CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The recently hired Charleston County School District superintendent was placed on paid administrative leave during a meeting held Monday night.
Members of the Charleston County School Board of Trustees met Monday night to cover a range of agenda items – and Dr. Eric Gallien, who joined the district in July – was supposed to provide an update on the work he has done since he first assumed the role over the summer.
But he never had the opportunity to share that information.
The school board voted 5-4 to place Dr. Gallien on paid administrative leave during Monday’s meeting.
Board members in favor of the move include Carlotte Bailey, Edward Kelley, Keith Grybowski, Leah Whatley, and Pamela McKinney who serves as board chair.
Four of the board members who voted against the decision were visibly upset and apologized to the superintendent, saying it was “unacceptable” that they were treating him in this way.
“The issue of the superintendent being placed on paid administrative leave- first off, I don’t believe it’s anything that caught anybody on the board by surprise because Moms for Liberty board members had decided this is what was going to happen. We delayed that process a few weeks ago by coming in and standing up for Dr. Gallien, and apparently, our numbers moved them to not go in that direction. But today they came back and got this thing passed, which is crazy. This guy has not even been in his position for four months … there’s no data to support him being put on administrative leave whatsoever,” said Pastor Thomas Dixon, a community activist.
After a recess, members voted 5-0 in favor of Deputy Superintendent Anita Huggins taking over as acting superintendent while Dr. Gallien is on leave. Some members did not return from the recess to take part in the vote.
Meanwhile, the board also voted 5-4 denying the school district’s interim chief academic officer, Michelle Simmons, from officially assuming that role.
“This is pathetic. They’ve made it clear this is not about kids. Michelle deserves the job. Michelle’s done the work, tests will show that she’s done the work. The test scores will show – they had two separate interviews for this woman by outside companies and both of them picked her. This is clearly racism. They didn’t pick her because she’s a Black woman. They want a white woman to do the position to push their agenda,” said Elvin Speights, Sr., a community activist. “Michelle was for the kids and all the kids.”
Monday night’s school board meeting lasted nearly six hours and the board went into recess multiple times following the decisions made for Dr. Gallien and Simmons.
Gallien was selected as the district’s new superintendent in June following a contentious interview process which saw two candidates withdraw from consideration after their names were prematurely leaked online.