MONCKS CORNER - The Berkeley County School Board voted Tuesday to have a hearing to determine whether Communications Director Amy Kovach was acting in good faith during 2012's Yes 4 Schools campaign and whether the district should continue to provide her with legal representation.
Kovach was indicted on Feb. 11 on one count of "Violation of Ethics Act: Use of Public Funds to Influence the Outcome of an Election," a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or one year in prison. She is currently on paid leave from the district.
As of October, the district had reimbursed Kovach $15,000 for a retainer for lawyer Jerry Theos to represent her in the investigation. District lawyers Childs & Halligan have also provided the district with advice during the investigation.
After an executive session, the board voted unanimously to ask former Circuit Judge Victor Rawl to conduct the hearing as soon as possible. Board chairman Kent Murray and member Sheldon Etheridge were absent.
Vice chairman Shannon Lee read a statement, that said, in part, "We take this charge very seriously and we will continue to cooperate fully with any and all government agencies investigating the activities of the district and its employees."
She went on to say that the district has an obligation to provide legal representation for employees acting in good faith and that the board met to discuss whether the district "has a continuing statutory obligation to provide legal representation to Ms. Kovach."
After the meeting, Lee and lawyer John Reagle of Childs & Halligan declined further comment, saying it is a personnel issue.
During the public comments portion earlier in the meeting, Hanahan High Principal Ric Raycroft and 2013 District Teacher of the Year Michael Petry both addressed Kovach's absence. Earlier in the night, the board recognized the school-level Teachers of the Year.
"Tonight there is a noticeable absence," said Raycroft, who was representing the Berkeley County Administrators and Supervisors Association. "There is an outstanding, talented, hardworking unselfish woman who should be standing here with us tonight to help celebrate and she's not. ... (Kovach) serves with great character. She serves with great integrity. She serves with great passion... She wants what's best for the schools of Berkeley County. She wants what's best for the children of Berkeley County. The personal attacks on (Kovach) are not good and they are not right. ... Amy Kovach has been unfairly targeted by people... It's time to bring her back to work."
Petry then said, "Some actions by our community over the past year have shifted the focus away from what this district does so well, educating the leaders of the future. ... My biggest concern is if we don't eliminate these distractions and eliminate them quickly, that the only thing our young people are going to learn from all these endeavors is that they really don't want to grow up to be just like us."
Terry Hardesty, a former board member who recently settled a lawsuit against the district over his not being allowed to address the investigation during public comments at board meetings, said, "I appreciate and applaud the loyalty of the people working for the district, however they are largely uninformed about what's going on and that's a shame.
"What we have going on right now is the Attorney General investigating certain individuals in the district," he said. "I agree that education is very important, but citizenship is also very important. We are a nation of laws and if we can't follow the law, then nothing matters."
Also at the meeting, Superintendent Rodney Thompson painted a rosy picture of the district's accomplishments over the last year during his annual Report to the Community.
"Our report tonight will focus on the important story in our district, the transformation of education in Berkeley County," Thompson said.
He detailed the district's efforts to create positive school climates, increase student performance, engage the community, manage human resources, be fiscally responsible and communicate effectively.
The district's on-time graduation rate jumped from 74.4 percent in 2012 to 77.3 percent last year; the pass rate for End-of-Course exams increased from 73.2 percent to 79 percent in the last year; and 86.2 percent of third graders met or exceeded expectations in PASS testing, up 1 percent from 2012.
Thompson said he is proud of those accomplishments and looking forward to the future.
"I will approach tomorrow just as I did today, giving 110 percent for our administrators, teachers and students, while encouraging our district and support staff and stakeholders to do the same," Thompson said. "Our journey has been a learning experience for all involved. Now it is time to move on. Our students are depending on us. I look forward to working with the board for the next several years as we revise our goals and priorities."
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.