New direction for Florence One Schools highlights year in education

December 29, 2018
In his first event as Florence One Schools' new superintendent, the district's convocation for the beginning of the school year, Richard O'Malley focused on seeing the district become more unified.

Fourth in a series

FLORENCE, S.C. – This fall, the Florence One Schools district has seen many changes. From a new superintendent to a new name and branding, the district has been taking a new direction.

Under the leadership of Superintendent Richard O’Malley, the district has implemented a new vision, Florence One in 2021, which focuses on building new facilities, communicating better with the community and providing an equitable education for all students.

In O’Malley’s first district event as the superintendent, the district’s convocation for the beginning of the school year focused on seeing the district become more unified.

“We are one,” O’Malley said during his speech at the convocation. “We are not a system of schools; we are going to become a school system. We are all going to work together for our community, for our schools, for our staff and our students.”

The district began the first step in the Imagine Forward campaign, a 1:1 initiative that will provide every student in Florence One with a Chromebook. In a little more than a month’s time, the district planned professional development for teachers and meetings for parents, and it set up software and security features in the Chromebooks.

In November, all third- through fifth-graders received a Chromebook during the simultaneous launch, Florence One Schools Director of Technology Kyle Jones said.

“It’s important to know that we are going about this strategically for the purpose of creating opportunities for teaching and learning,” O’Malley said. “It’s not just handing out a device to students. It’s strategic on how we are trying to prepare our students for the world.”

During a Florence One Schools board of trustees meeting, the district announced plans to invest $3 million in arts education over the next year.

The money is being spent in six areas: facilities, instruments, supplies and furniture, personnel, curriculum and programs, plus other supports.

During the meeting, O’Malley said there was a need in the district to have more art teachers in some of the schools and new furniture and instruments. He also said in some schools instruments had not been replaced in more than 30 years.

“If you’re going to build a quality premier school district, you can look anywhere in this country — it’s not the fancy technology,” O’Malley said. “I would say it has a premier arts program in its schools. That is why I want to make sure one of the first things we do is invest in the arts.”

This year, the board approved a $198 million proposal for a referendum to build four new schools and renovate the district’s three high schools.

With the elementary schools, Savannah Grove Elementary will be rebuilt and Timrod Elementary and Wallace Gregg Elementary schools will be combined in a new school.

The three high schools will receive security improvements, renovations and athletic facilities and other improvements.

All three high schools will receive an athletic facility that can seat 5,000 individuals with an eight-lane track. They also will receive an auxiliary gym with weight and training rooms and two locker rooms with showers and toilets.

The public will vote on the referendum on Feb. 26.

This fall, the district also invested $30,000 in new literature for English classes. It began moving toward a more inclusive special education model and started looking at options for healthier school cafeteria food.

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