Profile: The James F. Byrnes Freshman Academy
Our school serves five vibrant, small, upstate South Carolina communities, each unique in character and history. At the Freshman Academy, students from all of these communities come together for the first time in their school career. A key component of our program focuses on building a unified community in the context each person doing their best at all things.
The James F. Byrnes Freshman Academy was initiated within the confines of James F. Byrnes High School beginning in August, 2005. Its founding purpose was to serve the needs of the 9th grade students living in Spartanburg School District Five. In August, 2007, the Freshman Academy moved to its own campus, the former site of DR Hill Middle School. Students and core academic teachers are assigned to teams to better facilitate the learning process, as well as ease the transition from middle to high school. We have 47 full time faculty and staff members as well as ten teachers we share with Byrnes High School to serve our 570 students in a spacious building renovated to meet the needs of the ninth grade curriculum. Our faculty averages eleven years of teaching experience. Our student population consists of 67% Caucasian, 24% African-American, 5% Hispanic, and 4% other ethnicities.
The faculty and staff of the Freshman Academy are a blending of many strengths. Young teachers work closely with more experienced colleagues to combine the energy of youth with the wisdom of experience. Over three-fourths of our faculty have pursued degrees beyond a bachelors degree, and all of the faculty work to stay abreast of current best-practices in their subject areas. Out of the 37 certified staff members assigned to the Freshman Academy full time, there are six national board certified educators and 25 have completed a masters degree. Of those, 13 have earned at least thirty hours beyond a masters degree, and one teacher has completed a doctorate degree. The caliber of our staff can be measured by the number of awards they have earned. The staff boasts ___ teachers of the year (at a wide variety of levels), and many have been published in journals and featured in various Who’s Who publications.
With a student body of less than 600, our school can focus on each child as an individual. The student to teacher ratio is an excellent 21 to 1. The student body is divided into four teams by homeroom for specific events such as Orientation Day, assemblies and other activities. By having the resources of Byrnes High School nearby, we are able to share faculty that allows us to offer a rich array of electives that would not be available in most schools of our size. Our students, all first-time ninth graders, arrive primarily from two feeder middle schools. These students come from homes reflecting a variety of socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, and occupational circumstances. Over the last twenty years, our school has changed dramatically from serving families whose principle income was derived from farming (primarily peaches) and mills (primarily textiles) to serving families whose incomes are derived mainly from industry and related occupations. The last fifteen years has seen the building of an almost continuous string of industrial parks and the arrival of the BMW automobile manufacturing plant and associated automotive industries into our district. A major airport and numerous trucking firms are also located within our district. The expansion of industry and transportation in the area has resulted in both tremendous population growth and expanded tax base.
With the rapid increase in the number and size of both foreign and domestic industries in the area, our school has also realized an increase in the number of students from diverse backgrounds. The children of doctors and lawyers and the children of migrant workers learn in the same classes, serve on the same committees, and work toward common goals. In many ways, the needs of our students mirror the needs of the community and are met through a variety of programs. The jobs that are readily available in the area demand a higher skill level than many of the citizens in the area have; therefore, local businesses and industries must work closely with the school to identify areas of need and to support our progress towards meeting those needs. Most of our students come from stable families who have a strong work ethic. There remains however, a certain frustration because of the rapid change in the types of skills needed for the jobs that are now available in the community.