Beaufort County school leader announces retirement

Update: Truesdale is actually heading to Charlotte.

After five years as superintendent of the Beaufort County School District, Valerie Truesdale has announced that she plans to retire this year.

Truesdale stated that her reasons for leaving were centered around finding more time to spend with her family. 

There's no firm date yet for her exit and the school district must still announce plans for finding a new superintendent.

Here's a little bit more contextual information from a release:

Dr. Truesdale cited the district's improved business operations, the increased number and variety of instructional choices available to students and parents, and the solid foundation in place for improvements in student achievement. Recent changes to South Carolina's retirement system also had spurred a discussion with her family about retirement, she said.

"Beaufort County is in a strong position," Truesdale said. "We have excellent teachers, staff and school and district leaders with the skills and commitment needed to ensure that every learner reads on grade level, meets state standards and is well prepared for college, career or the military."

"This is the right time for our family," she said. "We have three grandchildren that I seldom have time to visit."

Truesdale marks her 30th year as an educator this year, including serving as a high school teacher, an assistant principal, a high school principal, a senior executive at the South Carolina Department of Education, a district chief instructional officer and as district superintendent in Oconee and Beaufort counties. She was named South Carolina's Superintendent of the Year in 2009 and the American Association of School Administrators' first Women in School Leadership award recipient in 2010. Earlier this summer, she received the William B. Harley Lifetime Achievement Award from the South Carolina Association of School Administrators.

Dr. Truesdale was selected as Beaufort County's district superintendent in 2007, and although student poverty rates increased and budgets have been reduced during the past five years, student achievement has improved on numerous state and federal measures:
· In 2008, 59 percent of Beaufort County's schools were rated Excellent, Good or Average on state School Report Cards. In 2011, 93 percent were rated Excellent, Good or Average. For the first time, there are no At-Risk or Unsatisfactory schools in the district. Previously, there were no Excellent-rated schools in Beaufort County; now there are four schools with the highest rating.

· The number of federal achievement targets met under the No Child Left Behind improved from 21 of 33 in 2006 to 31 of 33 in 2011. The only two targets not yet met are Special Education reading and math.

· The percentage of Beaufort County students passing both sections of the state's high school exit exam improved from 71.7 percent in 2009 to 75.5 percent in 2011, and further improvement is projected for 2012.

· College scholarship totals for Beaufort County's graduating seniors improved from $10 million for the Class of 2008 to $14.8 million for the Class of 2012.

· Twenty-seven schools earned 34 Palmetto Gold, Silver or Closing Achievement Gap awards in 2012, an increase from just three schools in 2006.

· Two district schools – Hilton Head Island High and Beaufort Middle – were named as Palmetto's Finest, only the second time in the 34-year history of the award that two schools from the same district were winners in the same year.

· The flourishing partnership between Whale Branch Early College High School and the Technical College of the Lowcountry saw some of the high school's first graduating class earn college course credits while in high school, and two students graduated with high school diplomas and two-year associate's degrees from TCL.

· Participation in Summer Institute, an intense professional development workshop for district educators, has grown from 120 in 2008 to more than 950 in 2012.

Instructional choices for students have expanded to include Chinese and Spanish immersion, Montessori, gifted magnets in advanced math, science and engineering, arts infusion, military magnet and aviation programs.

As student achievement has been improving, Truesdale said, the district has made its business operations more efficient and reduced expenditures to help offset reductions in revenue. Nearly 200 positions were eliminated in the last four years, including one third of the district office staff. School bonds were refinanced to save taxpayers about $2.4 million, and new technology dramatically reduced energy and water use despite the addition of more than a million square feet of building space to alleviate overcrowding in Bluffton schools. Three schools – half of the state's overall total – were nationally recognized for energy-efficient design and construction with LEED certification.

Truesdale noted that there were no tax increases from FY 2009 to FY 2011, the district's bond ratings are strong, financial audits have been clean every year, and the district has been awarded certificates of excellence in financial reporting every year from the Government Finance Officers Association.

Beaufort County also earned national recognition recently as one of the America's Promise Alliance's 100 Best Communities for Young People. Beaufort's application to America's Promise was submitted by the school district on behalf of "Together for Beaufort County," a group of human service alliance professionals formed in 2006 to better coordinate services for children and families. The district recently signed on as a Grad Nation community, indicating a commitment to increasing on-time graduation rates to 90 percent by 2020.

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