Richland One 2020-2021 Points of Pride

2019 Graduates


    · It was a clean sweep! All 46 Richland One schools were named to the 2020 national list of America’s Healthiest Schools for promoting quality nutrition, regular physical activity and strong wellness policies. Five schools – A.C. Flora High, Brockman Elementary, Crayton Middle, Dreher High and Lower Richland High – won Silver Awards and 41 district schools were Bronze Award winners. Richland One is the second school district in South Carolina and the largest in the state to ever achieve 100%.


    · Four Richland One high school seniors were named semifinalists in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program. Finalists will be selected in February 2021, and scholarship winners will be announced in the spring and summer. Richland One congratulates the following seniors for their selection as semifinalists, an honor that less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors achieve:


    Dreher High School

    Alexander Anderson-McLeod

    Bryson Stakely

    Leon Wang


    A.C. Flora High School

    Michael B. Davis


    · Original songs by two Richland One music teachers have gone global and could be used by music teachers around the world. Two songs written by Forest Heights Elementary School teacher Salley Utley and one song written by Meredith Trobaugh of Bradley Elementary School were published in Music Play 2, a two-volume anthology of songs and lesson plans for early childhood music engagement. The collection compiled by national music publisher GIA Publications includes contributions from 57 expert practitioners from 13 countries.

    · Eau Claire High School sophomore TyQwasia Williams finished sixth among 16 student-athletes competing in the girls 15-16 year-old 400-meter hurdles at the 2020 AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) National Championship Junior Olympics in Florida in August. Her accomplishment earned her 1st All-American Honors in her age group. TyQwasia is a member of the Palmetto Flash Track Club, which is coached by Alcorn Middle School track and field head coach Jeorge Hicks.

    · Jack Parrot, a University of South Carolina golf star and A.C. Flora High School graduate, recently selected his Flora social studies teacher, Bailey Melvin, to be honored in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Extra Yard for Teachers Initiative. A story about Parrot and the impact Ms. Melvin had on his life will be broadcast on SEC Nation on the SEC Network. The recognition includes a $3,500 grant to Ms. Melvin to purchase school supplies and materials. The SEC and the College Football Playoffs (CFP) Foundation sponsor the Extra Yard project to support teachers and bring awareness to the importance of education.

    · Four articles from Richland One educators highlighting the success of district literacy, health, meal and parent partnership programs were recently published in a national John Hopkins University journal. The book, entitled Promising Partnerships Practices – An annual collection from the members of the National Network of Partnership Schools - John Hopkins University 2020, included the following submissions:

    o Academic Goals – Part I – p. 18, Brockman Elementary School – “ Make Your Mark: Family Literacy Night,” submitted by LaKenna McCrorey, parent and family engagement specialist

    o Non-Academic Goals – Part II – p. 31, W.G. Sanders Middle School – “Student Wellness Checks,” submitted by Andrenna A. Smith, principal of W.G. Sanders Middle School

    o Climate of Partnership – Part III – p. 39, Hand Middle School – “Parent Super Saturday,” submitted by B-Linda Rogers, parent and family engagement specialist

    o District – Part IV – p. 47, ”Richland One Strong: Meals for Children When Schools Closed,” submitted by Latorsha Murray, consultant, Office of Federal and State Programs


    · The writings and artwork of five Richland One students was featured in Kids in Print 2020, Richland Library’s annual youth literary magazine. The district extends is congratulations to the following young authors and artists:


    o Alice Dunlap, A.C. Flora High School

    o Lily Moftakhar, Crayton Middle School

    o Zara Shah-Fuente, Meadowfield Elementary School

    o Audrey Stuart, Rosewood Elementary School

    o Sadee Broughton, W.G. Sanders Middle School


    The poetry, stories, short plays, essays, drawings and photographs of 40 children from across the Midlands were selected for publication from the 200 submissions to the library in the 2019-2020 school year.


    · Southeast Middle School teacher Lekena Ackerman, an award-winning teacher who’s been known to wear colonial outfits and pirate costumes to engage her social studies students, was featured on NBC’s Today Show on September 21. A videotaped story about Ms. Ackerman and her students kicked off NBC’s TODAY Education Virtual Plaza series. She and some of her students also appeared live during the plaza segment. Ms. Ackerman’s accomplishments include being named the 2020 South Carolina Law Related Education Middle School Teacher of the Year by the SC Bar Law Related Education Division. Her students have excelled in the state Mock Trial competition and are the current state champions in the We The People Constitutional Convention Competition. Ms. Ackerman also is the current Teacher of the Year for Southeast Middle School.


