(Aug. 30, 2019) Safety, technology and student success are three priorities on Superintendent Lou Taylor’s list as about 6,800 students prepare to head back to school on Tuesday.
Worcester County Public Schools administrators, law enforcement officers and officials completed threat assessment training last month per state requirements imposed because the school shootings over the past two decades.
“We live in a country now where safety has to be looked at from every aspect, no matter what your profession is, and when it comes to kids, that’s paramount,” Taylor said. “… That has to be a priority to make sure that they are safe.”
There is one school deputy posted at each of the county’s 14 schools, and Taylor safety is part of the district’s strategic plan.
“We prepare all we want, but sometimes it’s difficult to stop what I call ‘crazy,’ but we pray and hope every day that that doesn’t happen here in Worcester County,” he said.
“I’ve often said that our students and our employees have a right to come in every single day and feel safe, and return at night to their families, and we do a lot of work,” Taylor said.
Teachers, obviously, are what makes the educational wheel go ‘round, and Taylor said he appreciates their efforts and dedication.
“Teachers are the number one group of people that make our kids successful,” Taylor said. “They are on the front lines each and every day.”
He would know. He’s been an employee of the local school system employee for 36 years, the last four as its superintendent. He’s also a 1978 graduate of Stephen Decatur High School.
“Teaching is no longer a 10-month profession,” he said. “It is a profession that requires you to obviously teach the kids for 10 months, but also hone their skills for the other part of the year, and our teachers overall do a fantastic job of that.”
Additionally, Taylor said he and his staff provide assistance to the teachers in any way they can.
“We just get behind them, try to clear the deck for them, try to provide resources for them to make sure they have the skill[s] or the tools they need to give our kids the best chance to be successful,” Taylor said.
Taylor, of Bishopville, said he got into teaching because he loved “working with kids.” He also coached football, basketball and baseball when he started as a teacher at Stephen Decatur High School.
When it comes to student success, Taylor emphasized the important role new technology plays in the classroom during this age of information. However, he acknowledged that technology is just one part of the equation.
“Technology is a tool to assist teachers in the learning process, and that’s very important for people to know,” Taylor said. “We talk a lot about technology … We spend a lot of time, money and energy on it, but it’s a tool.”
In addition to continuing with the construction of Showell Elementary School, which is expected to open next year, Taylor said the final touches are being wrapped up at the existing buildings.
“We want to make sure that they [the students] come to an environment ... that’s conducive for learning. That’s where our facilities come into play,” Taylor said. “We’re very fortunate in Worcester County to have top quality facilities as well, and that means a lot.”
The county’s public school system was recently ranked third best in the state by Niche.com, an education and workplace assessment website.
Still, Taylor said he’s always trying to stay ahead of the curve.
“We’re also looking at the way we do things, [and it’s] a constant vision for me,” Taylor said. “Are we being effective? Are we being efficient as a school system?”
Taylor said it all comes down to putting the students in the best possible position for success.
“That’s our goal,” Taylor said. “We want to make them successful adults once they graduate from our three high schools.”