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State of The School Address

West Ashley High School kicks off its 17th year with great success


September 6, 2017
By Lee Runyon | West Ashley High School Principal

As West Ashley High School heads into its 17th year as the public flagship high school within the West Ashley Community, questions abound. Parents and community members wonder how will the school respond to issues relative to student discipline in 2016-17? What exciting academic and co-curricular experiences lie ahead? Who is the principal of WAHS?

In a present age where social media and its users can transparently set public opinion faster than the turn signal light changes on West Wildcat Boulevard, we embark on the journey ahead this year as a school with a determination to answer these questions as 1,650 Wildcats fill the halls and classrooms of our community school.

Having spent my entire life since 1st  grade in school, first as a student, then a teacher, then a coach, and now an administrator, I’ve learned to connect history, literature, science, and math to everyday experiences in order to make sense and meaning of any situation.

WAHS has recognized the fact that in 2016-17, more than 75 percent of our students had a perfect discipline record, while 1 percent of our cohort last year got involved in physical altercations.

Emotions ran high relative to public debate over our new district Progressive Discipline Plan, but the lessons learned resulted in the opportunity for district supports to grow for our school. As a result we saw the return of In-School Suspension (ISS) programs, additional school climate professional development in Positive Behavior Implementation Systems (PBIS) and Capturing Kids Hearts (CKH) for all staff as well as additional school counselors and mental health counselor services for 2017-18. It took deep dives into data over the summer for our staff to add support and strategies that have resulted in a smooth start to the new school year in Wildcat Nation.

In our coming academic year, our school is fully embracing The South Carolina Profile of a High School Graduate relative to college and career readiness. Although two-thirds of The Class of 2016 qualified for LIFE Scholarships, HOPE Scholarships, Palmetto Fellows Scholarships, and accrued more than $4 million in grants and aids, we want every student to have access and opportunities in college credit-bearing courses.

We’ve expanded our Dual Credit course offerings to include transferable college credit coursework in Spanish, Biology, and Zoology along with our course offerings in English and Math. This partnership with Trident Technical College gives our students access to Dual Credit and Advanced Placement Courses that can save families thousands of dollars in college costs when students achieve acceptable scores.

To help our entire student body become college-ready, we are requiring that all 9th graders take their first two math courses required for graduation in their initial year. By the time the Class of 2021 becomes juniors, potentially an entire grade level of students will be ready to enroll in courses that will yield college credit.

Many parents raised issue in Spring 2017 with the district’s sudden decision to offer me a new position in 2017-18 and did a bit more than Robert Frost’s sleigh horse as he stopped by woods on a snowy evening and gave, “… His harness bells a shake to ask if there is some mistake.”

My assignment this year is as principal of WAHS with additional responsibilities to lead the programming development of the future North Charleston and West Ashley Centers for Advanced Studies slated to open in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Our school is staffed to collaboratively lead while I handle these matters, but let me assure you that my commitment to WAHS is both my primary responsibility and long-term priority. As an educator born and raised in West Ashley, with two children in our West Ashley schools, I believe that the best use of my professional expertise lies at school level with our high school students.

Our community is resilient and we will have a fantastic school year together in 2017-18! We are familiar with change as local landmarks have changed in our own lifetime. For example, the only Coburg Dairy cow remaining from my childhood on Savannah Highway now resides suspended above the traffic rather than grazing. But like my literary hero Archibald Rutledge, our state’s first poet laureate, I’m an educator born and raised along a Lowcountry river and choose to traverse the challenges of both change, traffic, growth and professional work in my home by the river.

Our work together in Wildcat Nation in 2017-18 will be fruitful and we look forward to our community joining our school as we win scholarships, championships, and national recognition for exemplary educational opportunities for every student.


One Comment

  1. I am so proud and pleased that you are the principal of West Ashley High. I have taught in Charleston County for 35 years. Charleston County was my school district for all 12 years of my education. My grandson attends WAHS. I am so happy and secure that my grandson is under your care and the outstanding teachers at his school.

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