    · W.A. Perry Middle School computer technology teacher Shannon Rister was named the Educator of the Month for September in the South Carolina Financial Literacy Master Teacher Program. “Without financial skills and a knowledge of good consumer behaviors, our students could face such life challenges as poor credit, overwhelming debt and inadequate savings,” said Treasurer Loftis, who announced the honor. “Ms. Rister’s dedication and commitment to teaching personal finance in the classroom will not only influence her students’ long-term financial habits but will also enhance their future quality of life.” The Master Teacher Program provides incentives to K-12 teachers who are experts in the area of financial literacy and have a desire to teach professional development workshops to other educators in their schools and districts.


    · A.J. Lewis Greenview Elementary School first-grade teacher Mukkaramah Smith recently received the Donald H. Graves Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing. This prestigious honor from the National Council of English Teachers (NCTE) recognizes exceptional teachers who have demonstrated how their teaching skills and methods have led to significant growth in students’ writing abilities.


    · When colleagues describe Lower Richland High School Career Specialist Cynthia Flemming-Tyler, expect to hear words like “impeccable,” “going the extra mile” and “an advocate for students.” Those exceptional qualities earned Ms. Flemming-Tyler a new honor as the 2020 Midlands Region Career Specialist of the Year. The award from the Midlands Education and Business Alliance (MEBA) recognizes outstanding educators who are preparing their students for the workforce through rigorous academics, real-world experiences and high-demand skills.


    · Lower Richland High School’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program was recertified for the next five years, making it the third school in the country to receive Cognia recertification. Lower Richland was one of the first high schools in the nation to go through the rigorous internal and external review process to maintain the prestigious Cognia STEM certification they first earned in the 2014-15 school year.


    · For the second consecutive year, Richland One’s high school graduation rate not only increased, it also exceeded the state average. In 2019, Richland One students and staff celebrated the district’s highest-ever graduation rate of 82.2%. This year, Richland One’s graduation rate increased by nearly a full point to 82.9%, exceeding the statewide average of 82.1%.


    · Lewis Greenview Elementary School music teacher Richelle Sinkler was named Richland One’s 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year, and Eau Claire High School social worker Carena Jones was named the district’s 2020-2021 Classified Employee of the Year. The district extends its congratulations to the winners, as well as the other employees who were finalists for these prestigious awards.

    Teacher of the Year finalists – Amanda Melvin, A.C. Flora High School; Lockey Plyler, Rosewood Elementary School; Senddrick Putnam, Logan Elementary School; Ashley Rhyne, Brennen Elementary School

    Classified Employee of the Year finalists – Rhoda Bowers, Brennen Elementary School; Gwendolyn Haynes-Etheredge, Office of Communications; Debra Lomas, Caughman Road Elementary School; Crawford Williams, Financial Services


    · Dr. Jamison Browder, a Meadowfield Elementary School pre-kindergarten teacher who has shown 4-year-olds the joy of growing vegetables, bird-watching and other wonders of nature, has been named Richland County’s Conservation Teacher of the Year by the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District. Dr. Browder leads environmental education initiatives at Meadowfield where he has coordinated multiple gardening projects and integrated gardening into the classroom using technology and Socratic seminars to better engage students. As the county winner, Dr. Browder advances to the statewide Conservation Teacher of the Year competition. He also received a $100 cash award and a $500 mini-grant to fund more conservation projects at Meadowfield.



    · Laura Gisler, Meadowfield Elementary School lead Paideia teacher, was selected as the recipient of the Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Excellence in Teaching Award presented by the South Carolina Council for the Social Studies. This award honors an educator who has made a significant effort to teach the concept of justice in a creative way and to promote civil rights or civil liberties while inspiring their students to improve the world through justice, service or advocacy.


    · It was a win for the history books. A.C. Flora High School golfer Gracie McCoy shot 2 over par October 27 to win the Girls 4A State Golf Championship, the first for a member of Flora’s girls golf team. Gracie’s historic accomplishment was amazing because the senior has only been playing golf since her tenth-grade year. At the competition, Flora also took home a silver team medal as state runner-up.


    · You could call them the “record breakers.” Star swimmers Jane Koch of Dreher High School and A.C. Flora’s Tanner Edwards recently shattered school and state swim records while winning individual state swim championships. Jane was crowned the State 4A champion in the girls 50 freestyle race, setting a school record with a time of 24.13 seconds. Star swimmer Tanner Edwards set new state records winning the 100-yard butterfly (49.72 seconds) and 100-yard backstroke (49.42 seconds). Flora's Darden Tate was crowned the 100-yard state breaststroke champion. Flora swimmers--Hill Teas, Benjamin Tanner, Tanner Edwards and Darden Tate--also won the 200-yard state medley relay race.


