U.S. Secretary of Education visits Florence County schools, talks education reform with local leaders

DeVos visits Pee Dee

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and State Superintendent Molly Spearman joined local leaders in Florence County Thursday to tour schools and see how the institutions are rethinking education.

DeVos and Spearman, along with South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette and Congressman Tom Rice, arrived at the Timmonsville School District at 10:30 a.m. and ended the visit at Florence Darlington Tech’s Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology Thursday afternoon.

"To see the great not only facility, but programming that is happening here and to really get a good feel for what this region has to offer students of all ages is a ... the opportunities are very clear,” DeVos said.

Making their way through the halls of the Timmonsville School District, education and state leaders got a chance to check out learning going on in the classrooms. The district highlighted Brockington Elementary School’s STEM lab and iFly drone program for high school students.

“They can put their learning together with a future opportunity and that's a big thing," DeVos said.

Taken over by the state because of chronic financial instability last May, Spearman said money is now being put back into classrooms, as well as the area partnering with neighboring districts to offer students more opportunities, like welding classes that they didn’t have before.

"That's my proudest moment, that those students have the opportunities that they deserve and it was a really easy change, really only took a phone call," Spearman said.

"The course correction that's been made is terrific and I know that Superintendent Spearman and all that staff at the school are continuing to be very focused on continuing improvement," DeVos said.

Over at SiMT, officials explored the school’s Advanced Manufacturing Arena and new virtual learning tools to see firsthand how they’re training students for the workforce.

With the manufacturing industry a leading one in South Carolina, Evette said technical colleges are vital to filling those jobs.

"Historically we've always thought a measure of success was a four year degree and that's not the measure of success anymore," she said.

"I think an early middle school student should know and understand what the wide range of pathways available to them might be and I applaud South Carolina for moving in that direction," DeVos said.

At the federal level, DeVos said they continue to pursue policies that allow states to tailor opportunities to student and industry needs.

Copyright 2019 WMBF. All rights reserved.