Officials get dilemmas for dessert at countywide conference

By Bobby Bryant, Editor,

Quality of life, stable home environments, too few kids going to college, leadership issues at Florence-Darlington TEC and even Darlington High School’s struggling football team were among the topics that peppered an Oct. 29 meeting of city, county and school district officials.

Much of the session, hosted by Darlington County schools superintendent Tim Newman, dealt with education problems and solutions. “Most of our kids are really good kids; they just need direction,” Newman said.

He said 70 percent of Darlington County high-school graduates don’t go to college. After graduation day, he said, many don’t have a plan for what comes next. One way to fix that, he said, is through an internship program that the school district is developing with area businesses.

“I want to put our kids to work, and I want to put them to work in Darlington County,” Newman said.

Newman asked the audience to name some of the “positives” about the county school system. Some of the answers: Good teachers, parent involvement, academic opportunity and good transportation to school.

(There’s also encouraging news about Darlington County SAT scores. Recent data from the state Education Department show that the county school district’s SAT scores are 16 points higher than the national mean score of 1049 and 1 point higher than the state’s mean score of 1064.)

Newman then asked the audience to cite some challenges. The answers included “quality of life,” problems with “home environments” and adequate pay for teachers.

“We’re not paying our teachers enough money,” Newman agreed.

When the forum was opened up to other issues, officials in the audience saw problems far and wide that needed to be addressed: sewage leaks, “no leadership” at Florence-Darlington TEC, lack of action on redeveloping the amphitheatre at St. John’s Elementary School, and even frustrations over Darlington High School’s hard-luck football team, the Falcons.

Darlington City Manager Howard Garland said the Falcons’ recent seasons of struggle and loss on the gridiron were no trivial issue for many Darlington residents. “We are hungry for something we can root for,” Garland said. Newman indicated that the Falcons’ troubles had not escaped his attention.

This meeting was open to members of Darlington City Council, Hartsville City Council, Lamar Town Council, Society Hill Town Council, Darlington County Council, the county school board and the county’s legislative delegation.
Such meetings are held periodically, at various locations, to let officials talk about whatever is on their minds. The Oct. 29 meeting was held at the Darlington County School District’s administrative building at 120 E. Smith Ave. and hosted by the school board and the county’s education chief.

Author: Duane Childers

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