Civil rights activists continue calls for a new superintendent search

The Rev. Nelson Rivers III and other local clergy and civil rights activists have been calling for a new superintendent search for the last month after school board member Michael Miller revealed some board members met with a candidate before the formal search began. Paul Zoeller/Staff

Calls for the Charleston County School Board to start over its search for the next schools chief continued Monday, with local civil rights activists again questioning the board’s intentions.

A group of around seven clergy, citizens and parents raised concerns about the search for the next superintendent during a school board meeting after making similar demands last week.

The Rev. John Paul Brown complained that the board’s “rush to the hiring of a superintendent ... is not serving to bring about the best candidate by way of transparency and public input besides allegations of secret meetings.”

The board has been under fire for its handling of the search since last month after board member Michael Miller called for a new search after revealing several board members met with former Horry County Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait prior to the board beginning its formal superintendent search in March. Postlewait was named one of three finalists for the job last week.

The other two finalists are Lisa Herring, Charleston County deputy superintendent of Academics, and Terri Breeden, assistant superintendent of the department of instruction for Loudoun County Public Schools in Ashburn, Va.

The board is filling the Charleston County School District’s top spot after the abrupt resignation of former Superintendent Nancy McGinley last year over her handling of a post-game celebration by Academic Magnet High School’s football team.

The Rev. Clifford Brown questioned why the board seems to be favoring Postlewait since she hasn’t been working in public education for nearly a decade. Postlewait served as superintendent of Horry County schools from 1996 to 2006. Most recently she worked as assistant vice president of Iowa-based testing company ACT.

He noted that Herring has up-to-date credentials and is already in the community.

“We have a young lady who has a vested interest in our community,” Clifford Brown said. “We know her.”

Many of the activists questioned whether Postlewait may already be the favored candidate.

“When the time comes I want you to look us in the eye and explain how you could go from meeting secretly one month and having the person be a finalist and then become superintendent ... and that we should accept that from you,” the Rev. Nelson Rivers III told the board.

The Rev. Charles Heyward urged the board to launch a new year-long, national search for a superintendent, saying the current process “can never lead to a healthy school district after it comes to a conclusion.”

School board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats declined to comment regarding the continued calls for a new search. She said day-long interviews, including public receptions, for the three finalists will be held June 22 through June 24. Interview schedules for each finalist will be released later this week.

Miller said he’s not surprised by the negative reaction by some in the community over what he feels has been a flawed search process. “I think people are digesting it and it doesn’t taste good,” he said.

Miller said he thinks the search at this point will continue until a superintendent is named, although he said he didn’t know who of the three is likely to be selected. In a perfect world, Miller said he would still prefer to start the process over.

“I hope that the process works itself out,” he said. “But I don’t have faith that it will.”