The first of three finalists for the position of superintendent in the Rock Hill school district will visit on Wednesday, although it won’t be a long trip.
Thomas “Tommy” Schmolze is the assistant superintendent for administration and student services in the Fort Mill school district. He and his family live in Rock Hill and his wife teaches in Clover schools.
Schmolze (SHHMALL’-zee) has spent his entire professional career in York County schools, and becoming superintendent in Rock Hill would bring his career full-circle, he said.
“The neat thing about Rock Hill is that was my first job,” Schmolze said.
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Before he’d even graduated from Clemson University in 1993, Rock Hill offered him a position at Northwestern High School when he was “just a young teacher, ready to save the world.”
“Rock Hill gave me that shot,” he said.
As an English teacher and coach, a passion for teaching and learning developed, Schmolze said, before he worked his way into administrative positions.’
In his role of assistant superintendent, Schmolze oversees things such as transportation and discipline issues.
Fort Mill schools Superintendent Chuck Epps said, “Tommy’s been responsible for several functions here. But what we’ve primarily had him do is take on the building program.”
The Fort Mill school district is in the middle of a large building project, with two new elementary schools and one replacement elementary school under construction. The number of students living within the district is increasing by the population of an entire school each year.
“He’s been instrumental,” Epps said of Schmolze’s role as a liason between district leaders, architects, contractors and all of the other people it takes to make a new school happen.
As assistant superintendent, Schmolze said he’s been able to grow professionally to become much more well-rounded.
“It would be Fort Mill’s loss and Rock Hill’s gain (if Schmolze becomes superintendent), and I certainly understand why (the Rock Hill school district is) interested in him,” said Epps, who called Schmolze a good team player, listener and strong character candidate.
Between his positions at the district level in Fort Mill and his beginnings as a teacher in Rock Hill, Schmolze worked as an assistant principal and principal at Fort Mill Middle School and as the principal at Clover High School.
He says he’s felt fortunate to work in three districts within the county.
“York County, as a county, is very strong in education,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to be a part of different families while staying in the same house.”
And he said all the time he’s spent in these different districts has given him a lot of perspective about what works in schools.
“I can take the best of all the districts,” he said.
During his time as an educator over the last two decades, Schmolze said his personal philiophy is that the role of the teacher is the most crucial part of any school environment.
“For me, education is about what happens when the teacher closes that door,” he said. “Everything else is just support for that.”
He described himself as “consistent” and an optimist who believes in public education and the “art” of teaching.
Outside of work, Schmolze said he enjoys doing “anything athletic” and spending time with his wife and two sons. He’s also “heavily into the arts” and plays several instruments. He’s involved in his church and serves as a small group leader and enjoys reading and spending time with friends.
But teaching and education are his passion, and Schmolze said he gets a smile on his face just talking about what he does every day.
“Once you’re called to education, you can’t turn it off,” he said.