A transition in educational opportunities is under way for middle school and high school students from the John de la Howe School.
John de la Howe ‘s ninth- and 10th–grade high school students and middle school students from the Wilderness Program began attending McCormick County schools on Jan. 12. The transition will will enhance the students’ educational opportunities and enable them to participate when possible in extracurricular activities offered at McCormick High School and McCormick Middle School, said Dr. James Franklin, superintendent of the John de la Howe School.
“The John de la Howe School and the McCormick County School District have a tradition of working together to educate our state’s children,” said Dr. Franklin. “John de la Howe students in the 11th and 12th grade have attended classes at McCormick High School for a number of years. That opportunity now is being extended to other high school students, as well as middle school students.”
Dr. Franklin said the collaboration is a great fit for the John de la Howe students, who have excelled throughout the years in McCormick’s public school system.
“We are proud to be part of this family of educators who care about the success of all students attending schools in McCormick,” he said. “We know that our students can excel, and this is an excellent opportunity for them.”
A group of 25 brainstormed for close to three hours last Thursday on ideas to transition John de la Howe School into an agricultural education program.
The meeting took place on the John de la Howe campus and included local and state leaders, agricultural education instructors, public educators, Clemson Extension officials along with staff and trustees of the 220-year-old school. Input was shared as John de la Howe prepares to seek proposals for a feasibility study that would be submitted to the school’s trustees to determine what agricultural education programs could be offered on the 1,200 acre campus, plus what types of students could be served.
The JDLHS trustees will report the findings, including costs and a five-year-plan for the proposed transition, to the South Carolina Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee by Dec. 1.
Currently, John de la Howe serves children from across South Carolina with behavioral, academic and family challenges, providing them with a safe place to heal, grow and make lasting changes.
John de la Howe School will look to EdOptions to provide educational services to students in grades 6-10 on campus in the upcoming school year.
In their regular meeting held Friday on the John de la Howe campus, the school’s Board of Trustees voted to authorize Board Chair Dan Shonka to negotiate an agreement with EdOptions, an AdvancEd-accredited education provider that will use State of South Carolina certified teachers. EdOptions currently partners with more than 1,500 school districts across the nation.
Jonathan Rose, who came to John de la Howe as principal of its L.S. Brice School three years ago, said the 220-year-old school will be modeling its educational component on campus after a similar one used by the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice.
While the plan calls for students in grades 6-10 to remain on campus to study the curriculum offered by EdOptions, John de la Howe School students in grades 11-12 would continue to attend McCormick High School.
Dr. James Franklin, who will serve as the school’s Interim President until a replacement can be found for retiring President Dr. Danny Webb, told the board he has submitted a letter to the South Carolina Department of Education asking that John de la Howe School be reaccredited.
In other business, Sylvester Coleman, the school’s Director of Business and Finance reported details for placing a new roof on the administrative building have been submitted to the state’s Materials Management Office to initiate the procurement process.
Shonka stressed he would like to see funding of the roofing project come from funds carried forward from this year’s budget.
It was noted John de la Howe’s budget for 2017-18 is the same as it was in the past year. The board then voted to adopt the budget as presented by the State Budget Office. The board also acknowledged receipt of the state’s audit report, which gave the agency a favorable report.
All state school districts are required to have a wellness policy in place by June 30 of this year. Accordingly, the board accepted on first reading a new John de la Howe School wellness policy. Staff noted they were preparing to follow the new guidelines relating to nutrition.
Danny Wardlaw, Director of Student and Family Services, said the school’s admissions office is busy reaching out to school districts across the state to increase its student population to capacity. Currently, staff is being recruited to operate two more cottages plus an additional campsite in the school’s Wilderness Program.
The board approved renewing the contract services of a Licensed Professional Counselor in a consultant’s role to provide required supervision of the school’s clinical staff.
Dan Branyon, Director of Advancement & Development, told the board Oct. 21 has been set for a fall festival to be held on campus. Students will be treated to a fireworks display on campus this Wednesday night in anticipation of the July 4th holiday.
He added the school is looking to social media as well as more conventional media like billboards and broadcast media to inform students and families across the state of the services offered at John de la Howe.
The board re-elected Shonka to serve another two-year-term as Chair. Dr. Mike Griffin was elected Vice Chair and Barbara Devinney was elected Board Secretary.
Dr. Danny Webb noted it was his final board meeting and thanked trustees and staff for their efforts.
“My prayer is that you will continue to work hard and to move the agency forward,” he said.
Contingent on approval by the State Facilities Management Office, the board voted, with one opposed, to authorize the Board Chair and President to proceed with demolition of a vacant building in dilapidated condition. The building has sat idle for a number of years. Shonka said such buildings are “an eyesore and a liability.”
The board heard additional information on bidding to refurbish the John de Howe School swimming pool, which has been out of operation for several years. The board has expressed interest in getting it back into service to serve the school’s students as well as the community of McCormick.
Shonka noted the trustees’ next scheduled meeting is Sept. 1.
West Carolina Tel recently made a matching donation to the John de la Howe school Foundation.
WCTEL matched funds that were raised by the local Lions Clubs (Abbeville, Calhoun Falls, Due West and McCormick) in their service area at Christmas. The matching amount donated by WCTEL totaled $2,500. “We truly appreciate the generous donation from WCTEL and the Lions Clubs” said John de la Howe Director of Advancement & Development, Dan Branyon, “Last year’s donation assisted us in installing an emergency generator for use in the event of power failure on our campus.”
