New superintendent lists priorities for Rock Hill schools

08/11/2014 9:47 PM

08/12/2014 6:48 AM

Rock Hill schools should focus on improving performance in three areas students have not tested well on in recent years – science, U.S. history and reading – Superintendent Kelly Pew told the school board Monday night.

District leaders also should craft a balanced budget for the next fiscal year – unlike the 2014-15 budget, which has a $1.4 million shortfall – and create more collaborative groups of teachers, support staff, administrators and others.

Pew, hired by the school board in April, said the three goals had been developed by administrators with input from school principals.

“Science, at the elementary grades, was an area we found that needed improvement,” Pew said.

On last year’s Palmetto Assessment of State Standards, students in Rock Hill scored lower on the science portion of the test than on any other portion.

The district also should focus on getting all students to read on grade level by the third grade, Pew said. Research shows that students who aren’t reading on grade level by that time are less likely to be successful in schools than their peers who are at grade level.

That focus on reading should extend beyond third grade, Pew said, to ensure that older students remain on or above grade level.

Another area of weakness has been the ability of Rock Hill high school students to pass the end-of-course assessment for U.S. history, Pew said.

A second goal, the creation of “professional learning communities,” has already been embraced by some Rock Hill schools.

When officials from AdvancED, the organization that grants accreditation to the district, visited in April, they praised those schools that had already developed these collaborative groups. Those schools have higher test scores than those that do not have such groups, Pew told the board.

The third goal, presenting a balanced budget, will be difficult as always, Pew said. For the current year’s budget, the board passed an unbalanced budget because, as this year’s budget stood, revenue did not keep up with state-mandated pay increases and increases in retirement and insurance costs.

But, as with every year, it’s difficult to plan because the amount of money the state will give the district and what they will mandate is often not known until “late in the game,” she said.

Board member Jane Sharp asked Pew if the district had begun looking at programs that might need to be cut if money falls short.

“We have begun a district-wide analysis of what’s working and what hasn’t,” Pew said.

Pew will present a final version of the goals to the school board when it meets later this month.

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