April 2016


In This Edition: Team Rhonda; Filling Their Tanks; Top Ten Teachers; New Administrators; Anytime Learning; 2016-17 Calendar; Grants; Quiz


Team Rhonda



Rhonda draws strength from the many prayer warriors that wear pink "Team Rhonda’"bracelets, those that pray with her, and the many that share her story.

     Have you ever had one of those mornings when you just didn't feel like getting up to go to work? You have a headache, your stomach hurts, or you just don’t want to get up. These excuses don’t hold water for Rhonda McCuen, a 34-year veteran in the Transportation Department and Safety Training Specialist at Donaldson Bus Center.

      Rhonda has metastasized breast cancer that has recently taken a toll on her spine and bones. “If I can get up and put on my makeup, I’m coming to work,” she said. “I love my job. It keeps me going. I’m not going to let my illness stop me.”


A cross formed in the sky during a prayer service for Rhonda. Photo provided by McCuen family.


     Rhonda was first diagnosed with breast cancer more than a decade ago.  She underwent treatment and a mastectomy. She was declared cancer-free until last Memorial Day, when the cancer returned and began to attack her bones. In September, Rhonda’s husband Dicky, GCS Director of Operations and Maintenance and also the Minister of Waycross Baptist Church, held a prayer service that was attended by more than 100 people. And that’s when an amazing and powerful thing happened.

    “We were about to start the service but everyone was pointing up to the sky,” said Rhonda. “We all looked up and saw a cross that just appeared in the sky.”  The rest of the story.


Filling Their Tank


Damon Qualls, right, with Phillip Davie, Assistant Superintendent for Middle School Education.

“Damon Qualls has earned the respect of every person in our building and that speaks volumes about what kind of leader he is.” – Shasta Looper, Balanced Literacy Coach, Berea Middle School


     Damon Qualls, Sixth Grade Assistant Principal at Berea Middle School, is the first administrator in the district to be selected to participate in  Harvard University’s Improving Schools: the Art of Leadership Institute program. The institute is for school leaders in the early years of their careers who are seeking improved leadership skills and a focus on shaping a culture that supports student learning.

     “I am very pleased that Mr. Qualls has been selected for the leadership program,” said Phillip Davie, Assistant Superintendent for Middle School Education. “We are looking forward to all he is going to learn, to gain best practices for students, and to bring back strategies to create a culture that increases student achievement.”

     Since arriving at Berea Middle, Qualls has been extremely influential. He is described by his peers as a leader who is in tune with his teachers and students and consistently works to “fill their tank” with daily affirmations, celebrations, and social outings.

     Qualls is affecting positive change among students and staff. He introduced his middle school team to DonorsChoose.org, where teachers and other staff have acquired $26,718 in grants to enhance classroom instruction. The rest of the story.



Congratulations to our Top Ten Teachers!

Congratulations to ten finalists who have been selected in the 2016-17 GCS Teacher of the Year program. The Selection Committee will choose the next Teacher of the Year after classroom observations and individual interviews with the Top Ten.  The announcement naming Greenville County’s 2016-17 Teacher of the Year will be made in August. The rest of the story.

Krissy Black, English/Language Arts, Northwest Middle

Andi Buckless, First Grade, Stone Elementary Academy

Amanda Catherman, Spanish, Greenville Sr. High Academy

Kristen Griffin, Kindergarten, Buena Vista Elementary

Cara Preston McFarlane, Special Education, Wade Hampton High

Jennifer Murphy, Third Grade, Robert E. Cashion Elementary

Lori Nelson, School Counselor, Paris Elementary

Matthew Phillips, Biology/Life Science, Blue Ridge High

Katie Saunders, 1st/2nd Primary Multiage Class, Bethel Elementary

Megan Schonhar, English, Greer Middle College Charter High


Introducing New Administrators


Dr. Mason Gary  
Whitney Hanna  

Dr. Mason Gary, Deputy Superintendent

     Dr. Mason Gary has joined Greenville County Schools as Deputy Superintendent. Dr. Gary previously served as Superintendent for Anderson District Three, and has served 27 years in public education in various roles including teacher, coach, administrative assistant, assistant principal, principal and superintendent. Dr. Gary took Anderson District Three from” Average” to “Excellent” in the Absolute Rating category and “Good” to “Excellent” in Growth Rating and has demonstrated an ability to effectively utilize resources. Dr. Gary is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the school district.



Whitney Hanna, Coordinator of Community Collaboration

      Whitney Hanna has been hired as Coordinator of Community Collaboration and Institutional Advancement. She previously served as Marketing Account Team Manager with ScanSource. Hanna earned a Bachelor’s in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina.






Anytime Learning



Duncan Chapel Elementary Fourth Grade Teacher Dana Tinklepaugh enjoys the flexibility of taking courses online and on her schedule.


      Hardly a week goes by that Tim Cushman, Coordinator of Instructional Technology, doesn’t remind his team of eight technology facilitators of their mission: “We are teachers growing teachers.”

