The top education administrator in South Carolina challenged Fort Mill school leaders not only to be their best for all their students, but also for all of hers.
“The things that you do here,” state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman told leaders in Fort Mill, “we need you to be a leader for the state.”
About 70 district and school administrators gathered Wednesday in preparation for the upcoming school year. Chuck Epps, district superintendent, welcomed returning and new staff. Then, he introduced who he calls a “real advocate for public education,” whose recent work in the top state position is helping school districts.
“Now we have a voice at the table,” Epps said.
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The daughter of dairy farmers, Spearman felt at home gathering with educators at the Diary Barn on the Anne Springs Close Greenway. Spearman covered topics statewide, from new teacher evaluation to No Child Left Behind, from how best the state can prepare all students to graduate into a 21st century workforce, to new programs or degrees for special needs students.
Mainly, Spearman urged local educators to keep doing what they have been.
“We look at you as a district of excellence,” she said. “But keeping that level of excellence as fast as you’re growing, and keeping it personalized...it’s really, really important.”
There are issues impacting schools statewide, and others specific to certain areas. Spearman spoke of retaining teachers and helping them, not just students, make the grade.
“We’ve got to build a culture of helping teachers to get better,” she said.
In other areas, districts need certain support from the state like technology support. Spearman said her office wants to hear what educators in Fort Mill need and promised she will do what she can to help. What she doesn’t want to do is over-regulate to the point where high-achieving districts can’t serve their students best.
“There are districts that, we just need to get out of the way and let them do their thing,” Spearman said.
“And y’all are one of those districts. We need to let you be innovative, let you try new things, let you experiment, and show us the best practices so that we can take those best practices to other places in that state that don’t have the advantage of all the expertise you might have.”