SHS Named Palmetto's Finest Finalist Two Years in a Row

posted Jan 19, 2017, 7:24 AM by Deb WICKLIFFE

Seneca High School was recently notified that the school has been named a Palmetto’s Finest Finalist for the 2016-17 school year. This is the second year in a row the school has received this distinction.

“To be a Palmetto's Finest Finalist for the second consecutive year is a testament to our outstanding students as well as our dedicated faculty, staff, and community. This award is not just about Seneca High, it is a reflection of the entire One Seneca family,” said Cliff Roberts, school principal.

After extensive evaluations by fellow educators and previous Palmetto’s Finest winners, nine South Carolina schools were named finalists for the 2017 Palmetto’s Finest Schools Awards. The application process included elements on student achievement, instructional programs,
professional learning communities, and school culture.

Last fall, 21 South Carolina schools submitted a 20-page application and received an onsite examination visit by a review committee. The nine finalists are now undergoing a second onsite evaluation.  On March 21, 2017 at 1:45 pm, the final award will be presented remotely from SC ETV.  Finalists will watch the announcement from their schools via live streaming. All finalists receive statewide recognition and a plaque.

The SC Association of School Administrators (SCASA) presents the awards each year to schools that offer the best in innovative, effective educational programs. The Palmetto’s Finest Award is celebrating its 39th year and is one of the most coveted and respected awards among educators.

SMS Science Lesson Reaches Unprecedented Heights

posted Jan 18, 2017, 7:59 AM by Deb WICKLIFFE   [ updated Jan 18, 2017, 8:03 AM ]

Seneca residents, if you should find a large piece or two of colored tissue paper in your yard know that it is a result of a science experiment that went extremely well. Recently the cold temperatures following the snow storm provided the perfect opportunity for a research project conducted by the seventh grade science classes at Seneca Middle School.

The project was a culmination of in-class lectures about the principles of air density. To further investigate the principles learned, groups of students built homemade air balloons out of panels of colorful tissue paper. They then gathered outside in the below freezing temperatures to launch the balloons.

Teachers Deborah Belflower and Eddie Chavis supervised the burner, fueled by small tanks of propane gas, which inserted the hot air into the balloons. Once fully inflated, the balloons were released and the students were able to see the principle of air density in action. The balloons rose higher and higher as the hot air encountered colder and colder layers of air. In fact, for the first time in several years of conducting this experiment, several of the balloons were so successfully constructed they soared far beyond the school grounds and the immediate neighborhoods.

Both the students and teachers were amazed with the results. Indeed, Belfower asks, “If you should find any of the balloons, we would really appreciate it if you contact the school so the kids can get an appreciation of just how well their air density lessons and attention to detail in the construction of the balloons paid off.” Contact the school at (864)886-4455 or email the teachers directly at or

Appointments to Schedule 4K (Pre-K) Screenings for the 2017-2018 School Year to Begin on February 1

posted Jan 10, 2017, 11:13 AM by Deb WICKLIFFE   [ updated Jan 18, 2017, 8:01 AM ]

SDOC will hold 4K (Pre-K) screenings on April 27, 28, & 29 and May 1 & 2.  Appointments to schedule a screening for your child will begin on February 1, 2017 and can be obtained by going online at or by calling 864-886-4503.   The 4K program is for children who will be four on or before September 1, 2017.   All screenings will be held at Oconee Academy, 177 Razorback Lane, Walhalla, SC  29691.

Please bring the following items with you to the assigned screening appointment:
  • Child’s state issued (long form) birth certificate 
  • Child’s social security card 
  • Child’s Medicaid card or parent/guardian Proof of Income 
    (If your child does not receive Medicaid, proof of income for both parent(s)/guardian(s) will be required. This includes step-parents if they assume responsibility. Proof of income can be W2 forms, income tax forms, or pay stubs.) 
  • Driver’s license or identification card of parent(s)/guardian(s)
  • Proof of residency (a piece of mail with parent/guardian’s name and home address such as a utility bill or lease agreement; must be something that shows service to the home) 
  • Child’s immunization form or Religious Exemption Certificate (provided by the Health Department) 
  • Legal documentation as it pertains to the child (such as custody, court, safety plans, etc.), if applicable 
Due to the district’s limited number of 4K programs, screening does not ensure a child’s placement in a 4K program. However, a child cannot be placed in a 4K program unless he or she is screened.

Children who meet eligibility requirements can attend 4K free, as long as space is available. If openings are available after all eligible children have been placed, there may be an option for fee-based students to attend 4K.

JROTC Rifle Team Places Second in Regionals and Moves on to Nationals

posted Dec 20, 2016, 7:39 AM by Deb WICKLIFFE   [ updated Dec 20, 2016, 7:41 AM ]

The Walhalla High School Razorback JROTC Rifle Team traveled to Lexington, NC on December 9-10 for the 4th Brigade Best of the Best JROTC Championship. Only the top 20 teams in the five state area qualified to compete. The Razorback team finished second in this elite group.

