Upstate Schools Promote Inclusion Year Round

posted Oct 10, 2017, 11:51 AM by Oconee Google

Encouraging the development of real relationships between students with disabilities and students without disabilities is often difficult.  Students with disabilities can spend their entire school day in special education classes, limiting the time spent with students in the general population.

To address this issue, Walhalla High School, Seneca High School, and Pickens High School participate in Unified Champion Schools activities.  This is an initiative of Special Olympics to promote inclusion through organized competitions with other Unified Champion Schools.  Teams are made up of students with disabilities along with students without disabilities in order to foster meaningful relationships between the participants.

"Walhalla High School, Seneca High School, and Pickens High School are all very active with Unified Champion Schools," said Terry Buckallew, special education teacher at Walhalla High School.  

Recently, the schools held their first Unified Champion School activity for the 2017-18 school year.  Walhalla High School hosted a bowling tournament at Oconee Lanes that included Seneca High School and Pickens High School.  Walhalla High School placed first; Seneca placed second; and Pickens placed third.

"Even though we were competing against each other, I feel like we grew closer together as a community," said mentor Tyler Hogan.

Walhalla High School will sponsor a kickball tournament on November 17; Pickens High School will host a basketball tournament in January; and Seneca High School will host a soccer tournament in March.

For more information, please contact Terry Buckallew at

First "NOW" Cohort Experiences Success

posted Oct 10, 2017, 11:28 AM by Oconee Google

The NOW program, under the leadership of Chad Lusk, Director of Hamilton Career Center, started in the fall of 2016 with thirty students from the three area high schools.  Over the course of the year, students wrote resumes, participated in mock interviews, interacted with business leadership, and made visits to industries in Oconee County.

In addition to industry visits, several businesses in Oconee County hosted students in summer internships.  Congratulations to these students who participated in the internship program:  Lake Alexander (WOHS), Adam Moore (WHS) and Olivia Grant (WHS) at Sandvik; Ryan Butts (WOHS) at Feltman Bros.; Sam Harbin (WOHS) and Jesse Murphy (WHS) at ITT/Compact Automation; Colin Keylon (WHS) at Koyo Bearings; Logan Richardson (SHS) at Brown CNC;  Jordan Lee (WOHS) at the School District of Oconee County; and Alex Galvez (WHS) at Dynamic Fluid Components.

Hamilton Career Center and the School District of Oconee County are excited about a new year with the NOW Team.  Seniors will participate in co-op experiences around the county and will visit various industries.  New NOW Team members will be chosen from the students currently enrolled in a program at Hamilton Career Center.

Students interested in taking courses at Hamilton Career Center or in joining the NOW Team can call (864) 886-4425 and ask for:  Chad Lusk, Director of Hamilton Career Center; Greg Bearden, Guidance Counselor; or Amanda Donald, Career Specialist.

The NOW Team would like to offer a big thank you to these manufacturers for allowing them to tour industry facilities:  BASF Catalysts FFC., BorgWarner, Inc., ITECH South, ITT/Compact Automation, Just Aircraft, Koyo Bearings and Itron, Inc., and Sandvik.

WOMS Helps Keep Oconee Beautiful!

posted Oct 3, 2017, 5:55 AM by Oconee Google

About 30 members from West-Oak Middle School Beta Club took part in Keep Oconee Beautiful Association, or KOBA project, last weekend.  Students walked and picked up several bags of trash over an eight mile route.

Beta Club focuses on teaching students to serve their community.  Toward that end, WOMS Beta Club students are required to perform 100 hours of community service each year.

"Teaching students to serve their community or other people who are in need is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, things we can teach kids to do today," said Beta Club Advisor Jason Ray.  "What better way to show love than to serve your community and school!"

WOMS Beta Club will perform many service learning projects this year from a diaper and wipe drive for Fostering Faithfully to collecting shoes for Shoes for Water.  Their next service learning project is a canned food drive this month to help students in their school.

Thank you to the Beta Club advisors involved in the KOBA project:  Amy Burgess, Lisa Newman, and Jason Ray.

Board Member Recognized for Achievement

posted Sep 22, 2017, 7:26 AM by Oconee Google

SDOC School Board Member Joe Rukat recently earned recognition by the South Carolina School Boards Association (SCSBA) for achievement in the 2016-17 Boardmanship Institute.

School board members are elected to office by the voters in their area.  Once the members are established by the board, they are required to attend a New Board Orientation, which is the only state-mandated training.  However, for dedicated board members, learning does not stop there.

