Berkeley rehires retired assistant superintendent to temporarily lead district

Mike Turner

The Berkeley County School District is bringing back a former assistant superintendent to lead the district until a permanent replacement can be found.

Mike Turner, who retired from the district as assistant superintendent in 2008, will serve as interim superintendent, possibly until fall.

The board voted to hire Turner as of June 8 and pay him $13,500 per month, plus a monthly vehicle allowance of $850 and a cellphone allowance of $150.

“I’m humbled by the confidence (the board has) shown in me,” Turner said.

Deputy Superintendent Archie Franchini had been serving as interim superintendent since April 14, the day Superintendent Rodney Thompson was indicted by the state grand jury on a misdemeanor ethics charge involving public corruption. Since then, Thompson has been on paid leave from his $168,714-a-year job.

The charge stemmed from 2012’s Yes 4 Schools campaign to build and renovate schools.

District Communications Director Amy Kovach also was indicted on two charges in connection with the campaign, and district lawyers have said Franchini is also under investigation.

Board Chairman Jim Hayes said Tuesday that the probe had nothing to do with the board’s move to hire Turner. Franchini has been pulling double duty as superintendent and deputy superintendent and “has not had time to sleep,” Turner said.

“We had feelers out and Dr. Turner popped up and said he was interested,” Hayes said after the meeting. “And of course we know him and know what he’s capable of doing.”

Turner twice served as Berkeley’s assistant superintendent, when he joined the district in 1998 until 2003 and from 2006 to 2008.

He left in between to return to the classroom.

Turner has also worked in Richland School District 1, Lexington School District 1 and the state Department of Education.

Board member Phillip Obie abstained from the unanimous vote to hire Turner.

“I think Dr. Turner will do a great job, I just wasn’t happy with the process,” he said after the meeting. He said he did not believe the board considered all possible candidates.

Thompson, who acknowledged in October 2013 that he was part of the investigation, asked in September to be released from his contract effective July 31, nearly two years before the contract was set to end.

The district started a search for his replacement in November and narrowed the field to three finalists earlier this month before reopening the search after one of the finalists withdrew his name.

Headhunting firm BWP Associates, which is working with the district, has said the search could last into the fall.

That search is ongoing, Hayes said Tuesday. The job will be re-advertised soon.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.