     Though the mission may not change, the methods and tools available to achieve that mission are ever-changing. From Chromebooks to personalized learning initiatives with 1:1 devices to Promethean Boards, the tools available to GCS teachers are drastically different than the tools available even five years ago. With every advancement, device, and initiative comes the need for focused, intentional, and effective training for teachers and administrators.

     “It’s very common that teachers sign up for classes and don’t attend because by the end of the day they’re tired and don’t want to travel across town for another hour or two of classes,” said Cushman. “We are offering them the opportunity to get free professional development on their own schedule from the comfort of their living room.” The rest of the story.



Best Community for Music Education



     Cheers to all of our outstanding music teachers! Greenville County Schools is among 476 school districts across the United States to be recognized by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation as the Best Communities for Music Education. BCME recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders who work together to ensure access to music learning for all students as part of the school curriculum.


Grants for Educators

For more information contact Lisa Finley, Grant Writer, 355-3113.


K-12 Educators

NEA Foundation – Learning and Leadership grants of $2,000 are available to K-12 educators and education support professionals for participation in high-quality professional development experiences. Preference is given to members of the National Education Association. A list of previous grantees, specific applicant criteria, and access to the online application is available  here. Deadline: June 1, 2016.

Sol Hirsch Education Fund – The National Weather Association is awarding $750 grants to K-12 educators to support projects in meteorology and related science. Funds can be used to purchase classroom supplies, establish outreach and education programs, attend workshops or conferences regarding meteorology education, and other activities designed to enhance the teaching of meteorology. A list of previous grantees, specific applicant criteria, and access to the online application is available. Deadline: June 3, 2016.

K-8 Educators

Lois Lenski Covey Foundation – Grants of $3,000 are available to school libraries serving K-8 students. Funds must be used to purchase fiction and non-fiction books that will be accessible to at-risk children. Funds cannot be used for classroom collections, book gift programs, workbooks, magazine subscriptions, or textbooks. Student free & reduced price meal percentage of 65% or higher is required for the applicant school(s). Deadline: May 13, 2016.

California Certified Organic Farmers Foundation – Twenty grants of $1,000 are available to K-8 educators to support projects that integrate organic agriculture into classroom instruction. Student free & reduced price meal percentage of 65% or higher is required for the applicant school(s). To access the online application or for project ideas, click here. Deadline: May 15, 2016.



Healthy Living Tips  


Rehab Your Injuries - If you've got a physical condition that limits your activity, schedule an appointment with a sports medicine doctor or physical therapist. They can help rehabilitate the issues with various exercises. Equally important, they can teach you to modify your training so you can still exercise safely.

Rise, Then Shine - Work out in the morning, before the rest of the day gets in your way. Bonus: Nailing a morning workout boosts your confidence for the rest of day!



Golden Apple Rewards Discount Program

     New vendors have been added to the 2016 Golden Apple Rewards program!  Access discounts on the go from your Smartphone or tablet by visiting www.goldenapplerewards.com. The information is also posted in the Employee section of the GCS website. If you want to stay informed about new businesses being added to the program, be sure to click "Subscribe for Updates" on the website.



2016-17 Calendar Released

     Greenville County Schools has released the 2016-17 calendar. The first day of school for students is Tuesday, August 16. The last day of school is Friday, June 2. Teachers return to school on Tuesday, August 9.

Click here for the 2016-17 Employee Calendar.



Upcoming 2015-16 Dates to Remember


Friday, April 22 and Monday, April 25 - Makeup Days

Tuesday, May 3 - Job Fair (Bus Drivers, Bus Aides, and Hourly Job Groups) - Lifelong Learning, 5-7 PM

Tuesday, May 17 - Job Fair (Bus Drivers, Bus Aides, and Hourly Job Groups) - Location TBA, 5-7 PM

Thursday, May 26 - Retirement Banquet

Monday, May 30 - Memorial Day Holiday

May 31 - June 2 - Half-Days of School

Thursday, June 2 - Last Day of School for Students

Friday, June 3 - Schools Workday

Monday, June 6 - Schools  Workday/Exchange Day #4



Earn Extra Credit! Take the Greenville Federal Credit Union Quiz



Deadline: Friday, April 22


Take the Quiz for A Chance to Win!
Two names will be drawn for two tickets to Biltmore House or two Regal Cinemas movie tickets and a $25 gift card from Greenville Federal Credit Union. Please submit your entry only one time. The deadline to enter is Friday, April 22. 


February 2016 Winners

Tena Irby, 4K Aide at Dunbar Child Development Center, and Kimberly Sullivan, Fifth Grade Teacher at Lake Forest Elementary, were our February winners. Thank you for reading Enlighten and submitting your entry!


Question #1:

Damon Qualls has been selected to participate in:

A) Leadership Greenville

B) Best and Brightest Under 40

C) Harvard University’s Improving Schools: the Art of Leadership Institute Program


Question #2:

The Greenville County Teacher of the Year announcement will be made in:

A) June

B) July

C) August


Question #3:

Which GCS employee can help teachers sign up for Anytime Learning opportunities?

A) Katie Perry

B) Olivia Wilde

C) Tim Cushman


Enlighten e-News distributed by the Communications Department six times a year to our approximately 9,800 employees.