Students in all three of Florence School District Four’s schools are lagging behind their South Carolina peers in reading, writing and math.
The gap, which has persisted over the past decade, led to the State Board of Education declaring a state of emergency in two Timmonsville schools—Brockington Elementary and Johnson Middle schools.
The State Board of Education made its decision earlier this March at the request of the state Education Department chief, Molly Spearman. The decision came just one day before the local school board terminated the district superintendent’s contract.
In a February letter to the recently-ousted Andre Boyd, Superintendent Spearman detailed “numerous findings related to questionable use of funds” including—
-discrepancies in revenue reporting, general ledger monitoring, expenditure calculations, journal entries and payroll
-a zero fund balance and a previous negative balance in June
-delayed payments to the retirement system
-failure to make withholding payments to the Internal Revenue Service
Many of the findings had persisted for years, one dating back to 2006, according to Spearman. The problems were identified in a December audit.
Boyd didn’t immediately responded to a phone message left Wednesday morning with the front desk at the district office.
“The state of the financial records and system is so poor that the auditing firm refused to express an opinion on the financial statements of the district,” according to the summary released by the state board last week.
The board also cited insufficient capacity of the current leadership to close the achievement gap as reason for the declaration.
Proficiency rates are in the single digits across multiple subjects and multiple grades.
Declaring a state of emergency allows Spearman to aid the schools in technical assistance, remove principals and manage the schools.
Still to be determined is the economic impact of the declaration and of any changes at the local level.