WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - It’s been one year since the State Department of Education declared a state of emergency in the Williamsburg County School District and took over.
The state fired the district’s board and superintendent. Since then there have been major security, finance and leadership improvements.
The school district Superintendent Dr. Rose Wilder has made some sweeping changes since the State Superintendent Molly Spearman appointed her to this position.
Wilder’s first day on the job was in April of 2018. She started her career teaching and has been a superintendent for 24 years.
“When I arrived here on April 12, I must admit I was very apprehensive about what to expect and what to anticipate. However since that time we have a lot to be proud of,” Wilder said.
When Wilder arrived, she made it her mission to get to know the people who live in the district.
"This community has four distinct areas, I cannot just have one meeting," Wilder said "I realized early on that I have to go out into the community, which means when I have a community meeting I have to have four. I do the Hemingway, the Kingstree, D.P Cooper and the Greeleyville area."
Now one year later, Dr. Wilder say they are no longer a 'fiscal caution district.'
Dr. Wilder says guests must now buzz in to enter all 12 schools and all schools have metal detectors. These security measures did not exist before.
The district's department for students with special needs is now in full compliance.
Last school year there were more than 50 noncompliance issues and more than a half a million dollars in funding was lost for students with disabilities.
Attendance rates among students have also improved. She says there were issues with seniors missing weeks of school.
Dr. Wilder says she has an employee who monitors the attendance at the schools.
"One hat he wears is his truancy hat and he actually does home visits, accompanying the parents to court, and makes certain that the students are in school and if they are not in school they have to have a valid reason," Dr. Wilder said.
The school district has also restructured its instructional department that meet on a regular basis. They visit schools and are present during the teaching process to give teachers and principals feedback.
Dr. Wilder is expected to remain the superintendent through next year as well. There's no set timeline on when the State Board of Education will give authority back to the district. It will depend on the academic and financial progress and the stability that is made.
"I'd like to say to our parents that we really appreciate the fact that they have entrusted their children to us for their educational needs and on behalf of the entire Williamsburg School District family I pledge that we will do our best to educate them to best of our ability," Wilder said. "I'd like to ask the community of Williamsburg County to please continue giving us their unconditional support and to know that we are not where we would like to be but we are trying and striving hard to get there."
Dr. Wilder says they will have a pilot program starting next school year where elementary and middle school teachers will have a four-day work week.
The goal is to improve teacher quality and recruitment.
The students will still have class five days a week. One group will work Monday through Thursday, the other group will work Tuesday through Friday. The students will be supervised at all times.
"We have a very high percentage of international teachers and with our students being from a very rural area there's a language barrier especially with our younger children," Wilder said.
Out of the more than 260 teachers about 74 teachers are from another country.