TIMMONSVILLE, SC (WMBF) - It’s been a year since the state Department of Education took over operations of Florence County School District Four, and school leaders said they’ve made substantial progress since then.
State Superintendent Molly Spearman declared a state of emergency last May over the Timmonsville School District because of its chronic financial instability.
Ryan Brown with the Department of Education said by sharing services with Florence School District One and Three, they were able to save $600,000, which is half of the district’s budget.
“I do know that the state has given us additional funding to operate, so that has definitely taken a load off our general fund, so speaking with our finance director we are very optimistic about what this next year’s audit will bring,” District Administrator Tonya Addison, said.
The state eliminated the need for a district office. The funds that would be used for a district office are now used for classroom instruction and student opportunities.
"We've seen tremendous growth in our students, with their attitudes, with their outlooks and it's just overall improved in the culture of our school,” Addison said.
Teachers are also reaping benefits of the state takeover.
This school year, the faculty was able to participate in professional learning classes offered by the state and training development with Florence One, leaving the teacher retention rate this year at an all-time high.
“I think it has do to with the increase in morale, teacher morale and in the overall culture. I think there’s more support here for our staff as well as our students,” Addison said.
Meanwhile, students are now attending Florence One's Career Center.
This year the school district started their STEM Program and partnership with the Auntie Karen Foundation to provide more visual and performing arts opportunities.
"It is definitely those partnerships that have helped up improve our overall culture for our students,” Addison said.
It’s improvement that Addison expects will continue. She admitted before the state takeover, the district had no sense of direction. Now they’re able to move forward.
"Just helping our students and our staff feel a sense of pride for Timmonsville and Florence School District Four and we see that pride coming back to our district and we're excited about that,” she said.
Brown said there’s no set time frame for the state takeover. They still need to ensure a clear transition and a plan for the future.