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Way better than the sum of our parts

Posted: March 16, 2012 2:22 p.m.
Updated: March 19, 2012 5:00 a.m.

I was attending a coaching clinic in the mid 1970s, and I got to talk with a very well-respected and successful football coach who had won a number of championships during a long and storied career. I asked him about his favorite team, expecting him to tell me about one of the numerous state championship teams he had coached. I was surprised, however, when he told me about a team he had coached that had not even gone very far into the playoffs. The coach told me he loved and valued this particular team since it had achieved well beyond its apparent potential because the team members played so well together. His description of this team was that it had been “way better than the sum of its parts.” 

I’ve never forgotten that statement. So how does this idea apply to those of us living in Kershaw County, South Carolina, in March of 2012? For whatever reason, I’ve been reflecting on this quite a bit as I approach five years of living and working in this community. Like any other community, especially in these difficult economic times, we’ve had our ups and downs over the past five years. But I’d like to take a moment to talk about some significant accomplishments in our community and how they relate to what that coach told me almost 40 years ago.

In December of 2007, a young man in our community died in a gang-related shooting. Once the shock of this tragedy wore off, the community resolved to come together to determine how this tragedy could be turned into something positive for the future. I will always remember an all-day meeting in November of 2008 where people from every walk of life in Kershaw County talked openly and honestly about what needed to be done to guide our youth in the right direction. I recall being particularly struck by the fact that none of the discussion was territorial. The focus was on all of our children. The outgrowth of that day was our community earning a $5.7 million “Safe Schools/Healthy Students” grant, funds which have had, and will continue to have, profound positive impact on all of Kershaw County. 

Two years ago, Kershaw County had one of the highest rates of DUI-related traffic deaths in South Carolina.  As a result, our community received a four-year, $440,000 grant from the state to start the CAST (Community Action for a Safer Tomorrow) coalition in Kershaw County to confront this problem. Under the strong and determined leadership of Tina Griggs from the ALPHA Center, our CAST Coalition has brought together law enforcement, the school district, human service providers, the business community, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and many others from all parts of Kershaw County to implement programs and strategies that have made a real difference. As a result, DUI-related deaths Kershaw County have significantly decreased and a variety of proactive measures have been taken to prevent DUI and to make the public more aware of the hazards of DUI. As with the “Safe Schools/Healthy Students” grant, CAST is all about a team effort. The results speak for themselves.

I can cite any number of other examples of how people in our community coming together to achieve a common goal have accomplished great things. The recent United Way campaign, which has raised nearly $600,000 in a difficult economic environment, is a very visible example. The Community Medical Clinic, Food for the Soul, Habitat for Humanity, New Day on Mill, Christian Community Ministries and so many other such endeavors are other examples. The common denominator is the whole community united around a need or a goal. In all of these cases, it wasn’t about Camden or Lugoff or Elgin or Bethune or Cassatt or anywhere else. It was about finding common ground to achieve a common purpose. It was about the whole community that is Kershaw County.

It goes without saying that Kershaw County faces many complex challenges now and in the future. Our community has a well-documented ability to come together to solve difficult problems when we choose to do so.  As we face the challenges out there, I hope we can always strive to be way better than the sum of our parts.

I’m always pleased to talk with community members about our schools. My direct dial phone number is 425-8916 and my email is Citizens can also contact me through the “Ask the Super” link on the homepage of the district Website. I also invite folks to read my “blog” and listen to the podcast I record after each school board meeting with meeting highlights. Both of these, and a whole lot more, can be accessed at


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