In-school tutoring, high expectations and expanding horizons are on the curriculum for students who are welcoming new principals at Bluffton and May River high schools.
Denise Garison, new to Beaufort County School District, succeeds Bluffton High School’s principal Mark Dievendorf, who retired at the end of June.
Todd Bornscheuer, who was the principal at M.C. McCracken Middle School, is taking the helm at the new May River High School.
Both were mathematics teachers before moving into administration.
Garison has been in education for 30 years and comes to Beaufort County from her post as principal at Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville, N.C., a school that ranked first or second in academic growth for the past three years out of more than 2,400 state schools.
Garison said setting high expectations is one of the most important things she can do for a school.
“I know it sounds cliché, but I do believe all students can learn,” she said. “I also believe that students learn in different ways and at different paces, and that everyone will work to meet the expectations set for them. Therefore, I believe that it is my job to make sure this can happen. If I set the example, others will follow – that includes teachers and students.”
Bornscheuer was McCracken’s principal for the past two years. Prior to that, he was principal for seven years at two Aiken County high schools, Silver Bluff and North Augusta.
While at North Augusta, the school earned its first Palmetto Gold Award, in 2013, from the South Carolina Department of Education.
Bornscheuer also has high expectations – for involvement of both parents and students.
“Our school motto is ‘Together, we will.’ That falls in line with our three vision statements,” said Bornscheuer. “Be responsible. Be supportive. Be present.”
Students must be accountable for their own academics, he said. By being supportive, the faculty and staff create a culture where students are not afraid to expand their academic environment.
“These kids and these parents have one opportunity in their lifetime to open this school. ‘Be present’ means be there, be involved, be a part of what we are doing,” Bornscheuer added.
Garison wants Bluffton high students to achieve more than a diploma.
“I want students to feel a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “I want them to know that when they leave Bluffton High School, they are capable of doing great things. I hope they have learned a lot, but not just curriculum.”
Garison said she hopes her future graduates will have learned how to overcome challenges, to set and meet goals, and to work with diverse groups of people in a collaborative way to accomplish their goals.
Bornscheuer wants to help students discover their interests. He discovered his through U.S. Coast Guard recruit training.
“I figured out what I wanted to do in life at the age of 25. Not that the years before were wasted, but educationally I didn’t have a focus or a goal,” he said. “It just became part of me that knows, as I come in contact with kids, that the goal is half the battle.”
Both principals focus on making sure students have support.
Independent learning and an adviser-advisee system will be part of the curriculum at May River. During lunch hour – which will be the same time for all students at the school – food will be available at kiosks placed around the campus.
Garison is aiming for more mentors. “I went into education for the same reason most teachers do – to make a difference,” she said. “I want each student to feel they have the support, encouragement and resources in a mentor in the school. I want to be that mentor.”
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.