CLOVER — Clover High School leaders learned Wednesday that the school fell just short in its quest to win the 2014 Palmetto’s Finest award, given each year to the top schools in South Carolina.
Camden High School in Kershaw County was named the recipient of the award at the high school level. Clover and Camden were the only high school finalists.
Awards were also presented at the elementary and middle school levels and to specialized schools. Clover High was the only finalist in York County this year.
Principal Mark Hopkins said he was disappointed, but still pleased that Clover was recognized as one of the top two high schools in the state.
“We put a lot of work into the application,” Hopkins said after the announcement. “It’s a proud moment for Clover High to be named a finalist.”
The award, given by the S.C. Association of School Administrators, was announced via a live web stream from S.C. ETV as school leaders, students and faculty members gathered in the media center.
The designation, sponsored by Carolina First Bank, is one of the most sought-after and coveted awards presented to South Carolina’s schools.
Students who watched the announcement also were disappointed.
“I think we can definately work better to hopefully achieve that next year,” said Cassie Burroughs, 16, secretary of the student body.
Wyatt Hoover, 15, president of the freshman class, agreed, saying, “Next year, we will be on top.”
Karlee Isbell, 16, president of the sophomore class, said the finalist honor was important to many students. “It’s opened their eyes, that we are a really good school, and we are blessed.”
Superintendent Marc Sosne said he was proud of the school’s standing. “We think Clover is the best school in the state,” he said. “We’re going to move ahead and see how we can do even better next year.”
James Blake, principal of Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, which received the award in 2001, attended the gathering at Clover to present the award if Clover won.
Blake said Northwestern applied for the award for two consecutive years before winning it. Being a finalist, Blake said, “in itself is a major feat.”
Each spring since 1978, the association has recognized a few schools which offer excellent instruction and outstanding leaders, augmented by strong family and community involvement and a supportive business community.
The award was initially presented only to two elementary schools and one middle school, but was expanded in 1996-97 to include a high school.
Clover High completed a rigorous selection process, including a comprehensive review of the school in which evaluators looked to answer the key question: “What impact is this school making on the lives of students and the community, and is it deserving of the Palmetto’s Finest Award?” The school also completed an application and received two visits from independent evaluators.