State of South Carolina takes over struggling rural district

State of South Carolina takes over struggling rural district

The Allendale County district has 3 of its 4 schools in the bottom 5 percent academically in the state.

The state of South Carolina has taken over operations of the Allendale County School District because of continued poor student academic performance.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman says in a news release that she has declared a state of emergency in the Allendale district and has appointed a new superintendent.

State School Superintendent Molly Spearman spoke earlier this month with the Allendale County community.

"Too often it seems education has been about serving the interest of adults rather than the needs of students in our classrooms,” Spearman says. “Management decisions that put self-interest ahead of our students’ achievement are unacceptable. I will not stand by while students get left behind because of the poor decision making of adults. With this in mind, I am declaring a state of emergency and will take over direct management of the Allendale County School District."

Three of the four schools in Allendale County are on the state priority school list, meaning they are in the bottom 5 percent academically of all schools in the state. Districtwide student academic achievement has been at some of the lowest levels in the state for multiple years.

In addition to poor student performance and lack of improvement, the state has significant financial and programmatic concerns about key federal and state programs run by the district. Allendale County School District receives more than $17,000 per student in local, state, and federal funds, one of the highest of any district in the state.

"Allendale County Schools have received significant increases in funding yet continue to have some of the worst results," Spearman says. "These students deserve better and we must remain accountable to the taxpayers....We will take corrective action and ensure that every tax dollar is spent transparently in ways that improve student academic achievement.”

The Columbia State reports that the Spearman's action marks the first time since 1999 South Carolina has stepped in to take over a district. The takeover comes after the state's efforts to provide additional resources to Allendale have failed to bring about improvements.

Spearman decided to take over the district after the Allendale school board refused to sign an agreement with the Education Department that would have outlined how the two would work together to improve management and academic performance. Allendale school board members also refused to let Spearman present information about the district’s academic performance at a meeting. Instead, Spearman held a community meeting where she heard from frustrated parents.

Spearman has appointed Walter Tobin, Sr., a retired school superintendent, to serve as Allendale superintendent effective immediately.

Tobin will report directly to Spearman and will begin meeting with school and district employees, parents, and community leaders this week. The South Carolina Department of Education will provide hands-on technical assistance in the form of school transformation coaches, professional development, and direct program oversight.

YouTube Video: State School Superintendent Molly Spearman met earlier this month with the Allendale County community:

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