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BDK’s Turner is KCSD Principal of the Year

Posted: March 19, 2013 5:25 p.m.
Updated: March 20, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Baron DeKalb (BDK) Elementary School Principal Betty Turner may not have had a straight path to her current position, but the winding road has led her to become Kershaw County School District’s 2013-2014 Principal of the Year.

Turner is a Kershaw County native and Lugoff-Elgin High School graduate, who saw education as her best career path after she spent time working at television stations in Philadelphia, Pa. and Charlotte, N.C.

March 6 will now be a date she remembers for the rest of her life, as her two children, Ebone and Nigel, traveled to BDK to celebrate the occasion with their mother. Turner inspired both of her children to go into education. Ebone is a teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina and is getting her masters at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte (UNCC). Nigel will complete a degree in history in May at the University of South Carolina (USC), and pursue a master’s degree so that he can teach social studies.

Her children’s paths are no surprise to Turner whose father, LeRoy Dixon Sr. of Lugoff, was very influential in her decision to go into education. He and Turner’s mother, the late Matherine Dixon, were adamant that all their children attend college, she said. Turner said her father thought teaching was one of the greatest professions a person could go into. He and her husband, Edward, are very proud of her accomplishments, Turner said.

Turner began her career in education in 1988 at Irwin Avenue Elementary School in Charlotte as an instructional assistant. After receiving a degree in journalism and public relations at USC, she went on to work in sales for a TV station owned by Westinghouse Broadcasters in Philadelphia, Pa. Westinghouse bought a Ted Turner TV station in Charlotte and she moved back South as operations manager. Turner said the voice over work she was doing “wasn’t her calling,” but noticed people at the station were coming to her for advice. So, she went back to school and earned her master’s degree in counseling at UNCC. In 1990, she interviewed with Kershaw County School District (KCSD) personnel about an elementary school guidance counseling position. The district had just begun hiring guidance counselors for that age group, which motivated her to graduate several months early, she said. She served various students at BDK, Midway, Lugoff and Antioch elementary schools until 1994, when she moved back to Charlotte. She was only there for a year, but gained valuable experience developing a program called “HERO” -- Help, Encouragement and Recognition of Observers of Domestic Violence. She returned to school counseling in 1995 with an alternative middle school in Charlotte, but wanted to move back to Kershaw County. She took a job at Shaw Heights Elementary School in Sumter for one year before counseling at the Continuous Learning Center (CLC) in 1997.

Her ever-evolving road to becoming principal of the year began there in a sense, as she was inspired to pursue another master’s degree in leadership at USC. She finished in 2001 and became an assistant principal at Camden Elementary School in 2002; she was named BDK principal BDES in 2008.

School has always been enjoyable, Turner said. She has numerous memories of the “family atmosphere” during her time at Wateree Elementary School where her grandmother was the cafeteria manager and the time she went to spent a day in first-grade with her older brother when she was 5-years-old. She also had fond memories of the time her dad got her a Sears-Roebuck typewriter for representing her school in a spelling bee.

“I love the smell of school and I love when school starts each year,” Turner said. “School has always been a special place for me. I want kids to know that they are loved when they come to BDK; I want to empower them and help them to understand that education can unlock so many doors.”

That’s exactly the vibe BDK faculty and staff gets from Turner too.

“When you talk about school, she just glows,” BDK bookkeeper Lucinda Howell said. “She’s a fighter; she fights wants Baron DeKalb to have the best.”

Teacher Elizabeth Jones and her assistant, Linda Bowers, both said Turner is not only a great administrator, but a great friend. Bowers has been at BDK for 29 years and said Turner is the best principal she’s worked under.

“She definitely deserves it,” Jones said. “We have come a long way under her leadership. She’s very positive and has high expectations of everyone. She expects 100 percent student achievement and dedication.”

“She is all around perfect,” Bowers said.

Librarian Patty Leigh said Turner is the most supportive administrator she’s had the privilege of working with. Turner believes in learning and she believes in placing a special emphasis on activities formed around what is best for students, she said.

BDK Intervention Specialist Audrey Burroughs said the school is small but with a big heart where everyone excels because Turner encourages teachers to teach each child with compassion and encouragement. She provides everything her staff needs to be successful, Burroughs said. Her leadership and dedication are what helps students in the end, teaching assistant Ida Rwirangira added.

The KCSD Principal of the Year is chosen by administrators across the district in January of each year. It is open to all administrators, even if they have won it previously, KCSD Director for Communications Mary Anne Byrd said.

“There has been a lot of success in recent years at Baron DeKalb with their SIC (school improvement council) recognition and her recent selection as the Kershaw County Reading Council’s Administrator of the Year,” Byrd said. “All of those successes have helped highlight the work that she and others are doing at Baron DeKalb.”

Byrd said it is rewarding and encouraging to see that Turner has had various positions within the district and worked her way up to a leadership role.

“It’s an honor that my peers selected me,” Turner said. “It’s a humbling experience because you really need great people to help you accomplish your goals. I’m a servant-leader: I give my teachers what they need and they give the students what they need.”

BDK is an Exemplary Writing Award winner, the winner of the Dick and Tunky Riley Award for School Improvement Council Excellence, and is a 21st Century Learning Center grant recipient.

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