Superintendent candidate O’Malley talks technology, learning in district visit

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comApril 2, 2014 

— Rich O’Malley, one of three finalists for the Rock Hill schools superintendent position, met with a district staff, students and community members during his brief but busy visit Wednesday and emphasized his achievements as a schools chief in New Jersey.

O’Malley, the superintendent of Edison Public Schools in Edison, N.J., said he has two “non-negotiables.” The first is instilling the belief that every child can learn.

“We have the obligation for (students) to learn,” he said. “That’s what (parents) expect from us.”

The second non-negotiable is providing teachers with the resources to accomplish the goals that have been given to them.

In Edison, O’Malley said he’s been a huge advocate for technology, which he said can be a “game changer” for students. But all the devices in the world don’t mean a thing if the professional development isn’t there to support their use.

“If you don’t give teachers professional development and do it well, you’re just handing a $400 pencil to someone,” he said.

Besides technology, O’Malley emphasized increasing student achievement and focusing on the instructional core.

When asked about what he thought of Rock Hill’s data, O’Malley said much of what he saw was good, but that there were definite places for improvement, like how on the elementary and middle school levels, math scores are weaker than English language arts scores.

If selected, he said, much of his first month in Rock Hill would include learning as much as he could about that data, as well as meeting stakeholders and visiting each of the district’s facilities.

O’Malley told the group that he has experience with curriculum changes and getting local universities engaged with the school district, similar to the relationship between Rock Hill schools and Winthrop University.

He also said he has plenty of experience with handling finances in tricky situations.

“I’ve been in some districts that, just like you, have some financial difficulties,” he said.

In Edison, though, despite tough economic times, O’Malley said he’s managed to lead his district forward with technology and hiring more teachers, each year “realigning your resources to your goals.”

O’Malley was asked about arts programs and school nurses, both of which O’Malley said he’s a major advocate of – as reflected in Edison’s budget, which allots “a great deal of funds” to both of those areas.

One community member asked O’Malley how his family was coping with the possibility of such a major change, but O’Malley said a change is what he was looking for, just like when he decided to attend Clemson University more than 20 years ago.

“This is not about a job for me,” he said. “This is a change of life, a change of lifestyle.”

He and his family visited Rock Hill last weekend, and they all enjoyed it, he said, although his son is still feeling a bit reluctant about the lack of lacrosse in the area. But, he said, to him and his wife, Rock Hill looks like a great community in which to raise their family.

The Rock Hill school board will meet in executive session Friday to discuss O’Malley and the other two finalists, Tommy Schmolze, assistant superintendent in Fort Mill, and Kelly Pew, superintendent in Pickens County.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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