CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District issued a statement Wednesday afternoon in response to a Mount Pleasant elementary school principal's controversial resignation letter.
James B. Edwards Elementary School Principal Jake Rambo sent his resignation to the school district's board of trustees via email at 6 p.m. Tuesday. In the letter, he said he plans to resign from his position in June and makes several accusations regarding what he calls his reassignment to another school.
"We regret that Jake Rambo has decided to resign from Charleston County School District, and we appreciate his years of service to the District, the students, and their families. We wish him well," the district statement began. "But, we are disappointed in the way he has chosen to handle this matter, and with the disruptions that his misrepresentations have created for his school."
Rambo's letter, which was addressed to CCSD Board of Trustees and the District 2 Constituent Board, under which James B. Edwards Elementary falls, read in part:
"On the evening of April 24, I received a call from the Executive Director of the Elementary Learning Community, informing me that although I would receive a "Principal" contract for 2017-18, it would not be at JBE. I was shocked, as my tenure as principal of the school began less than two short years prior.
"Not one time throughout this school year has any CCSD administrator, including the Superintendent, the Associate Superintendent of Schools, the Executive Director of the Elementary Learning Community, or the Director of the Elementary Learning Community visited our building. Neither had any leader shared with me a single concern about my performance, the performance of our teachers, or the performance of our students. Not one time, if it existed, were any community concerns conveyed to me, and not one time was even the "threat" of a potential move shared with me privately, publicly and/or in a group setting."
The letter also alleges Rambo was being transferred to another school because of low MAP scores at JBE.
Another part of the letter reads in part:
"After my meeting with the Executive Director on the morning of April 25, I met with the Superintendent later that day, per my request, after which I was more stunned than ever before. She indicated that the school's data supported I did not have experience working in a "low income" school and said, "You are a young guy. You've not had experience working under a strong principal leader, have you?" Raised to respect authority, I did not respond that the principal underneath whom I worked for several years and who mentored me is currently appointed by the Superintendent herself as the Interim Director of Administrator Hiring and Leadership Development for CCSD."
Rambo also claims he was asked to lie to the public about this transfer, rather saying it was "[his] decision to leave JBE and that [he was] 'called' to lead a school with students who need [him] more."
According to the letter, Rambo has been at the school for 1.5 years and "increased student enrollment, put community programs in place to close the opportunity gap, increased physical activity opportunities, and improved parent, teacher, and student satisfaction."
The district's response called the situation a personnel matter and stated district officials cannot discuss any of the circumstances relating to Rambo's employment with the district.
"However, we wish to make it clear that State law and State Board of Education regulations outline the evaluation process for teachers, and the District acts consistently with them," the district's statement continued. "The Charleston County School District serves students in a diverse district that stretches 100 miles from McClellanville to Edisto. We are committed to recruiting and retaining outstanding individuals to work in our District. Our goal is to provide the best educational experience for every child we serve, and we are constantly striving to improve our practices in service of that goal."
The District 2 Constituent Board has a scheduled meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Moultrie Middle School. An agenda item states there will be a "response to a principal concern at JBE".
Messages to all of the CCSD board of trustee members were not immediately returned, however, some members provided brief comments regarding Rambo's resignation letter.
"There were some things [in the letter] that made me pause," board member Michael Miller said. "The Board hasn't had any conversations at this time about the letter."
"I'm deeply concerned," board member Kevin Hollinshead said. "Allegations like this are serious. I think this situation needs to be investigated by a third-party."
Nine-year board member Rev. Chris Collins feels this issue is creating distrust within the school district.
"It's shocking, devastating," he said. "It's something to think about. You have to wonder if we're doing this job, or doing the right thing or not."
When asked if he believes any of Rambo's accusations are true, Collins said he's not sure, because he doesn't have proof at this time.
"The Superintendent gives us whatever information she has, and then [she] shares that with the school board," he added. "That way when we have a situation issue arise, we have the facts in front of us. We can say these are the numbers, these are the scores, here is what's happening, but at this point, we have nothing to go by."
"When I read the letter this morning I was shocked that he (Rambo) spelled out every single bit of what we suspected to be true," said Abbey Robertson, of Mt. Pleasant.
Robertson has two children who attend JBE. She said Rambo has been a great leader for the school and is frustrated things have gotten to this point.
"We started to notice a little bit of corruption," she said. "The more and more in depth we got, the more we found out – there is way more to this story."
Not everyone feels Rambo has been a good leader at the school though. A parent of a former student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said while Rambo is a very nice man and good with the kids, he's not a good leader and the school needs help.
"None of us know the whole story – that's the thing," the parent said. "I was underwhelmed by his leadership qualities… He's not a good teacher for that group and that school needs some serious help and guidance. It's got great potential, just needs the right (and qualified leader) to make it happen."
Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait addressed the parents who attended Wednesday night's Constituent Board meeting, "I'm sorry for the way the communication came out and I take responsibility for the things I could have done differently," Postlewait said.
Additionally, the district said State law and State Board of Education regulations outline the evaluation process for teachers and the District acts consistent with them.
According to Board of Education regulations, principal evaluations are done in two phases, formative and summative. The Superintendent meets with the principal to review the state's evaluation process of staff, then they will go over the principal's performance based on data collected.
The state regulations did not specifically say what would be included in the data.
A petition has been created on a website showing support for Rambo prior to the news of this letter.
On May 8 a rally was held outside of the Charleston County School District building protesting the "shuffling" of staff members to other schools across the district.