What was your experience before you became principal at OCA?
I began my career as a teacher for “at-risk” students in Charleston County. After earning a master’s degree in school counseling from The Citadel, I became a counselor at Summerville High School. After earning another master’s degree, this time in educational leadership, I worked at Cane Bay High School as director of school counseling services. I then had the honor of working alongside Lucy Beckham as an assistant principal at Wando High School for five years.
Why did you want to be the principal at OCA?
Ms. Beckham died in December, and, that January, I read an article about a new charter high school coming to Mount Pleasant. It spoke of things like free college and a modified schedule. … Why take high school U.S. history when you can take college U.S. history and get both a high school credit and a college elective credit? The article also talked about focusing on elite academics and elite athletics. I have always believed in the positive rewards of an athletic-based education. Oceanside was offering an amazing choice, and I wanted to be part of it.
What has been your biggest accomplishment at the school so far?
We started Oceanside with 325 students in an alternate location. Last year we moved into our permanent location with 550 students. This year, we have 650 students and had to turn away about 100 waitlisted students. Next year, we have accepted 700 students and have 350 waitlisted. Our plan is to stay at no more than 700 and go down if that number is too big. Our students are finding huge success in our classrooms and on our fields! This last semester we saved our community almost $2 million dollars between college tuition, technology and college textbooks, as our students earned 2,331 college credits.
What are your biggest challenges?
Trying to knock down barriers of misinformation within the traditional educational system and the South Carolina High School League — and getting an education system, which is set up to protect itself first, to understand that we are a free public charter high school. We cannot select who applies and go on a lottery-based enrollment system. All we can do is be transparent about our opportunities and challenges and hope students make the right decision whether we are a good choice for them.
What is your favorite thing about the school?
All who make the Shark Tank their home away from home daily!
Compiled by Tonya McGue