Opinion Extra

Op-ed: As new school year begins, Richland One can boast about achievements

Watkins-Nance Elementary School students perform during Saint John Baptist Church’s annual Christmas Eve and community fellowship outreach program Monday Dec. 24, 2018, in Columbia, SC.
Watkins-Nance Elementary School students perform during Saint John Baptist Church’s annual Christmas Eve and community fellowship outreach program Monday Dec. 24, 2018, in Columbia, SC. gmcintyre@thestate.com

School supplies are flying off the shelves and soon those familiar yellow buses will be out on the roads transporting children to school to begin another great school year.

The excitement is building among Richland One students, parents, educators and support staff. As school board members, we are also counting down the days until the start of the new school year. We’re excited about getting out into our schools to welcome our 24,000 students back to school on Aug. 21.

As we look ahead to the new year, we can reflect on the 2018-2019 school year with pride:

Our class of 2019 graduates earned more than $86.5 million in scholarships and other financial aid, setting a new district record.

Our sports teams and individual student-athletes won 14 state championships and they did so while maintaining a C average or above (Richland One is one of only a few South Carolina school districts with such a requirement).

New magnet programs were launched at four of our schools and our commercial driver’s license (CDL) program at Eau Claire High School marked its first year. The CDL program, developed in partnership with the South Carolina Trucking Association, is the first high school CDL training program in the state and only the third in the nation.

We have made extensive upgrades to athletics facilities across the district, including one new stadium and two renovated stadiums, with the two remaining projects scheduled for completion this school year.

Jamie Devine.jpg

These are just a few of our many Points of Pride. We commend our superintendent, Dr. Craig Witherspoon, and his team for their hard work and commitment to ensuring that our 24,000 students have the knowledge, skills, resources and opportunities they need to excel.

In July, the Board of School Commissioners approved the district’s budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Highlights of our 2019-2020 General Fund Budget include a salary increase of at least 4 percent for teachers; an increase in the starting salary for first-year teachers from $35,887 to $39,260; a step increase for eligible certified and classified employees; and maintaining student-to-teacher ratios per classroom on average.

Richland One has been and continues to be a great steward of taxpayers’ dollars. The district has a high bond rating and, for 31 consecutive years, Richland One has received international awards for excellence in financial accounting and reporting as a result of clean audits for the same number of years.

As we prepare to begin a new school year, we salute and thank our teachers, principals, secretaries, bus drivers, school nurses, cafeteria workers, volunteers and community partners, school resource officers and all other members of the Richland One team. By continuing to work together for the benefit of our students, there is no limit to what we can achieve. We Are Richland One Strong!

Jamie L. Devine is chairman of the Richland One Board of School Commissioners.
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