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School board fills positions

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District names new elementary education director, food services director, principal, two assistant principals

By Reece Murphy

Lancaster County school board members unanimously approved several new appointments to fill vacancies at county schools during their July 16 board meeting.

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Recommended by Lancaster County School District Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore, the new appointments include a new principal to replace North Elementary School’s longtime principal and two assistant principals.

The July 16 meeting was also the first for the district’s new directors of elementary education and food services, both of whom started this month.

North Elementary

North Elementary Assistant Principal Keishea Mickles has been chosen to replace her longtime boss and mentor Dr. Linda Blackwell, who was named the district’s new director of elementary education last month.

Mickles will lead a team of about 60 faculty and staff members in the education of more than 700 students. 

“Keishea has impressed us with her passion for helping students and teachers,” Moore said. “She knows and understands the North community – its students, parents, faculty and staff.

“We look forward to seeing the great things Keishea and the North staff accomplish together,” he said.

Mickles began her teaching career at North Elementary in 1998 after graduating from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. 

She served as the school’s lead teacher and instructional facilitator for five years, starting in 2007, and was named assistant principal in 2012. 

Over the years, Mickles earned master of education degrees in educational leadership and administration, the latest from USC in 2009.

Mickles said she’s looking forward to helping implement common core standards – and seeing her children smiling and ready for school. 

“I’m excited to continue my working relationships with my students and teachers,” Mickles said. “North really is home for me; and I look forward to continuing the standard of excellence at North Elementary.”

After the meeting, Blackwell said Mickles is perfect for the job, and said she’s confident Mickles will help the school excel.

“She’s going to be fantastic,” Blackwell said. “She understands our school community well, and the initiatives we’ve established. 

“She’s an educational leader, and she’s going to do a great job,” she said.

Mickles is married to A.R. Rucker Middle School Principal Phillip Mickles. The couple has two children, Phillip, 11, and Sheridyn, 5.

School district officials have not yet chosen a replacement for Mickles.

Elementary
education director

The meeting was Blackwell’s first as the district’s new elementary education director.

Blackwell began her educational career with the school district as a kindergarten-12th grade music/chorus teacher at the Indian Land schools in 1982, the same year she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music education from Converse College.

Between then and 1997, Blackwell taught music and chorus at schools in Columbia, Hickory, N.C., and South Middle School in Lancaster. She served as assistant principal at Andrew Jackson Middle School for two years before taking the helm at North Elementary in 1999. 

Blackwell earned her doctorate in educational administration from USC in 2011.

During her 14-year tenure as principal at North, the school earned recognition for outstanding performance, including accolades as a distinguished Title 1 school for closing the achievement gap, and earned ADVANC-ED District accreditation, among many other honors.

Blackwell said leaving North was bittersweet, since she is excited about her new role with the district, but will miss her students and the school’s faculty and staff.

“This new position as director of elementary education is a great opportunity for me to work with all of the elementary schools in the Lancaster County School District,” Blackwell said. “My years as the North Elementary School principal have prepared me for this. 

“Although I will greatly miss the North learning community, I am excited to support Lancaster schools in this new role,” she said.

Assistant
principals

School board members also appointed new assistant principals for Buford High and South Middle schools.

Rodney Miller of Pageland has been named Buford High’s new assistant principal. He will replace former Assistant Principal Michael Belk, who took a job at a school in York County.

Miller currently serves as an education associate in the S.C. Department of Education’s Office of Career and Technology Education. 

Miller has been an educator for nearly 20 years and served as both an assistant principal and principal before joining the S.C. Education Department, BHS Principal Butch Dutton said. 

Elizabeth James replaces South Middle School Assistant Principal Martin Tiller.

An English teacher, James was South Middle School’s lead teacher and instructional coach. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English education from Francis Marion University and her master’s degree from Columbia College. 

She is pursuing a second master’s degree from Winthrop University in educational leadership.

School district officials have yet to make a decision on who will fill the assistant principal position at Lancaster High School vacated by Chris Thorpe, who was named Indian Land Middle School principal last month.

Food services
director

The school district’s new food services director is Angela McCrorey, who replaces former Food Services Director Mary Thompson, who retired this year after 38 years in the position. 

McCrorey comes from Chester County School District, where she served nearly eight years as its food services director.

Before that, she was a patient services manager at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte.

McCrorey, who started with the school district July 1, said she’s still settling in and “learning the ropes.” 

As food services director, McCrorey will be in charge of all 19 of the district’s food programs and 130 food service employees.

McCrorey said she feels as if she has a “lot to live up to” in following Thompson.

“She’s been in this office and position for a long time and created many of these programs; and I look forward to improving on some of those ideas,” McCrorey said.

“We have the ‘HealthierUS Challenge,’ where we submit our menus to the USDA and they can be certified healthy,” she said. “So, hopefully, we’ll be able to work our way up to that and give (the district) something to work toward.”

McCrorey, of Rock Hill, is the mother of two sons, Christopher, 24, and Erice, 26.

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151