These two Midlands schools were just named some of South Carolina’s finest

River Bluff high school gives their principal a huge surprise

Lucas Clamp, founding principal of River Bluff High School in Lexington 1 school district, was named the 2019 National Principal of the Year.
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Lucas Clamp, founding principal of River Bluff High School in Lexington 1 school district, was named the 2019 National Principal of the Year.

Two Midlands schools were picked as Palmetto’s Finest for 2019, the South Carolina Association of School Administrators announced Tuesday.

River Bluff High School and Spring Hill High School were named two of South Carolina’s best schools.

River Bluff is the educational home for more than 2,000 ninth through twelfth graders in the Lexington 1 school district. Principal Luke Clamp was named 2019 National Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and now the school is getting noticed, too.

River Bluff was the first high school in South Carolina to adopt a teaching and learning model called EL Education, which focuses on engaging students with weekly small-group meetings. Clamp also prioritized creating learning experiences for students of color at River Bluff, which helped bring students’ test scores up over the course of three years.

“Obviously we are incredibly excited. We are thrilled to be recognized,” Lexington 1 Superintendent Gregory Little told The State. “The students, the staff, the leadership out there are really fantastic and our staff really believed in this vision, really believed in this idea that they could do things very differently and still be successful.”

The high school uses a Flexible Modular Schedule, which splits days up into 25 modules that are 10 to 30 minutes long. Students can then help design what their day at school looks like, making use of independent learning time and group collaboration. River Bluff has a graduation rate of 90 percent and more than 96 percent of students take part in work-based learning, according to a news release from the school administrators association.

Spring Hill High School is in Chapin, in the Lexington-Richland 5 school district, and has a student population of about 1,069 students. The high school allows students to choose from five magnet programs: Engineering, entertainment, entrepreneurship, environmental studies and exercise science. Students then take classes in each of the “academies,” which are meant to help them find possible career paths. By organizing students into interest areas, principal Michael Lofton said, teachers can teach basic courses like English or mathematics through a lens that’s more appealing to the group in the classroom.

Spring Hill has a computer-generated random lottery, so it offers courses to suit the needs of any student. The school also boasts a 96 percent graduation rate and high rates of students passing standardized tests. The school was named by as one of the top 100 schools in the U.S., and it has been recognized as a magnet school of distinction for three years in a row, according to a news release.

Lofton said he invited all students, faculty, staff and board members to the Palmetto’s Finest announcement. He has been the principal since Spring Hill was being built, in 2012, so being awarded was validating, he said.

“I was super excited, of course. It’s a celebration of all of our hard work and dedication that we’ve put in as a Spring Hill family,” Lofton told The State. “That’s why I invited everybody. Our custodians are just as important to our success as the teachers are.”

The third school named as 2019 Palmetto’s Finest Schools was Waccamaw Intermediate School in Pawleys Island, South Carolina.

The association picked winning schools based on an application, self-evaluations, peer reviews and two on-site visits. The three schools were honored for having “exceptional student achievement, instructional programs, professional learning communities and school culture,” a news release said.