Rock Hill superintendent candidate’s visit delayed by school fire

03/24/2014 1:39 PM

03/24/2014 5:32 PM

The first of three superintendent candidate visits to Rock Hill will be delayed this week, after a six-alarm fire destroyed an elementary school in his current New Jersey school district.

Rich O’Malley, superintendent of Edison Public Schools in Edison, N.J., was spending several days with his family in Rock Hill and had been scheduled to spend time with school officials on Monday and today, including a forum with teachers, students, parents and community members.

But on Saturday night, a fire tore through James Monroe Elementary School in Edison, a school of about 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, leaving it nearly destroyed. O’Malley left Rock Hill and returned to Edison to help during the crisis.

“People in Edison are in a state of shock,” Edison school board president Gene Maeroff said.

The fire spread through most of the school in a matter of minutes. At the scene, 12 firefighters had to be treated for smoke inhalation. A prosecutor told local news reporters the fire was under investigation as possible arson.

On Monday afternoon, a county prosecutor said a custodian had been arrested for starting the fire. He allegedly tossed a cigarette he had been smoking indoors into a trash can that ignited. The school did not have a sprinkler system.

O’Malley’s visit to Rock Hill will be rescheduled.

Visits with the other two finalists, Tommy Schmolze of Fort Mill and Kelly Pew of Pickens County, will proceed Wednesday and Thursday as scheduled.

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