BEAUFORT CO., S.C. (WTOC) - UPDATE: Tuesday night, parents in Beaufort County got their first chance to talk face to face with their new superintendent.
Dr. Frank Rodriguez joined the district in July. The district is using the suggestions regarding their strengths and weaknesses to craft their five-year strategic plan. Parents say they were very happy they got to share their concerns directly.
One of the recurring topics parents was the issue of overcrowding.
“Dealing with the growth in Bluffton is another huge issue that this district is facing as well, so we do have a lot of challenges," said parent, Jodie Srutek.
The Beaufort County School District has close to 23,000 students with an almost 15 percent increase in students in the last 10 years. Right now, the superintendent says portables are the temporary fix.
“In terms of the portables, it’s just an opportunity really for us to deal with in the meantime with some of the growth we are seeing, and that provides additional classrooms," Dr. Rodriguez said.
Almost 30 percent of students in the Beaufort County School District are Hispanic, and that number has grown nearly 10 percent in ten years. Dr. Rodriguez is bilingual, and hopes to connect with more of the Beaufort community that way.
“When I heard them speaking in Spanish and I introduced myself in Spanish, their immediate reaction was, 'Oh, my gosh you speak Spanish," Dr. Rodriguez said.
Dr. Rodriguez will host these forums at eight schools this fall. At Bluffton Middle School on Sept. 19, his talk will be all in Spanish. Tuesday night, community members had the chance to listen to a translator throughout the entire forum through earphones.
“More importantly than me just reaching them, they get the opportunity to reach the school system directly with their superintendent and make sure that there is clear communication," he said.
In November, the school district hopes voters will approve a nearly $300 million bond referendum. In the past, lack of trust in the school board and district proved to be the reason for failure. After Tuesday’s meeting, some parents left impressed with Superintendent Dr. Rodriguez.
“It’s nice to know we have a superintendent who has students in the public schools as well, which is something we have not had in a very long time. It’s nice to know he is invested in the community in the same ways that we are.”
Other suggestions parents wanted to discuss included more upgraded security, more accessibility for mental health help, and equity in programs.
All of these ideas and the large sheets they were written on were taken by the board and are to be considered when crafting the strategic plan over the next few years.
Beaufort County’s superintendent is gearing up for a very busy next few weeks.
Over the next month, Dr. Frank Rodriguez will be traveling the district to meet and hear from parents. He’s calling it his “Listening and Learning Tour.”
These meetings are open to anyone. The superintendent says he wants to hear from parents as well as business owners and others in the community.
Superintendent Rodriguez was hired by the board earlier this year and has already been touring the schools in the district, meeting with teachers and students. He says he’s heard about the district’s strengths and weaknesses from the school staff, and now he wants to hear from others in the community.
The superintendent says he’s all about spending more time away from his office and more time in the schools.
“I think one of the things that my community sees from me personally is it’s a priority for me to get out, get in front of them, engage with them, visit the schools, walk classrooms, and see the instruction taking place,” Dr. Rodriguez said. “I’m looking forward to hearing from parents because that’ll give me the opportunity to hear what they have to say and see where that aligns with the district and triangulate that a little bit, and it’ll help give me more information on what buttons and levers we want to push to help move our system forward.”
The first meeting of the “Listening and Learning Tour" is on Tuesday, Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. at Bluffton High School. All other upcoming meetings are as follows:
- Hilton Head Island High School on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 6 p.m.
- Battery Creek High School on Thursday, Sept. 5 at 6 p.m.
- May River High on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.
- St. Helena Elementary on Thursday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.
- Bluffton Middle School (en español) on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m.
- Whale Branch Early College High on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 6 p.m.
- Beaufort High School on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m.
For additional information, click here.