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Column: Principal For A Day Offers a Look Into School System

Being the son of a former teacher and principal, not to mention a proud graduate of Aiken County’s public education system, I thought I knew what it was like to spend time in our schools.

Then I participated in Principal for a Day.

Aiken County Public Schools held the second annual event Nov. 15, and I was assigned to Silver Bluff High School. It was an eye-opening and informative experience.

Dr. Katie Briscoe is the real principal at Silver Bluff, and she guided me through a day that I won’t soon forget.

I had been to Silver Bluff plenty of times before, mainly to cover high school football games, but this was a new experience. Dr. Briscoe and her staff treated me well, and it helped that I already knew several members of her staff who serve as both teachers and coaches.

We began the day by making a trip around the building for Dr. Briscoe to check on things and greet teachers and students. It was the first of what seemed about a dozen laps – only a slight exaggeration – around the campus.

I saw students making cookies. I saw students learning about how government works through the prism of the popular TV show “West Wing.” I saw members of the band rehearse for an upcoming performance.

In the cafeteria area, there are multiple photos that celebrate the success of Silver Bluff’s students. I took a trip down memory lane looking back at several of the teams that I had previously covered.

I also witnessed members of the NJROTC program as they participated in a Cyber Patriot competition. Then it was off to the culinary classroom, where the group was recovering from the previous night’s Thanksgiving dinner in Jackson that served around 500 people.

Spending time with football coach De'Angelo Bryant, I remarked that Silver Bluff always seemed like a tight-knit community.

“We’re still a family,” Bryant said.

It’s true. The slogan “Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog” can be found all over the school, but it applies to more than just the sports teams.

Discipline and safety are top concerns in schools these days, and what I observed at Silver Bluff wasn’t surprising. The staff puts an emphasis on keeping the campus secure, and they are out and about throughout the day in order to head off any potential problems.

Participants in the Principal for a Day program gathered that afternoon at the school district headquarters. Interim Superintendent King Laurence hosted the informal gathering that included more than two dozen community leaders as well as the real principals from Aiken County schools.

“Our principals are amazing,” Laurence said. “You don’t know what to expect. It isn’t always exciting, but it’s always rewarding.”

That was the theme of the discussion: how unpredictable each school day can be. J. David Jameson, president of the Aiken Chamber of Commerce, went to Kennedy Middle School. “We were interrupted quite a bit,” he said of the day’s planned agenda.

Melissa Oremus, the newly elected representative for S.C. House District 84, said she had a “new appreciation for the school system.”

As more than one person pointed out, what the principals do on a daily basis is more than just education.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone who participated walked away with newfound respect for our teachers and administrators. I certainly did.

Thanks for reading.

Click here to read the full column in the Aiken Standard.

John Boyette/Aiken Standard