The principal of Carolina High School received a big honor on Thursday night.
Michael Delaney was named the Greenville County Schools Administrator of the Year. Delaney has been leading the school, just off White Horse Road, for the past six years. His goal – to give students the tools to be as successful as possible.
Weekdays start early for Delaney. Around 4:30 a.m., his truck pulls into the parking lot and he makes his way inside the empty school building. He works for hours, planning the day, checking on how students are doing, until they start arriving around 7:45 a.m. For many of them, his face is the first one they see when they arrive at the front door.
His words are almost always encouraging, “How’s it feel to be great?” His school day might not wrap up until 10 p.m.
For this administrator, his assistant principals, and all of the teachers, working at Carolina High is an around-the-clock job.
“That goes from picking kids up in the morning, making sure they’ve got something to eat, taking them home at night, coming in early to tutor with them, coming in on weekends to tutor with them. It’s all different things they do to make them successful,” Delaney said.
Signs hang in the hallways, showing off past graduates who went on to success in college or the work force. There are encouraging words and the school’s motto, “Whatever It Takes,” and there are constant reminders of the school’s graduation rate. It has climbed from 48 percent to 73 percent in just six years. Delaney said he will only be satisfied when they reach 100 percent. “Happy, but not satisfied because to us, it’s not the percentage. It’s the person behind the percentage that matters.”
Each person at the school knows they are important. Jazmine Butler came to tears recalling how her principal gave her a laptop to use one night, so she could finish her homework. She said he and Assistant Principal Marjon Ford have made a tremendous difference in her life. “Those are the best two right there because they’re not gonna let you quit. They’re not gonna let you give up on them. They’re not gonna let you. So I really appreciate them for it. Because they called me. They call your phone in the morning and make sure you’re here.”
For senior Zaylen Andrews, “Mr. Delaney is the biggest impact. He keeps me on track and stays on us about our grades and talks to us whenever they start slipping or if the whole senior class starts slipping, he’ll call a meeting and gets everyone back on track.”
Delaney has a few ways to encourage the students. In addition to the signs in the hall, there is an autographed graduation gown in the front office and three more in the main hallway of the school. Each year, the senior class is asked to commit to getting a diploma on the night before school starts. If they agree to work hard to reach their goal, they sign the gown. It will be worn by their principal as they cross the stage. This year, the graduates will also be wearing special gowns of their own. They are the first school in the country to receive custom-made robes with the school’s motto and other important words stitched into the fabric. Delaney said it is an illustration of the shared commitment to graduate. He said, “It’s everything we’d hoped for. We were excited. It was great to see how excited the kids were because it means something. It’s more than just a cap and gown, it’s about their journey. Their journey this year and their journey through the school.”
It is a journey that continues almost around the clock throughout the school year. It’s one that culminates with a higher graduation rate than the year before and the knowledge that more students will go on the fulfill their dreams. For Brian Velasquez, that means becoming a mechanic. He is the first in his family to graduate from high school. “My mom, she was like, you’ve got to finish and I was like, I’m gonna finish. Be the first in my family to graduate from school,” said Velasquez.
He will be among those to receive their Carolina High School diplomas on June first. Delaney said, “I’m very proud of our school and what we’ve done here and how everyone has done so much to make a difference in each child’s life.”