New superintendent talks plans for Rock Hill schools

When Kelly Pew was superintendent of schools in Pickens County her monthly calendar included meetings with two business groups.

Business owners and manufacturing plant managers would discuss with Pew and her staff what they needed and what the school system could do better.

They talked about the need for soft skills such as work ethic, a positive attitude, and communication and time management skills. They talked about proficiency in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – skills, as well as basic English and computer skills needed to complete an online job application.

The relationship also was a chance for Pickens County teachers to go into businesses and see the practical application of the skills they teach.

Pew, who started as superintendent of Rock Hill schools in May, wants to create a similar relationship here. She took the first step Wednesday, focusing her first talk before the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce on what she created in Pickens County and how it can be applied in Rock Hill.

About 70 business leaders, educators and elected leaders attended the luncheon at the City Club.

Pew told the group her first task in May was the 2014-2015 budget which included a state-mandated teacher pay raise but lacked the necessary funds. The school board adopted a $134.9 million budget that calls for $1.4 million in funding from reserves. The school district has promised to reduce expenses by 1 percent over the coming school year to help balance the budget.

Pew also spent time visiting each school in the district to see firsthand what was being done in classrooms.

In seeking the Rock Hill superintendent’s job, Pew was clear that not every student pursues a college degree. It is the school system’s job to prepare all students for their post-high school years on the job or in classrooms at a technical college or a four-year college.

State law mandates individual graduation plans for each student designed to meet the career path the student has chosen, she said.

Schools, she said, not only must meet that requirement, but also create a pipeline of qualified graduates that meet the needs of current and future employers.

Job-skills education is not just for career centers or technical schools, she said.

The required skills are taught as early as third grade, she said, where students must show they can read and start mastering problem-solving skills in math.

As students progress they get more exposure to STEM courses, and by middle school students should be exploring college or career options, she said.

By their high school years, students wanting to pursue a technical career path should be able to take courses that earn them dual credit, earning them high school and technical school credit, she said. Getting dual credit can require a waiver from the state, Pew said.