    · The new culinary arts wing recently added to Heyward Career and Technology Center won a design award from the Columbia chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The impressive facility, which includes a culinary arts classroom, kitchen, lab, serving station, walk-in freezer and courtyard, provides state-of-the-art equipment rivaling that of professional restaurants and food service venues. Culinary arts students will learn all aspects of hosting an event from planning the menu to serving the customers, giving them an advantage in preparing for careers in the hospitality and tourism industry.


    · How cool is this: This fall 11 teachers in Richland One and other Midlands districts learned how to build and launch model rockets and are now nationally certified to teach their students how to do it. The special model rocketry program – Becoming a Rocket Science Teacher (BARST) – was spearheaded, designed and taught by Robyn Jackson, mission commander at Richland One’s Challenger Learning Center. Commander Jackson was awarded special funding from the National Association of Rocketry that allowed the teachers to participate in the professional learning project.


    · The new culinary arts wing recently added to Heyward Career and Technology Center won two design awards: one from the South Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), as well as the Columbia chapter of the AIA. The impressive facility, which includes a culinary arts classroom, kitchen, lab, serving station, walk-in freezer and courtyard, provides state-of-the-art equipment rivaling that of professional restaurants and food service venues. Culinary arts students will learn all aspects of hosting an event from planning the menu to serving the customers, giving them an advantage in preparing for careers in the hospitality and tourism industry.


    · Historic. Unbelievable. Sweet. Those words may best describe A.C. Flora High School’s hard-fought journey to win its first-ever state football championship. By a score of 42-7, the Falcons’ powerhouse team defeated North Myrtle Beach High School December 5 to capture the 2020 Class 4A State Football Championship, the school’s first and Richland One’s first state football championship in 50 years. The undefeated Falcons, who went into the championship game with a 9-0 record, proved their tenacity and talent to overcome a winless season in 2017.


    · This school year, local businesses donated more than $30,000 to Richland One’s Office of Nutrition Services to help families in need stretch their grocery dollars. Earlier this year, T-Mobile donated $5,000 and Food Lion gave $22,200 to Nutrition Services to purchase grocery store gift cards that were distributed to Richland One students. On November 6, the district received two more generous donations: $2,500 from Breakthru Beverage and $1,000 from Black Pages. Nutrition Services will use these funds to purchase gift cards that will be distributed to high school students to encourage them to participate in the district’s free meal program.


    · Team Richland One raised $18,832 to fight breast cancer through the district’s participation in Prisma Health’s annual Walk for Life and Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon fundraiser. This year district walkers and runners, faced with the challenge of a pandemic that cancelled Prisma Health’s annual in-person community event, relied on tenacity and creativity to raise money virtually and complete their individual walks and runs. Some, including breast cancer survivors, made their treks walking on beaches, running in the mountains, riding pink bikes or gathering their families and friends in their local neighborhoods and parks.  Some schools and departments hosted on-campus Pink for Prisma socially-distanced walks and runs, and the district sponsored a Pink Out Day on October 30.


    · With a score of 289, the A.C. Flora High School Falcons won their first Class 4A State Competitive Cheerleading Championship on December 19, the school's second state athletics championship that month.


    · Dreher High School seniors Jazhara Solan and Leon Wang earned early admission to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Of the 15,100 students nationwide who apply for Early Action admission, MIT is expected to admit about 687.


    · The Eau Claire High School Orchestra was awarded an $8,771 grant from the Mockingbird Foundation, a nonprofit started by fans of the rock band Phish. Money from this highly competitive, prestigious grant will be used to purchase electric stringed instruments including violins, a viola, cello and double bass. Eau Claire was one of only 16 schools nationally and the only South Carolina school to receive the grant. Nearly 1,000 schools, centers and nonprofit organizations from across the country applied for the grants.


    · Eight Richland One middle and high school students received impressive ratings from the South Carolina Band Directors Association. Seven Crayton Middle School students received superior ratings, which is the highest possible score a student musician can achieve. A Lower Richland High School student received an “excellent” rating on her performance.


    · W.J. Keenan High School’s STEM program was nationally recertified by Cognia for the next five years. Cognia is a nonprofit organization which offers accreditation and certification assessments for schools nationally and internationally.


    · Dreher High School orchestra students received multiple honors, including two perfect scores, in the South Carolina Music Educators Association’s Solo and Ensemble Virtual Festival 2020. Students Catherine Akhvlediani and Ryan Borkowski earned perfect scores for their individual performances. Altogether, Dreher music students received 27 “superior” and two “excellent” ratings. “Superior” is the highest distinction awarded at Solo and Ensemble.


    · Ten Richland One teachers were awarded the highest teaching credential of their profession – National Board certification. This year, three district teachers earned National Board certification and seven others renewed their National Board certification. The district now has 184 National Board-certified teachers.