The John de la Howe School Board of Trustees last Thursday gave first reading to a new admissions policy designed to ensure safety for those on the John de la Howe campus as well to those living in the surrounding community.
The school’s proposed Independent Living Program admissions policy provides admission guidelines for that program, which provides vocational, educational and life skills training for older youth who are at risk. These youth are aging out of the foster care or juvenile justice supervisory programs of the SC Department of Social Services or the SC Department of Juvenile Justice.
The state’s General Assembly has identified a critical need to assist such youth, most of whom are not yet fully prepared for adult life. The admissions change is geared toward youth ages 15-18. Participation in the program would be voluntary based on the policy.
Barbara Devinney of McCormick, a member of the board, said individuals with a history of certain types of behavior or offenses would not be considered out of regard for the safety of other students on the John de la Howe School campus, as well as for all other McCormick County residents.
These would include felony charges, violent offenses as defined in SC Code Sec. 16-1-60, extensive gang involvement, pyromania, sexual predatory behaviors, history of extreme violence, physical altercations with school staff, pregnancy, extreme psychosis, extreme substance abuse and inability to pass a physical examination by a medical doctor.
In other business, the board also voted to give the school’s president, Dr. Danny Webb, authority to move forward with the procurement process to address much needed facility upgrades on campus. Among these needs are repairing leaks in the campus water tower, which provides fire safety, and a new roof on the school’s administrative building, constructed in 1938.
The board also approved moving forward with a strategic plan to expand the agricultural program at John de la Howe.
Thursday’s meeting was the last scheduled meeting of the panel in 2016. The board is scheduled to meet next on Feb. 17, 2017.
State Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) recently visited John de la Howe School. During the visit, which included a tour conducted by JDLHS President Danny Webb and other school officials, Sen. Sheheen asked how he might help the 219-year-old school as it seeks to redefine its mission.
A member of the Senate’s Education Committee, Sen. Sheheen also spent time talking with John de la Howe students. Here he looks over a classroom used in the school’s Wilderness Program. Accompanying him on the visit was Grant Gibson of the State Budget Office.
Even a hurricane was not enough to keep just over 50 alumni of John de la Howe School from gathering for their 54th homecoming and reunion last weekend.
Tim Smith Rolfe of Lacey, WA, who attended the school from 1959 to 1964, drove 3,000 miles to attend the event, which is held every other October. His reasoning was simple. “This is home to me,” he said.
He was joined by fellow John de la Howe alumni from places like Mississippi, Florida, North Carolina and, yes, right here in South Carolina in a full day of “catching up” with each other and continuing the work of the school’s alumni association, which was founded in 1957.
The alumni association remains active in its support of the school, sponsoring two annual golf tournaments as fundraisers, hosting an annual fishing tournament for the students, providing a Christmas “keepsake party” for female students at John de la Howe and assisting with funding of the school’s equine program.
Saturday’s agenda included tours of the campus, a ride down a recently cleared wooded lane once traveled by Dr. John de la Howe’s wagons, lunch in the school cafeteria, the group’s business meeting, a Saturday evening cookout and party at Hickory Knob, plus lots of visiting.
Alumni received an update from Dan Shonka, chairman of the school’s board of trustees, who said measuring the school’s impact quantitatively is next to impossible. He also spoke of the school’s recent challenges with the South Carolina legislature and pledged that the board would battle on.
“We’re not going to give up,” the retired educator said. “We’re not going to roll over and die. We’re not going to allow it.”
Sandi Boazman of Donalds, a member of the alumni board of directors, encouraged the alumni to record their stories in writing and to share them with the legislature so they can understand how important John de la Howe has been in their lives.
Founded in 1797, John de la Howe School is located on 1,200 acres in the Sumter National Forest eight miles outside of McCormick. The school serves children in grades 6-12 from across the state who are experiencing behavioral issues, proving them a safe place to heal, grow and make changes in their lives.
Alumni from points near and far will gather Saturday, October 8 for the 54th Alumni Homecoming and Reunion at John de la Howe School.
The special day begins with registration starting at 9 a.m. in L.S. Brice School on the John de la Howe campus. Activities run until 5:30 p.m. and include tours, food, games, a John de la Howe Alumni Association business meeting, a cookout and time for former students to share and “catch up.”
Founded in 1797, John de la Howe School provides a safe place for the children of South Carolina to heal, grow and make lasting changes.
For additional information on the reunion, contact Richard Wolfe, Alumni Association President, at (803) 246-1525.
Gov. Nikki Haley has appointed Melissa Tilden of Laurens to serve on the John de la Howe School Board of Trustees.
The Raleigh, NC native is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in French. She currently assists in a self-contained, learning disabled class at Laurens Middle School. She has also taught French at the high school level, worked in the banking industry and owned and operated a bookstore for 15 years.
Mrs. Tilden and her husband, Spike, have called Laurens home for almost 30 years. They are parents to three daughters and attend First United Methodist in Laurens where she serves as Education Committee Chair. She also served on the Board of Directors of Main Street Laurens for the past five years.
Her appointment calls for her to serve the next three years on the board which governs John de la Howe School, which provides children in grades 6-12 from across South Carolina with a safe place to heal, grow and make lasting changes. Founded in 1797, the school is located on 1,200 scenic acres in the Sumter National Forest near McCormick.
John de la Howe School
192 Gettys Road
McCormick, SC 29835