Project Paint the Way
Robert E. Howard Middle School
Leadership SC 2021


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School Information:

Robert E. Howard Middle School, Orangeburg School District 5

Mission: Project Paint the Way will assist Robert E. Howard with much needed fresh coats of interior paint due to a significant lack of available funds. Currently, South Carolina does not have a state appropriation for infrastructure, building maintenance and repairs, or for establishing a strategy for routine district maintenance and must rely on local funding.

Without enough local revenue generation, many districts, like Orangeburg District cannot afford basic costs to provide fresh coats of interior paint for their schools. Project Paint the Way partners with a local South Carolina school to raise the funds to provide professional painting services to revitalize and refresh the buildings so that students can return to a bright, clean, freshly painted school building in the fall of 2021.

Project Outcomes:

Outcome #1: The project would provide interior painting to refresh and upgrade the look of the school. The 2007 Bud Ferillo documentary,“The Neglect of South Carolina’s Rural Schools,” details the neglected buildings and lack of resources in school districts that make it difficult for teachers to teach and for students to learn. According to Sherry East, President of the SCEA, absolutely nothing has changed since the documentary’s release in 2007 with the exception of a few building upgrades and new builds. Today, the Orangeburg School Consolidated School District is currently operating on an $8 million deficit, according to Ryan Brown, Chief Communication Officer to Supt. of Education Molly Spearman. Other than the CARES Act funding, there has been no economic relief or support to schools in this area since 2002. The legislation to provide more equitable funding to rural districts by restructuring the 1977 Education Funding Act has been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outcome #2: Project Paint the Way seeks to paint a brighter future for Robert E. Howard Middle School students who are in need clothing and shoes. Project Paint the Way will start sustainable clothes closet at Robert E. Howard so that students always have access to warm, clean new or gently used clothes.

Robert E. Howard School Information and History:

Robert E. Howard Middle School located in Orangeburg, SC, has a very rich history. The former Wilkinson High School was renamed in 1991 for Robert E. Howard, acclaimed educator, coach and community leader. During the integration of SC schools, Howard, along with then-superintendent W.J. Clark, was said to have been instrumental in forging relationships between blacks and whites and helping to maintain calm during those tumultuous years.

This Title 1 School in Orangeburg County, where 85% of students in this county live in poverty, houses grades 6-8, has a total of 432 students, and is 100% free and reduced lunch. With 22 teachers, Robert E. Howard works hard to provide a quality education for all their students. But they are working without basic resources: a wide range of culturally diverse, high interest classroom texts, classroom furniture—lab tables, desks with sturdy chairs—office supplies, laminating machines and poster makers. The teachers have asked for a clothing and supply closet to supplement those students in need.

The most recent upgrades to the building were between 1999-2002. The air conditioning unit was installed in 1999 and is currently being repaired in the cafeteria, but other classrooms are hot and awaiting repairs. The last known building renovations were in 2002 and included the following: Hallways enclosed (was all open to the outside), A-wing added (2 science labs), bus ramps added, driveway added. The teachers and administration have asked to have the interior of the building freshly painted, so that their students can be proud of the building in which they learn.

Performance Data for Robert E. Howard’s 2019-2020 school year is insufficient because state testing was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018-19, the most recent data available, Robert E. Howard received a Below Average rating on the South Carolina School Report Card, and was only one point away from an Unsatisfactory rating. Only 17.9% of students scored Proficient or Exemplary in Reading, and only 6.9% Proficient or Exemplary in Math.

Summary: Project Paint the Way seeks to help Robert E. Howard Middle School focus on the academic achievement of their students by providing necessary resources for the students’ social emotional heath—The Clothes Closet—and by providing professional painting services to the interior of the building.

While clean clothes, jackets and newly painted hallways will not solve all the issues, this project will demonstrate our strong commitment to public education and show in tangible ways that these students and their futures matter to us all.


As the oldest state organization dedicated to leadership development, Leadership SC nurtures a deeper sense of service and civic engagement for the betterment of all South Carolinians.

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