NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A shared concern for what is happening at the Charleston County School District brought three mayors together on Tuesday.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie, and State Representative Joseph Bustos held a joint news conference at North Charleston City Hall to discuss the controversial actions taken by the board of trustees in the last month.
“Recently, it seems that the issue at the Charleston County School District Board is not as much about education. It is about personalities and clashes that are occurring,” said Mayor Summey.
There has been a major public outcry following three decisions made by the board at their meeting on September 25th.
They voted 5-4 to place Superintendent Dr. Eric Gallien on paid administrative leave, to replace six members of the Health Advisory Committee, and to not hire Michelle Simmons as the Chief Academic Officer.
“What’s happening now is demoralizing front line educators, it is concerning the citizens, I hear about it every day as I’m sure my colleagues do, and it is giving our region’s hard one economic profile and positive economic reputation a black eye,” said Mayor Haynie.
The mayors outlined a set of requests they have for the board, starting with to restore transparency and to work out their differences in public. They also advised the board to stick to their job and avoid micromanaging. Finally, the trio requested the board require a 2/3 “supermajority” when voting on hiring or firing the superintendent.
“If they can’t take these simple steps, really simple steps to get back on track and restore trust, we mayors are prepared to sit down with our legislative delegation to discuss alternate means of school government, governance up to and including deconsolidation of the county school district,” said Mayor Tecklenburg.
Rep. Bustos, who is also the Chairman of the Charleston County Legislative Delegation, said he supported the three mayors.
“So, I’m in lockstep with these gentlemen and whatever they need at the state level, I will try to get for them,” said Rep. Bustos.
News 2 reached out to all nine members of the board of trustees for their response to the news conference.
Trustee Keith Grybowski, who represents District 1, said to News 2:
“It is interesting, not one mayor has ever reached out to me to ask about the issues I am faced with in representing my constituents. There seems to be a lot of opinions based on speculation or information protected from being discussed under South Carolina’s FOIA laws.”
Trustee Dr. Carol Tempel of District 9 released the following statement:
“I appreciate the Mayors’ concerns. These are very difficult times to reason through issues and understand the perspectives of colleagues who vote as a power block. It’s hard to believe that the reasonable voices of the educators and community seem to be falling on deaf ears. I think we need to have a 50, plus one vote for single member school board races. Also, a supermajority vote of 6-3 could help with the serious issues we are dealing with such as keeping the superintendent on paid leave, policy changes, micromanaging the superintendent and derailing the health advisory committee.
Additionally, the leadership positions need to be distributed among all board members. One member holds three positions. Shared leadership and collaboration have not been prevalent on this board since February.
Let me also add that we need better legal and governance advice from people who thoroughly know CCSD board policy.”
Trustee Darlene Roberson, who represents District 8, also responded to our request for comment.
“The comments by Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie at their press conference today were spot-on. I am very grateful for them raising awareness to how recent actions taken by the CCSD board will have wide ranging negative effects on Charleston County as a whole.
As a result of today’s press conference, I will be requesting we add to our next agenda a discussion over the mayor’s call for the Board to change its policy from a majority to a supermajority vote. Requiring a supermajority will encourage greater discussion, dialogue, and compromise, and will take into account a wider range of perspectives that represent the broader interests of the entire school community.”
News 2 is still waiting to hear back from the rest of the board.