Dr. Cynthia Cash-Greene, Orangeburg Consolidated School District Three superintendent, right, chats with teachers from Vance-Providence Elementary School, clockwise from left, dance instructor Allison Bates, fourth-grade instructor Airel Bennett, fourth-grade instructor Lindsey Holman, kindergarten instructor Brenda Weatherspoon and kindergarten aide Brittany Rush during Thursday's convocation.

HOLLY HILL - Ever hear someone say they were excited enough to turn a cartwheel?

Well, that's just what Lake Marion High School's new principal did Thursday morning at Orangeburg Consolidated School District Three's faculty and staff convocation.

Dressed in a suit and tie, Rodney C. Zimmerman performed the impromptu cartwheel on stage in the LMHS auditorium as his colleagues looked on.

In response, teachers, staff, administrators and consultants clapped and cheered -getting the new school year off to an energetic start.

"I don't know where the excitement is coming from, but if you can transfer that to the kids, that is all I ask for," Superintendent Dr. Cynthia Cash-Greene told them.

The district welcomes more than 40 new faculty and staff this year as it prepares to go full-throttle with its magnet programs.

In September 2010, Cash-Greene announced a $6.4 million grant through the federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program. The grant covers funding for three years and offers two "learning pathways," STEM and IB.

STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, guides students through curriculum that hones in on problem solving, critical thinking and innovation.

Three campuses serve as STEM magnet schools: St. James-Gaillard Elementary, Holly Hill-Roberts Middle and Lake Marion High STEM Academy.

IB - International Baccalaureate - focuses on studies in the areas of foreign language, visual and performing arts.

Schools taking part in the IB program are Elloree Elementary/Middle and Lake Marion High IB Academy.

"This will one day be the model district in the state of South Carolina. We can have that only if you want it bad enough," Cash-Greene told her staff and faculty members.

Dr. Willie J. Kimmons, the keynote speaker, combined a mixture of comical real-life experiences and serious lessons learned from his boyhood years as a student to his adult career as a public school superintendent to board member, college administrator and motivational speaker.

Kimmons, 67, of Florida reminded the staff that the most conducive learning environment required "a partnership between home, school, church and community." He also noted three traits that teachers must adopt: patience, compassion and tolerance.

"My mama had a partnership with my teachers," Kimmons said.

He said although his mother couldn't read or write and stopped attending school after third grade, she was involved in her children's school activities and communicated with their teachers.

Having a "physical presence at the school house" is something any parent can do for their child, Kimmons said, adding that a parent or guardian who supports their child's education will have a positive impact on them.

"Never ever give up on our children," Kimmons said. Investing in children and their education is an investment in the future, he added.

District Three students report back to school today. Three of the district's schools have new principals who say they are looking forward to a productive year.

Trina Murdaugh-Gordon of Orangeburg, a 14-year educator, takes the helm at Elloree Elementary/Middle. She said she's excited about "teaching students how to attain their dreams and goals."

At Holly Hill Elementary, Eric L. Brown, a native of Columbia, is the new principal. He most recently worked as a principal in Richland School District Two. This marks his 16th year as an educator.

Brown said he's "bringing energy and the ability to build relationships between the community, faculty/staff and students."

Rodney C. Zimmerman joins Lake Marion High as principal after serving four years as a principal specialist at Eau Claire High School in Richland School District One. He's originally from Orangeburg and once served as principal at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.

Zimmerman has been an educator for 25 years and says he's eager to "increase parental and community involvement and student achievement" at LMHS.

For more information about programs offered through OCSD 3, visit the district's website at www.obg3.k12.sc.us.

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