Charleston Co. Schools selects search firm to find next superintendent

The Charleston County School District is moving forward in the search for a new superintendent.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 4:31 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 25, 2023 at 8:11 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District is moving forward in the search for a new superintendent.

After a chaotic meeting on March 13, flanked on either side by specially called meetings, the Charleston County School Board has officially selected the search firm that will find the district’s next superintendent.

The board unanimously approved the selection of BWP & Associates to conduct the search for the district’s top office. As the school district is the second largest district in the state, it will likely be a nationwide search with local candidates as well.

Kevin Castner, a member of the BWP & Associates search team for the Charleston superintendent, says the board asked for a robust community engagement process. He says his team is looking forward to the job and plans to meet with a lot of stakeholders.

“Charleston, again, has a national appeal, there’s no question,” Castner said.

The Illinois-based company claims to have conducted more than 800 successful executive searches. The company’s website shows it has conducted similar searches in Berkeley County Schools twice and the Horry County School District – the third and fifth largest districts in the state. In addition, they’ve worked with 13 other South Carolina districts, some multiple times.

Board member Darlene Roberson says she is impressed by the firm’s promises of community and public engagement, one on one interviews with each board member, engagement with teachers and staff and a large database and pool of candidates.

“We service and educate over 55,000 students and we have over 2,000 teachers. So, we need someone that has that executive leadership and administration experience. Someone that has a vision and how they’re going to lead this district forward,” Roberson said.

However, she is concerned about the May 15 deadline in the contract. She says she was not a part of the contract negotiation process when the date was picked. She calls the deadline “ambitious” and would advocate for moving it if possible.

“Charleston County extends over 90 miles. And so with each district, there’s different communities. And so, we want to make sure that our next superintendent will be able to represent each of the constituent districts. Because of the diversity that we have in our districts,” Roberson said. “We were also impressed with their engagement for teachers and personnel.”

Dr. Carol Tempel, board member for District 9, agrees that community engagement is important.

“I want to hear a little bit more -- no, not a little bit, a lot more about how that’s going to happen. Not only do we as a board, interview, candidates and look at resumes, but I think it’s also important that teachers and central staff have a chance to get to know these candidates and that there’s opportunities for the public to be engaged,” Tempel said.

Tempel said in her time with the district she has seen many superintendents and hopes her experience will help in this decision.

“I want somebody who values our neighborhood schools and will build our neighborhood schools to be community schools, where children get a very high quality of education,” Tempel says.

While the search company is Illinois-based, at least one of its board members is a South Carolina local. Dr. Percy Mack serves as a board member for BWP & Associates. He is also a retired superintendent of Richland School District 1 in Columbia.

The school district’s last superintendent, Gerrita Postlewait unexpectedly resigned in Dec. 2021. Don Kennedy took over as interim superintendent in January and officially transitioned to the permanent superintendent role in June, with the caveat that the board would move forward with finding a replacement.

South Carolina law requires that when a board gets down to three people, those three names will be publicly announced.

“We have a transparent process and we go out into the community and they are trusting us to go out into the community. I think that’s an important process the board is doing, but in the end, it is the school board’s decision, but they will have the advantage of our information and the qualities the people shared,” Castner said.

BWP & Associates will have a presentation for the board and public on the search Monday. Castner said the presentation will be at the end of the meeting for those wanting to tune in.