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Five schools win Palmetto Gold, Silver awards

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By Jesef Williams

Five local schools were recently awarded prize money for winning either the Palmetto Gold or Palmetto Silver award this year for academic excellence.

Buford High, Clinton Elementary and Indian Land High schools earned Gold awards, and Discovery School and Erwin Elementary earned Silver awards.

The S.C. Education Oversight Committee developed the award criteria based on the absolute and improvements ratings that are given to each school on the state's 2007 report cards.

Scores on the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test determine the report card ratings for elementary and middle schools. High school ratings are based on exit exam results, graduation rates and the percent of students passing end of course tests.

Each winning school gets an award flag, a certificate and a percentage of state funding earmarked for the awards program. The amount of the award is determined by several factors, including the type of award received and student enrollment.

Buford High had the greatest prize in the district – $12,533.

Principal Jonathan Phipps wants to use the money to pay for training for teacher certification, books and other resources that stress positive thought.

Phipps said part of the award will also go toward school beautification efforts.

"Anything you can do to improve the look of the school," he said. "We want students to feel good about their school. That all ties in to test scores."

Phipps attributes some of the school's academic success to the extra attention given to at-risk students. For instance, the school has an after-school program that provides tutoring for students who struggle with math and English. Many of the students are given mentors, too.

Indian Land High, which earned an excellent ratings on both the absolute and improvement categories of the report card, was awarded $11,003, the next highest amount among district schools.

"It really validates what we're trying to do here," Principal Kathy Faris said. "The teachers are being rewarded for their hard work. It's exciting."

Faris said she doesn't know where she will allocate the money, but said her staff will meet soon to identify the greatest needs.

"I know we need books for the library and we would like to get some SMARTboards," she said. "We'll see what the priorities are."

Clinton Elementary received the third highest amount – $8,050.

Erwin Elementary got $5,917 and Discovery School got $1,838.

Contact Jesef Williams at 283-1152 or jwilliams@thelancasternews.com