Referendum approval is a win-win for Florence
The February 26th bond vote on District 1’s capital improvements will be a watershed decision for Florence citizens, not only for the security and safety upgrading of school facilities, but also for the future economic growth of the entire community.
Joe King, Executive Director of Florence County Economic Development, has emphasized that successful communities are judged by the successful quality of their public education. Industry’s top two determining factors in deciding where to locate are the quality of health care and public education. Florence already has outstanding health care. It is the poor quality of our educational environment that has been a detriment to industry recruitment. Several companies have recently chosen other locations where they felt their employees’ children can get a better education than in Florence.
This reputation has got to change. An influx of more companies results in a stronger economy, more employees/customers, and an increased tax base.
Dr. Richard O’Malley, Florence’s new energized superintendent, has publicized his vision of transforming District 1 into a highly competitive school district through his expectations for excellence in academics, arts, and athletics.
But Dr. O’Malley cannot do all this by himself. He must have the community’s support in order to provide updated facilities and programs that will attract more quality teachers, the lifeblood of successful learning by our students.
Over 100 participants in the Chamber/School Foundation Fellows In Education who have toured several schools each year were appalled with the disgraceful physical conditions of the facilities.
West Florence is just one example of many district schools, such as Southside and Williams Middle Schools, that are saddled with unsanitary conditions, mold, overpopulation, rundown mobile classrooms, and inadequate security. West Florence has 68 outside doors into the main building. With 30 plus mobile classrooms, the campus is a security nightmare and a soft target for any intruder with a weapon. There are over 150 mobiles in the district. Every parent of the 16,000 students in District 1 should be highly concerned for the safety of their children.
Our most valued possessions are our children. The best gift parents can give their children is a quality education. We can spend money on clothes, cars, and electronics, all of which wear out and have to be replaced. Your child’s education can never be taken away.
The education of all of our children should be a non-partisan issue. Support of education in Florence can become at least one valuable common ground of agreement for all political party affiliations.
I don’t like to pay higher taxes any more than the next person, but when I recognize those taxes are dedicated to improving education in Florence, I will gladly make that investment knowing that the long-term return will benefit our business community. Richland 2 school district, with business support, last year approved a $468 million bond referendum. It is imperative that Florence voters give a similar approval to this $198 million referendum in order to stay competitive in South Carolina.
How can Florence really afford to defeat this referendum ? A failed vote sends a negative message about Florence’s attitude toward children’s education, and that we are satisfied with continued mediocrity and stagnant growth.
It’s time for all of us to get over our past myopic attitudes and bad personal experiences with District 1’s education and give Dr. O’Malley all the support he requires to turn around the educational system in our community. Carroll Player, DDS, Florence