WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Pine Ridge Middle School Principal Dr. David Basile tells people the biggest compliment he can receive is “just a thank you,” particularly when it’s from a former student who shares the impact he’s had on their lives.
But Basile will be getting another big thank you -- this time from the SC Council for Exceptional Children -- when he is recognized as Principal of the Year during the organization’s President’s Awards Dinner on February 29 in Myrtle Beach. The award from the council -- a “collaborative community of professionals who are the voice and vision of special education in South Carolina” -- recognizes Basile’s “outstanding contributions to the advancement of exceptional children and youth.”
Basile has been in education for roughly 35 years, serving the past four as principal at the Lexington Two middle school. He started his career as a teacher at a California high school, and has since served in a number of principal and administrative roles in districts near and far. No matter where he goes, though, his goal is the same: creating a culture of “no outcasts” in schools.
“All students, no matter ability, should feel welcome and special,” Basile said. “All students deserve the best teachers and adults in their lives while at school.”
Basile admits the “no outcasts” mentality comes from some of his own K-12 experiences. “I told myself as I started my journey as a teacher, that no student that I came across would ever get an inauthentic me, and they would always get the respect they deserve,” Basile said.
When it comes to his special education students at Pine Ridge, he goes the extra mile to make sure that happens.
“Special education students, as a collective, have so many struggles that most folks will never understand,” Basile said. “I just want to make sure these special young people have a place in school and to know that I truly care about them becoming the best version of themselves that they can be, just as we do with all of our students.”
Basile, an avid angler, takes special education students on an annual fishing outing, in partnership with a SC Department of Natural Resources fish hatchery. “This trip is a highlight of the year,” Basile said.
The principal also secured funding so that Pine Ridge students can participate annually in Special Olympics. The team is currently training for spring competition. “Money can never be an obstacle in doing something positive for students,” Basile said, “especially those who get excluded from most sports through no fault of their own.”
Finally, Basile and Pine Ridge Middle School Resource Officer Cory Hollman have made it their lunchtime mission to make students who have trouble fitting in feel “comfortable and relaxed.” While the lunchroom effort started with special education students, it today includes students from across the school. “These young people just like our company and feel special that they get to eat with the principal and a police officer,” Basile said. “I really believe, through many informal lunch conversations, that we have helped some of these students work out problems and issues they may be having in middle school, and that in itself is a big positive.”
Hollman has high praise for the principal. “One does not have to work with Basile long to realize just how much he cares about his job and the students.”
Still, Basile shies away from the spotlight.
“Awards and accolades have never been a driver in what I do,” he said. “This award, however, is really special. I appreciate the fact that folks are watching, even when you don’t know it, and recognizing my efforts and being true to my beliefs. To me, that is what leadership and integrity are all about.”