Coker College's Jubilee Smith earned a Sullivan Award for her work on the LunchBuddy program in Hartsville's Comer Schools.
Hartsville, S.C., U.S. – The TEACH Foundation (Teaching, Educating and Advancing Children in Hartsville) is pleased to announce its PULSE (Partners for Unparalleled Local Scholastic Excellence) initiative has been selected as a finalist for The Riley Institute at Furman University's 2016 Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC Award for Excellence. The WhatWorksSC award, first given in 2011, highlights outstanding evidence-based educational initiatives throughout South Carolina. Finalists were chosen by a panel of judges from more than 100 entries in the Riley Institute's WhatWorksSC clearinghouse. As a finalist, PULSE will receive a small grant from the Riley Institute for enhancement of the program or consulting with other schools, districts and organizations interested in its replication.
PULSE is a one-of-kind public-private partnership formed to implement a comprehensive scholastic excellence program in Hartsville public schools that expanded curriculum opportunities and further improved student achievement through collaborative academic and social development initiatives. Partners include the Darlington County School District, South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics (GSSM), Coker College and Sonoco. Sonoco funded the initiative through a $5 million grant over five years.
"We believe it is our responsibility to build the community as we build our business," said Harris DeLoach, executive chairman of the board, Sonoco, and chairman of the board, TEACH Foundation. "It is absolutely critical that every child, regardless of economic status, leaves the public school system with the skills needed to succeed in the workplace."
After its five year implementation, a snapshot of results is as follows:
- A key component of PULSE, the Comer School Development Program, focusing on academic achievement and personal development of elementary students, served more than 6,500 students at four area elementary schools. On average, students increased reading scores by 12-points and math scores by 14-points on Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing.
- Accelerated Learning Opportunities (ALO) served more than 840 high school students in Hartsville with courses such as Mandarin Chinese, Molecular Biology, Engineering Design and Development, Circuitry and Electronic Inventions, Applied Piano, Class Voice, and more. The ALO program grew to 14 course offerings during the 2015-16 school year and celebrated three successive years of all students passing AP tests, earning college credits. Students participating in ALO have published scientific papers, earned prestigious scholarships and been selected for competitive internships at organizations like NASA.
- The local Scoutreach component helped more than 350 male students in grades 5k-5 gain leadership skills.
- The summer reading program (six weeks long) exceeded its goal of increasing reading proficiency – from four months to six months of reading growth.
"Every accomplishment begins with action, and PULSE is no different. The five-year program is a great example of coordinated action resulting in positive change. We must build on it," said Jack Sanders, president and CEO of Sonoco.
"The TEACH Foundation is much more than just an exciting and unique partnership," said Dr. Eddie Ingram, superintendent of Darlington County School District. "The Foundation's leadership is forward-thinking in approach and execution. In addition to substantial fiscal support of the PULSE program, the TEACH Foundations also brings innovation and networking opportunities to the people of our district."
Finalists will be recognized and the winner of the 2016 award will be announced at a luncheon October 14 in conjunction with South Carolina Future Minds' annual Public Education Partners (PEP) conference at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The public is invited to attend the full conference or the luncheon only. For more information and/or to register for the luncheon or conference, please visit the Riley Institute's website or contact Jill Fuson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The TEACH Foundation is a not for profit, 501(c)(3) organization that serves as the administration arm for the PULSE initiative which includes accelerated learning programs at Hartsville High School, students living in Hartsville attending Mayo High School and the Comer School Development Program in four area elementary schools. It was formed as part of the Greater Hartsville Chamber of Commerce. The Foundation manages the $5 million in funding provided to PULSE by the Sonoco Foundation.
Founded in 1899, Sonoco is a global provider of a variety of consumer packaging, industrial products, protective packaging, and displays and packaging supply chain services. With annualized net sales of approximately $5 billion, the Company has 20,800 employees working in more than 330 operations in 34 countries, serving some of the world's best known brands in some 85 nations. Sonoco is a proud member of the 2015/2016 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. For more information on the Company, visit our website at www.sonoco.com.
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.
Lunch buddy idea grows into lasting concept
For the second year, Coker College students choose PULSE programs in Hartsville schools to provide community service projects. Jubilee Smith, a Coker College senior and Sparrow Scholarship recipient, focused on the work of Dr. James P. Comer’s School Development Program to fulfill her scholarship requirements, which included 20 hours of local community service during the academic year and 20 hours of service at home during the summer. Smith developed and coordinated a lunch-buddy program in four elementary schools, Thornwell, Southside Early Childhood Center, West Hartsville and Washington Street.
“For this project, I wanted to focus on students who lacked healthy relationships with others, and students who were shy or timid,” says Smith. “It was important to me to create a project that would get the Coker students involved. I recruited seven very dedicated and awesome volunteers. Iparticipated as a volunteer as well.”
