Our Team's objective was to identify what enabled Nursery Road Elementary to become a success and to achieve undisputable gains that were supported by reliable data, unquestionable test scores, and a loyal community. Because there is no one way to implement a successful program in communities that are diverse in their cultures, interests, incomes and needs, the toolkit is flexible in design to allow modifications to meet the unique needs of diverse schools and communities.

The toolkit is divided into four categories:

  • B Nursery Road Elementary School Data and Information: Statistical information on population, demographics, test scores, economic means/medians
  • C Engagement: How to initiate and inspire interaction and dialogue; Getting the community, parents, staff and students involved
  • D Culture/Climate/Environment: Factors that significantly influenced the school; attitudes of stakeholders, socio-economic challenges and over-all successes
  • E Leadership: Includes methods and ways to motivate, direct and influence students, teachers and parents

    • Data analysis and project information (PDF)
    • School assembly video featuring Dr. Melton of Nursery Road Elementary
    • On-camera interview with Dr. Stephen W. Hefner, Superintendent
    • Additional resources


    Inspired by the educational successes achieved by one elementary school in Richland Lexington School District Five, a team of the Midlands Spring 2012 Riley Institute Diversity Leadership Initiative (DLI) set out to discover the What, How, and Why of the school's accomplishments. Our objective was to try to identify those things that have enabled this failing school to turn itself around, to begin on its path to success and to achieve undisputable gains, supported by reliable data, unquestionable test scores, and a loyal community of stakeholders.

    The DLI team members:

    Ken Childs

    Managing Partner, Childs & Halligan, P.A.

    Grant Jackson

    Senior V.P./Community Development, Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce

    Susie Shannon

    Director of Research, The Palmetto Institute

    John Sowards

    Chairman, Nexsen Pruet, LLC


    John Cooper

    Personnel Services Integrator/Incoming Deputy Commander, U.S. Army Soldier Support Institute

    Linda O'Bryon

    President and CEO, ETV

    Maria Smoak

    Director of Hispanic Ministries, St. Peter's Catholic Church

    Zelda Waymer

    Executive Director, South Carolina Afterschool Alliance



    Recognizing an urgent need for diversity-related programming, the Riley Institute, then in cooperation with the American Institute for Managing Diversity (AIMD), launched a unique program that encouraged community leaders to consider the challenges and opportunities presented by the many facets of diversity in our state, including among others, differences in cultural background, language, gender, and physical ability.  Since its inception in 2003 in the Upstate of South Carolina, the Riley Institute Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI) has operated statewide, with classes in the South Carolina Lowcountry (2005) and Midlands (2006). More than 850 CEOs of corporations, mayors, city and county council members, legislators, school superintendents, pastors and rabbis, non-profit heads, chamber of commerce directors, and community leaders have graduated from the program.


    Dr. Christina Melton

    Principal, Nursery Road Elementary

    Dr. Christina Melton was named the 2012 South Carolina Elementary School Principal of the Year by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA). Dr. Stephen Hefner, Superintendent of Lexington-Richland, said, "Christina Melton is a respected leader in South Carolina's education community. She is well-known for her passion, drive, and clear vision of excellence. She is known for pulling together whatever forces are needed to achieve the desired end."

    Dr. Melton began her education career as a teacher at Lewisville Elementary School in Chester County. She later served as Curriculum Coordinator, then Assistant Principal for Curriculum at Lewisville Middle School. In 2004, she became Elementary Principal for Chester Park Intermediate. She also served as Elementary Principal at Chester Park Center of Literacy through Technology. She became Principal of Nursery Road Elementary in 2007. She is active in the education community at large, including serving on the Board of Directors for the SCASA, as a member of the S.C. Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, and as an Alliance Member for Columbia College. She received her Bachelor of Arts and Master's of Education at the University of South Carolina, Master's +30 at Winthrop University and Education Doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.

    Stephen W. Hefner

    Superintendent, District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties

    Stephen W. Hefner's career in public education spans four decades. After having served as a high school English teacher, counselor, and principal, Dr. Hefner is now in his seventeenth year as a school superintendent. Since January of 2012, he has been serving as the superintendent of School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties in Irmo, S.C. Dr. Hefner's initiatives with magnet schools, choice programs, educational technology, and service learning and civic engagement have earned him numerous awards including S.C. Superintendent of the Year (2002), the William B. Harley Award for Lifetime Achievement in Public Education (2010), and "the Order of the Palmetto," South Carolina's highest award for service to the state (2009).

    Author: Salli-Denise Smith