Team members are Elizabeth Cobb, Carter Duke, Jessica Elder, Lakyn Tippett, Halie Cobb, Nicholas Hightower, and Matthew Smith.  In the new shooter division, Jessica Elder, placed fifth, and Lakyn Tippett, placed second. Nicholas Hightower placed sixteenth overall and Matthew Smith placed second overall.

COL Kevin Mangan, Rifle Team coach, said, “The team is peaking at the right time. This was the team’s best performance of the year with most shooting personal best scores. We have qualified and are headed to the national championships at Camp Perry Ohio in February. I am proud of how the team is improving and looking forward to success in Ohio.”

Pictured (L to R) Elizabeth Cobb, Carter Duke, Jessica Elder, Lakyn Tippett, Halie Cobb, Nicholas Hightower, and Matthew Smith

Sidney Doyle Presents Donated Books to Ann Douglas, Director of Early Learning for SDOC

posted Dec 20, 2016, 7:11 AM by Deb WICKLIFFE   [ updated Dec 20, 2016, 7:11 AM ]

Sidney Doyle, a fifth grade student at Fair-Oak Elementary, recently donated children’s books to the SDOC Department of Early Learning.

Sidney is an active Girl Scout in Troop 1543.  She has been working on her Bronze Award, the highest honor a Junior Girl Scout can achieve. The award requires the Girl Scout to plan a project that will make a difference in her community.  Sidney chose to plan and coordinate a children’s book drive of new and gently used books.  She donated these books to Ann Douglas, Director of Early Learning, and Michelle Duvall, Pre-K teacher at Northside Elementary.

“We are so excited to receive the books donated by Sidney through her Bronze Award project,” said Ann Douglas, Director of Early Learning for the School District of Oconee County.  “Her generosity will benefit the children that come through the Child Find Office, as well as some of our 4K students in classrooms across the district.”

Shop with a Warrior Brings Christmas Cheer to Area Elementary Students - "Maybe Christmas, Perhaps, Means A Little Bit More!"

posted Dec 14, 2016, 7:31 AM by Deb WICKLIFFE   [ updated Dec 14, 2016, 7:35 AM ]

On December 5, West-Oak High School Student Council members, along with a few other students, shopped with area elementary school students for the first ever event, Shop with a Warrior. The students set a goal of raising $3500 and wound up almost doubling that, raising over $6400 for the event.

Guidance Counselors at the Westminster area elementary schools identified 32 students. The WOHS students then took these students shopping. Both high school and elementary students shared a day of Christmas fun while wrapping gifts, making crafts, and even visiting with Santa!

WOHS students provided an amazing experience for local elementary students, but the high school students benefited as well. “Shop with a Warrior was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. I could feel the love of Christmas everywhere,” said Kennedy Burton, Senior, Student Body President. 

Hannah Williams, secretary of the senior class, said the day helped her realize she is so fortunate to have such a wonderful life. “It was a very eye-opening experience. It makes you realize how fortunate we are and all of the things we take for granted. I’m so thankful for the support of our community to help with this.”

“Shop with a Warrior was a great opportunity to touch people’s lives. I’m so glad I got to be a part of it.” – Andrew Warren, Senior, Senior Class President

West-Oak High School would especially like to thank the following sponsors who donated $100 or more to their event: American Legion Post 107; Dale Black – Lifepoint; Blue Ridge Electric Company; Cain & Williams, Ltd.; Cherokee Creek Boys’ School; Clearmont Baptist Church; Jan Cobb; Linda Copeland; The Corbetts; Country Cornhole; Domino’s Pizza; Dynamic Signal & Control, LLC; Eagles Basket Auction; Eagle Interiors, Inc.; Earle’s Grove Baptist Church; Feltman Brothers, Inc.; Shane Kirby, All-State; Lift Technologies, Inc.; The Nalley Family; Newry Church of God & Youth Group; Oakway Farms, LLC; Oconee Machine & Tool, Inc.; Catherine H. Parker; Red Arrow Entertainment; The Reed Family; Souls Harbor Baptist Church; Springer Mountain Farms; Donna Stoner; West-Oak Band; West-Oak Boys’ Basketball; West-Oak Girls’ Basketball; West-Oak Beta Club; West-Oak FFA; West-Oak F-Troop; West-Oak Boys’ Golf; West-Oak Girls’ Golf; West-Oak Interact Club; West-Oak Softball; West-Oak T-Warriors; West-Oak Volleyball; West-Oak Wrestling; West-Oak Yearbook Staff; West-Oak Young Democrats; and Yoder’s Building Services.

Seneca Middle School Student Wins Local Patriot's Pen Essay Contest

posted Dec 14, 2016, 6:38 AM by Deb WICKLIFFE   [ updated Dec 14, 2016, 6:40 AM ]

Schools throughout our country start each day with the Pledge to the United States flag. This everyday display of patriotism is near universal; however, individuals also feel and show their patriotism in other ways.

Each year the VFW sponsors the Patriot’s Pen essay contest giving sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students across the country the opportunity to voice those different feelings and opinions concerning patriotic themes. This year's topic was "The America I Believe In...."

