As Dr. Jamane Watson walked through the halls of Marlboro County High School, it was still a surreal feeling for him.
Watson, a 1996 graduate of the school, was named the new principal on June 30.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” he said. “It hasn’t set in yet that I am the principal of Marlboro County High School.”
And Watson is grateful to be able to directly give back to the community that gave to him.
“Marlboro County High School created the man that I am today with the rich traditions and the educators that I had,” he said.
Watson has nearly 20 years of experience in the field of education in grades kindergarten through 12th grade. Previously, he was an assistant principal at Lumberton Senior High School.
Originally from Bennettsville, he is the son of James Watson and Mary E. Johnson.
Watson received a bachelor’s degree from South Carolina State University in Physical Education in 2001. While there he was the drum major of The Marching 101 for two years.
He earned a master’s degree in school administration from Grand Canyon University in 2014.
In 2016, he received his educational specialist degree and in 2017, received his doctor of education degree in educational leadership with a concentration in school superintendence both from Wingate University.
Watson said he was a little nervous about what COVID-19 will make the 2020-21 school year look like but is optimistic.
He and district officials have come up with a plan on how to open schools.
The plan includes three options — virtual (completely online), hybrid (a combination of online and in-person), or completely in person. “We have a plan in place for whatever the state decides,” Watson said.
He noted that at his old school when they went to e-learning after schools were closed that a lot of the students were disengaged.
Some students didn’t complete online assignments and contact was lost with a lot of them.
“When school starts, we are going to have to bridge that gap of the learning loss,” Watson said. “There was a lot of learning that was lost between March 13 when schools closed until the reopening of schools.”
He felt assessments and with various wrap-around services like school counselors and school social workers, they might be able to bridge the gap.
It is important to remember, he said, some students may have lost loved ones while we were out.
“Their focus was not on learning,” Watson said. “They are dealing with other things. We need to make sure that the social-emotional aspect of the child is very important.”
He has several goals for Marlboro County High School. The first goal is student safety, which is his number one priority.
Watson wants to make sure it is a safe and orderly environment.
The second goal is for student achievement. This includes increasing the graduation rate, career and college readiness rate, and end-of-grade testing scores.
Watson also wants to decrease student drop-out and suspension rates.
Increasing community and parental involvement are also on his list of goals.
“I want parents to be engaged because this school belongs to the community,” Watson said. “It doesn’t belong to the Marlboro County School District. It belongs to the community.”
He added he had some initiatives that he would release at a later date on how he planned to implement his goals.
Watson wanted students to know that he will have an open-door policy. He welcomes their suggestions on ways to improve student involvement, student engagement, and attendance.
Watson talked about meeting with a student.
The student told him that a lot of his classmates don’t enjoy coming to school.
When asked why Watson said he learned from the student that school wasn’t engaging for them.
Watson said he wants to devise a committee to give him ideas on what they would like to do.
Superintendent Dr. Gregory A. McCord said finding someone to lead the high school who knows this community was important to him and staff.
“Having grown up here, Dr. Watson is committed to ensuring that students receive the best education possible,” McCord said.
Watson is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated, Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity, as well as four Prince Hall Affiliated organizations.