LEAVING ON A HIGH NOTE

When Rose Sheheen ends her career in education this school year, she will go out on a high note.

The principal of Elgin’s Blaney Elementary School has wanted for years to have a teacher-student chorus, but it never materialized – until now.

“It had been a dream of mine for a long time,” said Sheheen, who is retiring after 14 years as principal of Blaney. “It just lifts you when you sing.”

Debi Young, director of the “All IV I” chorus, announced at the end of last school year that the staff would form a chorus to perform with students. Their first performance will be at the S.C. State Fair Oct. 11.

The chorus is a way to honor Sheheen for her dedication to Blaney faculty and students, teachers and staff say.

“It was now or never,” said Glenna Brown-Kaiser, a counselor who started at Blaney the same time as Sheheen.

Brown-Kaiser said she has seen Blaney go from a rural, unaccredited school to an award-winning center of the community under Sheheen’s leadership.

“The key is that she is such a gracious lady,” Brown-Kaiser said. “She knows people.”

Brown-Kaiser said Blaney had two things going for it when Sheheen took over: a fairly new facility and a faculty that cared about children. But it didn’t have the family atmosphere and community support that is prevalent there today.

“It was a hard first year,” Brown-Kaiser said.

But Sheheen was determined to turn the school around. She created hall socials that brought the faculty together and went out into the community to speak about the school and garner support.

“She had what it took,” Brown-Kaiser said. “She came in, and she won them over.”

Velma Jackson, a first-grade teacher who has been at Blaney 14 years, said Sheheen not only brought the staff together, but she led by example.

“She’s never asked us to do anything that she didn’t get right in there and … help us do,” Jackson said.

Sheheen describes herself as a natural educator and leader.

“I’ve always taught,” she said. “When I was 5 years old, I used to have school in my neighborhood. I always wanted to be the ‘boss’ teacher.”

Sheheen worked as a volunteer in the community in the 1970s when her children were young.

“I just loved it,” she said.

She held several positions in the Kershaw County School District before settling in at Blaney. She was an elementary school teacher, an instructor in the gifted and talented program, and an administrator at the district office.

But she found her home at Blaney. She said she is confident the staff will carry on the community spirit and caring once she retires.

Sheheen said being a leader is about opening doors for people and letting them come in and create bigger and better things.

“I know that when I leave here, it will go on without me,” she said. “I’ve always tried to hire very strong people.”

The Sheheen children – Vincent Maria and Margaret – had strong leadership and education examples growing up. In addition to their mother, their father, Fred, also has been involved in South Carolina education.

Vincent Sheheen, who represents Kershaw County in the state Legislature, said his mother has had a big influence in his life and his politics.

Some of his earliest memories are of going to his mother’s classroom after school and watching her work.

“That just impressed on me how hard public school teachers have to work,” he said. “You have to really love what you’re doing to be an effective teacher or principal.”

Revamping the way the state funds education has been one of Sheheen’s major goals as a representative.

He said his mother’s career has given him the exposure to public schools that many other legislators don’t have.

“You need a lot of resources to have effective public schools,” he said. “Whenever there’s an issue dealing with public schools, my mom’s the first person I call.”

But her education values were not the only thing Sheheen instilled in her son. She also attempted to impart to him her love of music.

“She made me be in chorus,” he said, laughing.

IF YOU GO

Who: “All IV I” chorus, A new teacher-student chorus from Blaney Elementary School will perform at the S.C. State Fair. The chorus, directed by Debi Young, has more than 80 members; 22 of them are faculty and staff members.

Where: WIS-TV stage

When: 11 a.m. Oct. 11

Reach Rupon at (803) 771-8622 or krupon@thestate.com.Caption:

PHOTO: BWRose Sheheen, principal of Blaney elementary School in Elgin, sings during a recent practice of a teacher-student chorus at the school. The chorus’ first performance will be at the S.C. State Fair Oct. 11. JEFFERY MINNISH/THE STATE

October 2, 2003  State (published as The State)  
Columbia, South Carolina
Page 79

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