    · Three Dreher High School students won Regional Scholastic Art Awards in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition, a national high school competition sponsored by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. Individual paintings by students Gayle Boyd and Layla Davis received the Golden Key Award, which qualifies them to compete in the national division. Student artist Julia Gonzalez Del Valle received the Silver Key Award for her painting.


    · Richland One student-musicians earned 50 All-State and Region Band honors in virtual competitions sponsored by the South Carolina Band Directors Association. In the regional competition, Richland One middle and high school students competed against students from schools in Chester, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Richland and York counties. District students earning All-State honors competed against South Carolina’s top student musicians.


    · Twenty-five Richland One students earned seats on the Midlands Region Orchestra following their virtual auditions before the South Carolina Music Educators Association. Students had to prepare a scale and two pieces for their performances.


    · Four Richland One high school seniors advanced to become finalists in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program:  A.C. Flora High School student Michael B. Davis and Dreher High School students Alexander Anderson-McLeod, Bryson Stakely and Leon Wang. Scholarship winners in this prestigious high-stakes competition will be announced in the spring and summer.


    · Three Lower Richland High School biology students had the honor of presenting their research at the 49th Annual (Virtual) South Carolina Department of Defense Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.  AllenDave Cabanayan presented his research on the science behind gaming. Anala Nelson, a Lower Richland varsity basketball player, was intrigued by the impact of height on lung capacity. Antonia Belton’s research topic, “Hot and Spicy Acid,” showed the harmful effects of eating Takis, a popular spicy snack among school-aged students. The prestigious science competition among South Carolina students was a joint effort among the research offices of the US Departments of the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy, the National Science Teachers Association and the University of South Carolina.


    · Seven Richland One choral students were selected for the South Carolina All-State Chorus in recent virtual competitions sponsored by the South Carolina Music Educators Association.


    · Two Richland One schools were awarded environmental grants from the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District. This spring Pendergrass Fairwold students will use their $1,000 RSWCD grant to plant and maintain a variety of herbs and vegetables in the school’s greenhouse. A $500 grant to Dreher High school will fund a conservation newsletter and vermicomposting (earthworms used to turn food scraps into a soil amendment) project led by Dreher student Sophia Austermiller.


    · Layla Davis, a gifted artist in Dreher’s AP art program, won a social media digital painting contest sponsored by the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. The contest’s theme was “What It Means to be a Man.” Layla won $250 and her artwork will be published and used by the coalition to spread awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault. 


    · Richland One, in partnership with Apprenticeship Carolina, established South Carolina’s first certified pre-apprenticeship program. The goal is to prepare students to enter and succeed in registered apprenticeship programs. These programs will integrate an approved training curriculum based on industry standards, educational and pre-vocational services, hands-on training through a simulated lab experience or volunteer opportunities, and assistance in applying to apprenticeship programs.


    · The South Carolina Department of Education designated Richland One as a Purple Star School District in recognition of the district’s significant commitment to have programs and resources in place to support military families. Richland One is the fifth South Carolina school district to be awarded the Purple Star designation.


    · The W.J. Keenan High School girls basketball team won the Class 3A state championship for the second consecutive year. The Lady Raiders defeated Bishop England High School 62-55 to bring home the team’s fifth state title and the second in a row.


    · Columbia High School wrestler Elijah Mervin capped off a great senior season by winning the State Class 2A Wrestling title in his weight class (182 pounds). Teammate Fontroy “Troy” Randolph finished third in the state in his 106-pound weight class. Mikale Hare, a 195-pound junior, finished fourth in the state championships in his weight class this year.


    · Two more Richland One teachers achieved the highest teaching credential available in their profession. Columbia High School teacher Parneeta Myadala recently earned National Board certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. John Codega, who teaches at A.C. Flora High School, was recertified by the National Board. To date (March 24, 2021), 12 Richland One teachers have received certification or renewed their National Board certification this school year. Other honorees were announced earlier this year. The district now has 186 National Board-certified teachers.


    · Lower Richland High School students took home eight first-place awards in the 2021 Virtual South Carolina HOSA State Leadership Conference, an annual competition which tests the skills and knowledge of students interested in health care careers. Students who placed first, second, or third on the state level are eligible to compete in the 2021 Virtual HOSA International Leadership Conference in June.  In addition to those honors, Lower Richland student Jhurni Williams won the Barbara H. James Award and the Outstanding HOSA Member Award. Lower Richland HOSA chapter also won a $100 donation for “Be the Match,” its national service learning project.


    · Richland One’s IT (Information Technology) Department won the prestigious 2021 Tyler Public Sector Excellence Award, which recognizes the district’s outstanding cybersecurity efforts. The award from Tyler Technologies Corporation, a company specializing in management systems for national and international government and public sector entities, is given to clients demonstrating excellence in developing, deploying or maintaining security systems.