CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said he is "extremely disappointed" by the Charleston County School Board's decision to offer the superintendent's position Thursday morning.
The board emerged from executive session Thursday morning and voted 5-4 to offer Dr. Gerrita Postlewait the superintendent position. Postlewait, a former Horry County superintendent, was one of three finalists vying for the position.
"Many concerns have been raised about the surrounding the interview process, which I believe should be revisited to explore a more diverse field of candidates," Summey said in a statement. "Considering how vocal many in the community have been regarding the process, I hope the incoming superintendent will decline the board's appointment."
Some leaders in the black community have requested that the process be delayed so more people can weigh in. This is following several meet-and-greets with the candidates held while the Charleston community mourned the tragedy at Emanuel AME Church.
Days after the shooting, the school board moved forward with the superintendent interviews, a decision many are calling a slap in the face.
"She is the only candidate who has previously been a superintendent," CCSD Board Chair Cindy Bohn Coats said following the brief meeting. Coats said Postlewait's credentials, references, and presentation to the school board were well-received by members.
Coats said the search process began on March 3, but board members were not satisfied with the early results and expanded the search on April 6. Coats said the board asked for public comments on the search at every board meeting, interviewed 12 candidates and sent more than 200 emails to board members.
"It was a long process in which a lot of voices have been heard," Coats said.
The Rev. Nelson Rivers of the National Action Network wrote a letter to Coats in which he expressed concern that the interviews were done following the Emanuel AME Church tragedy, many in the black community didn't get to have much of a say. Rivers requested a series of meetings with the candidates for later this month.
Rivers told reporters "the good ol' boy policy" is in effect at the CCSD after the meeting.
"The board's actions in my mind were just plain racist," Rivers said. "Why would you drag a quality candidate like Lisa herring through all of this mess when you already decided months ago there was no way she was going to get the majority of the votes?"
The NAACP has scheduled a 3 p.m. press conference Thursday to discuss the appointment.
"We did not get elected to do this job when it's easy," Coats countered, adding that the school district had 5,000 employees who didn't know who their boss would be and 50,000 students who will start school soon and need to have a superintendent in place.
"She was not told this was an easy job," Coats said of Postlewait.
Postlewait is from Georgetown and says she was called to do the work of superintendent. She was the first of the three finalists to do the public interviews at the end of last month. From 2006 to 2013, she was the chief K-12 officer for the Stupski Foundation, a San Francisco-based education reform nonprofit. She later worked for the ACT, the college-entrance exam. She left her role at ACT earlier this year in order to apply for the open superintendent position.
The other finalists for the position were Dr. Terri Breeden, an assistant superintendent in Northern Virginia and Dr. Lisa Herring, Deputy Superintendent for Charleston County schools.
Breeden was the assistant superintendent for instruction for Loudon County Public Schools in Northern Virginia. She taught for more than a decade in elementary and middle school classrooms. She was a mathematics program specialist for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and later assistant principal, then principal of two public schools in Nashville. Breeden said if offered the job, she would focus on bridging the achievement gap. She was the last finalist to formally interview and meet with the public.
Herring came to Charleston County in 2009 as executive director for student support services. Before that, she served as associate superintendent of academic and instructional support, then chief academic officer. At the end of last month, she met with the public and she said she's motivated to prepare each and every child to be successful in a global world.
The search process started when former Supt. Nancy McGinley resigned in October after the firing and rehiring of Academic Magnet High School football team's coach over a post-game victory ritual featuring what many considered a racial stereotype demeaning to African-Americans.
Coats said Postlewait was offered the job through the search firm Thursday morning, but there is no word on an exact start date.