Dillon Middle School Holds Formal Dedication
Photos by Johnnie Daniels/The Dillon Herald and photos contributed by Dillon District Four
By Betsy Finklea
Thursday, September 6th was a “very special day” at Dillon Middle School as the formal dedication of Dillon’s first new school in more than 40 years was held with students, school personnel, and invited guests who played a part in getting the new school.
Dr. Polly Elkins, Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Personnel for Dillon District Four, welcomed those in attendance and recognized Dillon County Board of Education, Dillon Four Board, Dillon School Facilities Corporation, USDA, S.C. School Boards Association, construction project, federal, state, and local officials.
Dillon District Four Ray Rogers said this was a “fantastic day” and that the new school had been a dream of his for many years. He said this started in 1991 when he saw the plight of the school facilities. Rogers said he knew they could do better and had plans drawn.
Those plans yellowed on a stand in his office as he faced one road block after another. Then one day about four years ago, Senator Barack Obama, a presidential candidate at the time, came by and told them their dream could come true if they worked hard enough.
Rogers said the reason the new school was here was because of a “whole lot of people.” He said it all starts with the citizens who passed the referendum overwhelmingly.
Rogers said that after they passed the 1 cent sales tax that they couldn’t find the money to borrow and he thought this was an insurmountable road block. He said then Vernita F. Dore, State Director of USDA Rural Development, came and that visit really paid off. Rogers said when he retires he knows the school will be better now than when he came.
Rogers said that it took many years to get to this point, and he was so proud of what had been accomplished. He said he had been worried since the first brick because they had one shot to get it right. Rogers said that without everyone working together none of this would have been possible. He recognized a number of people who had been instrumental in the project.
Dillon County Board of Education Chairman Richard Schafer said this was a “very special day”. He said it took a long time to get here, but look what we have to show for it. He also mentioned the facility they just opened in Lake View and the facility that will be opened in Latta near the end of the year.
Schafer spoke about the support they received from government agencies. He recognized several individuals including former State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, who was in attendance.
Vernita Dore of USDA said this was about the students of Dillon County. “We love you. We’re proud of you, and we did the right thing getting the school repaired,” said Dove. “Don’t you think you deserved a brand new state-of-the art school?” she asked to which the students responded a resounding yes.
Dore said they need to thank President Obama for keeping his promise to the people of Dillon County. She said she had met with the president recently, and he asked about the schools in Dillon County.
Dore said a dream alone is not enough-that it takes people working together. She said the letter by then J.V. Martin student Ty’Sheoma Bethea prompted everyone to work together.
Dore said she learned several lessons throughout the process that she would like to share. She said one has to have a vision and dream big. One must believe in himself/herself, set goals, and keep your standards high. Watch the company you keep-eagles don’t fly with chickens. Be prepared-study and do your homework.
Dore told students they have a new state of the art school that came with blood, sweat, tears, and sleepless nights so the students need to show up. Dore said they have come a long way and should pat themselves on the back every day. Lastly, she said they should go forth and do great things.
Doug McKalip, Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council, was the next to speak. He said President Obama believes it is an important job to raise healthy young people. He said the administration was very moved by the words of Ty’Sheoma Bethea. McKalip said it took a whole community to make this happen and the federal government was proud to be a partner. He said the rural development program spends 20 percent of its funding on school renovations to build healthy communities and a better future. He thanked Dore and her team for their work on this project.
After McKalip’s comments, a ribbon cutting on a drawing of the school was held. Bethea cut the ribbon.
In a parting comment, Principal Rodney Cook said they would give nothing less than their best.