A.R. Rucker a Red Carpet winner for second time

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By Jesef Williams

For the second time, A.R. Rucker Middle School has been recognized as a Red Carpet school by the state Department of Education.

Eight middle schools in South Carolina won the award, which highlights schools that boast family-friendly environments.

A.R. Rucker Middle, the only winner in Lancaster County School District this year, will receive red carpets with the state seal to display in its lobby. The school will maintain the recognition for three years. A.R. Rucker first won the rep carpet in 2004.

"Red Carpet is about being a friendly environment," Principal Phillip Mickles said. "That's the way we are. It's the culture of our school."

Nearly 300 schools applied for the award last fall; 66 of those schools were chosen.

Each school had to submit an application that explained its family-friendly environment and what measures are taken to maintain it. Schools had to also include copies of their communication plans.

The ones that passed the written part were screened by independent judges who rated how telephone callers and visitors were treated. The judges didn't identify themselves and visits were not announced in advance.

Strengths the judges looked for included clean and appealing entrances and lobby areas, welcoming and professionally dressed staff and reading material about the school available for visitors to check out.

The judges also looked to see whether telephone calls were answered promptly and if the person answering the phone had up-to-date information readily available.

"Schools that are parent-friendly, schools that have strong customer service, are more likely to be supported by their communications," said Dr. Jim Rex, state superintendent of education. "And community involvement can play a big part in schools' academic success. This year's Red Carpet winners understand that."

Mickles said it's all about the staff being on the same page – making sure everyone is equipped with the information needed to assist all callers and visitors.

"It's part of our communication process," Mickles said. "Anyone who comes in our building can tell we want to treat people with the utmost respect and put them first." Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or (803) 283-11522