Charleston Co. school board changes proposal to give superintendent more authority

Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 4:42 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2022 at 9:54 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District has pulled back on a proposal that opponents say would have given the superintendent broad authority to set district policy.

The proposal splits the district’s policy manual into two separate documents, a board policy manual and a district policy manual. Anything in the district manual would be controlled by Superintendent Don Kennedy, which would give him control of all but a single section of the current manual.

Last-minute maneuvering by Charleston County School Board members Lauren Herterich, Courtney Waters and Kristen French changed the proposal, which activists say would have given the superintendent broad powers to set policies.

“I want to make it clear that no one involved in this process had any intent to give up any board responsibilities,” French said. “We are working to align school outcome-focused governance.”

Instead of a total overhaul of the district’s policy manual that would have given the superintendent direct control over all but one section of the policy manual, board members instead agreed to start a review of the policy manual in which the superintendent will make recommendations and any changes would come before the board for approval.

Opponents from both sides of the political spectrum denounced the original proposal.

“We are having trust issues with the district right now, with CCSD, with the board. We are in flux,” school board candidate Joy Brown said. “There are a lot of things that need to happen, and we need to build back that trust.”

They agree that the policy manual needs to be updated, but they say there are bigger problems that need to be addressed.

“There are lots of job vacancies with teacher shortages. We should be focusing on that right now,” school board candidate Darlene Dunmeyer said. “This right here is not an emergency.”

The school board candidates who came out Monday morning claim the end game is a fundamental shift in authority with the board giving the superintendent way more power than he had before.

“We are here to bring light to this corrupt and self-centered attempt to change board policy,” candidate Kevin Hollinshead said.

French, who sponsored the policy, said it was never her intention to seed any additional power to the superintendent, but rather to simply bring the district up to speed with best practices.

“I think we are just trying to focus our time on student outcomes. That’s the most important thing,” board member Kate Darby said. “I will just resay it. We have had these policies for more than eight years and our student outcomes have not significantly changed and that’s where our focus needs to be.

There is no timeline for when the review of the policy manual will be completed.

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