NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Pinehurst Elementary is a unique school in the heart of North Charleston, with the most multi-lingual students in the state.
The school is making significant academic gains, and they’re a class act when it comes to celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. We’re in Charleston County for our first Cool School of the Week for this school year.
When you walk into Pinehurst Elementary, the unique cultural make-up of the school is immediately recognized and celebrated — more than fifteen nationalities are represented — with a majority of students of Hispanic descent.
Principal Paul Pallagi is in his second year as leader of the school. He says, “We have 700 students with about 600 of them that speak Spanish as their native language, so we have a 73-percent ML population, which is actually the highest ML population for an elementary school in the state of South Carolina. We have multiple bilingual staff members, my secretaries, my parent advocate, my social worker, many of our multilingual teachers, as well as some of our general education teachers. For our newcomers, we have someone who works with them and is bilingual. He is from Puerto Rico and works with them very well looking at that language acquisition, immerging them into both that Spanish language and English language as well.”
Pinehurst is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in grand style.
“We have all of the countries for Hispanic Heritage Month represented throughout the building. We have flags that are all along the ceiling as you come into our foyer. We have our foyer of the countries; all of our flags are presented. All of our doors are being represented by countries, so our teachers and students are decorating the doors,” Principal Pallagi said.
He added, “Then on Friday the 13th, we’re going to be doing the Parade of Nations, where we represent all the countries represented here as our student population. It’s very important to celebrate the heritage of our students. A lot of our students, this is their first experience they ever had at school, whether if they are new to the country, or just new to school in general. So, we want to represent all of the members in our community, all the cultures that embrace our school, because we want them to feel at home when they are here. It really makes learning engaging for them.”
“The best. Absolutely great! They’re always so kind, every single time they always help us try new things and help us learn,” said fourth-grade student Jonathan Lomas-Delgado.
“It’s a very good school. I really like it. You get to see many cultures that you haven’t seen before. Everyone deserves a good education, and I feel this school is a very good place to get that,” added fifth-grade student Davine Washington.
According to the recently released South Carolina School Report Cards, Pinehurst is making academic gains, moving two levels from unsatisfactory to average in a year.
“Our big focus for the year is high-quality standard base instruction, so a lot of linking the learning to the South Carolina state standards, making the learning targets come alive, really engaging the students whatever the activity is,” said Pallagi.
Pinehurst also has a partnership with Clemson University.
“In the residency project, we partner a veteran teacher with a resident teacher. The veteran teacher has five or more years of experience. The resident teacher is less than three years, so they will spend one year in a co-teaching environment working with Clemson University. During that time, they will be receiving their master’s in education. So, they will be here for a total of one year, but we’re hoping the project goes for many years to come,” said Pallagi.
Nathan Bowdon is a co-teacher in the program. He says Pinehurst students have a lot to be proud of. “They’re awesome. They have so much to bring to our school. As you can see with this Spanish heritage month. They’re always here with smiles and happy to learn, and they’re great. We’ve already seen a lot of growth, and I can’t wait to see what we continue to do throughout the year. I love Pinehurst for the collaboration that we have between teachers, administration, coaching staff, and of course, we try to instill that in our students to get them to work together.”
Pinehurst also offers advanced art, chorus, and physical activity clubs. Principal Pallagi says he’s thankful for the school’s many community partnerships.
“A lot of community partners. So, in the back of the school right now, we have the vision van. The vision van comes, and they screen all of our students, and those who do not pass the screening, are given a more in-detail appointment with an optometrist and they receive free glasses. Access Dental comes to us about once a month to provide dental services for the students. We have the Shifa Clinic that comes in that works with our nurses, whether it’s for different vaccinations, or just health appointments, so we do have a lot of unique partnerships,” he said.
Pallagi says the hard work to increase academic gains continues. “We get to learn with them. and grow with them.”
If you would like to nominate a Cool School, educator, or principal, send an email to Octavia Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.