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Tullock to lead Calhoun County’s schools; superintendent Wilson retiring in January

Calhoun County School District Deputy Superintendent Ferlondo Tullock will become the district’s next superintendent.

Trustees voted Monday to have Tullock replace Superintendent Dr. Steve Wilson, who will be retiring in January after a nearly 50-year career in education.

“The board voted unanimously for the deputy superintendent to serve as the next superintendent upon Dr. Wilson's retirement in January,” Board Vice Chairman Kevin Jenkins said.

Jenkins said no outside or any other search will be needed following the board’s decision.

The district has not determined a definitive start date for Tullock.

“It would be sometime in January. We hadn't determined that actual date yet,” Jenkins said.

He said Tullock is the right fit for superintendent.

“He's been with the district since 2011, and just has a vast knowledge. He's built good relationships with not only the stakeholders, but the staff and everyone there as well,” Jenkins said.

“We just found him to be the most logical fit for someone who's been there in the district for as long as he has,” he said.

Tullock said the new job presents an exciting opportunity.

"I count it an honor to be tasked with such a huge responsibility. I consider it an honor to be able to continue work in Calhoun County as we have done for the past 10 years,” he said.

He said he’ll continue the work that’s been started in the district.

“We've been pretty successful in the things that we've done, and I hope that we can accentuate those successes in creating more for students as well as the community," Tullock said.

In other business:

• Wilson said the district has decided to not require students to wear masks in school buildings because the district’s COVID numbers are trending downward. A court ruling is allowing districts to require masks, despite a state law against such mandates.

“We believe that because the county is so low with COVID, the district is very low with COVID, that we will not enforce a mask mandate at this time,” Wilson said.

"Now, we do reserve the right to come back to the board with a recommendation to mask students if, in fact, COVID starts creeping back up, but all indications right now are that COVID is going south. We certainly hope that it will continue to do that,” the superintendent said.

The district requires all teachers to wear masks.

“Everything else stays in place, but no mandate for students at this time,” Wilson said.

George Kiernan, the district’s human resources director and public information officer, gave a report on the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s most recent COVID-19 activity, along with new information regarding quarantining requirement changes.

"In the most recent activity report, we had zero counties in the state of South Carolina high, 45 medium and one county low, and that happens to be Calhoun County. So that's great news. We have a low recent disease activity report,” Kiernan said.

Wilson said, “We've just been about that way throughout this pandemic this year. Again, we need to appreciate a lot of people for that because we are so pleased with that.”

Board Chairman Gary Porth said he’s happy that there’s been a “constant downturn” in the district and thanked the district for its work keeping everyone safe.

“I'm so happy that we're back in the classroom with face-to-face instruction with just a little disruption with COVID. So y'all keep up the good work,” Porth said.

Kiernan said DHEC’s new quarantine guidelines should help reduce the quarantine numbers not just in the Calhoun County School District, but across the state.

"The new guidance says that if I’m wearing a mask and a positive individual does not have a mask on and is within that four to six feet, I do not have to quarantine. ... So, once again, if I’m wearing a mask, I’m within four to six feet of an individual who’s positive (for 15 minutes or more), I do not have to quarantine,” Kiernan said.

Porth said, “All the more reason that a mask is important. ... So the mask is the difference on whether you have to quarantine or not.”

Kiernan said the district has two positive students, 29 quarantined students, one positive staff member and two quarantined staff members.

Board member Ned Nelson said, "It sounds like we're doing a great job with the quarantining procedures to keep it at bay. I want to commend all of the administrators and teachers and everyone that works on a daily basis because it seems like we're doing an outstanding job there, at least from this report."

Kiernan said district staff from nurses to bus drivers were to be commended for working together to keep numbers low.

• Kiernan delivered a facilities report, stating that the district is looking at the feasibility of rubberizing its remaining playgrounds. Playgrounds at the district’s St. Matthews and Sandy Run K-8 schools have already been rubberized.

“The advantage of that is you don't have to keep bringing wood chips in. Wood chips are becoming more difficult to find, the cost goes up. So once you get them rubberized, it is minimal maintenance over the first three years. ... I'll have more information to the board once we move through this process,” Kiernan said.

He said the district also received a new supply of hand wipes, which should last through the remainder of the school year.

• District Director of Technology and Information Systems Mark Parker gave a report on what's being done to protect district networks.

Parker said the district, for example, is evaluating the development of a full back-up system, as well as eyeing a company specializing in phishing attacks and education “to make sure that we alert our staff members and our faculty.”

“Cybersecurity is very serious. We've had locally a few institutions that have been hit with ransomware,” Parker said.

The district has also approached the S.C. Law Enforcement Division about training.

The district has also implemented multi-factor authentication for any external emails.

“We’ll be testing as we put things in place … to make sure that it works,” Parker said

A third party will also be brought in to conduct a network assessment.

“If there are any types of holes, any type of cracks, we can try patch those so we are as prepared as much as possible,” Parker said.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD.

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