GP2W: Holly Springs Elementary School

"GP2W" stands for Great Place To Work.  The four characters serve as a reminder in communication among our staff of the culture of our district. Each week through the school year, our website will feature an article on one of our schools, departments, or people explaining how they make SDPC a Great Place To Work! 

HardenWeb.jpgby Donna Harden, Principal

What makes Holly Springs Elementary a great place to work and learn? From the beginning, this school was built on a strong foundation of community involvement, outstanding teachers, and family values. The school and the community it serves combine the values of yesterday with the progress and innovation of today.

Holly Springs Elementary School was built in 1954 as the first consolidated rural elementary school in the Pickens attendance area. Ten area schools came together in the form of a dream for the people living in the north central part of Pickens County. The community played an important role in constructing the school by cutting and removing trees on the property.

Community involvement continues to be a crucial part of the success of Holly Springs Elementary. The partnership with CRO (Cliffs Residents Outreach) has provided food backpacks and emergency assistance to families. Residents also volunteer as Reading Buddies to read with students and write letters to students over the summer. We are thrilled with the 1:1 iPad initiative that CRO has implemented recently. Teachers were also provided with iPads and cards to purchase apps. In addition to community partnerships, the PTO sponsors numerous fundraisers throughout the year to provide additional support to teachers and students. The Young Appalachian Musicians Program began at Holly Springs Elementary in 2006 under the direction of Dr. Betty McDaniel. Through the YAMS program students have the opportunity to learn to play traditional Appalachian music on the guitar, banjo, mandolin, or the fiddle from local musicians. This program has now expanded into other elementary, middle and high schools.

The families that live in the Holly Springs community have had a major impact on the school. Several families have been in this area since the 1700s. Others have been here only a few years. The values and principles that are passed down through generations are the common thread that tie this community together. These values continue to influence the children that come through the doors of Holly Springs Elementary. Families support and value the education that is provided in our nationally recognized mountain school. 

 For several years, fifth grade students participated in a writing project in which they interviewed founding families of the Holly Springs Community. Most of the interviews included information about school 

"in the old days". Stories included the day a mule came into the school to cool off from the heat and how older boys came to school early to start a fire to keep students warm. Students brought their Bibles to school and were taught life lessons in addition to the state curriculum. If a student was disciplined at school, there would be punishment at home as well. All of these stories, and many more, point to the value that families placed on education still evident today.

The teaching staff of the school was initially comprised primarily of former principals of the schools that combined to create Holly Springs Elementary School. The talent and experience among that group must have been amazing!

Through the years, Holly Springs Elementary has been recognized over and over for excellence. Scholastic Book Fairs published 3 books written by Holly Springs' students. A national reading contest earned $20,000 to purchase books and other materials. The SC Department of Education has recognized the school for student achievement and for closing the achievement gap. In addition, the school has been recognized as a Red Carpet School for its family friendly philosophy and environment.

In 2011 Holly Springs Elementary was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Through the articulation of a vision of excellence and holding everyone to a higher standard, everyone stays close to the real action of teaching and learning.

None of these honors would have been possible without the dedication and tireless efforts of staff members. Nearly one-third of the current staff attended Holly Springs Elementary, grew up in the community, or have been a part of the community for more than twenty years.

Lyn.jpgLynn Williams is our Teacher of the Year. Here is what Mrs. Williams has to say about Holly Springs Elementary:

"Holly Springs Elementary is the perfect place to work!! I should know, because I am entering my 23rd year of teaching, and have taught at 7 different schools. In this district alone, I have taught at three elementary schools, with Holly Springs being my home school for 9 years. The administration, faculty, staff, and children are the best I have worked with during my career. Currently I am teaching physical education and the gifted and talented program at Holly Springs and coaching golf at Pickens High School. Teaching children is my calling in life, and I have a variety of experience. I have taught six different subjects in K5-12 grade, and coached every sport. My husband and I have two children, both enrolled in Pickens County Schools—one at Pickens High School, and one at Pickens Middle. We have lived in Pickens for 14 years, and attend First Baptist Church. I am proud to say that I teach at Holly Springs Elementary."

Elaine Holcombe is our Support Employee of the Year. Ms. Holcombe is a life-long resident of the Holly Springs Elaine.jpgcommunity and here is what she has to say about Holly Springs Elementary:

"Holly Springs Elementary is the perfect place to work for me for many reasons. The school is located on a beautiful hillside with a creek running through the playground. I was very fortunate to live about ½ mile away, so this is where I attended first through sixth grade. My children, Suzanne and Justin also attended Holly Springs. 

"I started working here in February, 1996, and I have been the secretary/bookkeeper for about ten years. I love working in such a loving, caring atmosphere where children are our main priority."

The faculty & staff at the school are like family to me now. I have great respect for the teachers and each member of the staff. I have made many close friends while working here. I am getting close to retirement age and the only sad part of that is I will not be with my Holly Springs "family". I love this area of Pickens County and I really love the students, faculty and staff at Holly Springs Elementary. I am blessed to work in a place I feel at home!

Being a part of Holly Springs Elementary is like stepping back in time to a different era. The community continues to be involved in the school, families still emphasize good values and principles, and the staff is outstanding. However, the school leads the district in achievement and innovation in teaching. It truly is a great place to work and learn!