Florence One Schools to spend $3 million for arts education
FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence One Schools Superintendent Richard O’Malley announced plans Thursday for spending $3 million in art programs.
Over the next year, the district will spend money in six areas: facilities, instruments, supplies and furniture, personnel, curriculum and programs, and other supports.
During a meeting of the Florence One board of trustees, O’Malley said there is only one art teacher at Wilson High School and one at West Florence High School and some band instruments in the district have not been replaced in more than 30 years.
For this school year’s arts additions, the money will come from surplus funds and some reconfiguration of the budget, O’Malley said. Next year’s budget will include the additional personnel funds.
O’Malley said the district has already been planning renovations to the auditoriums. O’Malley has also been meeting with art teachers across the district assessing the needs of each school and putting together a list of what can be done. He said he hopes to start making orders next month.
O’Malley said placing an emphasis on the arts is the first step toward making Florence One Schools a premier school district.
“If you’re going to build a quality premier school district, you can look anywhere in this country — it’s not the fancy technology,” O’Malley said. “I would say it has a premier arts program in its schools. That is why I want to make sure one of the first things we do is invest in the arts.”
During the public participation portion of the meeting, teachers and students from across the district came to thank O’Malley and the school board for placing an emphasis on the arts.
Elizabeth Odom, an art teacher at South Florence High School and a former Florence One student, said she was thankful for the funding.
“What we say is just as important as how we present our program, and this initiative is really going to help us feed into that,” Odom said.
Odom also said the schools have an abundance of students interested in the program, but they haven’t had the resources to accept all of them into the program.
Dylan Hudson, a sophomore at South Florence High School, said the arts programs in Southside Middle School and South Florence High School have been a big part of his life and have given him many opportunities that have helped him.
“When you truly give the child this step, they will climb the ladder to success,” Dylan said.
Richard Hyman, the band director at Sneed Middle School, said he was happy to see O’Malley take initiative in finding out what the schools need.
“I was very happy about the fact that the superintendent called all of us and asked us exactly what it was we needed,” Hyman said. “That is something that I’m not sure has ever happened before.”
Dewey L. Carter Elementary School music teacher Caleb Bennet said he is thankful that the district has allowed students to begin taking music instruments on the buses again because this gives equal access to musical instruments at home for all children.
The district has already had a thriving arts program, but it is looking to expand.
According to a media advisory from Florence One, the school district has been named by the National Association for Music Merchants Foundation a Best Community for Music Education for the past five years.