two group photos of school board members

The Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) recognized two school boards with its annual award for Urban School Board Excellence Friday in Atlanta. Shelby County Schools (SCS) in Memphis, Tennessee, and Richland County School District One in Columbia, South Carolina, were acknowledged for their determined, successful, and ongoing efforts in school board governance, board performance, academic improvement, educational equity, and community engagement.

“We work hard to help our students build a foundation that will allow them to build successful careers,” said Angela Clyburn, a school board commissioner for Richland One. “Some of them will become doctors and lawyers, and others our teachers and ministers, electricians and plumbers. Wherever their dreams and aspirations may lead them, our goal is to make sure they are adequately prepared to meet life’s challenges.”

Among the innovative strategies and opportunities that the district has put in place are a first-in-the-state certified pre-apprenticeship program in fields including transportation; distribution and logistics; health science; automotive technology, diesel mechanics and commercial driver’s licensure; and finance and marketing.

“Programming such as these have resulted in our district achieving an all-time high graduation rate of 85.8%,” Clyburn said.

Miska Clay Bibbs, chair of the Shelby County School Board of Education, accepted the district leadership team's second consecutive CUBE Award. “Last year, we were not able to be in person with you,” Bibbs said. “You saw us virtually, and to stand here present day, I was teary-eyed earlier quite honestly.”

In a community with a challenged socioeconomic infrastructure resulting in 48 percent of district students living below the poverty level, “Every day we have to think about our children” and ask, “if this was your child, would this be okay with you?” she said.

With that in mind, the SCS board has enacted historical changes to district practices and policies to ensure educational equity, including the passage of resolutions to improve student literacy, the introduction of a game-changing Universal Screening process for entry into its gifted and talented program, and an expansive initiative to make Shelby County Schools a trauma-responsive district.

“We show up in ways in which I am more than excited that we are being celebrated for today, because it’s not easy,” Bibbs said. “And everyone in this building understands that the work that you do is not easy.”

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