All students have gifts and all of Beaufort County's schools have strengths, superintendent Valerie Truesdale said Tuesday.
She said it is the school district's job to uncover those gifts, in part by developing a variety of programs that cater to different strengths.
"We believe that choice builds empowerment for students and choice builds energy and enthusiasm for parents, which vitalizes a community and makes a big, big difference," Truesdale said.
Truesdale joined parents, principals and other local officials for a panel discussion Tuesday about choice and specialty programs in public schools. The Leadership Beaufort Alumni Association sponsored the discussion at the Holiday Inn in Beaufort.
Parents representing three programs spoke: Riverview Charter School; the arts-infused curriculum at Lady's Island Elementary School; and the Advanced Math, Engineering and Science Academy magnet program at Beaufort Elementary.
The Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts also offers an arts-infused elementary program, and a second AMES Academy will open at Pritchardville Elementary School this fall.
Mike Freeman, a Riverview board member, said he hopes to send his child to the Beaufort charter school for kindergarten this fall.
"Riverview Charter School operates on a little bit different premise than some other schools do," he said. "... It's a smaller school, and it focuses a little more on the individual child."
Annie Hansen spoke about her fourth-grade daughter's experience at the AMES Academy, which has drawn students who qualify academically from more than a dozen elementary schools across the county.
Hansen said the program allows her daughter to be surrounded by other gifted students, and that has fostered healthy competition.
"They are constantly motivating each other to do better and be better students," she said.
Teresa Jepson's children attend Lady's Island Elementary to take advantage of a curriculum that infuses arts education throughout all subjects. She said the program helped her children flourish and is fun for students.
"And when kids are having fun, they want to be at school," she said.