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Florence 1 becomes first SC school district to offer paid parental leave

Florence 1 Schools employees will now have paid parental leave, after a unanimous vote at the July Board of Trustees meeting. The new leave policy includes biological, foster and adoptive parents.

Superintendent Richard O’Malley introduced the policy for first reading at the June meeting, telling board members that he thinks not having paid parental leave is barbaric, especially given the make-up of most school districts.

“We have 2,300 employees,” O’Malley said. “About 75 percent of those employees are female and about 40 percent of those are of child-bearing age.”

Under this policy, a full-time employee who gives birth is entitled to six weeks of paid parental leave after the child is born. The leave would be paid at one hundred percent of the employee’s base pay. Employees do not have to exhaust all other forms of leave before being eligible to take the leave granted under this policy.

“We talk a lot about things that our district is doing to attract and retain not only teachers but employees all across the district,” O’Malley said. “I think this goes a long way in showing that we care about our employees and their families. We want our employees to be able to be parents and not have to worry about how they will pay their bills.”

An employee who does not give birth but is a co-parent is eligible for two weeks of paid leave after the birth of a child. According to the policy, “If both parents are eligible District employees, paid parental leave may be taken concurrently, consecutively, or a different time as the other eligible District employee.”

Other qualifying events that would entitle employees to paid leave are the adoption of a child or the foster placement of a child under the age of eighteen who was in state custody.

“I don't find this to be very progressive in 2022,” O’Malley said. “I think that this is something that we needed to do. The governor signed a bill to provide paid maternity leave to state employees for six weeks and then two weeks for paid paternal leave and they, somehow, excluded teachers from being a state employee. I don’t think that sends the right message for what we're trying to do in our state. In Florence 1 Schools, we value families.”

Ashley Watson, F1S Director of Personnel - Talent Management, said that she is excited to have this new benefit to offer when she is recruiting for the district.

“With a national teacher shortage, and employee turnover at an all-time high in all professions, this is an attractive benefit,” Watson said. “For our current employees, access to paid parental leave shows that we value our employees and their families. I believe this policy could also serve as a deciding factor when potential employees are choosing what district they want to work for.”

Board member Trisha Caulder, a retired F1S educator, said that paid parental leave is something that district employees have needed for a long time.

“I am so very proud of our board and administrative staff for recognizing the positive impact this would have on the lives of our employees and stepping forward to make it a reality,” Caulder said. “This is just one more major milestone in Florence One’s journey to excellence.”

Wilson High School teacher Taylor Miller said that the new policy is an excellent benefit for all Florence 1 employees.

“Florence One’s recent decision on paid parental leave has greatly impacted me and my family,” Miller said. “As an employee, I feel valued. As a parent, I feel blessed. It is a boost to morale when your employer advocates for its employees. I am proud and grateful to be a part of Florence One.”