What's bad news for Linda Eldridge is good news for Aiken County's students, teachers and school board. It's no secret that the school superintendent had been seeking a similar post in Florida for family reasons - to be closer to her grandson and two sons living in Tampa.
She was a leading candidate for the school super's job in both Sarasota and Volusia counties, but came up short on both counts last week. It now looks as though she'll be settling in again at her current job, and that's just fine with Aiken County educators.
Eldridge has done splendid work in Aiken County for the last eight years - playing a key role in bringing together a sharply divided school board and in improving students' test scores. Since 1995, average SAT scores have risen 37 percent, almost 20 points above the national average.
Also in the last few years she's dealt deftly with the state's heavy-handed spending cutbacks on public school systems.
The school board is certainly breathing a sigh of relief. They know it would not be easy to replace Eldridge. How many experienced school superintendents would want to take a post that will almost surely be faced with even more state funding cutbacks next year and a possible court ruling that could put the squeeze on wealthier South Carolina school districts, such as Aiken County's, to help support poorer districts?
District 2 trustee Valerie Towles summed up the sentiment of most Aiken Countians who care about education in their district: "I know she's probably disappointed about not getting the job ... but we know she will continue to do a great job. I'm grateful we will be able to retain such a great leader."
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