MONCKS CORNER -- Rodney Thompson, who starts his new job as Berkeley Schools Superintendent today, said he doesn't foresee any staff changes or other major change of direction under his leadership.

"Berkeley County is moving in the right direction," Thompson said. "I'm not going to be making any changes to the folks that are already in place."

Board Vice Chairman Doug Cooper said he was impressed by Thompson's combination of people skills and financial acumen. For example, as chief administrative officer, Thompson managed to cut $1 million out of the transportation budget without compromising service.

"We're going to need that kind of creativity as we go into the budget season here," Cooper said. "That was one of the key things that rose him to the top. He's got a good head for curriculum, having come through the high-school system, and he proved in the operations side that he can cut significant costs while still maintaining operations."

Berkeley Middle School Principal Richard Raycroft, who worked with Thompson for several years at Hanahan High School, said he was not surprised at the board's decision.

"I think Rodney Thompson is a man of great character and integrity," he said. "I would say that he is a servant leader, one who seeks to serve and support the people he's leading, to provide them with the tools that they need to do their jobs well."

When asked what makes Thompson tick, Raycroft immediately said: "His love for children. That is at the root of it, absolutely, 100 percent. He loves children."

Thompson said one of his main concerns is inspiring teachers to focus not only on test scores but also on the character of the children. State tests don't measure character, but focusing on character will also raise test scores, he said.

"I think a good education is the total education that combines both the academic side of things and developing people into well-rounded young men and women," he said. "When our students understand that the adults care about them, then they're going to respond better to the education process."