School: Carolina High Academy
School District: Greenville County Schools
City, State: Greenville, SC
Music that Describes Michael
Michael Delaney was nominated by his colleague, Teri Brinkman.
Mr. Delaney has built a culture of trust, respect, and nurturing at Carolina High Academy, a public school in Greenville, South Carolina. Carolina is located in the part of town with all the worst statistics - the highest crime rate, highest levels of unemployment, lowest home ownership, etc. Over the past 15 years, Mr. Delaney has created a school culture that respects, supports, and uplifts his students. For example, Mr. Delaney knows the birthday of each of his 800+ students. He makes sure he contacts them on their special day to wish them happy birthday and remind them of their potential. He knows that for many, it's the only birthday wish they will receive.
Many years ago, Mr. Delaney removed the scanner devices from the door of the library. His reasoning was that borrowing a book from the school library is free. These kids are criminalized and doubted enough. Why not show them you trust them to take care of their resources and see how it goes? Today, the library resources remain intact.
Mr. Delaney opens up the school almost every day, including weekends, holidays, etc. He knows that for many of his students, school is the one safe place they have to go. On the weekends, you can often find him in the gym playing basketball with students, handing our advice, or just listening.
His approach and tagline, "Whatever it takes!" has made a difference. The Carolina High graduation rate has climbed from 55% in 2011 to as high as 84% in 2018. As an added incentive to stay in school and graduate, Mr. Delaney has students sign a graduation gown pledging their commitment to stay the course. As seniors, a representative group of students are tasked with designing the graduation gown for that year's ceremony. Each year, a giant unveiling of the gown design takes place in May, with parents or other adults important in the lives of students visiting the school to see students receive their graduation gowns. The design of the gown is generally symbolic of that particular class and honors their character or unique obstacles they have overcome to achieve success. Many of Mr. Delaney's students are first generation high school graduates. By the time seniors walk out the doors of Carolina High Academy, they know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Mr. Delaney cares for them, believes in them, and will always stand by them.