ALLENDALE COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — Allendale County got a chance to meet the new district superintendent, Dr. Valarie Coath Cave.

“The community has embraced me, and I’m ready to get to work, to bring everything to Allendale we possibly could and to expand the opportunities for children to be successful,” Dr. Vallerie Coath Cave said.

In the first few weeks, she’s been very busy. She’s met with district-level staff one-on-one, visited schools to interact with children and teachers, and met with community partners. “I have been to some football games and just really enjoying being a part of the community again.

During a community meeting on Tuesday, Dr. Cave discussed plans to expand partnerships and create an advisory board. “So that I can rectify anything that they feel might be an inhibitor to their child being successful,” she added.

The new superintendent also wants to work on student attendance and parents coming to community meetings. “So we have a truant officer this year that’s going to work with us to make sure that we are monitoring it more closely so that our students who are missing several days can come to school,” Dr. Cave shared.

Questions were asked about the selection process for the new superintendent. We’ve learned state leaders conducted a public search, receiving 20 applicants from across the state. They held first-round interviews with a diverse group of stakeholders at the Department of Ed and eventually selected Dr. Cave as the successful candidate after a rigorous process.

“We got to know her better and listened to her heart and passion for the work; we knew that it aligned with what we needed in Allendale,” Deputy Superintendent of Education Matthew Ferguson said. “Someone focused on students and who believed in the capacity of all of our students and saw opportunities where many others would just see challenges.”

Making her first trip to Allendale, Weaver shared her Hope Network initiative.

“The HOPE Network stands for helping our pupils excel, and it’s really about focusing on the fundamentals, ensuring that every student in Allendale can read on grade level, ensuring that they are able to do math on grade level, and most importantly, ensuring that when they leave Allendale Fairfax High School, that they are ready to go into the workforce fully prepared for a great career,” she added.

New school report cards are expected in October, with hopes of observing progress in Allendale and statewide in South Carolina. State leaders plan to base future decisions on this data.

“That’s my commitment to the community here in Allendale, is that we’re going to work together as partners to ensure that students in Allendale are succeeding to their greatest potential,” State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver said.

Meanwhile, the district plans to address the difficulty in attracting teachers moving forward. The challenges are its rural nature, lack of affordable housing, and the long commute. “We need to create some more community events so that there are things for people to be able to do around here so that we can attract and retain those teachers as well,” Dr. Cave added.