Optimists learn about education

St. Andrews Optimists’ February 3 speaker was Floyd Lyles, Superintendent of Education at The Department of Juvenile Justice.

Lyles attended Benedict College where he credits a professor who saw much potential in him and who became a source of encouragement. Finishing Benedict with his Bachelor’s Degree, he completed his postgraduate studies at Converse College.

Upon arriving in Union County, he was faced with first a middle school and then a high school that was underperforming vs. state standards. In each case, Lyles brought both schools up to best-in-class graduation rates and outstanding test scores. His approach sprung from his belief that students perform better when told what they are capable of rather than being reminded of their shortcomings. What followed was a serious focus on goal-setting that produced outstanding results.

He believes that the most critical period for students being on the right track is the third through fifth grade age group. St. Andrews Optimists, for example, support a summer reading program at Harbison West Elementary School. Dovetailing with Floyd’s age group statement is the often-cited evidence that reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a strong predictor of later competency.

In the Midlands, DJJ is its own school district. Lyles arrived in Columbia in 2016, after having established his track record in Union County. DJJ has graduated over 800 young people, with their GED requirements met and High School diplomas earned. At present, there are 30 graduates of the program enrolled in colleges.

Pictured are Optimist Club President Larry Blosser, Floyd Lyles, and speaker sponsor Gary Boyd who presented the speaker with a copy of the Optimist Creed.