Seneca Middle School eighth grader Holly Whaley learned that she is the local VFW post’s winner for this year’s contest. Holly’s essay says that the America she believes in is inspiring. In describing what she finds inspiring, Holly says this.

We are privileged to have this inspiring country because of the veterans who have worked and fought so hard to ensure that we have these freedoms today. In the words of President Ronald Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Holly closes her essay with this statement, “While working together, we can inspire each other to make America a place where others dream of living and where new beginnings are a reality.”

Holly's winning essay will now proceed to the district level competition. From there, her essay could continue to the national contest where the prize is $5000 plus an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the winning writer and a parent or guardian.

West-Oak High to Host First Chili Cook-Off

posted Dec 13, 2016, 6:55 AM by Deb WICKLIFFE   [ updated Dec 13, 2016, 7:12 AM ]

The first annual WOHS Chili Cook-Off will be held on January 16, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, starting at 4:00 pm in the school’s cafeteria. 100% of the proceeds will go toward West-Oak’s own food pantry. We need you to sign up NOW! The competition is open to faculty/staff of West-Oak as well as members of the community. If you are interested in participating in this fun event for a good cause, please contact Dee Tindal at by December 16, 2016.

You might not think your chili is up for the challenge, but we also need volunteers to donate baked goods/desserts. If you can help provide baked goods, please contact Dee Tindal at the email address above.

Be sure to put January 16 on your calendar and join us – hope to see you there!

Seneca Middle School Student Earns Place in National Honor Choir

posted Dec 8, 2016, 6:27 AM by Deb WICKLIFFE   [ updated Dec 13, 2016, 6:51 AM ]

With its storied fine arts program, Seneca Middle School is accustomed to having dozens of its music students earn places in one or more elite musical group such All-Region Band, All-State Chorus and the Carolina Youth Symphony but eighth grader Sterling Hamilton has reached a height of achievement not seen before in either the school’s or even the School District of Oconee County’s history.

Hamilton was recently named to the National ACDA Middle School Honor Choir. He is one of just 75 tenors nationwide and one of only 300 middle school students total to earn this honor through a rigorous audition process. The 2017 National ACDA Middle School Honor Choir clinic and concert will take place March 8-11 in Minneapolis, MN.

At Seneca Middle, Hamilton is a member of the Honors Chorus directed by National Board Certified teacher Carla Brock and was selected to the South Carolina All-State Chorus in both 2015 and 2016.

State Report Cards Released

posted Nov 16, 2016, 6:16 AM by Deb WICKLIFFE   [ updated Nov 16, 2016, 6:39 AM ]

The South Carolina Department of Education recently released the federally required report cards. Due to implementing a new format and new testing instruments recently, the report cards will not include district ratings until 2017.  The report cards basically summarize district accountability information, most of which has been already presented to the public. For example, on district End of Course Tests, SDOC was above the state Percent Ready rates on all subjects except US History and the Constitution.

The Work Keys tests indicate the real world work skills of SDOC students and is an important measure for the district in preparing for the future. On the Work Keys test, the district percentage of students earning platinum, gold, or silver certificates was above the state rates on two of the three subject areas. The district Percent Ready for the Applied Mathematics test was 74.6%, while the state rate was 72.4%. The district Percent Ready on Locating Information was 79.5%, while the state rate was 76.8%. Finally, the district Percent Ready for Reading for Information test was 92.9% while the state rate was 93.9%.

The district is currently making an effort to provide more work-based experiences for students to better prepare them for the workplace. In 2016, 28.8% of SDOC students participated in work-based experiences, up from 10.9% in 2015.  While Superintendent Michael Thorsland is generally pleased with the District’s performance, he noted that, “In the School District of Oconee County, we remain focused on achieving our goal of being one of the top ten districts in South Carolina. We are committed to the belief that every student is capable of leaving us College- and Career-Ready.”

The district percentage of SDOC seniors eligible for LIFE Scholarship was 59.8% in 2016 compared to 38.6% for the state.  The 2016 District Report Card shows the SDOC four-year state graduation rate at 84.1%, up from 81.5% in 2015. In spring of 2016, the School District of Oconee County included Tamassee-Salem with a graduation rate of 72.7%, Seneca at 88.9%, Walhalla at 85.8%, and West-Oak at 80.6%. These are compared to the state graduation rate of 82.6%.  “If we are to achieve our goal, our first priority must be to reduce the number of students leaving the school system before they are ready,” said Thorsland. 

The District Report Card includes information on many other fields and provides district officials with data that assist in decision making. For example, the number of SDOC students enrolled in dual enrollment courses decreased from 77 in 2015 to 50 in 2016 even though the number of dual enrollment courses offered in 2015-2016 increased from 10 to 13. Also, the number of students passing Advanced Placement examinations fell from 57.6 in 2015 to 52.3% in 2016.

Thorsland stated, "We are pleased but not satisfied. We know our students are capable of so much more. We are determined to help them set and achieve high goals so they will be College- and Career-Ready when they leave the School District of Oconee County.”

The district and school report cards can be found on the South Carolina Department of Education website at or by clicking on this link.

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