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CHS is Palmetto’s Finest

Posted: March 27, 2014 5:39 p.m.
Updated: March 28, 2014 5:00 a.m.

“Ecstatic” would be the only word to adequately describe the reaction of Camden High School (CHS) Principal Dan Matthews on Wednesday after his school was named a 2014 Palmetto’s Finest award winner.

“At Camden High School, we do it the right way for the right reasons, because we are Camden and we wear gold and black,” Matthews said after receiving the winner’s plaque from CHS graduate and South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA) official Nancy Gregory.

“To the faculty and the staff and the students, this isn’t mine,” Matthews said. “This is yours. Y’all are Palmetto’s Finest. Good job and congratulations.”

A crowd of Kershaw County School District (KCSD) staff, along with CHS faculty and alumni cheered emphatically, congratulating both Matthews and his school for receiving such an honor.

“We see this as a validation of all of the great things that happen at Camden High School and across Kershaw County School District on a daily basis,” Matthews said. “It is with great pride that I accept this on behalf of the hardest working faculty and staff anywhere.”

According to a KCSD press release, CHS went through an intensive application process requiring self-evaluation, peer review and on-site examinations to receive the award. SCASA officials said the school philosophy behind its motto -- Commitment to Excellence -- resonates in the classroom, on the athletic fields and in extracurricular activities.

Judges also were impressed to see CHS’s test scores at an all-time high. Judges said CHS teachers incorporate data-driven instruction, mastery-based learning, relevance, technology, school-wide writing instruction and common core transition, which increases student engagement. The school has donated more than $100,000 and 5,000 service hours to various charities during the past five years. Eighty-nine percent of CHS’s 2013 graduating class went on to further education or joined the military. The “One Team, One Town, One Goal” permeates within the school and throughout the community, the KCSD press release also stated.

Matthews himself is no stranger to the Palmetto’s Finest award. Lugoff-Elgin Middle School (L-EMS) received the honor when Matthews was principal there in 2009. Other Kershaw County schools that have received the Palmetto’s Finest award include Doby’s Mill Elementary School in 2007; Lugoff Elementary in 1994-95; and Camden Primary School (now Camden Elementary School) in 1980-81.

KCSD Superintendant Dr. Frank Morgan shared his excitement at CHS’s triumph.

“What goes on here is magic,” Morgan said. “There’s an important relationship with this school and the community that makes it grow. (They are) very rich in tradition and history.”

Morgan also congratulated Matthews for landing the prestigious award twice in his career. He also mentioned that Matthews had once been a calculus teacher at CHS.

“I don’t think people truly understand what a jewel this place is,” Morgan said. “To have three of our schools earn this prestigious award in seven years illustrates the outstanding schools that we have in Kershaw County. This is a great day for Camden High School and our whole community.”

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