Scott Floyd celebrated his birthday Tuesday with his extended family – all 570 of them.
In just about three months, the new principal of Schofield Middle School already has connected with his students, faculty, staff and the community and is bringing his years of experience as an educator – and his positive outlook – to his new home.
“Everywhere I've gone so far this morning, people are singing me 'Happy Birthday' – whole classes, students in the hallways,” Floyd said. “They're going out of their way to make sure they tell me happy birthday, and these are students who've only known me five weeks.
“I tweeted three weeks ago that I feel at home at Schofield, and I do. Today is a definite affirmation of that.”
Schofield is Floyd's “second home” in Aiken.
He came to town in January 2016 to be the new principal of the former Aiken Middle School after being an assistant principal at Fort Dorchester High School in North Charleston about five years.
When Aiken Middle closed at the end of the last school year and reopened as Aiken Intermediate School just for sixth-graders in Aiken's attendance Area 1 this year, Floyd moved to Schofield, starting in July.
Working with faculty and staff, Floyd spent his first six months at Aiken Middle putting together and then implementing a plan to change the school's culture from what he called “negative” to positive.
He and his staff implemented a PBIS program – Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports – to recognize students for positive behaviors. He defined the attributes of a Gator, the school's mascot. And he started Invictus, a club to help boys understand their potential and how they can be successful in life through the power of positivity.
“Some of the students who had never been recognized for good things, we would go out of our way to recognize them – even for the smallest things,” Floyd said about his students at Aiken Middle. “If we saw a child walk down the hallways and pick up a piece of paper, that's awesome. Good job, sir. I'm going to recognize you on the morning announcements. I'm going to call you up and give you a gift card.”
Floyd said that positive recognition makes an impact.
“When children are positively recognized for their good behavior, well, you know, it's kind of classical conditioning: positive begets positive. So I hope to bring that same culture of positivity and recognition and awareness to Schofield.”
At Aiken Middle, Floyd and his staff developed student attributes and expectations using the school's affectionate nickname, “The Swamp,” as an acronym: show respect, willing to learn, accept responsibility, maintain self-control, positive environment.
At Schofield, Floyd used the school's mascot, the Rams, as the acronym and model for student expectations: respectful, responsive, reflective, accountable, motivated and scholarly, noting that the R in Rams “is R cubed.”
“We have our expectations all over the building in classrooms and hallways,” Floyd said. “It's a common language everywhere. You're not going to go in one classroom and have a set of five rules and go into another classroom and have another set of five rules.
“It's not rules. It's expectations, and you disappoint me when you don't meet those expectations. Phrasing expectations like that allows you to keep a positive spirit and a positive attitude. I understand you're going to make mistakes, child; but I'm going to be here to support you when you make mistakes, and I'm going to support you when you meet expectations, as well.”
Floyd brought Invictus to Schofield, and the club already has 35 members. The club got its name from the famous poem “Invictus,” by 19th-century British poet William Ernest Henley, which ends with the lines: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
“That is the essential theme of the Invictus club: despite the circumstances you're in, regardless of your history, you are the master of your fate; you are the captain of your soul,” said Floyd after reciting the full poem by heart. “We're going to be here to support you as a brotherhood, and we're going to help you understand how you can be successful in this world as young men.
“A lot of times, they haven't learned those lessons yet. We're trying to help them learn those lessons before it's too late.”
As its new principal, Floyd also is leading Schofield through its first year as a Cambridge Lower Secondary School. Schofield is the first middle school in South Carolina to earn the designation. Schofield's sister school, Aiken High, was the first in the state to be accepted into the program.
Floyd said the RAMS attributes align with the Cambridge learner attributes: confident in working with information and with their own and others' ideas; responsible for themselves and responsive to and respectful of others; reflective as learners; innovative and equipped for new and future challenges; and engaged intellectually and socially.
Cambridge also emphasizes a global perspective and integrating that perspective across the curriculum.
