Superintendent deserves our full support

The superintendent’s evaluation delivered last week by the Florence One Schools board to Dr. Rich O’Malley for the 2018-19 school year does not begin to reflect the impressive achievements he accomplished in his first year in the district. It also does not accurately represent the opinions of these two board members.

O’Malley has been the tireless, physical embodiment of “students first” that we desperately need to mold Florence One Schools into the outstanding educational system all of our students deserve. His academic leadership, financial expertise, boundless energy and uncompromising commitment to ensuring that our tax dollars directly benefit our students has allowed us to begin transforming the district in ways we had been told were not possible, all without raising taxes a single cent. His achievements are quite remarkable and literally too numerous to list here. In his first year alone, his understanding of district operations, including finances, facilities, personnel, safety and technology led to numerous substantial cost savings, efficiencies and improvements that can be seen today in every school in the district. Academically, he immediately implemented core curriculum and professional development changes that produced positive results in the very first year, as proved by markedly improved school report cards.

Change, however, is never easy. O’Malley has challenged all of us — from board members to principals to teachers to parents and community members — to question conventions and push boundaries to provide our children with the educational foundation that they, and Florence, need to build a future on. This has meant that he has had to courageously tell us not what we wanted to hear but what we needed to hear. And as uncomfortable as it is to admit, if we truly want the best for our students and our community, we have to be prepared to acknowledge the ugly truth: We are the 37th ranked school district in a state ranked second from last in education. It is critical that we embrace change, because we cannot continue down the same path that led us to the bottom.

O’Malley has provided a vision and a methodology to escape the corridor of shame, but despite his Herculean efforts, he cannot transform the district alone to achieve these new heights. We cannot continue to sit back silently and let yet another educational leader be driven from our district. Instead, we must stand together as one, for our students and our community. We sincerely believe that if we accept O’Malley’s challenge and give him our full support, every single one of our students will benefit and there will be nothing simply “satisfactory” about Florence One Schools, just as there was nothing simply “satisfactory” about O’Malley’s first year as our superintendent.

BARRY TOWNSEND AND TRISHA CAULDER

Florence One board of trustees