TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. – Teachers at Timmonsville High School and Johnson Middle School were told in a faculty meeting Tuesday afternoon that both schools would close June 30.
South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman told the Morning News that when Florence Four consolidates with Florence One Schools, the middle and high school students in the district can choose to attend any of the three Florence One high schools, South Florence, West Florence and Wilson, or any of the four district middle schools, John W. Moore, Sneed, Southside and Williams.
"Both the middle school and the high school will be closed," Spearman said. "And the students will be able to select which school they would like to attend."
She said she also asked Florence One to give priority in hiring to the teachers at Timmonsville High School and Johnson Middle School.
Spearman said she couldn't guarantee all of the teachers at the schools jobs but added that there is a teacher shortage and she would work with surrounding districts for opportunities for the teachers who don't get a Florence One position.
Brockington Elementary School will remain open for the residents of Timmonsville and the surrounding area but will also become a magnet school for arts, Spearman said.
Any student in Florence One can choose to attend the new arts magnet program, she said.
Spearman said she is working with the county's legislative delegation to set the boundaries of the combined district to ensure that the people of Timmonsville and surrounding areas are represented on the Florence One board.
Spearman added she sent a letter to and met with Florence One Schools Board Chairman Porter Stewart II and Richard O'Malley, Florence One superintendent, to ask the board to take the steps to absorb the Florence Four district and its business at the end of the fiscal year.
In the letter, she asks the Florence One Board of Trustees to allow O'Malley to become the designated superintendent for Florence Four until the consolidation occurs.
If approved, O'Malley will report to Spearman in the role and regarding the consolidation.
Spearman said negotiations were underway to determine his compensation for the role. She added the compensation would probably be similar to the compensation of Dan Strickland who served in a similar capacity in 2019.
She added she has asked Florence One to immediately begin welcoming the students of Florence Four with meetings for them and their families so that the students can begin to select their next school.
Spearman and the South Carolina Department of Education have been managing Florence Four since a state of emergency was declared in 2018.
She said the district was out of compliance with federal law regarding special education, recordkeeping was lax regarding the programs and the district's audits had shown several deficiencies.
Spearman said those items had been corrected under state management but the district's declining enrollment makes its future as a district unsustainable without consolidation.
The consolidation has resulted in pushback from the Florence Four community and the district's powerless board of trustees.