“We hope that when our mission is completely implemented, you can walk into a classroom and directly see global perspective. You can walk into a classroom and ask what class am I in: am I in a math class; am I in an ELA class; what content is this?” Floyd said. “Another aspect is cultural awareness. Cambridge aligns us not only with a global perspective but also a perspective of our own society around us and to be aware of cultures that exist within our school and outside of our school.”
When Floyd was named principal of Schofield, he began reading about the school's cultural and historical significance to Aiken, especially the African American community.
Martha Schofield, a Quaker from Pennsylvania, opened the school for recently emancipated enslaved African Americans on the east side of Aiken in 1870. All students learned reading, writing and math. Boys also learned skills such as carpentry, and girls learned household skills such as cooking and sewing.
“This ground we're sitting on is where that school was,” Floyd said. “That legacy and the rich tradition of the community around us continues.”
During the Aiken County Public School District's recent Day of Caring, Floyd and about 20 other students, teachers and parents volunteered at the Center for African American History, Art and Culture.
The building on the northeast corner of York Street and Richland Avenue was built in the late 19th century for the Immanuel Institute, also as a school for children of freed enslaved African Americans. In 2004, community leaders recognized the historic landmark should be preserved and used to capture the rich history of Aiken’s African American community, according to the center's website.
“We had a great time being able to walk through the building and feel the history there,” said Floyd, who cranked up a chainsaw and tackled the center's landscaping as part of his volunteer service. “We want to continue that partnership with the center, which is less than half a mile away.”
Floyd grew up in Lake City, South Carolina, in a family of educators. His dad, Dr. Lane Floyd, was the superintendent of Florence County School District Three and twice was named the state superintendent of the year. His mom, Dr. Susan Floyd, was a speech language therapist with the district and with the S.C. State Department of Education.
But instead of following in his family's tradition, Floyd wanted to be a clinical psychologist and earned his bachelor's degree in experimental psychology from USC Columbia. He planned to attend graduate school at UNC Charlotte to study psychology but changed his plans, partly to be near his high school sweetheart, Brittany, who became his wife.
Their love story reads like an all-American romance. At Lake City High School, Floyd played golf and was an all-region inside linebacker and captain of the defense on the football team. His wife was the captain of the cheerleading team.
The couple has two sons, Elijah, 9, and Isaiah, 3, and Floyd spends a lot of his time just being their dad: going to soccer games and taking them to piano and karate lessons.
Instead of heading to North Carolina, Floyd stayed in Columbia and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from USC, where his future wife was a student. The couple got married, moved to Charleston, and Floyd started teaching at Givhans Alternative Program, the alternative school in Dorchester County District 2, as a high school social studies teacher. Floyd then had the opportunity to go to Wando High School in Mount Pleasant to coach football.
“I was almost committed to that but then went a completely different route,” he said. “I had to go where my heart was leading me. That was where the kids needed me most, and that was the alternative school.”
After a year and a half of teaching, Floyd started working on a school administration degree and earned his second master's from The Citadel. As soon as he finished his degree, he got the job as assistant principal at Fort Dorchester High.
Although Floyd originally didn't plan to be a teacher or school administrator, he knew he wanted to be a leader.
“That started in middle school with athletics, with adults recognizing my leadership potential and putting me in student council positions,” he said. “It just worked out, and I'm so happy it did. I don't think I would have gotten the same amount of satisfaction being a clinical psychologist as I do being a middle school principal. There's no way in the world.”
As a nod to his years as a student-athlete perhaps, Floyd wears a silver-colored whistle on a red lanyard around his neck to represent his management style.
“It's a symbol that I want to coach you,” Floyd said. “I want the students and teachers to see me as a coach, not as their boss but someone who's trying to encourage a growth mindset. I've actually never blown it.
“We can all grow. We can all do things better. Even our best students – our best teachers – can grow. While what they're doing might be working, it can still be better, so I'm coach.”