Districts Meet

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Dr. Harvey Livingston, Mrs. Angie Rye, Mr. Michael Bonner, Dr. Abbey Duggins, and Dr. Stephen Hefner. (Picture by Mackenzie Taylor)

Lexington Three, Saluda County School Districts
Partner For Back-to-School Convocation

by Mackenzie Taylor

  Staff members from Lexington County School District Three and Saluda County Schools came together on Thursday, August 15th with one mission in mind — to prepare themselves to make a profound impact on students each and every day of the 2019-2020 school year. 
  This common goal was the overarching theme of the school districts’ collaborative Back-to-School Convocation that was held at the Lexington Three Fine Arts Center.  The event was attended by teachers, administrators and other staff members who heard remarks from Lexington Three Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hefner and Saluda County School District Superintendent Dr. Harvey Livingston.
  In addition, the crowd was wowed by featured guest speaker Michael Bonner.  Mr. Bonner is a nationally-known teacher and visionary leader who has received praise and recognition for his positive, unique and innovative educational strategies for students who may be coping with adverse childhood experiences.
   Mr. Bonner previously taught second grade at South Greenville Elementary School, a Title I school in North Carolina where a large majority of the students endure poverty, challenging familial dynamics and in some cases, even face homeless-ness. 
  In 2016, Mr. Bonner began to realize that in order to break through the barriers that were preventing his students from learning, he had to figure out a different way to engage them.  So, he turned to music, allowing students to create lyrics and beats from the content they were studying.  His novel idea worked, as students began engaging on a higher level and achieving greater academic success. 
  As a reward for their efforts, Mr. Bonner’s second grade class created an educational music video together and uploaded it to social media, catching the attention of news organizations nationwide. 
  In early 2017, Mr. Bonner was recognized for his efforts by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who not only presented Mr. Bonner and his school with educational equipment, but also flew him and his entire class to Los Angeles to visit her studios.  Wal-Mart also presented South Greenville Elementary School with nearly $50 thousand dollars to help enhance the school’s learning environment. 
  In addition, Mr. Bonner was honored by NBC Nightly News, the Ashton Kutcher Foundation, Flocabulary, and Front Row, just to name a few organizations.  Since 2017, Mr. Bonner has continued his work of promoting unique teaching strategies in the field of education.  He’s conducted more than 100 keynote speeches and workshop sessions to educators around the world and has written several books, all while continuing to make a huge impact on the lives of generations to come through his work as a teacher. 
  “It’s a privilege and honor to welcome Mr. Bonner to Batesburg-Leesville and to be able to kick off the new school year collaboratively with Saluda County Schools.  This is just one more example of how our districts continue to work together for the greater good of our students,” said Angie Rye, Chief Academic Officer for Lexington Three.
  Last school year, Lexington Three and Saluda County School Districts partnered to provide welding and firefighting courses to students in both districts through the Innovation Collaboration Pilot Project.  The classes, which are being funded by the State Department of Education and through grants obtained by the Town of Batesburg-Leesville, are housed at B-L High School.  Students from Saluda County Schools attend the classes with their B-L counterparts.  As part of the collaboration, transportation is provided for students to be able to participate. 
  Students who complete the firefighting course and pass the state skills test are able to obtain their Firefighter Certification, thus giving them an opportunity to help fill the growing need for volunteer firefighters in the Town of B-L and Town of Saluda.  Welding students are also able to obtain a certification if they finish a certain level of the program. 
  This year, students at B-L High School will have the opportunity to participate in a Health Sciences class at Saluda High School as part of the collaboration project.

Support swells for Saluda pastor’s
September 7 gun buy-back program

  SALUDA – In less than one week, the Rev. Hillary Taylor raised more than $5,000 to purchase Walmart gift cards for the gun buy-back program she and her churches are sponsoring Sept. 7 near Saluda Town Hall.
  “It’s been an incredible experience,” says Rev. Taylor, pastor of Bethany UMC and Zoar UMC in Saluda. “A lot of individuals and churches have supported this ministry with generous donations. A few people – including some whose families have been impacted by suicide – have even stopped me in town to tell me they are impressed with our program.
  “I don’t know how many people will respond to our buy-back offer, but we have plenty of gift cards to give anyone who wants to turn over a gun for any reason. We are planning to have mental health first aid professionals on site who can share resources about firearm safety, preventing suicide, and other related issues.”
  The buy-back event will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, beside the picnic shelter near Saluda Town Hall, 100 South Jefferson Street. Gun owners will receive Walmart gift cards valued at $100-$200, depending on the type of gun (Examples: shotgun/rifle = $100, handgun = $150, assault weapon = $200). This is a “no-questions-asked” event.
  Pastors from several local churches also will be on site to give communion and pray with anyone who would like to share a few minutes.
  Following most gun buy-back events, the purchased weapons are destroyed. In this effort, however, the guns will be disabled and repurposed in the Saluda community as gardening tools or artwork – almost literally playing out Isaiah 2:4: “...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
  Suicide has been a topic of conversation and concern across the Midlands, sparked in part by the news that Shaw Air Force Base and the Sumter community are grieving the recent deaths of three airmen who took their own lives in as many months.
  In South Carolina, more than 90 percent of suicides are gun-related,3 and the state ranks 50th in the nation when it comes to the availability of mental health care.4

1 Noah Feit, “Fifth airman dies at SC base this year — and the third of suicide, coroner says,” The State,  August 15th, 2019.
2 “Suicide Rate Increases Nationally, Soars in South Carolina,” Greenville News, accessed August 5, 2019.
3 “The State of Mental Health In America 2018,” Mental Health America, accessed August 5, 2019.