Stepping in midyear as McCormick County's new superintendent is not an easy task, but Dr. Sandra Calliham said she hopes her experience as the county's assistant superintendent will help guide her through the fast-paced year.
Dr. Calliham, 53, hasn't had much time to adjust to the position. She was selected to lead the district in mid-December and started her first official week at the start of January.
She was the school board's first choice after Dr. Lloyd Hunter resigned in November. Oscar New, the chairman of the school board, said Dr. Hunter was not forced to resign and had a good relationship with the board.
For the past two years, Dr. Calliham was the executive director of student services in Richland County's District 1 school system. Before that, she was the assistant superintendent in McCormick County for 11 years. She was also the principal of McCormick High School for one year.
School board members said they chose Dr. Calliham because she showed strong leadership qualities as a finalist for the post three years ago, when Dr. Hunter was hired.
Teachers and district staff said they are still getting acquainted with Dr. Calliham, but they are excited about the change.
"About 75 percent of the staff knew her before. You know she's here. You can kind of feel it in the air," said Jackie Brown, the head of attendance and planning for the district. "I think it will be fast and furious for the next month, but I think we will have a good second semester."
Dr. Calliham said her goals focus on pupil achievement and becoming more involved in the community.
Two out the district's three elementary and middle schools reached adequate yearly progress this year under the federal No Child Left Behind law, but the high school did not. The district still has a low average SAT score - 782, compared with the state's average score of 989.
"She is a person who is aware of the problems in a rural school district, and while some of our test scores are higher, we know she wants to make sure our children are prepared so they will exceed," said Mr. New.
"I think communication is key," Dr. Calliham said. "I really want to get involved with the community. I missed all the students and parents while I was gone."
Reach Peter G. Gilchrist at (803) 648-1395.