Twenty-six new teachers and three new administrators joined officials of Orangeburg County Consolidated School District Three on a whirlwind tour of the area prior to the opening of the 2017-2018 school.
“Our personnel team has worked really hard recruiting teachers in state and out of state so we wanted to make sure that they are able to connect with our students when they’re in the classroom,” said OCSD3 Superintendent Dr. Jesulon Gibbs-Brown.
“We organized the bus tour to help our new teachers better understand the various communities our students are coming from and understand the dynamics of the district and the history of the district,” Gibbs-Brown said.
The district’s new educators hail from a wide range of backgrounds. For example, those participating in the bus tour included:
• Michal Sneed, Lake Marion High school athletics director/assistant principal -- Originally from Perry, Florida, Sneed had visions of becoming an attorney when he first went to college. But by the time he graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa, he decided he wanted to give back to his community. He began teaching math and coaching.
• Aldean Gilmore, director of the LMHS Career and Technical Education Center -- Gilmore is originally from Santee, but spent her last 25 years working in Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five. She says she looks forward to “trying to bring in more work-based learning experiences to the students and make it relevant to them.
• Topazan Smith, St. James-Gaillard Elementary School fifth-grade teacher -- Smith, who is from Jamaica, said, "Jamaica has a very versatile culture, and I wanted to come here and share my culture with the students and to learn from them."
• Tyler Smith and Elaine Smith -- This married couple moved from Centerburg, Ohio to teach in OCSD3. He earned his degree at Ohio State University, while she attended Kentucky Christian University. Tyler teaches at Holly Hill-Roberts Middle, and Elaine teaches at Vance-Providence Elementary.
These educators boarded tour buses with others like new LMHS dance teacher Cassie Graham-Rodgers, originally from Olanta, and new Vance-Providence Elementary language arts instructor Shannyn Kleeman, who hails from the Poconos of Pennsylvania.
After departing LMHS, the convoy traveled first to Elloree. In addition to riding through the town itself, the buses took the educators by the local cotton gin and the Food Lion warehouse to see some of the economic engines that drive the area. They visited Elloree Elementary School as well.
“Then we came down Highway 6 and showed them the peach orchards there and told them about the agricultural history here,” said JoAnn Lawton, district human resources director. “We went to Eutawville and talked about Hurricane Hugo and the damage it did to our community in 1989. We also visited the lake area and the Riverside community.”
“We went to Eutaw Springs to tell the history of Eutaw Springs,” she added. “We came back to St. James-Gaillard and, on the way, I showed them where the old Gaillard school was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo and told them how the children had to move to St. James, which is how it became St. James-Gaillard.”
The tour then took the new educators to Holly Hill, where they viewed Holly Hill-Roberts Middle School and Holly Hill Elementary School. They were also shown town hall and other drivers of the local economy. The group left town by way of Highway 310, briefly visiting Vance-Providence Elementary School on its way to the Santee Cultural Arts and Visitor Center, where the tour concluded.
“We were excited to introduce our new teachers to the district and to the community so they would have a good understanding of district operations, policies, procedures, curriculum and instruction, but also so they could see our surrounding communities,” Gibbs-Brown said. “Overall, we just want to give them a very cheerful welcome here.”
The superintendent added, “We want to make our teachers feel welcome coming in and help them in connecting to our community.
“We’re excited about those who left their state and decided to make South Carolina home and to make Orangeburg 3 the place where they want to build their families."