J. Chester Floyd is ending a 50-year career in education shortly, the last six as superintendent in Lexington 3.
He oversaw classrooms in fast-growing areas such as Lexington 1 and Berkeley County before taking charge of schools in Batesburg-Leesville.
Floyd is known for focusing on ways to improve academic performance in Lexington 3.
Here are his thoughts on education and its future as he prepares to step aside June 30.
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Why did you become an educator?
My older brother Ben was a teacher and coach and I thought it would be neat to be a part of teaching and athletics and follow in his footsteps.
Why did you leave teaching to go into school administration? Did you plan to become a superintendent?
The superintendent of Barnwell 45 had announced his retirement and the principal of Barnwell High had been named as superintendent and wanted to go to the district office in the last semester of the current superintendent’s term. The (school) board told the incoming superintendent that they would allow him to come to the district office if he named someone as principal that they approved. The principal thought that the board would accept me. This was the very first year of total integration. I had no thoughts of becoming a superintendent at that time, but 3 ½ years later, I became assistant superintendent in York 2 and then decided that I might like to become a superintendent.
Schools are dealing with rapid changes from digital technology. Are our classrooms in shape to handle the transition?
Different districts and schools within those districts are at different places in being prepared for digital technology. I believe that schools are moving as fast as they can – the problem is that we don’t know what changes will be there tomorrow.
Are schools under too much pressure to teach students to pass tests measuring academic proficiency?
Aside from more money, what else needs to be done to improve schools?
We are doing more collaboration with businesses than ever before. I believe that we need to not only continue but increase that collaboration to have the businesses help us determine what skills will be needed in order for our students to be successful.
What is something schools do that you think goes unrecognized?
I think that there is a greater percentage of students than we realize that feel that schools are the safest, most comfortable, and pleasant place that they have in their lives. I don’t think that schools get enough recognition for being the “safe haven” for many, many students.
There have been calls to merge some or all of the five school districts in Lexington County? What do you think about that idea?
Some discussion of this issue has taken place for 30 years or more. I do not think that it would be a good idea to make Lexington County one school district. If people think that a tremendous amount of money could be saved, that is just not so. If there are some services that could be consolidated for both teachers and students, then that would be great. But I do not believe that consolidation of all five districts would be the tremendous cost savings that some people think. I do believe that the communities that would be the greatest distance from the county seat will always be under the impression that they would be shortchanged.
What will you miss the most and the least about being superintendent?
I will miss the daily interaction with both students and employees the most. I will not miss dealing with serious personnel issues that occur when we as adults make bad decisions.
What was the most memorable moment in your career?
During my time in Florence 5, Lexington 1 and Berkeley County, I had the opportunity to be a part of the first successful passages of bond referenda in these districts. Working with community leaders and seeing the citizens vote to approve plans to make things better for their children was quite rewarding.
What are you going to do in retirement?
I hope to spend more time with my grandchildren that do not live close by. I like to do carpentry work. I “learn as I go” and I have several building projects that I need to complete. I am at least six years behind on my fishing, so I have to now play “catch up.”