Statewide award for Walhalla school group

The School Improvement Council of Walhalla High School has been named the recipient of this year’s Dick and Tunky Riley Award for School Improvement Council Excellence. The award was presented Saturday in Columbia at the annual meeting of the South Carolina School Improvement Council. Improvement councils from four other schools received honorable mention. Here is what the award presenters said about the Walhalla group’s achievement: ”This SIC worked to ensure that its membership represented all stakeholders, including students. It surveyed students on their school experience, changed its meeting time to encourage student participation, identified a teacher advisor who met twice monthly with SIC students, and reserved time on the SIC meeting agenda for student input. Student involvement increased from 2 to 15 students actively contributing to their SIC’s initiatives. The SIC also welcomed families and teachers from a nearby high school that had recently closed and worked successfully to integrate them into leadership positions on the SIC. It collected data from parents and students to assess parent/student engagement levels, using tools such as an SIC-created parent survey and a focus group for Latino parents. The SIC organized and implemented a number of strategies to improve school/parent communication, including creating and utilizing social media sites. It hosted a family evening featuring a presentation on “How the Teenage Brain Works,” an opportunity for parents to talk with faculty, and a Q&A session with the principal. The SIC also created new ways for parents with diverse interests and resources to volunteer. Additionally, it designed and hosted a professional development opportunity for faculty and staff at the school (and four other area schools) to build capacities to communicate effectively with Latino parents. The SIC also created/facilitated new opportunities for recognizing different types of accomplishments by underclassmen, such as hosting an “Underclassman Awards Night” and honoring student recipients of “Razor of the Month” and “Nurturing Oconee’s Workforce” awards at monthly SIC meetings. An SIC community member also founded Grace’s Closet, an in-school boutique that provides clothing, food, school supplies and hygiene products for students in need at no cost.” The annual Riley award highlights significant contributions made to public education by the more than 13,000 School Improvement Council members who volunteer in every public school in the state. The award is named for the former South Carolina governor and U-S Secretary of Education and his late wife, recognizing the couple’s long commitment to quality public education.