Public gets 6 options for new school’s name

This view of the new school’s construction was taken June 13. Photo courtesy of Darlington County School District

By Bobby Bryant, Editor,

Can you name one school for three educators?

A committee considering a name for Darlington’s new elementary school thinks not. The panel has narrowed the list of possible names for the new school to six, and none of the options attempts to work in the names of all three educators whose names grace the schools this one will replace.

When you get to vote on the new school’s name late this summer, you’ll have the option of sticking with Brunson-Dargan Elementary or J.L. Cain Elementary – the names of the two schools that will be folded into the single new elementary now under construction and set to open in 2020.

But none of the six options combines all three names. Early suggestions like Cain Brunson Dargan Elementary, CainDar Elementary and DarCain Elementary didn’t make the cut.

This aerial view of the new Darlington school’s construction was taken May 7. Photo courtesy of Darlington County School District

Here are the six final options that will later be presented to residents and to affected students, parents and school employees:

EAST DARLINGTON ELEMENTARY. Because the new school is on the east side of town.

FIRST STREET ELEMENTARY. Because the school will be on First Street. It’s being built next to Cain’s current site.

BRUNSON-DARGAN ELEMENTARY. This option honors school officials’ 1953 decision to name this Wells Street school for longtime educators Margaret Keith Dargan and Susannah Woods Brunson.

J.L. CAIN ELEMENTARY. This choice honors officials’ 1953 decision to name this school after James Lawrence Cain, a pioneering black educator.

DR. WILLIE BOYD SR. ELEMENTARY. Boyd retired last year after more than 50 years of service with the Darlington County School District, including working as a teacher and principal and later serving in administrative posts.

C.C. WEARING ELEMENTARY. School-district officials were still preparing a short biography on Wearing.

Early suggestions for the new school’s name included Darlington Early Learning Academy, Darlington Elementary School of Innovation, Dreamgate Elementary, Harmony Elementary and Innovative Elementary.

School district spokeswoman Audrey Childers said the district plans to wait until the start of the new school year – late August – to go ahead with a public vote on the new school’s name. During a June 24 “retreat” workshop, the school board and county Education Superintendent Tim Newman discussed the timing of the vote. Newman said his “gut feeling” was to wait until school resumes after the summer break.

Artist conception

Once the public vote does begin, the school district plans to offer several ways to cast ballots, including mailing a paper ballot to the district offices, e-mailing your vote to the district, completing an online ballot on the district’s website and other methods.

Once the results are tallied, the numbers will be given to the school board, which has final say on naming the new school. The board’s “preferred” policy is to name schools after geographical areas, but that’s not mandatory. It’s likely the board will endorse the public’s choice for a school name, especially if the results show a clear-cut favorite.

Officials will use a similar plan for naming two other new schools being built in the county, one in Hartsville and one in Lamar.

Naming schools wasn’t the only issue that came up during the board’s annual “retreat” June 24, held this year at the school district’s “Annex” at 102 Park St. near the Darlington library. (The public portion of the retreat lasted more than four hours; after that, the board went into executive session to talk about personnel matters.)

During the public discussion, Newman asked the board to list some challenges facing the school district. Board members cited opening the three new schools, technology, recruiting and keeping employees and safety issues. Safety should be built into every discussion, board member Leigh Anne Kelley said. “We need to change our way of thinking.”

“You really can’t talk about a whole lot without having that (safety) discussion,” Newman said. The school district is still developing plans to install security cameras in every county school.

Board member Richard Brewer said he was concerned about the state of the 200-year-old St. John’s Elementary. “Eventually, we’re going to have to do something with the St. John’s school,” he said. “It’s really getting in rough condition.”

Newman asked the board to list some of the district’s strengths. Members cited the employees, solid finances, a level of trust and a willingness to learn new things. “I think overall, as a district, we’re trending in the right direction,” Newman said.

“We were kind of treading water for a few years there,” board member Jamie Morphis said, but he said the district seems to have a firm fix on the future now. Board member Wanda Hassler said: “We have finally got a forward vision and an engine driving it.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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