The third finalist for the position of superintendent in the Rock Hill school district will visit on Wednesday, making the longest trip of any of the candidates.
Rich O’Malley, superintendent of Edison Township Public Schools, will travel from Edison, N.J., to South Carolina, a state he called home for four years in the early 1990s. O’Malley completed his undergraudate studies at Clemson University, where he studied psychology and political science, not education.
After graduation, he went north to work.
“I started my career in the state legislature in New Jersey on the Education Committee,” O’Malley said.
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It was there O’Malley said he realized he was missing out on his true calling.
“I went into teaching because, like most teachers, I believe you can make a difference and that was where I wanted to spend my passion and my life,” he said.
O’Malley went on to get three additional degrees in teaching and education, and by the age of 33, he was in his first role as a superintendent, where he felt he could make “huge impacts” on everything from student achievement to finances.
“I felt I was making a lot of impact in the classroom of 20 students,” he said. “I felt I could take my talents and have an impact on a school system.”
The state of New Jersey has 610 school districts, he said. The majority of them are very small, but O’Malley said he worked from the smaller districts to his current role in Edison, which is New Jersey’s fifth largest public school district with 19 schools and more than 15,000 students.
In New Jersey, Edison schools have been leaders in technology. The district’s middle schools recently were the first in the country to use Promethean ActivTables, which are interactive, touch-screen table surfaces.
Teachers in Edison are pioneering the use of these devices in the classroom and providing feedback to help develop the program, O’Malley said.
Under O’Malley, Edison schools have maintained the second-lowest central administrative costs and the lowest salaries and benefits costs per student in the state.
New Jersey schools have provided O’Malley with great experiences, he said, but recent action from the state government has made the education climate in the state “pretty toxic.”
“So I’m trying to decide in my life where I want to bring my skills, talent and experience,” he said.
Last weekend, O’Malley visited Rock Hill with his wife and their three children, because if he’s offered the job of superintendent, the decision to make the move to the South will be a “family decision.” But so far, he said, the city looks like a great community in which to raise his kids.
Outside of school, O’Malley said his two favorite things to do are play golf, albeit not well, and watch his children play sports, specifically soccer for his daughters and lacrosse for his son.
O’Malley will spend time Wednesday with administrators and board members. He’ll also participate in a forum with students, teachers and staff members from across the district.
The Rock Hill school board will meet in executive session Friday to discuss O’Malley and the other two finalists, Kelly Pew, superintendent of Pickens County schools, and Tommy Schmolze, assistant superintendent of Fort Mill schools, who both visited the Rock Hill school district last week.