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'Great expectations': McDuffie County students head back to classrooms starting Monday

It's just one month past the Summer Equinox and McDuffie County school principals are ready for their fall gardens.


McDuffie County Board of Education Maintenance Technician Jerodus Allen replaces linoleum tile in the cafeteria at TMS.

"It is wonderful to know that with each school year, comes new opportunities. New school years are like freshly planted gardens," said Steve Rhodes, principal of R.L. Norris Elementary. "We begin by planting seeds, and as the year progresses, our 'seeds' prosper and grow. In fact, our schools are community gardens."

Open House for all schools is tonight. The times are staggered this year, to enable parents with children in different schools to attend each open house. Each of the elementary schools will have open house from 5 until 7 p.m. The middle and high school and Crossroads will have open house from 6 until 8 p.m.

One change parents and students will have to get used to is an earlier starting time at Thomson Middle. Principal Claude Powell said the first bell will ring at 8 a.m. to accommodate a new schedule in which language arts and reading classes will last 70 minutes.

"We look forward to another good year... We are going to make every endeavor to continue moving from good to great," he said.


Thomson Middle Assistant Principal Pam Rhea prepares information bags for all the middle school teachers.

School Superintendent Mark Petersen said he is expecting "additional oomph and additional enthusiasm" over the Renaissance Program in the schools. The program, based on incentives and rewards, was initiated in the county last year. Dr. Petersen said several representatives from every McDuffie school attended the National Renaissance Conference in Minneapolis during the summer.

Dearing Elementary Principal Laura Hughes said her school will expand its Renaissance Program this year to include the parents. Mrs. Hughes said parents who attend Open House and PTO meetings will be entered in drawings for prizes such as a TV and a DVD player.

"We want to expand (Renaissance) for every single person who comes in contact with our school," Mrs. Hughes said. "Faculty and staff, parents, business partners, volunteers, we want to recognize everybody and not just our kids."

Dr. Petersen said many of the schools have new faces this year in the staff, due to "some retirements and a little bit of turnover." An orientation last week for the new teachers had 50 in attendance, according to Margie Waters, the assistant superintendent for personnel and policy management.

Thomson Elementary has a new principal, Anita Cummings. Mrs. Cummings taught at Thomson Middle School for 19 years before she was Assistant Principal at Washington-Wilkes Middle School for the 2005-2006 school year. Mrs. Cummings replaces Beth Newton, who is moving to the Board of Education central office as the Federal Programs Director.


THS ninth grader Drake Smallwood sprays the walkway in front of the school.

"I'm extremely excited," Mrs. Cummings said. "It's good to be coming home, and that's what I feel like, like it's a reunion. I feel like it's a divine appointment, like I'm on a mission. Our main purpose is to focus on our children, academic excellence and achievement, and to maintain the safety of our school."

Mr. Rhodes agrees.

"We have great expectations and look forward to a productive year with excellent opportunities to grow academically, socially, and emotionally," he said. "Join us as we continue to pursue excellence in McDuffie County."


THS Senior Adopter Johnny Weischedel clowns around during Monday's freshman orientation.

Web posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006

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