Two Beaufort County schools dubbed "Palmetto's Finest" (Update: Watch the video)

Update April 5: Bummed that you missed the ceremony (or just want to relive it)?

Well, watch it up top.

A hat tip to The Island Packet for spotting.

First reporting: On Tuesday, four South Carolina schools were designated as "Palmetto's Finest" — and two of those were in Beaufort County.

Hundreds of Beaufort County school supporters clapped and cheered in Columbia as Beaufort Middle School and Hilton Head High School's names were announced.

With the double victory in the middle and high school categories, Beaufort County became only the third South Carolina district in the award's 34-year history to have two winners in the same year, according to the sponsoring South Carolina Association of School Administrators. The other two districts were Greenville County, by far the state's largest, and Columbia's Richland District 2.

"To be the last schools left standing after such a long and rigorous statewide selection process is simply amazing," said Superintendent Valerie Truesdale. "And to have not one, but two winners in the same year is extraordinary. It demonstrates what can happen when students and schools have strong leaders, hard-working faculty and staff, and consistent support from their communities."

This was Beaufort Middle School's second consecutive year as a finalist.

A Red Carpet award winner, the school's strong academic focus resulted in 24 Junior Scholars in 2011 and also 67 seventh-graders who qualified to participate in Duke University's Talent Identification Program. The school also has a strong arts curriculum that has earned it designations as both a Distinguished Arts Program School and an Arts in the Basic Curriculum School. Beaufort Middle's football and basketball teams both won Lowcountry championships in 2011.

Beaufort Middle School received Good absolute and growth ratings on its state report card for the past two years. Last week the school also learned that it had received a Palmetto Silver Award from the South Carolina Department of Education – its second consecutive such recognition – for improving student achievement.

Hilton Head Island High School is the first high school in Beaufort County to receive Excellent ratings in both the Absolute and Improvement Report Card rating categories.

A Red Carpet winner, Hilton Head High boasts students who win top honors in both academics and athletics, an outstanding faculty and strong community and business partnerships. Its students also devoted nearly 17,000 hours of community service last year to the local community.

Hilton Head High received Excellent absolute and growth ratings on its state report card last year, up from Average ratings the previous year. Last week the school learned that it had received a Palmetto Gold Award for overall performance and a Palmetto Silver Award for closing achievement gaps between minority and non-minority students.

The South Carolina Association of School Administrators presents the awards each year to two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school that SCASA says "offer the best in innovative, effective educational programs." The Palmetto's Finest Award is one of the most coveted and respected awards among educators.

The elementary school winners were Beech Hill Elementary in Dorchester District 2 and Burgess Elementary in Horry County.

The other finalists were Brushy Creek Elementary (Greenville County), Stone Academy of Communication Arts (Greenville County), Kelly Mill Middle (Richland District 2), Blythewood High (Richland District 2) and Fort Mill High (York District 4).

Beaufort County has had one previous winner – Shell Point Elementary School in 1998.

SCASA is the professional organization for school leaders in South Carolina, with a membership of more than 2,900. From professional development opportunities and research to publications and legislative advocacy, SCASA's focus is to support school leaders in providing the best possible education for South Carolina's young people. As a state affiliate of three national associations for school leaders, SCASA also works on the national level. 

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