Search for new Charleston Co. school superintendent may take more than a year

Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 5:01 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2022 at 8:19 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The search for the next Charleston County School District superintendent still has not started and it could be January before it gets underway.

Former Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait tendered her resignation in December and Don Kennedy, the district’s former chief financial officer, took over as interim this past January, but the process to find a permanent replacement is still in its early stages.

Board Chair Eric Mack says it’s possible the process could drag out until a new board is installed in January, more than a year after Postlewait quit.

The school board met in a special Zoom meeting Wednesday to interview five firms that would conduct the search for candidates.

  • Greenwood/Asher and Associates
  • Hazard, Young, Attea, and Associates
  • Ray and Associates
  • Alma Advisory Group
  • BWP and Associates

Mack says they’re making progress.

“Our plan is to have further discussion on the 27th of this month at our second meeting to talk about the firms that we have already discussed and to kind of create a timeline, a timeline on when we will select a firm and when the process will start,” Mack said.

The three-hour meeting was almost entirely behind closed doors in executive session and no decisions were made in public, but Mack says the board will meet again on June 27 to narrow the field down further. After a firm is selected, candidates for the job will be sought out.

“I am looking for someone who has done a lot of turnarounds, particularly with failing schools. Someone who can come and network with the community, with the stakeholders,” Mack said. “Someone who has a vested interest in wanting to really build outside of the box and be creative in how we can move our kids on a year-to-year level.”

The process is comparatively much slower than recent superintendent searches in neighboring districts. In Dorchester District Two, it took five months between the time when Superintendent Joe Pye announced his retirement and the board selected his replacement, William Robbins.

Berkeley County Schools has a similar timeline when its board hired Dion Jackson five months after Eddie Ingram announced his retirement.

Dorchester District Four took even less time in hiring Gerald Wright for the top office earlier this year after Kelvin Wymbs resigned in October.

Comparing the Charleston County School District – the second largest district in the state – to smaller, neighboring districts isn’t quite fair. However, Horry County Schools is the third-largest and their superintendent was hired after a six-month search process seven years ago.

Greenville County Schools is the only district larger than Charleston County and its last search for a superintendent, back in 2011, took about nine months.

Board member Dr. Helen Frazier says she’s perfectly fine with where they are right now. She says it will take longer because they want to make sure they are making the right decision.

“I am really feeling good about the process,” Frazier said. “It is an arduous process, and we need to take our time. I felt good about the interviews yesterday. . . I think we are off to a good start and I am very optimistic that this board is going to do whatever we can to make sure that the public is informed.”

The district is facing a unique situation this year with a November election that could see every single board member replaced.

Board Member Dr. Kristen French says the election makes this process a challenge.

“Given the unusual circumstances of all CCSD board seats being up for election this year, our superintendent search is more complicated and will likely take longer than most,” French said. “I hope that our upcoming board training will give us an opportunity to plan for conducting a search and interview process that will be beneficial to the newly elected board, the district, and the students”

To prevent the process from getting derailed, Mack says they plan to put systems in place that can weather election disruption. That could mean the board is considering forming a committee to manage the process – a committee that could be populated by board members who would continue to serve even after they’ve left office.

“Some of the work we are doing now is critical to really get that selection started in January. The new board will have greater insight into the process,” Mack said. “We may even include the previous board members as well in sharing in this endeavor because of some of the work we have already done.”

Mack says the new school board would still have the final say on any superintendent candidate. For now, there is no timeline for when a search firm will be picked or a deadline for when the board hopes to have a new superintendent in office.

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