"I am proud to serve the School District of Oconee County," Mr. Rukat said.  "Being a school board member is an honor that carries a great responsibility for me to do the best job possible.  To me, that includes attending training on issues I may not be overly familiar with."

The SCSBA Boardmanship Institute, established in 1982, offers a year-round training curriculum to help board members develop skills and stay abreast of state and national education issues.  Workshops focus on school law, advocacy and legislation, improving board operations, leadership for improving student achievement and other timely topics.  Each year, about 80 percent of board members statewide attend at least one training session.

Board members can achieve up to six levels of recognition by earning points that are accrued annually from July through June for participation in statewide conferences and a training provided onsite in their district.  Mr. Rukat has been on the board for less than a year but has already progressed to level two of six levels.  SDOC is very proud to have such dedicated board members.  

New Absence Policy

posted Sep 21, 2017, 12:10 PM by Oconee Google   [ updated Sep 21, 2017, 12:11 PM ]

Parents need to be aware of a new state policy defining chronic absenteeism.  Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, a student who misses 50% or more of the instructional day for any reason will be designated as absent.
Each school will pull reports at regular intervals and students who have been marked absent for 10% of the days to that point will be considered chronically absent.  The main change is that all types of absences contribute to identifying chronic absenteeism including excused absences, unexcused absences and suspensions.

"The state is making this change to put more emphasis on attendance," said Michael Thorsland, district superintendent.  "Chronic absenteeism is associated with poor academic performance, increased dropout rates and decreased graduation rates.  The bottom line is that it is important for students to be in school."

Chronic absenteeism should not be confused with truancy, which is a designation for three consecutive full-day unexcused absences or five total unexcused absences throughout the school year.  For questions about this change, parents may call Evie Hughes at 864-886-4400 extension 6144.

District Designates Make-up Days

posted Sep 21, 2017, 11:25 AM by Oconee Google

Due to time missed from school on September 11th and 12th during Hurricane Irma, the School District of Oconee County will use the first two scheduled inclement weather days as make-up days.  SDOC schools will now be in session on February 26 and March 30 to make up for the two days missed.

Walhalla Middle School and Oconee Academy also missed September 13th due to power outages.  To make up for that day, ONLY these two schools will attend school on Monday, October 23rd.  Buses will run routes as usual for these two schools on that day.

Students who already have plans on those make-up days can send in a note to the school and the absence will be excused.  Any absence does count against perfect attendance as the South Carolina definition of perfect attendance is that "students have not accumulated any absences - excused or unexcused."

State law requires school districts utilize at least three make-up days before additional days can be forgiven by local school boards or the state.  Parents can see the district calendar on the district website at

Considerate Café opens for 2017-18 school year

posted Sep 19, 2017, 6:17 AM by Oconee Google

Considerate Café will open on Friday, September 22, 2017, for the 2017-18 school year.  The "Specials of the Week" for opening week will be BLT panini or Chicken Salad panini with choice of soup or salad.  The bread is freshly baked and the vegetables are farm fresh and organic from the Hamilton Career Center "Learning to Grow" Greenhouse, located directly behind HCC.

"The students have been training hard," said Danielle Mathieu from HCC.  "They have been practicing customer service skills, preparing foods, and learning about DHEC regulations.  They are looking forward to serving the community!"

The café will open on Fridays from 11:00 am until 1:30 pm and will follow the School District of Oconee County academic calendar.  The meals cost $8.00 each and include entreé, choice of side, drink and taxes.  

The Café provides students in the STARS program at Hamilton Career Center an opportunity to have paid, on-campus jobs while adding real work experience to their resumes, thus improving their employability.  Students also work on other curriculum objectives, including independent living skills and social skills.

The Considerate Café is located in the Transition Building at the Fred P. Hamilton Career Center on 100 Vocational Drive in Seneca.  For questions, call Danielle Mathieu at 864-886-4425, extension 5824.

Seneca High School sending shirts, shoes to Harvey victims

posted Sep 5, 2017, 11:04 AM by Oconee Google   [ updated Sep 19, 2017, 11:00 AM ]

Boxes packed with T-shirts and shoes will soon be on their way to Hurricane Harvey victims thanks to the generosity of the Seneca High School community.

Adam Hosler, science teacher at Seneca High School, saw on Twitter that the University of Houston baseball and basketball coaches were asking schools across the country - K-12 and higher education - to send at least 20 shirts and 10 pairs of shoes with their school logo to Houston and the team would distribute them to people in need.

