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Charleston County schools superintendent Gerrita Postlewait resigns

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 5:33 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 30, 2021 at 4:12 AM EST
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait is out as the head of South Carolina’s second largest school district.

The Charleston County School District Board of Trustees voted to accept Postlewait’s resignation during a special meeting on Wednesday called 24 hours earlier. Six of the nine board members voted to accept her resignation with Erica Cokley abstaining, Helen Frazier voting no, and Cindy Bohn Coats absent. Her last day is expected to be June 30, 2022.

Chief Financial and Administrative Officer Donald Kennedy will take over as interim Superintendent on Jan. 3, 2022. Frazier voted no to accepting Postlewait’s resignation because she felt there was no reason to keep her on staff until June 30, 2022 if Kennedy is taking up the office on Monday. It’s unclear what duties Postlewait will perform between January and June, but in a brief written statement she says she is committed to helping facilitate a smooth transition.

“I have enjoyed immensely the opportunity to serve Charleston County students, personnel, parents and the greater community over the past seven years,” Postlewait said. “I am heartened by the many accomplishments and accolades CCSD has received and am especially proud of the selfless service teachers, staff and leaders have provided during the Covid-19 pandemic. My best wishes to the Board, school district and students for continued success.”

The school board met in another special meeting called on Dec. 16 to “receive legal advice an employment matter”, however no action was taken or any discussion took place in front of the public.

Cindy Bohn Coats, who is one of three board members (along with Eric Mack and Kate Darby) who was on the board when Postlewait was hired, denounced the way the resignation was handled. Coats was not at the meeting, calling it “unplanned” and “unexpected”.

“I wish Dr. Postlewait success in her new position with CCSD and look forward to seeing the job description and role responsibilities created today,” Bohn Coats said. “As a business professional and an elected steward of the taxpayer’s money, I wish more care and thought would have gone into offering her a new job after she unexpectedly resigned as Superintendent. But, I trust the job agreement hastily created, negotiated, and finalized in today’s executive session will serve the best interest of our students.”

Postlewait was hired in July of 2015 with a salary of $226,000 a year and a $1,000 allowance once a month for travel within the district. Her contract was extended in 2018 and was set to expire June 30, 2024. As part of her compensation plan, Postlewait is contracted to receive a 14 percent contribution to an annuity of her choice every January. As of July, the superintendent was making $241,993 a year.

In her most recent evaluation in September, Postlewait received a “good” rating for her handling of the 2020-2021 school year. All of the board members supported the evaluation with the exception of Kristen French who voted no and Erica Cokley who was not at the meeting.

Postlewait came to CCSD in 2015 from Iowa where she worked as an assistant vice president for the testing company ACT. There she helped set the standards for testing nationwide. From 2006 to 2013, she was the chief K-12 officer for the Stupski Foundation, a San Francisco-based education reform nonprofit. Originally from Georgetown, Postlewait was the superintendent of the Horry County School District for 10 years starting in 1996.

Postlewait narrowly secured the superintendent job in 2015 by a vote of 5-4. She was hired over the deputy superintendent Dr. Lisa N. Herring. Her appointment was controversial with board members Chris Collins and Michael Miller refusing to attend her district interview and are on record calling the process “tainted” and “corrupt.” The only current board member to vote against Postlewait’s hiring still on the school board is Eric Mack, the current board chair. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey even chimed at the time asking her to decline the offer.

The controversy of her hiring came at a time of increased racial tensions after the former superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley resigned in October 2014. McGinley announced she would resign following a controversy over alleged racism by members of the Academic Magnet High School football team.

The Charleston NAACP decried the decision to hire Postlewait over promoting Herring, who is black.

All of this comes as the district continues to deal with Covid policies and declining test scores, particularly in minority communities. In recent years, Postlewait has been behind several initiatives to address the achievement gap including Mission Critical which saw a transformation in several schools.

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