Horry County’s Board of Education made the obvious, logical decision in naming Rick Maxey superintendent of South Carolina’s third-largest public school system. With Maxey’s experience as deputy, interim and acting superintendent for Horry County, it was clear that the board need not look further with a costly search.
Shortly after superintendent Cindy Elsberry’s unexpected resignation last fall, Maxey was named interim superintendent. Then the board named him acting superintendent on a six-month contract with the understanding that he could advance to the top job following evaluation. “You can tell he knows all the ins and outs of the district – he’ll do a great job,” board member Neil James said when Maxey was named interim superintendent. “He’s top-notch. He’s morally founded, very smart, very intelligent, has a vision for the school family and is concerned with doing things the right way.”
As superintendent, Maxey now has a three-year contract and annual salary of $210,000.
Others who have worked with Maxey over many years feel the same way, noting that he had been groomed for the top job working as deputy superintendent with Elsberry, who gave Maxey considerable responsibility. He started in HCS at Loris High School, teaching advanced placement English and coaching boys’ junior varsity basketball. He previously was an English instructor at Clemson University, where he received a master’s degree in 1984, and taught at Presbyterian College. He earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of South Carolina.
Maxey is from Pickens County in western South Carolina and graduated from Liberty High School. Maxey was an assistant principal at Loris, then principal of Carolina Forest High School (1998-2000) and at Conway High School for five years. In 2006, he moved to the HCS central office in Conway as executive director for secondary schools. He was a finalist for the superintendent’s position in 2007, when Elsberry ultimately was hired.
Clearly, Elsberry moved the district forward. Still, questions remain about Elsberry’s sudden departure because she chose, perplexingly, to be less than forthright about why she wanted out of her contract. The board granted her request with a generous settlement worth more than $400,000.
“The longer my wife and I stay in Horry County, the more it came to feel like home,” Maxey said in an article (Jan. 15) by Claire Byun of The Sun News. Through his administrative jobs, it’s clear that he’s kept his teacher’s heart, a “love of learning and love of sharing that learning with others.” Recalling his career path move to high school from college teaching, he said, “… I wanted to teach. It seemed to me that if I got into public education I could continue with my love of learning and teaching and continue my education. I think teachers have the most demanding jobs in the school district.”
Running the school district has its demands, too. HCS is the largest employer in Horry County, with 5,500 educators, administrators and support staff. Plus, there are 1,200 substitutes. In the school year just completed, the district served 42,700 students in 51 schools and nine attendance areas.
The district anticipates 1,000 more students in 2015-16. On a school day, the district has 340 buses on the roads. The operating budget totals $459.5 million, the lion’s share for personnel costs. The district is in the process of building five new schools and renovating two other buildings over several years.
So Rick Maxey has a big job that brings new challenges each day. Maxey has said, “... I like challenges, I like change,” and he undoubtedly is well-prepared to lead Horry County Schools. As board member John Poston of District 8 said at Monday’s meeting, “If you feel the district has been successful, then you have to believe Rick has been a part of that success.”