FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The former superintendent for Florence School District Four was issued a public reprimand by the South Carolina Board of Education for unprofessional conduct during her tenure.
According to the order filed by the state board on Aug. 13, Dr. Rechel Anderson was initially hired as the superintendent-elect on Sept. 11, 2017 before becoming the superintendent on Jan. 1, 2018.
FSD4 covers the Timmonsville area of the county, and includes three schools: Brockington Elementary, Johnson Middle, and Timmonsville High.
On May 9, 2018, the S.C. Department of Education issued a state of emergency for FSD4 and assumed authority due to the district’s “chronic financial instability.”
While serving as superintendent, Anderson failed to comply with the system in place to record an administrator’s leave and was absent from the district on several occasions without documentation, according to the reprimand.
When she left the district to become the superintendent for Jasper County School District, Anderson reportedly requested a payout for 100 percent of the annual leave accumulated during the five months of her term, “without accounting for or notifying that she had in fact taken leave during that time frame,” the reprimand stated.
Board members also said Anderson was absent from the district for two days while interviewing for another superintendent position and was “untruthful” with district personnel as to her the reason for her absence.
On May 31, Anderson did not return to the district to assist on May 31, 2018, after learning of the deaths of two students and the critical injury of another, “choosing instead to continue her tour of the schools as the newly named Interim Superintendent of Jasper County,” the reprimand stated.
The state board of education considered the evidence presented at a hearing on June 13 and June 14 and found that Anderson, “engaged in conduct that was inappropriate and unprofessional for any administrator in a District.”
Jasper County School District Board Chair, Mrs. Daisy Mitchell said their understanding is the matter stems from issues that may have happened before Anderson became that district’s superintendent.
“As our superintendent, Dr. Anderson has worked diligently for the success of our students and our district. The Jasper County School Board applauds and supports our superintendent for the work that she has done and is doing in the Jasper County School District,” Mitchell said.
Jasper County officials also said that, "News reporting today is about keeping a dying industry relevant thru (sic) sensationalism. Jasper County School District supports Dr. Rechel Anderson as our superintendent, and we believe in her works and we value her as a leader!
In August 2018, Anderson filed a lawsuit against FSD4, the S.C. Department of Education, and state Superintendent Molly Spearman.
In that lawsuit, Anderson stated she entered into a professional employment agreement with the school district on Dec. 22, 2017, to a term of at least three years as superintendent, at an annual salary of $115,000.
After the state’s takeover of FSD4 in May 2018, Anderson’s employment agreement was terminated by Spearman effective June 30, 2018, the lawsuit states. Her last day of work was June 1, 2018.
Anderson states that under the terms of her agreement, she is entitled to severance pay of $115,000.
“Plaintiff has made demand upon the Defendants for this severance pay, and Defendants have refused to honor the terms of this Employment Agreement, and have failed to provide any reason why Plaintiff is not entitled to the terms of her Agreement,” the lawsuit states. “As a result, Defendants have breached the Employment Agreement with the Plaintiff.”
In their answer filed this month, Spearman and representatives with the SCDE state Anderson served as the superintendent of FSD4 and the superintendent for Jasper County at the same time during June 2018 and portions of May 2018. This, they noted in the response, is “unlawful, unconstitutional, and in violation of public policy.”
“To the extent the Court grants any relief as requested to the Plaintiff, the Defendants Spearman and SCDE are entitled to a set-off or credit for any amounts paid by Florence County School District Four,” the answer stated, in part.
The state board of education issued public reprimands for two other area teachers for instances of unprofessional conduct.
Angela Whittington, a former physical education teacher at Dillon Middle School, violated district policy by missing school for 11 days after her leave request was denied, according to information from the SCBE. She was reported to the S.C. Department of Education on April 19, 2018 after resigning from her position.
Whittington had received previous verbal and written reprimands for the previous two years regarding her “inappropriate use of leave time,” according to the reprimand. She was recommended for termination on Oct. 16, 2017 before ultimately resigning.
A hearing on Whittington’s case was heard on May 19. The state board later voted to issue the public reprimand.
In a separate case, a former teacher at the Coastal Leadership Academy in the Socastee area was issued a reprimand after sending inappropriate text messages to a student.
On May 19, 2018, the SCDE learned that Eric Jeffrey Beers was suspected of sending the texts to the student, who alleged the messages were “an innocent mistake,” information from the state board of education stated.
“A screenshot of the messages demonstrated the social media communications were not related to an educational matter and were therefore inappropriate communications with a student,” the reprimand stated.
Beers was allowed to resign from the district, effective June 7, 2018.
The state board entered into a consent order or public reprimand with Beers earlier this year after he agreed to complete a prevention and correction course offered by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification.