CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Nearly 50,000 Charleston County students will head back to the classroom on Wednesday. And with a new school year comes a new leader for the state’s second-largest school district.

Superintendent Dr. Eric Gallien plans to hit the ground running on the first day of school in Charleston County. “I’m excited to be here. I’m committed to the kids, making sure that I am invested in this community, and engaged in the community; making sure I learn as much as I can in the first 100 days, so I can address some of the challenges in the community,” he said during a one-on-one interview with News 2’s Octavia Mitchell.

The Wisconsin native left a career as a business owner and began his journey in education as a volunteer, then teacher’s assistant, and worked his way up to superintendent in Wisconsin school districts – a career that has spanned 28 years.

He is now the Charleston County School District’s leader.

“We’re going to stick to the core and we’re going to make sure we carry out our priorities, which is really to make sure our teachers are highly qualified and receive professional development and implement restorative practices and make sure every student is getting a high-quality education,” he said.

The school district has nearly 55,000 students in 88 schools. There are more than 6,000 employees on staff with 3,600 teachers. Due to a nationwide teacher shortage, the district is still working to fill some vacancies. As of now, the district has 37 teacher vacancies and 96% coverage for bus routes.

“HR is diligently working to fill the vacancies we have, and making sure every school is fully staffed. We have plans in place to make sure those schools are supported, and we have substitute teachers in line for those schools to start with, but I’m confident our HR department will come through and fill those vacancies,” said Dr. Gallien.

Some of the district’s schools have metal detectors, and they are working on hiring additional security for schools.

“We have made the purchase of metal detectors. They are not fully implemented in every school.  We do have them in stock in storage, but we have not fully implemented them because it requires staffing,” Dr. Gallien explained. “We’re looking at getting some additional resource officers in our schools and considering contracting with a private company to fill the gaps.”

Teachers will also have a pay raise. A budget was passed with a $5,000 increase to the salary. “We’re very excited that we’re making some headway on the ESSER funds. We’re going to reallocate for another $5,000 flat bonus,” he said.

CCSD was expecting to open a new school building for Malcolm C. Hursey Montessori on the first day of school, but that opening is delayed and those students will begin the school year at the former Morningside Middle School building, a mile away from the new school. 

“Currently under construction, looking forward to that new school launching probably in November,” Dr. Gallien said.

Most school districts in the state have moved to year-round modified calendars this school year. CCSD is working on four calendars for the 2024-25 school year that includes options for modified calendars. 

“We have a calendar review committee that’s launching four different models, consolidating to make sure we come up with one good model. They’re still working through the process,” he said.

While there have been several changes in Charleston County School District leadership in recent years, Dr. Gallien said he is committed to the district’s students, parents, and the community.

“I am here for the long haul. Charleston really has a lot of bright spots that we’re going to continue to build on. Getting off to a great start, a really good start, and making sure our first day we welcome the kids back and we get off to a great start for the school year.”

Students return to the classroom on Wednesday, August 23.