Mellichamp Elementary in Orangeburg Earns $5,000 School of Promise Award

September 18, 2020

Mellichamp Elementary in Orangeburg Earns $5,000 School of Promise Award

South Carolina school among two honored in U.S. honored for early success with NIET initiatives that focus on high-quality instruction

Dr. Candice McQueen, CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), surprised Mellichamp Elementary in the Orangeburg County School District today with a $5,000 NIET School of Promise Award. The award honors Mellichamp's early success implementing NIET's initiatives to improve teaching and learning. The award was announced during a virtual celebration with the school and district leaders.

Over the past two years, Mellichamp has shifted its school culture to re-focus on making data-driven decisions and leveraging high-quality instructional practices. Educators regularly collaborate and have a chance to grow as instructors, and the school culture models continuous growth. Since working with NIET in the 2018-19 school year, Mellichamp has improved in Academic Achievement, Preparing for Success, and Student Engagement, as determined by the South Carolina Department of Education. From 2018 to 2019, the school also increased its percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations on state assessments in English language arts, math, and science – and jumped 27.4 percentage points in social studies. Additionally, between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school year, Mellichamp retained all of its teachers – another mark of the positive culture established at the school.

Mellichamp Elementary is one of just two schools that NIET is honoring as a School of Promise this year. The second school is Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee, which was honored last week.

"Mellichamp's community is inspiring and shows us what is possible when educators collaborate and deepen their focus on high-quality instruction," Dr. McQueen said. "Mellichamp's leaders and educators have built their capacity around engaging teaching practices, and we look forward to continuing to work alongside them to take their work to the next level."

NIET has a 20-year history of working alongside more than 8,500 schools, districts, states, and universities to ensure that all students have effective educators. NIET's partner schools have shown success by both outperforming similar schools and having greater teacher retention.

"Mellichamp provides a model of excellence not only within the Orangeburg and surrounding communities, but also throughout the nation," Orangeburg's superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster commented. "High expectations, inspirational leadership and a collaborative spirit are the cornerstones of school transformations and are certainly evident in that school."

Recipients of the $5,000 NIET School of Promise Award are selected by NIET for their efforts to make instructional excellence the cornerstone of school improvement; plan for regular professional learning focused on daily needs of teachers and students; create a culture of collaboration and reflection; and create systems that maximize the talents of teacher leaders and administrators to drive student growth. Leaders are able to spend the money as they choose to support their educators.

What Sets Mellichamp Elementary Apart

Mellichamp is among 32 schools in the Orangeburg County School District and has the highest poverty rate at 91.5%. Years of consecutive "At-Risk" ratings by the South Carolina Department of Education motivated Mellichamp to implement a culture shift. Administrators, lead teachers and support staff began to recalibrate instructional priorities to focus on teacher and student needs. They earned their first Palmetto Silver Award from the state for general performance for the 2012-13 school year, but it wasn't until they "stopped buying programs and started building people" – as former Principal Hayward Jean put it – that they paved the way for continuous improvement through a partnership with NIET. Jean now serves as director of student services for the district, and new Mellichamp Principal Dr. Elrica C. Glover, former assistant principal, is continuing Mellichamp's commitment to educator effectiveness.

"NIET helped us build a culture of reflection, strength-based teaching, collaboration, student engagement, and student ownership," said Jean. "The opportunity to walk with NIET specialists in and out of classrooms and to discuss the areas of refinement and reinforcement has been empowering."

The daily motivation of Mellichamp's educators to "put the 'champ' in Mellichamp" is reflected in the positive state survey results from 2019, which show a 95% satisfaction rate among teachers toward Mellichamp's learning environment, and 92% among students. Overall, Mellichamp earned an "Excellent" rating for Student Engagement, indicating "school performance substantially exceeds the criteria to ensure all students meet the Profile of the SC Graduate." These qualities include world-class knowledge, skills, and life and career characteristics of integrity, self-direction, global perspective, perseverance, work ethic, and interpersonal skills.

Mellichamp has continued its dedication to the future of Orangeburg's youth by developing partnerships with nearby Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Claflin University and South Carolina State University. This work aligns teacher preparation to the specific needs of the community and helps to strengthen the pipeline of talent to train generations of scholars.

For graphs and images of Mellichamp Elementary School, visit the NIET newsroom. The full Zoom recording of the celebration is located will be made available after the event. For interviews, please contact Jana Rausch at or (310) 435-9259. For more information, visit