Dr. Rose Wilder has faced a few hurdles as Williamsburg County School District Superintendent, to include passing the budget with a two percent cost of living increase for all employees and an one-step increase for teachers. Wilder said the minimum first-year teacher salary begins at $32,000, which is mandated by the state. For several years, teacher salary scales were frozen because of the state’s economy. Wilder said that everyone is back on schedule.
The $32 million budget was approved June 20, without the State Department’s official budget being approved before the local school district’s deadline. The budget saw a decrease of $164,305, which was in part due to the elimination of 33 positions. The positions include instructional assistant, clerical and food service.
D.P. Cooper Elementary School positions are being addressed. Wilder said the former charter school currently has 102 positions, a number that is not possible to accommodate. “That’s not even reasonable. A regular school of that size would not have had a staff of that many employees,” she said. “Keep in mind, charter schools can do things that’s not conditional for regular schools.” In 2013, D.P. Cooper Elementary converted to a charter school upon Williamsburg County School District Board of Trustees approval. In May 2018, the charter board of trustees signed an agreement to dissolve the charter and revert back to D.P. Cooper Elementary and will serve students K-6 grade within the school’s previous attendance zone.
Dr. Wilder said they are focusing on two major goals, moving from the fiscal caution list and correcting non-compliance issues. “We need to make sure that we are not spending money we do not have and that we’re correcting non-compliance issues in special services,” said Wilder. “I’m getting ready to write a plan to address those two major areas.”
According to S.C. Superintendent Molly Spear-man, the district mismanaged over $600,000 in federal funds, most of which was to be allocated for special education. In March 2017, the district was forced to pay back over $280,000 after it failed to spend the funds on educating special needs students.
Another issue Wilder is working on is student absences. “I found out after graduation we have seniors who missed 30 or 40 days of school, some more,” said Wilder. “Legally, if a student misses that many days of school and he or she does not make those days up, then legally your diploma is not valid.”
Wilder said she received phone calls from parents when the schools informed the parents that their child may have marched (during the graduation ceremony) but they couldn’t receive their diploma until they make up the work. She said if a student misses three, five, seven, or 10 days of unexcused absences, the district is required by law to have a meeting with the parent and the student, where an attendance plan is put in place. She said an individual is currently visiting each school and gathering data to show whether or not the parents were notified that their child was not in school.
Wilder also continues to work toward fixing long-standing problems. An increase in millage, which for the past two years the former board of trustees did not choose to take advantage of, will be recouped and used for capital projects. Some projects are underway while others are proposed. Other funds earmarked before her arrival will be used for heating and air systems for several schools and a parking lot at Kingstree Middle School.