Spartanburg District One searches for new superintendent


Jada Tessnier

The three candidates for Spartanburg District One superintendent.

Last summer, Spartanburg District One Superintendent Dr. Ron Garner announced that he would be resigning from his position at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. 

This fall, the search began to find his replacement.

Finding the next superintendent of District One is no easy task, and the school board enlisted the aid of the South Carolina School Boards Association and the local community. 

Citizens had multiple opportunities to voice their opinions on who the new superintendent should be and what qualities this person should have. 

As of press time, three candidates remain: Tiffany Estes, Jason McCraw and Mark Smith. 

Principal Andrew McMillan believes that the next leader of the district should understand its triumphs and strive to uphold them no matter what.

“The superintendent of Spartanburg One should be an individual that is committed to the success of all of Spartanburg One,” McMillan said. “This person should be visible, approachable and aware of both our successes and our challenges.”

The mission statement of District One is to “provide a quality, student-centered education.” English teacher and District Teacher of the Year Alex Colson believes that the next superintendent should be a living embodiment of this goal.

“I think that our new superintendent should be someone who understands the individual student, overall, and the differences we have in our students and respect and acknowledge those differences and celebrate them,” Colson said. “It should be someone who is approachable and who really shows that they care about what is happening in our district, in schools, through our students, through our clubs, through everything that makes District One what District One is.”

Of course, the adults are not the only ones voicing their opinions on the new superintendent.

Junior Kaia Grace Lawter participated in a community engagement meeting in October and spoke to the school board about the qualities of her ideal superintendent. She emphasized the need for a personable individual who can easily make connections with all members of the district.

“I think our new superintendent needs to know the community, first of all, and it’s important for them to make relationships with the teachers and the students, and the parents too,” Lawter said. “I’ve never spoken to the superintendent before, so I think, going forward with someone who’s new, it would be better to see how that person would interact with me and better my future, and how they are going to help the students do well now but also in the future.”

Senior and student body president Camden Souther believes that the most important characteristics of a superintendent are their abilities as a leader and their compassionate nature towards students.

“I feel like the new superintendent should have very good leadership qualities and just be very compassionate and caring for each of the students here in District One,” Souther said. “The students here, we need to know that someone cares about us. It’s very good to have someone pat you on the back, be there to support you at your sporting events, theater, band competitions, cheer competitions, anything just to show that they support you.”

While it is important for a district superintendent to have certain character traits, it is just as important for them to be familiar with the constituents they serve. Specifically, according to McMillan, they should know the pride District One takes in its schools and the overwhelming support they receive from the people of Inman, Campobello, and Landrum.

“I think the new superintendent needs to understand the impact of the community, and understand how supportive our community can be,” McMillan said. “The District One community is a very proud community, proud of our schools, proud of our student success in all areas and proud of the education their children receive.”

Souther emphasized the close-knit, family-like atmosphere of the district, and he hopes the next superintendent will appreciate and take advantage of this people-oriented environment.

“At District One, we’re like family,” Souther said. “We care about being together, and we want to do things that are community-wide. We’re a growing community, so we want things to be together, and we want family, we want people to care about us.”

For Lawter, it’s not simply a matter of joining the Spartanburg One family, but also recognizing who is actively involved in the school systems and making the right connections.

“We’re very small, and everybody knows everybody, so really knowing members of the community, and who’s involved in schools (is key),” Lawter said. “FCA is a big part of schools, the Rotary club with Interact Club; just knowing that we’re so small, it would be good to know as many people as possible.”

Certainly, whenever there is an adjustment in leadership, other changes are sure to follow. Colson, however, is optimistic about the coming new era of District One and hopes others will embrace that same level of enthusiasm.

“Inevitably, when there’s a new person, there’s going to be change, there has to be, and I think that it can be seen negatively, but I think that change is a new opportunity for us in some aspects,” Colson said. “As members of the community, of schools, and of District One, we should be excited about that change and trust that the person in charge will take us where we need to go and celebrate where we have been and continue that legacy as well.”