GP2W: Liberty High 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! 

Gwinn 2014.jpgBy Lori Gwinn, Liberty High School Principal

John Dewey once said that "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." At Liberty High School we know that so much of education occurs for our students in the classroom, but much more occurs beyond the classroom. It's the connections we make with our students that ultimately tie them to our school, to our community, and to their future—to life.
We have three connections that are the foundation of our mission. First, we believe in connecting every student to an adult in our building. We do this in three ways. Every student is connected as an 8th grader to an advisor in our Club One Advisor Program. That advisor stays with the student until the student graduates his or her senior year. The advisor is the last person the graduate shakes hands with as he or she leaves the podium with a diploma in hand. We also connect students to a guidance counselor as an 8th grader who stays with the student until graduation. That way, our Guidance Counselors, Angie Burgess and Cherie Latham, are prepared to help them with decisions about college and career goals as they progress toward graduation. Finally, we connect each student as a 9th grader to an Assistant Principal. Brad Blackston and Amber King stay with their students and watch them grow and mature as students, helping them with decisions and encouraging them along the way in partnership with the student's counselor and Club One Advisor.
A second connection is with a college or career goal. Through the Club One Advisor program, Liberty High School Staff work with students to help them set short and long term goals throughout their high school careers so that they are able to measure and see progress. By achieving small goals and celebrating accomplishments, they're able to go on to set higher expectations for greater good.
Finally, the third connection is the connection to a school activity. We believe the one thing that keeps students in school is connecting students to the school. When students are connected to a school activity, school means something to them. They're not always looking to escape from it to find something to replace it. So, at Liberty High, we seek to find something to fill their 3-6 PM day with that enriches their lives to give them the education beyond the classroom that John Dewey speaks of in his definition of education. In this case, it truly takes our staff to provide such experiences. I say to people that we're an AAA school. We are. We excel in Academics, Arts, and Athletics. We're in constant motion trying to build more and better opportunities for our students in all areas. In each of these areas, it is important to remember, that without the staff of Liberty High School, we couldn't offer these opportunities for our students. Sometimes, there is a little financial compensation for what we offer our students; however, if anyone took the time to divide the money by the hours, we'd be shocked. We, however, work with incredible people, who thankfully love our children; otherwise, we would be sending a highly at risk population of students home every day between 3 to 6 PM.
In the area of Academics and other Student Activities, Liberty High School continues to build programs. Our chapter of the National Beta Club is growing under the guidance and leadership of sponsor, Elaine Huff. Our membership is well over 75 members and looks to induct new members soon. Students in the Beta Club are involved in community service projects, and they lead by serving others in our school and community. This year, they hope to participate in the state convention. Our Student Government Association is strong. Under the guidance and leadership of Jeremy Bigham, Zachary Rogers, and Terri Smith, students plan Homecoming, recently joined with the Cheer team to promote the Meals on Wheels fundraiser, and have promoted fundraising to assist our LIFE program for special education. With the addition of our Turf Management Program under the direction of Tim Johnson, we are adding a 4-H program at Liberty High School. Tim Johnson and Andrew Gillespie have met the requirements to be leaders of the 4-H Club, and we're looking forward to adding that program to our opportunities for students. Under the Academics umbrella, students have immense opportunities through Army JROTC under the direction from Major Ben Ivey and First Sgt. Curtis Tate. Students learn leadership skills and participate in Raider Team, Drill Team, Rifle Team, Color Guard, community service projects, a school-wide blood drive, and many other countless opportunities, including a Military Ball. Liberty has been invited by the Easley Rotary Club to add an Interact Club under their sponsorship, and we're looking forward to finding a staff sponsor. In addition to a budding Fellowship of Christian Athletes group, led by Stacy Powell and Amanda Thompson, LHS was selected this year as a site for the development of a new Young Life group. Finally, every teacher at LHS volunteers weekly to host an hour of extra help time to come before school or stay after school to give free tutoring for students who need it in their classes.
Liberty High School is well known in the area for its Arts. The arts wing provided the opportunity for immense 4.JPGexpansion. The band program, under the direction of Andrew Gillespie, now includes Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Percussion, Music Theory, and Jazz Band. Liberty High School continues to be the only high school in Pickens County to host a band competition. The Red Devil Invitational will be October 11 this year, and students will compete in other competitions across our state all fall. Further, students in symphonic band will test their performance ability this spring. In addition to band, students have other instrumental opportunities in Orchestra and Bluegrass under the direction of Robert Gowan. Our Choir is strong under the direction of Jean Toole. Students have the opportunity to study visual art under Amanda Stokes for four years at LHS. Under Jeremy Bigham, students study Technical Theatre and the first year of Theatre (formerly Drama 1). Finally, students study the second, third, and fourth year of Theatre under Jean Toole. In years' past, students have participated in school-wide productions such as Cinderella, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, and It's a Wonderful Life. This year, we are very proud to announce our school-wide production of Frankenstein coming October 30-November 1. It will be our most technical production yet in our new facility.
Finally, capping off our AAA program is our Athletics program. I can't say enough about what our coaches and their staffs offer to our students who participate in their programs. Athletics is a research-tested and proven at-risk TEAM_FBVarsity.jpgprogram. In fact, it is the cheapest at-risk program any district can put in place. This year, we are blessed with a strong staff of coaches and assistant coaches in each of our Athletic programs. The LHS Cheer program is under the leadership of Lauren Hudson. Our Cross Country program is led by Coach Patrick Canterbury and Coach Mary Helen Williams. Our Football team plays under the leadership of Coach Kyle Stewart. Our Girls Golf team is on the grow this year under Coach Jonathan Dilworth. Finally Volleyball plays for Coach Carla Simpson. The winter sports teams will begin with some new faces in leadership in November. Our Boys Basketball team will be coached by Coach Jamaal Brown. Our Girls Basketball team will be coached by Coach Jonathan Dilworth. Returning in leadership for our Wrestling team is Coach Dale Burrell. Spring sports are not too far away. Many coaches are returning in the spring. Coach Scott Kerwin will return to the Baseball Diamond while Coach Brian Fuller will be on the Softball Diamond. Coach Josh Smith will lead the Boys Golf team. We are currently finalizing the head Track coach position. With the interest growing in Tennis and Soccer at LHS, we know that it won't be long before we're adding one or both programs here. Currently we are putting steps in place to incorporate club and after school activities for both sports to gauge interest and commitment. Additionally, both sports need to begin raising funds to build start up budgets, and both sports need to secure a staff member interested in coaching the team.
To see our parking lot still filled at 4:00 PM because students are engaged in academics, arts, or athletics is good. We're a school that believes in the power of keeping students connected. We also believe in the importance of continuing to build connections that they see as important to meeting their college and career goals. Our next steps involve seeing how we can better involve our parents and our community and strengthening these connections.