Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Students, teachers, administrators and parents gathered in the auditorium at Howe Hall Arts Infused Elementary School in Goose Creek for a big announcement on March 26.
The school is the only tri-county school this year to be nominated for a Palmetto’s Finest award. The award goes to schools that offer excellent instruction and outstanding leaders, augmented by strong family and community involvement and a supportive business community.
HHA is one of two finalists in the “special category” of schools. They were one of nine finalists for various Palmetto’s Finest categories.
The entire school watched a live broadcast from Columbia on a projector as members of the S.C. Association of School Administrators read the list of winners. There was a drum roll, the sound of an envelope tearing and the announcement that Fairfield Magnet School was the winner.
Students at HHA gasped a big, “awww.”
HHA Principal Chris Swetckie walked to the podium and received a standing ovation.
Swetckie said he received some advice from Hanahan Elementary Principal Tom Sparkman, whose school has been nominated four times.
He compared the situation to the NCAA men’s basketball during “March Madness.”
There are 346 NCAA Division One teams and only four of those make it to the final four, Swetckie said. Of those, it is narrowed down to two for the final match and there is only one winner.
“There are 1,218 public schools in South Carolina,” Swetckie said. “Even though there is only one winner, 1,216 principals would rather be me. This is the best job in the world.
“I wear Disney ties every day on purpose. I’m the principal of Disney World. We have the most phenomenal students, parents, faculty and staff. I love you all very much and this accomplishment as a finalist.
“Tomorrow we’ll see which path curiosity leads us down and we’ll have another great day at Howe Hall AIMS.”
Before the announcement student ambassador Dyran Adkins gave a welcome and introduced student ambassador Catherine Flake, who led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Other student ambassadors, wearing matching green shirts, led guests to their seats.
The Chameleon Choraleers took the stage to sing the national anthem.
“You guys are already winners,” Berkeley County School District Superintendent Rodney Thompson said. “The process that brought you here today is very prestigious.”
Marrington Middle Principal Jim Spencer and Hanahan Middle Principal Robin Rogers took the stage to congratulate the school on being named a finalist. Their schools won Palmetto’s Finest awards last year. They handed a plaque to Swetckie.
“Tomorrow this plaque will be covered in fingerprints as we pass it around,” Swetckie said. “I want you to know how proud we are of your accomplishments. There’s no school where I’d rather be.”
After students went back to their classrooms Swetckie made the afternoon announcements from the office and told them how proud he is of them.
“Today was very exciting,” he said. “It was great to be recognized. We’re going to celebrate being a finalist. We’ll reflect on the process.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we are one of the finest schools in South Carolina. There’s no regrets, no frowns, no tears. It is an honor to be one of the two schools in our category and one of nine overall.”