"180 Days: Hartsville" Shows How One Small Town Is Winning the Battle Between Poverty and a Good Education

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08 March 2015
180 Days
Photo courtesy of PBS
"180 Days: Hartsville"
Premieres Tuesday, March 17 at 8PM on PBS
(Check your local listings)
          "180 Days: Hartsville," an inspiring new documentary from Peabody Award-winning directors Jacquie Jones and Garland McLaurin, goes inside two Hartsville, South Carolina elementary schools to explore how determined principals, teachers, administrators and parents are fighting – and winning – the battle between poverty and education. In just four years, this small town has gone from one of the lowest performing districts in the state to number one for its graduation rate. Can one community, working together, really give its children a brighter future?
          "180 Days: Hartsville" is part of American "Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen,'' a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America keep more students on the path to graduation. The film premieres on Tuesday, March 17, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS.
          South Carolina ranks 45th in the country in education and the majority of Hartsville residents hover on the poverty line with a median income of less than $30,000. More than half of the city’s students qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches. Yet Hartsville is fighting the odds – and winning – with an astonishing 92 percent graduation rate.
          “With poor children now representing a new majority of public school students, it is more critical than ever that successful models in education be explored to ensure the American dream is attainable for all of our children,” said Jacquie Jones, co- director and executive producer. “Hartsville has proven that if the right forces in a determined community come together to put children first, tangible results will follow.”
          Filming inside Thornwell and West Hartsville Elementary schools for more than a year, "180 Days: Hartsville" introduces viewers to parents, educators, administrators and community leaders. West Hartsville principal Tara King has gone from being a troubled student to working to save troubled students. Thornwell principal Julie Mahn, the daughter of sharecroppers, is the first in her family to go to college. Monay Parran, herself a high school dropout, demonstrates the many pressures on single mothers as she struggles to raise three children while juggling two jobs. Her fifth-grade son, Rashon, is a bright student but his behavior is threatening his own educational future. Pierre Brown, one of the only male teachers, is also one of the few male role models for many of his students. Harris DeLoach, retired chairman of the Hartsville-based Sonoco Products Company, realizes that if his company is going to have a qualified employee base, he’s going to have to invest $5 million of Sonoco’s money in the city’s public school system to raise test scores. Darlington County Schools Superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram, a thirty-year veteran of public education, wonders how his schools will fulfill the vision DeLoach describes.
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