Charleston Co. superintendent sends cease-and-desist letter to board member

The Charleston County School District Superintendent has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a member of the school board.
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 7:25 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2023 at 7:27 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District Superintendent has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a member of the school board alleging “defamatory, slanderous and libelous” social media posts.

In the letter, obtained exclusively by Live 5 News, Superintendent Don Kennedy accuses board member Keith Grybowski of writing posts on a Moms for Liberty Facebook group, in which he describes the search for a new superintendent as “long” and “extensive”.

In reality, Kennedy says the current board’s process began on March 13 and effectively ended this week. He says staff gave up time off to move the process ahead, saying it took only 50 business days to launch a search and enter into contract negotiation with a new superintendent.

“CCSD Staff worked tirelessly to schedule stakeholder engagement events, some of which were held over Spring Break. Their involvement in the planning of the “board-led” initiative placed them in a tenuous position and required them to work during time that should have been spent with their families,” Kennedy wrote.

Kennedy further accuses Grybowski and demands from the board have made his job and the job staff particularly difficult.

“I admit that my engagement with the Board has publicly been, at times, tense, but the public and private demands for increased Board oversight, along with the stripping of duties and responsibilities delegated to the Superintendent, cast doubts upon the professional reputation of all educator in CCSD, including me,” Kennedy wrote.

Last week, the board voted to delay the approval of the district’s $650+ million budget citing a need for more transparency. Board members wanted to ask more questions about the district’s various accounts among other questions they district staff have refused to answer.

Kennedy’s letter accuses of Grybowski, the chair of the Audit and Finance Committee, of refusing to meet with the finance department staff to better understand the budget. According to Kennedy, Grybowski referred to the budget as a “disaster”.

“The assertation that the school district has “nothing to show” for $300,000,000.00 is blatantly false,” Kennedy said. “The insinuation that the Board has not been provided with ample information for the Budget cycle is false, and blaming the current budget situation on my work and the work of my staff is slanderous.”

Kennedy says the environment created by Grybowski and board lead to the departure of “one of the nation’s most capable minority CFOs”. While Kennedy didn’t mention her by name, the district’s last CFO was Channa Williams who resigned in February.

Kennedy claims the former CFO would testify to the harassment received from the board.

“The budgeting process has arrived at a place that was inevitable when one considers the obvious obstruction caused by the Audit and Finance Committee Chair’s refusal to meet with the prior CFO,” Kennedy said.

“The multiple insinuations of insubordination, accusations of lying, questioning of qualifications of professional firms, publicly stated from the dais, are damaging and demeaning. Several of our partners have been appalled by the crass comments and inability to collaborate with all partners for the betterment of children. This has created a hostile work environment. . .”

Kennedy finishes his letter by rejecting the Grybowski’s suggestion that CCSD’s education is inadequately preparing student. Kennedy says the education data from the latest round of tests are embargoed to the public but show “significantly increased academic performance”, suggesting Kennedy’s approach to the district’s turnaround effort is working.

“To call into question publicly, and in your official capacity, my ability to provide oversight is hostile, troublesome, and again defamatory,” Kennedy wrote.

Grybowski has not responded to a request for comment, but he did send a letter to board members saying he does not intend to respond to Kennedy.

“I find it on the verge of insubordination for an employee to question my right to advise my constituents,” Grybowski wrote. “I will not let this stop the transparency concern we pledged to our constituents.”