At a May 28, community meeting at Hemingway High School, State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman praised the Williamsburg County School District and Superintendent Dr. Rose Wilder for the positive direction the district has been headed since Wilder’s appointment in April 2018.
Wilder assumed the position when the state took over after working for three years on non-compliance issues such as federal funding that affected special needs students. The district had been on notice to fix the problems since 2015. In 2017, the district lost federal funding and had to return $283,000. This year, Spearman said the district is no longer at high risk.
Spearman’s staff talked about college-ready student rates and how to improve upon them. The percentage of 2018 diploma earners who were college and career ready; C.E. Murray High School - 23.4%, Hemingway High School - 14.3% and Kingstree Senior High School, 10.8%. And of the number of students who enrolled in Career and Technology (CTE) only 15 % at Kingstree, 16% at Hemingway and 24% at C.E. Murray.
The presentation included CTE enhancements that would offer a certified nursing assistant program and create a master schedule that provides adequate time for cosmetology students to acquire the necessary hours in order to sit for the state licensure exam. Other recommendations include creating a strategic plan for full implementation of the Project Lead the way Engineering program and to merge and increase technology education course offerings at Kingstree High School, while offering additional programming at C.E. Murray and Hemingway High Schools.
The merger and additional programing would be contingent upon funding and space. Spearman further addressed the subject of centralization, which has become a sensitive issue for parents and students of Hemingway High and the future of the Career and Technology Center. “Can we afford or do we have the number of students to have every program for all three high schools? No. That’s the bottom line,” she said. The career center is not scheduled to close this year.
Spearman added that there would be funding for some of the programs but it is not feasible to offer certain programs at every school when you have only one student enrolled at one and four or five at another and finding people to teach them. “We cannot afford to put cyber security at every school,” she said. “That’s just the bottom line. You may not like it, but that’s just the way it is.”
Spearman said once the programs are centralized, a student who wishes to take a course at a school would be provided transportation to that school with Wi-Fi on the bus so that the student can work while in route. “The bottom line is we have got to expand in Williamsburg County more offerings for all students and we want to do that in the fairest way,” said Spearman.
Spearman said state and federal funding totaling $50 million has been appropriated for programming and facility improvements in areas experiencing 70 percent or higher poverty. “We’re working very closely with Dr. Wilder because we want you to see this happen. And we want to make it happen for you.”