Guest column by Palmetto High Principal Dr. Mason Gary

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(Editor’s Note – Dr. Gary was asked by The Journal to write about his time in School District One. He has included information about many of the improvements and accomplishments of Palmetto High and School District One during his time there.)

It is with mixed emotions that I write this letter to you because I have spent eighteen great years in Anderson School District One. As many of you know, I have been elected as superintendent at Anderson School District Three for the 2012-13 school year. I want to thank each of you for the relationship we have developed over the years and together we have accomplished many great things at Palmetto High.

During my thirteen years as principal of Palmetto High, there have been numerous times that the students, teachers, academic achievements, athletic teams, as well as other extra-curricular events have made me proud to be a Mustang. It is hard to believe that I have been here longer than any other principal in the school’s history which began in 1953. I guess that qualifies me as an old geezer!

I want to thank the students, staff, parents, community, our district office staff, and school board for the support, dedication, loyalty, and hard work that you have exhibited during this time to make Palmetto High a premier high school in our state. Together we have received four Palmetto Gold or Silver awards, been named as a School of Promise, recipient of the Red Carpet School Award for family friendliness, a pilot school for The Greatest Generation Project, and named as a finalist for the Carolina’s First Palmetto’s Finest award.

These are a few of the accolades we have earned and I want to thank each constituent for playing a vital role in making these happen. I have stated many times and still believe “when you do right things for the right reasons, rewards will come.” Our goal and central theme has been to do what is right for our students and we have, hence we have a great school due to our teamwork.

It is amazing how much has changed in our school and facilities during my tenure. Academically, we rank among the top of schools in our classification on all standard measures such as HSAP, SAT and ACT. Our teachers are doing an awesome job instructionally and I thank you for all that you accomplish daily. We have added three AP classes and five Dual Credit courses to our curriculum. We have infused much technology such as Smartboards in every classroom, two mobile labs, five total computer labs, Senteo Smart response systems, Edmodo etc. to enhance our instructional program.

We are running four schedules within our master schedule to best meet the needs of all of our students. Our Freshman Academy has received national acclaim with close to one hundred schools or districts visiting us these past eleven years of the Freshman Academy’s existence, and several teachers and administrators from PHS have presented on our academy nationwide in cities such as Orlando, San Antonio, San Francisco, Atlanta and Tennessee.

We offer up to thirty clubs for our students now as opposed to four when I came. We field eighteen varsity and JV athletic teams. We have added the “Power of I” and Senior Projects, our AFJROTC is a multiple time Distinguished Unit recipient, and our band, chorus and drama programs have all moved to an excellent status under their respective leaders.

When the current high school was built in 1973, it was the same building I inherited thirteen years ago with 740 students and currently we have 921.

Since then we have experienced three building program expansions adding twelve new structures such as the 400 wing, Freshman Academy, 600 wing, weight room, field house behind the football field and baseball fields, two concession stands at the football field and one at the softball field, renovations to the press box at the baseball field and ticket booth and entrance to our football field. We added new bleachers to the football stadium, built a storage building, interior fence and moved the home stands to their current location, as well as adding new goal posts. The new track is being completed as we speak behind the school, complete with a storage building and concession stand. We have added parking lots to both sides of the school, redesigned the front entrance complete with new landscaping. The Mustang statue and LED sign were also added during this time.

Inside the school, we have repainted and retiled the entire building, painted murals at the main entrance and in the library, redesigned and replaced the carpet in the library, added a multi-purpose room to our cafeteria and purchased new picnic tables for the courtyard and front of the school. The auditorium received new curtains, the stage was sanded and repaired, and a sound room added, as well as a new sound system and projector.

I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the taxpayers of Anderson One for passing the bond referendums that allowed much of this construction to occur, our school board, Dr. Fowler, Mr. Havird and Dr. Christopher for their leadership throughout these multiple phases of our building program. To Mr. Kelly, our custodians and district maintenance staff I want to thank you for the superb job you do in keeping our building and grounds in excellent shape.

As you can see, we have much to be proud for and we have accomplished many things as a team. I will miss each of you greatly as this next chapter unfolds but I pray God will continue to bless you individually and as a district in the days ahead. A special thank you to my friend, Mr. Barry Knight, who gave me the opportunity to work in Anderson One as his assistant principal which started such a wonderful journey.

Also, to a special group of office professionals who worked closely with me over these years: Mrs. Susie Rhodes, Mrs. Anne Mullinax, Mrs. Joan Plunkett, and Mrs. Debra Owens, to each of you I am indebted. Faculty and Staff at PHS, I love you very much and thank you for all you have done for me and our students. Anderson One is A1 for a reason- and that reason is you. It has been an honor to serve you these past eighteen years, and I will forever be a part of Anderson One and the Palmetto Mustangs.

To my students past and present, it’s all about the SHOE and continue having Pride, Passion and Purpose and I love you very much.

Respectfully and gratefully yours,

Mason Gary

During our last accreditation our school developed the following acrostic which describes who we are:

P Passionate M Motivated

A Academic U Understanding

L Learning Focused S Student Centered

M Moral T Tolerant

E Ever-changing A Accountable

T Team Oriented N Nurturing Environment

T Trend Setter G Goal Driven

O Open-minded S Success Nothing Less