Steps and is president-nominee of the Hartsville Rotary Club. She has previously served on the boards of the Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center Foundation and the Darlington County Economic Development Partnership. She is a member of the Hartsville Civic Chorale, Hartsville Chamber Ensemble and active in St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

Named for a prominent 19th-century lawyer, orator, mediator and philanthropist, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award is intended to recognize and honor selflessness, generosity of service, nobility of character, integrity and depth of spirituality.

George Sullivan created the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation in 1934 to perpetuate the values of his parents. Since 1934, the foundation has taken as its primary mission the inspiring of young people to lead lives of integrity, characterized by service above self and service to their communities. The Foundation facilitates annual awards on 61 college and university campuses in the American South. Participating institutions may present the awards to graduating seniors, alumni or community members.

Two Comer schools recognize students with all-A report cards

Thornwell and West Hartsville celebrate academic accomplishments


Thornwell School for the Arts (TSA) and West Hartsville (WHE) held completion ceremonies for grade 5 students on Thurs., May 28.

Nearly 350 family members came to support students as TSA graduated 77 students at the Center Theater. The school's choir performed a song, and Darlington County School District coordinator of k-12 ELA and Social Studies, Marthew Ferguson, was the guest speaker. Hartsville Rotary presented checks to Amiyah Adams (valedictorian) and Laila McDaniel (salutatorian) for making all As from grade 1-5.

As WHE graduated 81 in the school auditorium, nearly 300 family members attended the celebration. Rotary presented a check recognizing Kristyn Anders (valedictorian) for making all As for five consecutive years.