Berkeley Co. School Board fires superintendent, names replacement

Newly-named Charleston Co. chief of schools named new Berkeley Co. superintendent
The Berkeley County School Board voted Tuesday night to part ways with its superintendent 16 months after he started.
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 7:54 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2022 at 4:13 AM EST
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MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCSC) - The Berkeley County School Board voted Tuesday night to part ways with its superintendent 16 months after he started.

Deon Jackson was fired after a 6-3 vote. Board members Yvonne Bradley, Crystal Wigfall and David Barrow voted against his termination.

Just in the first few minutes of the meeting, the board decided in a 6-2 vote to remove David Barrow as the board chair and replace him with Mac McQuillin.

From there, a lot of big changes were made.

“I would like to make the motion to terminate the employment of Mr. Deon Jackson, the Superintendent of Berkeley County School District effective immediately. Do we have a second?” McQuillin said.

Barrow, who previously served as chairman of the school board and represents District 5, called the board’s move to fire him a “political witch hunt.”

“I do not believe that the reason why, I think this board is getting ready to terminate this superintendent. I do not think it is unconstitutional. That is the contract. And, in fact, I think it is a political witch hunt on their part,” Barrow said.

Bradley was also avidly against this decision

“It is unbelievable that on the first night of a new board that such things would come up,” Bradley said. “Unbelievable. Unbelievable.”

The board voted 6-1 to have Dr. Anthony Dixon serve in the role. The Charleston County School District had named Dixon to serve as its chief of schools back in August.

Two votes are missing because Wigfall and Bradley left the room after Jackson walked out.

Jackson stepped into the role on July 1, 2021. He was not a stranger to the district, having previously served as chief administrative officer for pupil services.

Dixon had served the Berkeley County School District for the previous two years as Chief of Academics and Innovation and Chief of Secondary Schools.

Dixon has participated in multiple professional development programs, including the Harvard Leadership Institute, Harvard School Turnaround Institute, Columbia College Teachers College Writers’ Institute and the Racial Equity Institute.

Jackson’s employment contract stated he would receive a base salary of $215,000 and would be eligible for an annual 4% bonus, which would amount to an additional $8,600.

The bonus, the contract stated, was to be based on his performance evaluation which the school board would execute.

The school district said in July that Jackson was working on his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina.

Jackson’s contract was similar to his predecessor, Dr. Eddie Ingram, who announced his retirement in January 2021. Ingram’s base salary was $205,000.

Kirstin Tanner, a former Berkeley County School District board member, says she is concerned about the next 48 hours. She says with the current teacher shortage, she would not be surprised if there is a mass exodus. She also says there was no warning that there would be a motion for a change of the school board chair.

“I am just heartbroken. Heartbroken for Berkeley County School District. I have a child still in the system. I am a product of Berkeley County. I’ve been a proud, proud vocal cheerleader for the district, and I am disheartened by what they have done in their very first meeting as a board. How? How did they get to two new members? One who’s never even been a part of this school district and get him on board? How did that happen?” Tanner said.

The board also voted to fire the district’s legal counsel, Tiffany Richardson, just before moving to Jackson’s termination.

According to his contract, Jackson has 10 days within receiving notice of his termination to challenge the motion.

No word on if or when he’ll be doing that.

David Barrow, Mac McQuillin and Yvonne Bradley declined an interview. Jackson has also not responded to a request for comment.

The board also voted on some controversial topics including critical race theory and who will deem what’s appropriate and inappropriate in the district’s libraries.

READ MORE: Berkeley Co. School Board bans critical race theory, votes on new committees after firing superintendent

On Nov. 23, the Berkeley Co. School Board sent a statement from Board Chairman Mac McQuillin on the termination of former Superintendent Deon Jackson and in-house attorney Dr. Tiffany Richardson.

“To begin, I acknowledge that the failure to offer reasons for the action at the recent Board meeting could have created the perception that we were not being fully transparent with the public. That is a legitimate criticism, but I want to assure the public that we have nothing to hide. The rationale of our action was not fully explained during open session of the meeting because the public discussion of personnel matters is fraught with legal risks that potentially expose the District to liability that is ultimately borne by taxpayers. In fact, legal claims have previously arisen directly from statements made about District employees in Board meetings. Because of these legal risks, we wanted to handle the discussion of Mr. Jackson’s termination cautiously to limit the District’s legal exposure...”