Education

Okatie Elementary named 'Palmetto's Finest'

Students at Okatie Elementary School wait to find out if their school was named Palmetto's Finest.
Students at Okatie Elementary School wait to find out if their school was named Palmetto's Finest. Staff photo

Okatie Elementary School has had quite a year, setting a South Carolina record that will be difficult to beat.

During a live, statewide telecast Wednesday afternoon, the S.C. Association of School Administrators announced that Okatie was named a Palmetto's Finest school for 2014. The honor caps off an award-filled year, in which Okatie also was named a National Blue Ribbon school in the fall and its School Improvement Council earned statewide recognition earlier this week.

Wednesday's announcement marked the first time that a South Carolina school has earned all three honors during the same academic year.

"It's unprecedented. I think they truly set a new standard or a new bar that all schools should aspire to," Beaufort County School District superintendent Jeff Moss said. "It's like if they won all the majors in golf, or a grand slam in tennis, whatever sports analogy you want to make."

There were two Palmetto's Finest winners in the elementary division and one each at the middle and high school levels.

When Midland Elementary of Horry County was announced first, all the students, teachers and parents in the Okatie cafeteria held their breath to see if there would be a second winner. After a long pause and drum roll, the room erupted in cheers when Okatie's name was announced.

Assistant principal Marva Neal said the flurry of accomplishments hasn't quite sunk in for the students and teachers, but all are excited to have hit the trifecta.

Okatie's secret to success: "Our teachers are just so wonderful and really get the kids excited, and the kids come to school engaged and wanting to learn," Neal said. "Also, the school has such strong parent and community involvement."

That was apparent when the School Improvement Council's recently won the 2014 Dick and Tunky Riley Award of Excellence from the S.C. School Improvement Council Association.

The celebration continued after Wednesday's announcement. Balloons fell from the ceiling, while students and teachers -- joined by Moss and Okie the Owl -- danced to the popular song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams.

"I am really excited about this award and the whole year, because I think we did a really good job and worked really hard and deserve it," third-grader Avery Grieve said.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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