Photo by Ray White / Georgetown County School District
Dr. Maudest Rhue-Scott strolls down the hallway at Sampit Elementary School, greeting staff and students along the way. As principal of the school for the past 22 years, she has taken these same steps countless other times. She has helped transform the school from being listed as one of the worst in the state to one of the best in the nation as a 2005 National Blue Ribbon School.
But this trip is different.
It is the next-to-last day of Rhue-Scott’s last year at Sampit Elementary. It is her last year with the Georgetown County School District where she is currently the longest-serving principal. This is her 40th year as an educator. She has known for some time this day was coming, but it is still hard to believe it is actually here. The hallway is alive with action as children move their desks and chairs into the hallway to facilitate summer cleaning. As soon as students see their principal, they run over to hug her, some holding on for a lengthy period of time. She calls each child by name and has encouraging words.
“This is bittersweet for me,” Rhue-Scott said, as she congratulates a boy passing by who had won an award the previous day. “Saying these goodbyes is tough but I know it is time for me to move on. It is time, but it is hard because this has been like a marriage for me. It has been like a very good marriage.”
While she will miss the camaraderie and professional experience of working with her talented staff at Sampit, there is no doubt it is the children she will miss the most.
Rhue-Scott has dedicated her life to teaching students, but she said it is a two-way street. “You can learn so much from children,” she said as a small girl proudly shows her something she has made. “They are so full of life and energy. If you are ever feeling down and things aren’t going the way you want, go be around these children. They are so humble, so honest, so genuine. They will certainly lift your spirits up in the most positive way.”
Regarding her soon-to-be free time in retirement, Rhue-Scott said it will allow her to spend more time working with the choir at Bethesda Baptist Church, where she is an organist. She’ll have more time to work with the missionary group. She wants to travel and hopes to fulfill a long-time dream of visiting Africa.
She also plans to keep contact with her Sampit family. She will volunteer to read to the students and to help with testing, and anything else she is asked to do that her retirement schedule permits. Scott knows she will make time to help with reading.
“Teaching our children to read is my passion,” she said, placing emphasis on ‘passion.’ You cannot be a successful adult if you do not know how to read. We expect our children, even the very young ones, to read and read a lot.”
Sampit’s 100 Book Challenge is a model of success. “We have a culture of reading here. The students know they are expected to read and parents know they are expected to make sure their children read at home.”
In fact, it is something involving the 100 Book Challenge that Scott said she will miss the most. During morning announcements each day, Scott will call the names of students who have excelled at reading. Those students will come to the office and receive special bracelets, signifying their success.
“They just light up when they are recognized for their reading success,” she said, lighting up a bit herself at the thought. “They are so happy and so proud that they are becoming successful.
“At the end of reading the names, I always make the same announcement, always, every day: ‘The more you read the smarter you will become. At Sampit Elementary School we want all of our students to be smart.’ I will really, really miss making that announcement.”
While Rhue-Scott is keeping her emotions in check for the most part, they overflowed for a moment during Wednesday’s fifth-grade graduation. She was doing just fine until she told the group that this would be her last graduation ceremony as principal.
“Then I couldn’t help myself. I started boo-hooing. I looked out at the audience for some strength but they were crying, too. But I pulled it together.”
Rhue-Scott said she was mentally ready to move on, but physically, there is a lot of work to be done. She completes the trip through the halls and pushes open the door to her office, which contains the gatherings and accumulations of 22 years. “As you can see, I have not packed one single thing yet,” she said, laughing. “I just haven’t had time. I’m going to start packing Saturday and I’ll finish …”
She is interrupted as her presence is needed elsewhere in the school. Yes, packing will have to wait because she is working right up to the last day, the last minute, at the job she loves: Principal at Sampit Elementary School.
By Ray White
Georgetown County School District
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