Coker student volunteers met with Comer facilitator Justin Dunham who provided a childhood development training session that provided tips on communication skills targeting youth and on building healthy social relationships.
“At first, we began by eating lunch with each class selected based on the schedule of the students," Smith explains. This allowed the Coker students to select one or two students for the Lunch Buddy Project based on pre-determined criteria.
"We ended up selecting 16 students total from all four Comer schools to be a part of the Lunch Buddy Project," Smith adds. "We began each session with an icebreaker, asking students about their day. We allowed students to discuss whatever they wanted to as long as it was appropriate. The most important thing was to keep them engaged in healthy conversation. After meeting with the students for a few weeks, we took them from class at lunch time and sat together as a family."
Many of the students didn't know each other, so Smith and her volunteers used the opportunity to help the students build a healthy relationship with other students. "Each week the students looked forward to us being there and always greeted us with a warm welcome," she says.
"I saw significant impact in both the Coker students and the students that were a part of the project. The Lunch Buddy project will continue in the years to come through other Coker College students,” Smith added.
Smith is the second Sparrow Scholarship recipient to complete scholarship requirements through the PULSE programs. In 2012-13, Coker senior, Gabe Fonseca interned with PULSE facilitator, Tara King. Fonesca helped design and deliver the mentor program.
Scouts practice drills, moves and techniques
Over 60 boys in Scoutreach troops 542 (Washington St.), 543 (Thornwell) and 544 (West Hartsville) participated in a basketball clinic. Each troop spent one hour with the team and coaches at the Harris E. and Louise H. DeLoach Center at Coker College.
Dan Schmotzer, men’s basketball coach and Aric Samuel, assistant men’s basketball coach, gave the boys a tour of the athletic facility. Schmotzer encouraged the scouts to focus on staying in school and getting an education. “That’s your job,” stressed Coach Schmotzer. “These players have a job, too. They have to get good grades to stay on the team.”
Each scout was paired up with a Cobra basketball player and practiced throwing, passing and running with the ball. At the end of the practice the boys used the techniques they learned by playing a game on the college court.
Schmotzer said the clinic was a blast. "The gym was loud and full of excitement. It was just so amazing for the scouts and players alike."
Scouts earn a basketball belt loop for fulfilling the requirements of the clinic. See more photos on the Coker Web site
Two-day sessions review SPMT, SSST concepts and ideas
The Coker College library was buzzing with activity for two days in early August as teachers and staff from three of Hartsville's four Comer schools participated in professional development. Dr. Camille Cooper, the Implementation Coordinator for Hartsville and the director of Learning, Teaching and Development for the Comer School Development Program at Yale University, led the instruction.
The first day focused on the functionality of the School Planning and Management Team (SPMT). Starting on a positive note, a quick review of successes from the 2013-14 school year enabled paired teachers and staff from different schools to compare information. In one instance, teachers from Thornwell School for the Arts and Southside Early Childhood Center compared notes on incentive programs designed to encourage appropriate behaviors. At Southside, the Bear Hugs program is tied to the Comer Pathways. At Thornwell, the Tiger Paws program is also tied to the Comer Pathways, but it was modified for students in grades four and five who thought the rewards were too babyish.
Other first day sessions encouraged teachers and staff to work in breakout sessions with other schools, present findings and share common solutions. While discussing the role of the SPMT, Dr. Cooper suggested each schools strive to streamline its activities with a comprehensive school plan that combines required plans, such as TAP, the system for student and teacher advancement, Title 1 and others. “By aligning goals and activities, these plans can all work together,” Dr. Cooper says. “Streamlining makes it easier for teachers and staff to be successful.”
Later, participants from each school worked individually to assess the progression of its SPMT. They then worked together, discussing among themselves and arriving at a consensus, and later presented findings to the other two schools. Every school noted that communication could be improved, and that by focusing on school issues rather than personal/personnel issues, the team would be more effective. Other issues included bringing new teachers up to speed on the Comer Process and learning who is in charge of what on the teams.
The second day of professional development was similar in structure, but focused on the Student and Staff Support Team (SSST). Again, the day started with recognizing successes and identifying where gaps exist so plans can be made to fix any areas of identified improvement.
New team members were especially grateful for the overview of how the SSST fits into the school's day-to-day activities. One teacher explains, “This was a great session. I am new to the SSST and I am committing to being an active member in every way possible.”
The teachers and staff also reviewed and evaluated discipline procedures. Each school presented an overview of the process for disciplining a child, and then the entire group made suggestions and recommendations on how to overcome barriers that do not support development.
“Dr. Comer believes that when a child acts out, there is a development issue along one of the pathways,” says Dr. Cooper. “We need to prevent potential problems from becoming crises. We do this by providing classroom teachers with strategies to support development and model desired behaviors.”