Editorial: Consolidation necessary, but concerns remain
Last week’s announcement by S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman that Florence County School District Four will be consolidated into Florence One Schools in July should have come as little surprise to people.
The district and its problems have been in the news for several years. Spearman has been serving as the district’s de facto board of trustees since it was taken over by the state in 2018.
“It is extremely difficult for districts smaller than 1,000 students to successfully operate financially and programmatically,” Spearman said in the letter. “The administration costs alone take away dramatically from dollars that should be going to teachers and students in the classroom.”
Spearman has continued to maintain that it does not make financial sense for the state to continue to operate the district as a standalone entity over the long term and we agree.
According to the letter, Timmonsville High School will no longer be used as a high school and high school students will be sent to schools within Florence One. The high school will be used to accommodate middle school and elementary school students.
Spearman stated that a transition committee from Florence Four and Florence One would be appointed with the consultation of the legislative delegation to make further decisions.
We are glad the decision to incorporate a problematic district into one that has received numerous accolades was finally made. According to state Board of Education reports and published reports, many of the Florence Four’s troubles stemmed from questionable leadership. Under the guidance of Superintendent Richard O’Malley and Florence One Board of Trustees, the ship can be righted.
We do have, however, concerns in regards to the transportation of students and the future of Timmonsville High School.
In the letter sent to Timmonsville residents last week, Spearman did not specify which of the three Florence One high schools – South Florence, West Florence or Wilson – the students would attend.
Rumors surfaced during the early part of the consolidation discussions that high school students would be bussed to Wilson, the farthest of the three from Timmonsville. The reasoning for that was supposedly due to overcrowding at West and South Florence. Google Maps indicates that Timmonsville High is equidistant between West Florence and South Florence at 11.3 miles from each school. Wilson is 18.7 miles from Timmonsville.
Potential Constitutional issues, however, would arise from sending the students to Wilson. Using overcrowding as a pretext assigning a largely African American student body to Wilson would no doubt become an issue. Timmonsville’s student body is roughly 66 percent African American. South and West Florence have predominantly white students bodies.
In June, the class of 2021 will be the final group to graduate from Timmonsville High School. What the future holds for the remaining Timmonsville students is at present uncertain. We would hope that all parties involved in the decision-making process would keep the best interest of all students in mind, but particularly the Timmonsville students who are being uprooted and forced to move.