Complaint blames Charleston Co. superintendent for alleged ‘hostile work environment’

Information from a source close to the investigation of the Charleston County School District’s new superintendent provides new details on the complaints again
Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 6:33 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2023 at 2:04 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Information from a source close to the investigation of the Charleston County School District’s new superintendent provides new details on the complaints against him.

The school board was divided on the decision to place Dr. Eric Gallien on paid leave during Sept. 25′s school board meeting, but board members agreed on the decision to open an investigation into Gallien’s conduct following the complaint.

The complaint came from an associate superintendent who alleged Gallien has created a hostile work environment and violated several policies, including two regarding employee conduct since his contract began on July 1.

The employee said the incidents “left me marginalized, disrespected and unsupported.”

The complaint alleges the employee received notification their duties would be changing, including moving several departments out from under her purview, including literacy and teacher evaluations.

In a meeting with the Interim Chief Academic Officer Michelle Simmons, the employee alleged she was talked down to, describing Simmons as “loud,” “condescending” and acting on the superintendent’s orders. In a meeting on Sept. 11 with Gallien and several other district leaders, the employee said they felt intimidated by the way Gallien questioned them.

“I was shocked that you asked me for a plan for literacy (with no notice) and then questioned whether I could support EL during the transition year,” the employee wrote.

EL Education, formerly known as Expeditionary Learning, is the controversial reading curriculum that was approved by the last school board and fought against by a majority of the current board. EL Education is an initiative that seeks to build mastery of knowledge and skills, character and high-quality work, according to the K-12 nonprofit EL Education. The group has partnered with school districts across the country and serves approximately 440,000 students nationwide.

“When I asked you for clarity around what I understood to be board flexibility for use of other materials, I was told that EL should continue to be the core curriculum,” the employee wrote.

The employee then accused Simmons of taking credit for the literacy gains made by students on the latest round of SC Ready tests and for not acknowledging the employee’s role as a leader of literacy initiatives during the last school year.

Finally, the employee said the superintendent has allowed “ongoing harassment of me via social media” by a local pastor without a response. That harassment includes calls to their personal cellphone and to their family, the complaint states. The employee went on to say the harassment prompted additional security measures including the use of police at their home.

“I have yet to hear from you on this,” the employee wrote. “I believe your intimidating, unprofessional treatment is misaligned with ethical and moral expectations of your role as Superintendent and ask that you take immediate measures to rectify this to prevent further harm.”

The complaint was sent to all school board members and Gallien on Sept. 21. Gallien was placed on leave at the next school board meeting four days later.

RELATED: Charleston Co. School Board members call for change, reversals of recent actions

During that same meeting Simmons, who currently serves in an interim position, was denied the full position of chief academic officer.

Gallien is on leave until the investigation concludes. He released a statement last week saying he believes the process will make the district stronger.

School Board member Darlene Dunmeyer-Roberson said in a press conference on Monday that the investigation is being conducted by Alan Holmes with the Gibbs and Holmes Law firm. There is no estimate for when it may be concluded.