Part Two of a two-part series
UNION — Yesterday’s front-page story called “Continuing to change for the better” discussed positive news and new programs at Union County High School. There are even more positives from Union County High School to cover.
“We want our kids to become engrossed in what Union County High School is all about,” said Guidance Director Jim Palmer. “It’s not about one team, or one sport, or one class. You’re not a number here. You’re a name. Every one of our kids is special.”
Guidance counselor Jane Petty added that Principal Floyd Lyles works endlessly each day to spend time with faculty and students.
“He’s in classrooms or the cafeteria; he’s never in his office,” Petty said. “He’s hearing firsthand from students, teachers and parents, finding out things for himself.”
Assistant Principal Jenelle Gilliam said Lyles is a perfect role model.
“He genuinely cares about the students,” Gilliam said. “He knows five things about every student, and we have almost 1,300 students. He’s not just dealing with behavior; he’s also dealing with academics.”
Lyles said he often uses yearbooks to learn students’ names, and they are surprised when he calls them by name in the hallway.
Apparently, teachers are following Lyles’ lead by also putting in extra time. Administrative Assistant Michael Mullinax is new to the school this year, and he said he was surprised at what he saw during the summer.
“Teachers were actually volunteering during registration, on their own time,” he said. “I was surprised at how many teachers were here with nothing to gain but helping the school get better and assisting students. Even during the school year, teachers get here early and stay late to be prepared for class and help students succeed.”
Lyles said he is thankful for faculty department heads — Anna Roark, Elizabeth Ireton, Heather Kirby, Jeannie Malone, Lisa Hartley, Renee Rogers, Donna Mayfield, Sgt. Franklin McCullough, Sherri Jackson, Travis Dalton, and Ralph Lawson — who meet monthly.
“They create a buzz for me, letting other teachers know what is expected,” Lyles said. “They are a tremendous help to us. They let us know what teachers are concerned about, what is going well and what is not. They give the teachers a voice.”
Second-year U.S. History teacher Ken Ellis worked in Spartanburg County before coming to UCHS.
“It wasn’t like what people said,” Ellis said, mentioning that the stigma around UCHS is unnecessary and that he has great students.
Ellis teaches the largest AP class at the school, which consists of 28 students. He said about one quarter of the class is spent on study tips, time management, writing strategies and test taking strategies.
“I’m trying to help teach for their entire high school career,” Ellis said.
Extracurricular activities also help students’ performance in school. Other helpful groups not previously mentioned include the Ladies and Gentlemen’s Clubs; Interact, which includes 60 juniors and seniors who are raising money for March of Dimes and helping FFA sponsor local families for Christmas; and SGA, which held a canned food drive for Thanksgiving and donated the food to needy students within the district, serving around 70 families.
Another successful program at the school has been Student of the Month, in which each teacher nominates a student for the honor. Lyles said the program sparks friendly competition and a desire among students to behave well in class.
Students at the school also have positive feedback about UCHS.
JROTC Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Satardra “Speedy” Hall was known for complaining when she entered ninth grade. Lyles said she became upset with him at the time because he changed her class schedule. Now, Hall is a leader in JROTC, and she better understands why it is important to lead and follow.
“I still complain, but now it’s to other cadets in JROTC,” Hall smiled. “Now I care, and I study harder to pass every test. I’m trying a lot harder now.”
Hall then turned to Lyles.
“I really am trying my best,” she said.
Several freshman students also talked about their school.
“When I first came, I was nervous,” said Kayley Austin. “Once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t so bad. Now I’m okay and I know where to go.”
“I was very scared coming here, but now I’m used to it,” said Summer Davis. “I’ve made a lot of friends and I know a lot more people now.”
Lyles said he is determined to improve the school’s report card grade, and he said things are going in the right direction for UCHS to become the best school in the state. He referred back to this year’s mantra:
“Success is our only option,” he said.