North Augusta school could soon be named state's best

Hammond Hill Elementary is one of the finalists for a prestigious education award. (WRDW-TV)
Hammond Hill Elementary is one of the finalists for a prestigious education award. (WRDW-TV)
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News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW) -- There's a lot of learning going on at Hammond Hill Elementary. So much learning, in fact, that in just a couple weeks the school could be named the best in South Carolina.

"I love waking up and coming to work in the morning because I'm doing what I love to do, I know my own personal children are taken care of, and it's a place where my friends are," said Mandy Pond, who's been a kindergarten teacher there for a number of years.

She already knows this school is one of the best in the nation. They have the award to prove it. In September of last year, the school was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. That's the highest honor a school can receive.

"Talking to my brother, who lives in Pennsylvania, and telling him our school is a national Blue Ribbon School makes them proud because they know what kind of an honor that is," Pond said.

News 12 asked Principal Janet Vaughan how the school found success and whether other schools could learn something from Hammond Hill.

"We have a unique computer writing lab," she said, adding that even kindergartners learn typing and computer skills.

She adds that the labs are open both before and after school. Students without Internet at home can do online assignments in those extra hours with parents by their sides.

"Also, we have a mathematics lab with a small teacher-student ratio," Vaughan said.

Teachers and administrators even encourage students to work during summer break. There are plenty of awards for student achievement.

Vaughan says they also promote friendly learning environments, too.

"The PTO and the School Improvement Council joined forces together this past year, and they totally renovated our courtyard," she said.

The announcement for Palmetto's Finest will be made on March 11. Teachers, parents and students are all invited to a 4 o'clock assembly, where the results will be streamed live.

By the way, Hammond Hill has come a long way. Just a few years ago, it was graded as an "at-risk" school.

"I am teaching at a National Blue Ribbon School. It's kind of like a mini dream come true," Pond said.

Hammond Hill will be competing against two other elementary schools in South Carolina for the Palmetto's Finest. One is in Spartanburg and the other is in Dorchester.

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