Midland Elementary School in Galivants Ferry and Myrtle Beach’s Forestbrook Middle School made history Wednesday when both schools were named 2014’s Palmetto’s Finest, the first time Horry County Schools has had two schools win the award in the same year.
Palmetto’s Finest is given annually by the S.C. Association of School Administrators to schools with the best in innovative and effective education programs. Each school goes through an intensive application process that includes self-evaluation, peer review and on-site examinations, and is evaluated on student achievement, instructional programs, professional learning communities and school culture.
Parents, teachers, students and administrators were gathered at both schools, where prayers were said and fingers were crossed before the award program, which SCETV streamed live to each of the nine finalist schools in the state. Roars of excitement rocked each site as the good news was announced.
“This is awesome!” said Luke Berg, 11, as the Midland family celebrated in the school gym. “Me and my friends have been all pumped up about this. Just everything here is great. We want to grow, and we have a great atmosphere here, and it’s the kids, our principal, the teachers – it’s just everyone.”
Principal Jennifer Parker shed a few tears at the school’s win, which was the first of five winners announced, and said she was on cloud nine and just very thankful. Midland is the smallest school in the district with 537 students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade, she said, and it also is a National Blue Ribbon School, the recipient of the Palmetto Silver and Gold awards and a Closing the Achievement Gap winner.
“Today is a tribute to how much we have grown,” Parker told her students. “In case you did not notice, you guys are amazing.”
At Forestbrook, Principal April Scott had prepped her more than 1,100 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders before the announcement, saying they may have to be prepared to “lose with grace,” but the school won in its first time competing for the award. Scott knew when she nominated Forestbrook for the award that all of the pieces for success – supporting administrators, driven teachers, encouraging parents and determined students – were in place.
“You know when you’ve got something good, and you want to share that,” Scott said. “Sometimes in life you get lucky, and you get in a position where everything comes together and it’s the perfect combination. I think, in this Socastee attendance area, we are so blessed to have amazing parents and great community support. We have amazing teachers, great kids and, all together, we understand the importance of being a team and doing what’s best for kids and making the students accountable, but also giving them opportunities for fun.”
Ashley Jones, 13, president of the student body, said the school’s motto, “Excellence every day, everywhere,” is not just words on a board but words the Forestbrook community lives by.
“It’s just so amazing how we all work together to have our students achieve academic excellence,” Jones said after the school won the award. “The parents have helped so much, helped their kids and encouraged them and pushed them to do their best. That has really made our academics soar. That’s one of the main qualities of Forestbrook.”
Jones, one of the dozens of students interviewed by the selection committee, said there was a lot of excitement and buildup to Wednesday’s announcement at the school, which has earned the Palmetto Gold award for the past three years and ranked No. 1 in Schools Like Us for the past two years. She said it was important for the committee to know the sense of community that ties Forestbrook together.
“That’s one thing that is really special about Forestbrook. We made sure to tell them that it’s such a family here,” Jones said.
Palmetto’s Finest is awarded to two elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and one specialty school in the state. Other winners were Okatie Elementary School in Okatie, Beaufort County Schools; Camden High School in Camden, Kershaw County Schools; and Fairfield Magnet School for Math and Science in Winnsboro, Fairfield County Schools.
Horry County Schools has won Palmetto’s Finest 11 times since the awards were first given in 1978. The district recently had back-to-back winners when Loris Middle School won in 2011, followed by Burgess Elementary School in 2012.
HCS Deputy Superintendent Rick Maxey said it was an amazing feeling to have both Midland and Forestbrook win Palmetto’s Finest this year.
“I feel that our schools are great, and it is incredible for two of them to receive this recognition,” Maxey said. “I am so proud of them. They all pulled together – the teachers, principals, kids, parents and the community – to make these schools what they are, and it’s great that others recognize it.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401.