No more leadership changes at Charleston Co. School District, superintendent says

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 5:29 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2022 at 7:43 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County School District Superintendent Don Kennedy says he is done making leadership changes as he restructures the district’s central office ahead of the new school year.

That word comes a day after Kennedy made the first official cut when he announced to board members that he had eliminated the chief of staff position, leaving Erica Taylor without a job.

“The position of chief of staff, I am not using that position anymore, so it is simply a matter of that position not being used,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy says this is all part of a restructuring effort of the central staff positions to better align and focus on academics.

Instead of a chief of staff, Kennedy promoted Anita Huggins to the position of interim deputy superintendent, a role that has long been vacant. She was the chief transformation officer.

“At the end of June the school board had a two-day retreat that talked about changing the process of governance, focusing more on student outcome governance,” Kennedy said. “So it’s going to be a challenge to make that transition to how we govern the system but if we are successful with that transition, I think the potential outcomes in this district will be extremely positive.”

Taylor is not the first of the district’s top officers to leave or be removed coinciding with Kennedy’s rise to the district’s top office. Kennedy was unexpectedly promoted from the interim position to superintendent on June 27.

Two days later, the district confirmed Ron Kramps, the head of the facilities management department, had resigned.

A month later, Chief Academic Officer Karolyn Belcher was replaced without warning.

“Here in the central office when we have one group of senior staff giving direction to our schools, we want to make sure that the other side of senior staff is given the same set directions,” Kennedy said. “Mrs. Belcher left the district and so what I restructured last week was deputy superintendent, chief academic officer and a chief of schools and that is the structure that I am alluding to.”

Kennedy denied there was any conflict between himself and Belcher.

Kennedy first hinted at a major restructuring of central offices in April when his team was looking for ways to balance the budget. At the time, Kennedy proposed cutting nearly $5 million in central office salaries. That equated to about 44 positions, Kennedy told board members in an emergency meeting on April 29. It’s unclear if those cuts ever became necessary by the end of the budgeting process. Kennedy says he is now done making major leadership changes.

“At the top leadership, I do not expect any more changes,” Kennedy said. “We have interim titles on some of these roles, so we will post these positions and take out interim, but in terms of structure, no more changes.”

Clearing house is normal whenever a new administration takes over, but critics have pointed out that this is an election year in which every school board member is up for reelection, and Kennedy, despite the title change, is still an interim superintendent until the board finds a long term replacement.

“There needs to be an analysis independently, not by Mr. Kennedy, by the board of all the positions in the district and then a retooling by the new superintendent,” said Kevin Hollinshead, candidate for school board. “Not by someone on an interim basis. Not this close to the school starting up...this is crazy.”

Kennedy says he is going to present on Monday the goals his staff have developed for the upcoming school year that will focus on math, reading and college and career readiness. He says his new staff will be instrumental in achieving those goals.

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