Kelly Pew of the Pickens County School District will become the new superintendent of Rock Hill schools.
The Rock Hill School Board unanimously selected Pew from a field of three finalists on Friday. The board deliberated about four hours before announcing its selection.
Pew’s annual salary will be $180,000, or about $60,000 more than her base salary as Pickens’ superintendent. She replaces Lynn Moody, who resigned last year to become superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury School System in North Carolina.
School Board Chairman Jim Vining said Pew’s energy and her knowledge of education in South Carolina were the primary factors for selecting her. Board members said they were also impressed that Pew presented 30-, 60- and 90-day action plans during her interview.
“She started working for us before she was even hired,” Vining said.
After the board’s unanimous vote, Vining called Pew, who “accepted and was delighted,” according to Vining.
No starting date has been set but board members hope she will move to Rock Hill before the end of the school year.
Pew said it is important for her to arrive before the end of the school year to gain insight into Rock Hill’s operations, to learn what’s going well and what the challenges will be. She said that knowledge is important as the administration and school board plan the next fiscal year’s budget.
Pew, 44, has worked in several South Carolina school districts as a teacher and administrator. She’s been with Pickens County schools since 2008, when she moved to the district as assistant superintendent of human resources. She was promoted to assistant superintendent of instructional services before becoming superintendent in 2012.
She has taught education at Anderson University and Southern Wesleyan University.
During her interview with the Rock Hill School Board, Pew presented a series of plans that would guide her during her first 90 days in Rock Hill.
“She gave us something she intended to do,” school board member Walter Brown said. The plans showed “her ability do to her homework.”
Pew said the plans were a way for her to begin to focus on the Rock Hill school district.
She described the initial 30 days as the time for listening and learning. Plans for the 60-day mark included developing the budget and making staffing decisions. At 90 days, the school year is underway.
Once the school year starts, “it’s fast,” she said.
During the budget talks, Pew and the school board will evaluate the next phases of the district’s technology initiative, known as iRock.
Pickens County adopted a bring-your-own device policy for all grades. Pew said in developing the policy, she and her staff talked with many students. High school students in particular said they wanted their own devices, she said.
While in Pickens, Pew has emphasized making students “career-, college- and citizenship-ready.”
“Our responsibility as educators is to make sure that when kids leave our schools that they’re ready for the next step,” Pew said.
For some students, that means a four-year college or technical school, while for others, that means going directly into the workforce, she said. That philosophy has led Pickens schools to develop relationships with colleges and businesses to figure out exactly what the schools should be doing to best prepare students, an initiative Pew said she wants to bring to Rock Hill.
The citizenship piece of the “3 C’s” is about educating the whole child. Schools must make sure they are teaching students how to be good citizens by giving back to their communities, she said.
Rock Hill School Board member Terry Hutchinson praised Pew.
“She thinks outside the box,” Hutchinson said. “That shows me her motivation; that she will do what she has to do for the students.”
Pew acknowledged that there’s a lot of confusion around education in South Carolina, particularly around the Common Core standards. Common Core standards are a set of academic standards adopted by 45 states, including South Carolina. They have been become controversial in recent months, in part because some believe they are nationalizing education.
“It’s important to help parents be knowledgeable of that, and one of the ways I’ve done that is through town hall meetings to really help parents understand, because there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” she said.
Several times throughout the school year, Pew said she gives a “State of the District” address and then allowed parents the opportunity to ask her questions.
Keeping the lines of communication open are important, Pew said. Her district does a great job of getting information out to parents, but could do a better job of getting community feedback, she said.
Pew also utilizes advisory groups to learn more about what’s working and what isn’t in the schools, meeting with elementary, middle and high school students twice a year, in addition to parents, local ministers and “key communicators.”
While Pew said she loves her job in Pickens County, the Rock Hill position was a “great opportunity,” she said.
“(Rock Hill) is knowns for its quality education,” she said. “There is lots of support in this community for public education, and for me, that’s very attractive.”
The Herald’s Rachel Southmayd contributed