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Orangeburg Consolidated School District 3 is gone with the wind. Its influence will never come to an end and the many lives of former students and employees will continue to be hailed, regarded and celebrated for a legacy of producing quality services to several generations of hopefuls.

While we welcome Dr. Darrell Johnson to serve as interim superintendent during the birth and infancy stage of a new school district, we must support him in his efforts to build a strong and powerful vision for all students throughout the entire county. We must embrace Johnson’s blueprint for success in Orangeburg County School District in ways that are not stingy but generous. In collaborative ways, we must construct a spirit of Orangeburg County pride for the new school district.

Only by constructing and embracing a spirit of Orangeburg County pride can the school district get off to a smooth and spectacular start. Only through a spirit of cooperation and support can the district match the success status of the former school districts in Orangeburg County. Only through a vision of unity can the new school districts match the success rate of former graduates and employees.

As a proud product of Orangeburg County School District 3, I am not qualified to speak of the other districts. I am well-qualified to suggest that District 3 promoted many splendid ideals that transformed the lives of a high number of its students. Many of those practices must be continued as change becomes inevitable. We must accept change as a positive solution to promoting academic excellence as well.

With the physical vanishing of Orangeburg 3, the new district must hold on to some of the many splendid efforts orchestrated by the former district.

Orangeburg 3 equipped many students to forge ahead in life “to become somebody.” The former district had teaching staff that ent far beyond the call of duty. The stories of extraordinary teachers are many.

When I dropped out of school in 10th grade and failed all my classes, my former social studies teacher, Darlene White Nunnally, paid me a visit at my home in Eutawville. She encouraged me to enroll in summer school. While I was grateful for her encouragement, I informed her that I had no transportation to get to Roberts High School in Holly Hill.

She picked me up and took me back home every day to summer school so I could achieve as a student.

When I returned to high school that fall, my principal Dr. David Longshore was promoted to the superintendency. Longshore proved to be an inspiring leader to his teachers, students and other employees. He inspired many students on an individual level.

Longshore inspired the class of 1983 at our graduation to aspire high. He challenged us to do our best, despite the fact that U.S. Secretary of Education Terrell Bell revealed stunning negative academic data in his “A Nation at Risk” report that year. It was this type of leadership that afforded Longshore to serve as superintendent for more than three decades.

In Orangeburg 3, we had bus drivers pushing students to excel. I was one of those students who was being teased and bullied by some of my peers while riding Susan Washington’s bus. For four years, Washington constantly told them to leave me alone. She told the children that I was going to be one of the most successful students of us all. Washington was loving, supportive and encouraging as she believed in my potential to succeed.

As a bus driver and a teacher assistant, Nancy Jenkins helped me complete my financial aid application to receive assistance from Morris College.

In District 3, I entered high school as a struggling reader, a struggling writer and a poor communicator. I was fortunate to have four outstanding English teachers during my high school experience: Shirley Pickney, Geraldine Pringle-Jones, I. Lemon and Delores Green for business English. These remarkable teachers were all determined to see me succeed. They truly worked beyond the call of duty for financial compensation. They truly demonstrated that they cared for me.

Their teaching was so inspiring that I went on to major in English so I could teach and inspire others to become better writers and better communicators.

My guidance counselor, Joyce Colter, took a real interest in me. On a nearly daily basis, she pulled me into her office to conduct a day-to-day investigation into my studies at Holly Hill-Roberts High School.

As my son and daughter enter the new school district as students, I trust they will receive the quality education I received under the visionary leadership I had and achieve remarkable success by being inspired by a plethora of dedicated people from Orangeburg 3.

All of these people were outstanding because of one common factor: leadership.

They believed in the vision that Dr. David Longshore had in place. They trusted him. They admired him. They demonstrated synergy for him. As a result, I succeeded as student in Orangeburg 3 after rebounding from dropping out of school.

We must be willing to give every student in the new Orangeburg County School District the wealth of support and resource I was given.

There is one guiding principle that must be followed, however: Welcome Dr. Johnson with a supportive and unselfish heart. Let him lead and watch the successes of everyone involved. Let the spirit of tenacity reign. Let go of the negative memories of the past.

As in the case of Longshore, a trusted, iconic, and legendary leader, embrace Johnson fully, genuinely and supportively. After all, this is the dawning of a new era for the children of Orangeburg County. Let’s not rob them out of remarkable opportunities to learn, grow and become contributing members of society.

Farewell to Orangeburg 3 and the other school districts in the county.

Let go the useless and ugly fight of resistance, fear and doubt. Embrace change. Embrace unity. Embrace yourselves for a fantastic journey of future success stories of students in Orangeburg County School District. Truly, this is the dawning of a new era.

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Byron Brown is a 1983 graduate of Holly Hill-Roberts High School. He has recently been appointed a professor of English at Howard University in Washington. Brown was named Clarendon School District 1 Teacher of the Year in 2004 and 2010. He is the author of five books and founder and organizer of the South Carolina Heritage and Humanities Festival.

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