Beaufort Middle School is one of three middle schools named finalists for "Palmetto's Finest" recognition in a statewide contest to honor outstanding schools, the S.C. Association of School Administrators announced Wednesday.
Two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school will be named winners of this year's Carolina First Palmetto's Finest Schools Awards at a ceremony in March in Columbia.
"We are very, very proud," said Carole Ingram, principal of Beaufort Middle School. "We think this is great for us and it's great for Beaufort County to have some state recognition."
Beaufort Middle School is competing against two other middle schools -- Kelly Mill Middle School in Richland County and Loris Middle School in Horry County.
The S.C. Association of School Administrators and its partner, Carolina First Bank, announced the finalists after conducting site visits and reviewing written applications from 35 schools. Three other local schools received site visits -- Hilton Head Island High School, Whale Branch Middle School and the Hilton Head Island Elementary School for the Creative Arts.
The association has given the award annually since 1978. It recognizes schools that offer excellent instruction and outstanding leaders, augmented by strong family, community and business involvement, according to the association's website.
The last Beaufort County school to win was Shell Point Elementary in 1998, according to the association's website.
Ingram said the two-person team of educators that evaluated Beaufort Middle School in December observed classroom instruction and met with administrators, teachers, parents and students. A second team will visit the school before the winner is chosen, she said.
Ingram said she hopes evaluators recognize the high expectations teachers have for their students and the high expectations students set for themselves.
"They will be able to see students caring about their learning and about their teachers and about each other," she said.
Ingram said evaluators also will see evidence of the strong relationship the school has with the community. For example, she said Beaufort Middle School students were involved in the Beaufort Three-Century Project and produced publications of student work to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the city's charter.
Kami Kinard, who volunteers at Beaufort Middle School, said the school is a deserving finalist in part because Ingram and the faculty constantly seek improvement. One of her children finished eighth grade at the school last year, and another will attend the school in the fall.