Berkeley board gives superintendent ‘excellent’ rating


Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Rodney Thompson received a 4 percent pay raise and one-year extension on his contract after a public job evaluation Tuesday.

From individual board members, Thompson received seven ratings of “excellent.” Board member Phillip Obie rated him “satisfactory pending the outcome of the investigation,” and board member Scott Marino rated him “unsatisfactory.”

The district is the target of a State Law Enforcement Division investigation into charges of ethics violations and misuse of office in connection with November’s school improvement referendum, but board member Kent Murray, elected chairman earlier in the evening, reminded everyone that the district has been asked not to discuss the investigation.

Most of the board members praised Thompson’s leadership skills, his willingness to involve teachers and other staff members, and the fiscal condition of the district.

Marino is the brother-in-law of Josh Whitley, the lawyer who made the complaints that the district used taxpayer time and money to work on the referendum campaign.

“(Thompson) refuses to even meet with me,” Marino said. “(He) has allowed our district to be humiliated in the press ... and by not following extremely simple ethics and campaign laws, the superintendent has cost the district a large amount of money.”

After the individual evaluations, the board voted 7-2 to approve member Doug Cooper’s motion to give Thompson the “excellent” rating, a salary increase to $163,800, and contract extension to June 30, 2016. Marino and member Sheldon Etheridge cast the dissenting votes.

Before the meeting, which drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 200 people, members of the Education Foundation distributed stickers that said, “I support BCSD.”

During the public comments, eight people addressed the board, with three speaking in support of the investigation.

The others, which included Anita Zucker of the Education Foundation, Trident United Way President Chris Kerrigan and Yes 4 Schools volunteer chairman Jane Pulling, expressed support for Thompson and the district. Zucker presented a letter of support she said was signed by representatives from Charleston Southern University, The Citadel, SPAWAR, Boeing and several others.

After the evaluation, Thompson said he appreciated the kind words and took the suggestions for improvement to heart.

“We will continue to move forward to make this district the best we possibly can,” he said. “Any success the school district has had is because of the employees.”

When he became superintendent on Feb. 14, 2011, he said he didn’t know what it would be like to work for a board.

“I will say that all nine board members, when we put the children first, we can work through any issues that we have,” he said.

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