The Seneca High School community more than met this need.  Within about two hours, more than 100 shirts had been donated.

Donations can be dropped off at the front office of Seneca High School or mailed to the school at 100 Bobcat Ridge, Seneca, SC  29678.  
Checks should be made payable to Seneca High School with a note in the memo line signifying that the money is intended to help
Hurricane Harvey victims.

For the full story covered by GreenvilleOnline, click here.

First Total Solar Eclipse since 1900 on August 21, 2017

posted Aug 7, 2017, 6:23 AM by Oconee Google   [ updated Sep 18, 2017, 10:53 AM by Deb Wickliffe ]

The 2017-18 school year will start off with an amazing natural event.  On August 21, 2017, the area will experience the first total solar eclipse since 1900, an event that will not happen again until 2054.  SDOC has planned to make this day a special educational event for students by organizing a safe and engaging viewing experience.

"We are looking forward to providing rich learning experiences at the schools during this once in a lifetime experience of a full solar eclipse," said Dr. Michael Thorsland, Superintendent.

The total eclipse is expected to begin around 2:38 pm in Oconee County and will last approximately three minutes.  In order to ensue a safe dismissal and to provide our students with a unique learning experience, all schools will dismiss 15 minutes later than the regular dismissal time.

All students in kindergarten through grade 12 will receive instruction about the solar eclipse.  Students in grades 1 through 12 will go outside to experience the eclipse, weather permitting.  Teachers will provide instruction to students about safety practices that must be followed, will provide students with eclipse glasses, and will monitor students during this event.  Because the event will occur so early in the school year, kindergarten students will not participate in the outside experience.  Instead, schools will stream a video of the eclipse for these students to view.  Any preschool students attending school that day will be dismissed early and will not be at school in the afternoon.

There are many opportunities throughout the county for parents to experience the eclipse with their families.  To participate in these other opportunities, parents may sign their children out of school early on the day of the eclipse, but must do so no later than 1:00 pm to provide schools adequate time to transition to the eclipse activities.

"We know that some parents will want to spend that afternoon with their children," said Dr. Thorsland.  "We will accommodate those requests and count them as educational events."

The district has provided eclipse information and activities for parents and the community.  These resources can be viewed on the district webpage under the "Parents" tab.  Parents can also log into Canvas to review the instructional activities planned for their children.  The School District of Oconee County looks forward to a wonderful 2017-18 school year and is excited to begin the year with such an amazing event.

Duke Energy Foundation Supports Middle School Trans-disciplinary STEM Initiative with $25,000 Grant

posted Jun 5, 2017, 6:10 AM by Deb Wickliffe   [ updated Jun 5, 2017, 6:14 AM ]

The School District of Oconee County (SDOC) has received a $25,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation to support the district’s Middle School Trans-disciplinary STEM Initiative.

“This grant will allow us to expand our STEM professional development at the middle school level, which will ensure that the district is providing quality instruction to all students,” said Jodie Shirley, STEM specialist for SDOC.

The grant will enable the district to offer middle school teachers the intensive STEM training provided by Discovery Education that is focused on implementation and evaluation.

“We are excited to continue our partnership with the school district in such a worthy and successful program,” said Emily DeRoberts,
government and community relations manager for Duke Energy.

“We are grateful that the Duke Energy Foundation continues to support our efforts. This new funding will be spent on expanding our STEM work in the middle schools and on providing professional development for teachers,” said Ginger Hopkins, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction.

The district recognizes that STEM is the future of the country and provides the best career options for our students. On a recent top ten list of the most growing occupations, eight are STEM occupations. Preparing SDOC students for the future means STEM is not only important, it is critical.

“Our goal as a district is to become a state and national leader in preparing students for college and career success in a global society,” said Dr. Michael Thorsland, district superintendent. “We are grateful to Duke Energy for their contribution and support of this vision. These are difficult budget times and we are extremely thankful the Duke Energy Foundation selected the School District of Oconee County to receive this grant.” Thorsland said.

The Duke Energy Foundation provides philanthropic support to address the needs of the communities where its customers live and work. The foundation provides more than $30 million annually in charitable gifts. The foundation’s education focus spans kindergarten to career, particularly science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), early childhood literacy and workforce development. It also supports the environment and community impact initiatives, including arts and culture.

Pictured above L to R:  Dr. Michael Thorsland, Emily DeRoberts, and Ginger Hopkins

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