Forward Together. This school year, these words are echoing time and again throughout Spartanburg School District Seven. As we adapt our virtual and in-person learning operations in response to COVID-19 and transition to new leadership with my first year as superintendent, this is an unprecedented time of charting new ground. Thanks to our District Seven Family’s resilient spirit and to resounding community support, our dedicated team of professionals remain full of hope, determination, resilience, and heart that enables us to fulfill on our mission of inspiring and equipping our students for meaningful lives of leadership and service as world citizens. District Seven’s call to action is to move Forward Together, as a school district and as a community.
During this unique time in our history, District Seven continues to lead on a number of fronts that position us for continual and substantial growth. From our nationally recognized 1:1 technology initiative to the increasingly strong outcomes of our graduating seniors, the cumulative impact of all we do shines in the success stories of our children, the impressive contributions of our teachers and staff, and the continued support of a community that has long prized excellence in education. Moreover, our collective commitment to equity in education and to addressing the needs of the whole child is evidenced by our outcomes as well as our national accolades and distinctions.
District Seven is a key partner in supporting the work of the Racial Equity Institute, the Diversity Leaders Initiative, the Network for Southern Economic Mobility, and a host of community efforts aimed at bringing forth equitable outcomes for our citizens. Internally, the creation of an Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the summer of 2019 further underscores the district’s commitment to the work of equity and inclusiveness for all students and staff.
Meanwhile, to nurture children at every age and stage of growth, District Seven is forging the charge among educators to measure more than a student’s mastery of knowledge. With support from entities such as Compassionate Schools and Hope Lab, we are encouraging our schools and teachers to further inspire hope, to boost engagement, and to support the well-being of every child. We know educating the whole child is paramount in this competitive 21st century. Our work with local organizations such as the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM), the Northside Initiative, the Highland Group, the City of Spartanburg, One Spartanburg, and on a national level with Compassionate Schools is a key component in bettering the quality of life for our students, their families and our broader community.
Our recently opened Franklin School, through a public-private partnership, is a world-class early learning center located in the high-need area of our District’s Northside, with the goal of equipping children from birth to 5 years of age to enter kindergarten ready to learn. The Franklin School joins our other public-private partnership school, Meeting Street Academy, as evidence of the innovative approach to education within the Spartanburg community.
Our flagship Spartanburg High School strives to ensure each student is college or career ready. Over the past decade, the district’s graduation rate has improved significantly and remains above the state and national average. Our SAT average is among the highest in Spartanburg County. Approximately 80% of our graduates continue their education at a higher education institution or in the military. Spartanburg High School’s rigorous Advanced Placement program offers one of the largest arrays of AP courses in the state, with 140 National AP Scholars identified this year (a new school record) and AP exam passage rates that far exceed the national average. District Seven also celebrated eight National Merit Finalists in 2020, the fourth highest number among South Carolina’s high schools. With consistently positive student outcomes, Spartanburg High School was ranked, again this year as one of the nation’s best high schools by the U.S. News & World; and the Jay Matthews Challenge Index (formerly published by The Washington Post) has one again recognized Spartanburg High School as one of our nation’s most challenging high schools. We celebrate these tremendous accomplishments in the classroom, on the field, on the stage, and in our community as a result of the support of our parents, and the dedication and commitment of our board, faculty, staff and administration.
Equally important to high achievement is our focus on creating access for all students. Each school across the district does this in way that best fits with their school community. Whether they have achieved excellence as an AVID School of Distinction, earned certification as a National School to Watch, become an International Baccalaureate School, opened a Montessori program, adopted an arts-infusion approach, or found their niche as a Franklin Covey Leader in Me Lighthouse School, they all share the common goal of helping each student overcome obstacles in order to reach his or her full potential. Results are seen not only in our graduation and college matriculation rates, but also in our student cohorts who have simultaneously earned their high school diploma and an associate’s degree through the Viking Early College, the Spartanburg County Early College High School and the Scholars Academy. Our newest college partnership program opened this year – the Valkyrie Middle College – which aims to create a pipeline of future educators who graduate with up to 30 hours of college credit through District Seven’s partnership with Converse College. The number of high school students who participate in our dual-enrollment programs has more than doubled over the past decade. For students who are often the first in their family to attend college, the reward of completing their bachelor’s degree while in high school is clear.
Finally, as we look to the 2020-2021 school year, another exciting capital project is changing the landscape of District Seven. On the heels of our recently constructed Drayton Mills Elementary School and Spartanburg High School, we reopened our renovated former high school facility as the new McCracken Middle School this year. As we strive to lead with excellence among school districts in the Southeast, we look to the future with an abiding commitment to give our students a competitive edge through exceptional instruction and world-class learning facilities. We are paving the way for generations to come.
Our Board of Trustees, teachers and staff, students and families, community partners and stakeholders are all invested in charting this direction, and we live out these ideals inside and outside of the classroom every day.
Jeff Stevens, Superintendent