In this Q&A, Rock Hill school district Superintendent Kelly Pew reflects on her time leading the district and shares her thoughts on the state of public education in South Carolina. For four years, Pew has led a district with nearly 18,000 students in 27 schools.
Pew announced in March that she accepted a position with Anderson School District One in Williamston. She will serve as the assistant superintendent of administration for Anderson. Pew's last day is June 30.
Q: When did you join the Rock Hill school district and what attracted you to that role?
A: I began in Rock Hill on May 5, 2014. The Rock Hill school district is known around the state and country for being an innovative district with high quality teachers, faculty and staff.
Q: What changes have you seen/helped implement in Rock Hill schools since taking over as superintendent?
A: Several accomplishments that have occurred over the last four years:
- Passing a $110 million bond referendum, without a tax increase, to renovate and build new facilities
- The sale of the old district office and building of a new Central Office in Knowledge Park without using bond referendum dollars
- Review and improvements of Schools of Choice. (Students generally must attend a public school based on where they live. However, Rock Hill offers specialized programs that students can apply to attend, whether or not they are zoned to attend that school).
- Continued participation in the League of Innovative Schools with a visit of over 80 district leaders from across the nation this past spring. (The League is a national coalition of school districts focused on improving education through technology. The League is a network of Digital Promise, a national center created by Congress to advance technologies used for education).
- Being named in the top 10 districts in the nation by the Center for Digital Education
- Focus on the improvement of student achievement as measured by state and local assessments
- Implementation of 1:1 technology in middle and high schools
- Implementation of professional learning communities where all faculty and staff consistently work to determine what all students need to know and be able to do, determine how to measure whether they have mastered the skill, determine what to do if a student does not master a skill and determine what to do for students who have mastered and are ready for a higher level of learning.
Q: Name the accomplishment during your tenure of which you are most proud.
A: Passing a bond referendum with more than 80 percent voter approval demonstrates that our community supports our public schools. I am proud that we have been able to continue the level of maintenance, upgrades and new construction that is expected of our community. I am truly grateful for the support of our community for our students, schools and for me personally.
Q: What is the one thing you would have done differently during your tenure?
A: While we have made significant improvements with student achievement, we are not where we need to be academically. I, along with our faculty and staff, believe that our students can perform at the highest level and they can compete with any and every student in our state.
We have implemented support for our students most in academic need as well as those who need to have opportunities to excel. I want to see our students outscoring the state of South Carolina and competing with students across the country.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges to being a superintendent of a school district, especially one of Rock Hill’s size?
A: One of the biggest challenges is the ability to provide the many different needs (educational, mental, physical) of today’s students with a limited amount of funds. Students across S.C. and our country are coming to school with mental health issues, special education needs, etc., and our schools do not have the human or fiscal resources needed to support these students so that they can be productive citizens.
I am also very concerned about the teacher shortage that we have seen and will continue to see in our state. With the cap for retirees and the small percentage of education students in colleges, we will find it difficult to secure highly qualified teachers for every classroom in our district and in our state. Without the best teachers, we will not be able to produce the type of students needed for tomorrow’s workforce.
Q: What are your thoughts on the state of public education in South Carolina?
A: I believe that we have outstanding opportunities occurring for students across our state. I also believe that we have inequities within our state.
We are very fortunate in Rock Hill to be able to provide our students with high quality, state-of-the-art opportunities. There are districts within our state with very limited resources whose students do not have the opportunity to experience career and technical courses to which our students have access. They do not have the menu of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate (IB) and other high-level courses that our students have available in all three of our high schools.
In addition, it can be very difficult to recruit high quality teachers to certain areas of our state. Without high quality educators, it is difficult to provide the education necessary for our students to excel.
Q: What will you miss after you leave Rock Hill?
A: Rock Hill is an outstanding community. The support that I have felt personally and in various aspects of our district is phenomenal. There is truly a culture of support for public education within our community.
First and foremost, I will miss our students. Our students excel in academics, arts and athletics. I am very proud of each one. I will also miss our faculty and staff. They are dedicated to our students, regardless of the role in which they serve.