South Carolina State Superintendent Mick Zais' term is up in January, and he has some pretty ambitious goals he hopes to reach before he leaves office.
At the top of his list is getting new school buses, implementing his teacher evaluation system and establishing a transformational school district, which will give the state control over failing school districts.
Zais said one of the districts that would fall in that category is Jasper County.
Zais also said the current leadership needs to go. He said Jasper County is the lowest performing district in the state, and it's because of the people who are leading the district.
Jasper County School Superintendent Vashti Washington was disappointed by Zais' comments, and she said Jasper County schools have shown great improvement, a fact that Zais and many others ignore.
"Right now Jasper is the lowest performing district in South Carolina, and that's based strictly on student learning outcome," said Zais. "It's not the students, and it's not the parents. It's the competence of the adults in the system. If I were a resident of Jasper, one of my highest priorities would be to find adults to run my system who are effective and capable."
Jasper County received an "At Risk" rating on the state report card in 2013. They've received that rating since 2009, and on top of that, the district is caught up in countless lawsuits and a federal investigation.
"There are other districts with similar demographics and similar levels of poverty in South Carolina, and they're funded at lower levels," said Zais. "They're doing far, far better."
Those three districts are in Clarendon County. Clarendon County District One received a "Good Rating", District Two received an "Average" rating, and District Three received an "Excellent" rating. All of their test scores increased last year.
Washington said those districts are getting better scores because they have stability and consistency.
Jasper County has a history of turnover. In fact, Washington is the first superintendent in a decade to hold the job longer than two years.
"If you were to look up either Clarendon County's schools, both of those superintendents have been in those schools for more than 10 years," said Washington. "In addition to that, the principals in those schools have been in those schools for a minimum of five or six years."
Despite the district being "At Risk", Washington said all of the schools improved last year. The high school is in excellent standing, and even received the Palmetto Gold Award for its rating.
She said no one seems to see these improvements, and that's why she was disappointed by Zais' comments.
"What we look for at the local level is support from the state, not criticism," said Washington.
She also pointed out that last time Zais visited the district was in 2011, just after he was sworn in as State Superintendent.
Copyright 2014 WTOC. All rights reserved.