Tweet target's Mom, Lisa Herring, soon could be No. 1 academic leader for Charleston County schools

The high-ranking Charleston County school leader whose daughter was the target of a tweet using the “n word” likely will receive a promotion and raise.

The county school board unanimously approved Monday night a reorganization of the district's top positions. The change elevates three positions to chief level, which will increase their duties and pay.

Superintendent Nancy McGinley will bring her picks for any of these jobs back to the board for approval.

Lisa Herring, whose daughter was involved in the controversy, is the district's associate superintendent for academic and instructional support. Her position will be elevated to chief academic officer and receive a roughly $20,000 salary hike. Herring makes $124,204.

McGinley said she plans to open that position to internal candidates only and Herring would be a top contender.

That position is significant because it was the job McGinley held before she became superintendent in 2007. The chief positions report directly to McGinley.

The board also signed off on creating a new chief information officer. The executive director of technology position would be elevated to that job. John McCarron holds that post. He makes $105,427, and the new position would pay about $30,000 more annually.

The final new slot will be a chief performance officer. The district's executive director of achievement and accountability will be elevated to that job. That position is now vacant, and McGinley said she would advertise nationally for it.

Board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats said the pay hikes were being made possible through cuts in other areas, and it wouldn't cost the district more money.

“We're going to hold (McGinley) accountable for it making a difference in the (district's) performance,” she said.

The black School of the Arts junior who was the target of a white senior's tweet containing the “n word” said Monday she hates going to school and has thought about “giving up” since the incident.

Sixteen-year-old Imani Herring spoke to the Charleston County School Board for about two minutes during the public comment portion of its meeting. She said she was a victim of both cyberbullying and the media, which have portrayed her negatively and only reported one side of the story.

“Some say I have a voice,” Herring, a vocal major, told the board. “Last week, I lost it.”

Herring was mentioned by name in a tweet senior Ashley Patrick made from home in February. Patrick wrote: “If Imani makes one more got damn remark in Roger's class tomorrow ... (expletive) will drop.” Patrick posted a link to a picture of a young white girl squeezing her eyes shut and crossing her fingers. The text on the photo read “I wish a nigga would.”

Patrick made headlines last week because the district administration wanted to kick her out of the school, send her to an alternative program, and ban her from graduation and prom.

A quorum of the school board told Patrick last week that she could stay at School of the Arts but couldn't attend the prom or graduation. That changed over the weekend, and Patrick went to the prom and will be able to walk at graduation. She was suspended for five days, will have to do 20 hours of community service, and must write a 500-word essay on race and social media.

Patrick and her attorney argued the district administration wanted a harsher penalty for Patrick because of Herring's mother, Lisa Herring, one of the highest-ranking officials in the district. She oversees the district's behavior and discipline programs.

The Post and Courier asked to speak with Lisa Herring about this situation on May 3, but she declined to comment. She also said she would not allow her daughter to be interviewed.

After Imani Herring spoke to the board Monday, Lisa Herring stood in front of her daughter and refused to let her speak with a Post and Courier reporter. Instead, she said, Imani would do an interview with a television reporter. Herring then escorted her daughter and that reporter into a secure district area.

Imani Herring told the board that Patrick's tweet was a response to something she said in class with the teacher's permission, but Patrick didn't like it. Imani Herring said the tweet hurt, insulted and threatened her, and that adults had forgotten about her.

She said she's launching a campaign on cyberbullying and raising awareness about its negative effects.

Board Vice Chairman Craig Ascue decided on Saturday afternoon after talking to other board members that Patrick would be allowed to go to the prom and graduation. The board's ruling didn't specifically prohibit her from either and misinterpreted the intentions of the North Charleston Constituent School Board's disciplinary decision, Ascue said.

“We didn't say we would take those away,” he said.

Patrick did not return a text message or phone call seeking comment. Someone took a photo on Saturday of Patrick wearing a red prom dress and using both hands to flip off the camera. The photo was posted on the social media site Instagram with the caption “AGP WON!!!!”

Her attorney, Dwayne Green, said he didn't see the photo as anything more than Patrick blowing off steam, and it's not clear who the gesture was directed toward.

“It's another example of the potential dangers of social media, but I don't know how anyone can control what their friends post or how they label photos,” he said.

Green praised the county board for allowing her to go to prom and graduation.

“I'm thankful to the board for stepping in so the end of her senior year isn't completely ruined,” he said. “Once prom and graduation are gone, you can't get those back.”

Still, Ascue's decision isn't sitting well with some.

“This is just a big mess,” said board member Michael Miller. “I'm not understanding the process. I never changed my decision.”

It doesn't appear as if Ascue broke the state's Freedom of Information Act and he was simply clarifying the board's positions, said Jay Bender, attorney for the S.C. Press Association.