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Orangeburg County School District's interim superintendent will be stepping down from the position.

Dr. Zona Jefferson plans to leave once the new board finds a replacement.

"My agreement with the board began as a short-term understanding," Jefferson said in an email. "As I told them, I envision a superintendent who can start Orangeburg County School District with a vision of great opportunities for all students."

"There are so many programs and opportunities available now to support students and a superintendent must be positioned to choose those that are the right fit for the students we serve," she said. "Successful execution of my hopes, vision and thoughts would require the kind of energy I had ten years ago."

Jefferson, a retired school superintendent, was hired as interim superintendent in January to help guide the new Orangeburg County district as it works to combine the three existing school districts into one.

Board Chair Peggy James-Tyler said the board will seek to hire another interim superintendent. The district will plan to keep the interim superintendent for at least a year or until a new permanent superintendent is hired.

This means an interim superintendent will be in place when the board formally takes control over the schools on July 1.

"We will have another very capable person in place," James-Tyler said.

During Tuesday's board meeting, trustees unanimously agreed to have their attorney discuss a contract with a candidate to become the new interim superintendent. The board did not vote on whether to hire the candidate, who has not been publicly named.

The search for a permanent superintendent has yet to begin.

James-Tyler said the board knew Jefferson would not stay for more than a few months as she made this clear when the board hired her in January.

"She has gotten us ready for July 1," James-Tyler said. "She is an outstanding person and is a very capable superintendent that came in and hit the ground running."

James-Tyler said Jefferson and interim secretary Marie Harrison did a lot of work on their own before there was staff in place to handle the obligations.

Harrison has said she will stay as long as the new board needs her.

Jefferson believes she has fulfilled her role by putting into place the new district's structure including leaders, policies, regulations, calendars, budgets, technical platforms, contracts, federal agreements, state agreements, banking services, legal services, insurance and partnerships.

"I accepted this opportunity to assist the board as they began to establish a framework for the new district," Jefferson said. "Critical components necessary for success for the new district had to be established immediately."

She says she’s optimistic about the district’s future, particularly considering the role of the local institutions of higher education.

"The three institutions of higher education ensure the opportunity in the near future that the vast majority of students can leave high school with a diploma and college credit," she said. "The community has an ample supply of people who take an interest in the success of the students. It is a pleasure to meet those who are willing to serve in the various capacities."

James-Tyler said the school board plans to meet with South Carolina School Boards Association Executive Director Scott Price later this month about picking a permanent superintendent.

She said Price will guide the board through the search process and create a timeline for the search.

James-Tyler said the public will be made aware of the process and will be able to meet the top three superintendent finalists when the time comes.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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