DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – August 15th will mark a new era for Dorchester District Two (DD2). For the first time in more than 20 years, students, teachers, and staff will head back to school with a new leader at the helm.
The district’s new superintendent, Dr. Shane Robbins, is already hitting the ground running as the district begins a new chapter.
“I’m not coming in and trying to flip this thing upside down. I’m trying to come in and try to drive the bus forward,” said Dr. Robbins.
His new leadership at one of the state’s top-performing school districts comes after the retirement of long-serving superintendent Joseph Pye.
“This is a great school district, it goes without saying Mr. Pye’s leadership was amazing,” Dr. Robbins said. “When I accepted this position, people said you’re going to the diamond district of the Lowcountry. My vision is to just expand on the great things that are taking place here.”
DD2 currently has about 25,000 students. But like other districts, it saw a decline over the course of the pandemic. Robbins, though, said enrollment numbers are ticking up.
His top concerns are closing the achievement gap made wider by the pandemic. “What are we going to do to combat the learning loss that occurred over the last 24 months? 24 months has really exploded that achievement gap, so we have to see where we fall in that arena, and what we can do to bring kids back up to speed to where they should be at this point of time.”
Monitoring health concerns and school safety also remain priorities.
“Reeling off of the pandemic, and making sure we have people feeling comfortable with their students in school, not even just from COVID, but school safety is always in the forefront,” said Dr. Robbins. “One of the things I really believe in when it comes to school safety is you cannot have the philosophy that it can’t happen here, so we’ll focus on safety and our protocols. We’ll make sure people understand our protocols, and most importantly you can have protocols, but if you don’t follow them, they’re only as good as the paper they’re written on, so making sure we’re following those things to make sure our students and staff are safe.”
Robbins said he plans to work hard to build relationships with students and staff. “It’s not me bringing in my philosophy and my ideas and making a district of 25,000 students and 3,000 employees conform around me, but bringing my experiences into this district and seeing where I can expand on the things they are doing, and help push them forward,” he explained.
Dorchester District Two will open one new school this year, East Edisto Middle School. “My plan for the first day of school is no different than it has been for fifteen years, just go around and visit schools, and make sure drop-offs are going smoothly, talking to principals, seeing how they’re feeling, and just seeing people,” he said
Dr. Robbins, a Colonel in the Army Reserve, said he’s ready for his new leadership challenge and his message to the DD2 community is he’s in it for the long haul.
“I’ve spent 35 years in the military in the medical service corp… it comes with a level of expectation of service before self.. and that’s my motto… service before self and people should see that really quickly. I can’t tell you how excited I am. This is my fifth superintendency. I’ve grown into larger districts. This is the one when I moved to South Carolina, I knew this was going to be a great opportunity if I ever had the chance to pursue it. It’s a little bit of anxiety, but more it’s excitement than anything to be a part of this team and a part of this community.”
The first day of school for students in Dorchester District Two is Monday, August 15th. The district has more than 3,600 staff members. At last check, the district had 36 teacher vacancies.