COLUMBIA — Richland School District Two Superintendent Baron Davis saw the finishing touches put on his contract one week after trustees walked out of a meeting because of what they said was a last-minute push to approve the document — but tensions still remained high.
Over the course of a fiery 30-minute meeting on Sept. 22, trustees approved a 4 percent pay bump for Davis beginning July 1, coinciding with a one-year extension to keep him under contract through 2025, with a clause giving him 18 months of severance pay should both sides part ways.
District leaders said Davis’ contract was not immediately available as attorneys give it a final review, but trustees gave him a "distinguished" overall rating and praised the job he's done, including boosting its bond rating and increasing student participation in career and technology education programs.
But the vote Sept. 22 came after heated exchanges between Richland Two board members.
Officials hoped to close out Davis’ contract and evaluation on Sept. 14, but trustees Lindsay Agostini, LaShonda McFadden and Monica Scott left in protest, claiming they were not given enough time or adequate responses to questions they had about the deal.
All three walked out within 30 minutes of the meeting’s start, leaving the board without a quorum and unable to act on student transfer requests into the district, approval of a sixth grade Spanish language and culture program, and hiring of several teachers.
Board Chairwoman Teresa Holmes said Sept. 22 she’d call another meeting for Sept. 24 to deal with those outstanding issues.
“All of the sudden tonight, because the cameras are rolling, everybody is miraculously concerned, but they were not concerned when it was time to pull the lever,” she said. “When there is a board meeting called, you come and do your responsibility. You don't do your dereliction of duty and walk out of a meeting.”
Scott, who was first to walk out on Sept. 14, lashed out after trustee Jim Manning suggested the move was pre-meditated.
“I walked out on my own, and if I need to do that again, I will,” she said. “No position, no matter how much money you have or your presence moves me What moves me is my conscience, because I have to sleep at night, and I have to sleep well.”
Holmes did not immediately give a time and location for the Sept. 24 meeting, but a district email the next day said it would take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Richland Two Institute of Innovation.