US education secretary, state leaders visit Timmonsville

February 22, 2019

TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. – S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly M. Spearman got to experience one of her proudest moments as a superintendent Thursday morning.

Spearman, who was re-elected as a Republican in November, was touring the Timmonsville Educational Center with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, U.S. Rep. Tom Rice and S.C. Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette when a student came up to her.

“’You probably don’t remember me,” Spearman remembered the student saying to her.

Spearman said she told the student that she did remember him.

She explained that after she declared a state of emergency and took over the Timmonsville school district (Florence County School District Four) on May 9, she had attended a meeting for students in the school’s library.

Spearman asked the students what they thought could be done for the district.

“His hand was one of the first ones in the air,” Spearman continued.

The student told her that he wanted to become a welder but was unable to take classes, because the district did not have either a career center or an agreement with a district that would allow him to take those classes.

Spearman said she resolved the issue and the student is now taking welding classes.

“That was one of my proudest moments,” she said to the assembled media at the second and final stop on the group’s tour: the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology Center on the Florence-Darlington Technical College campus.

Spearman and Rice organized the tour to show DeVos and Evette some of the good things happening in the so-called Corridor of Shame.

DeVos said she was excited to see the great programs available to students of all ages in the Pee Dee. She called it a great pleasure to visit the area.

“I applaud the direction that the school and the district is taking to meet the needs of individual students, to be willing to change,” DeVos said. “The course correction that’s been made is terrific. I know that Superintendent Spearman and all of the staff of the school are continuing to be very focused on continuous improvement and high expectation on what students can achieve.”

Rice said the term “Corridor of Shame” was one he was hopeful to fix. He added that the additional economic development now happening was a good start toward changing the term.

Economic development was a key tenet of the McMaster-Evette campaign during the 2018 election cycle.

“I think it’s all of our responsibility,” Evette said. “The governor and I have taken a very vocal stand to make sure that we all play our part.”

Spearman was first elected to the office in 2014 over Democrat Tom Thompson and the American Party of South Carolina’s Ed Murray. She was re-elected in 2018.

Rice, a Republican, has been South Carolina’s District 7 representative since the district was re-established. He served as chairman of the Horry County Council for one year before running for the Congressional District 7 seat. Rice is a retired tax lawyer in Myrtle Beach.

DeVos was appointed the 11th secretary of education when the Trump administration came into office.

Evette is South Carolina’s first lieutenant governor to be elected on a ticket with the governor. She and Henry McMaster were elected over Democrat James Smith and Mandy Powers Norrell in November 2018.