On Monday June 26, the Charleston County School Board will consider a proposal that amends how the district and superintendent hire and transfer principals. The proposal, drafted by the Rev. Chris Collins, calls for the best possible matching of known strengths to identified current needs of a particular school and that the superintendent shall give careful consideration to the possible impact on the community, parents, school staff and student enrollment.
While the Quality Education project feels that this is a good start and that this proposal should be adopted, we also feel that more action must be taken to reduce the unilateral decision making power of the superintendent in regard to hiring and transferring principals in the district.
The Consolidation Act of 1967 transferred the power to hire and transfer principals to the constituent boards. Then, revisions in 1978 transferred this power to the countywide consolidated board. When the board made policy revisions in November 2016 to delegate hiring and transfer power to the superintendent, the district by some interpretations acted outside of the law. If this policy is to stand, the public deserves to know the part of the law that allows the board and superintendent to change policy without amending the law. Serious legal questions have been raised about this move. One board member through private correspondence suggested that the law allows the board to delegate authority to the superintendent without justification.
Also, the proposal that will be debated on Monday does not challenge the unilateral decision making of the superintendent in regards to hiring and transferring principals. One draft stated that “sufficient cause for removal shall first be established before the Board of Trustees” by the superintendent.
Based on the public outcry these past couple of months, it is apparent that there is a demand for the board to at least approve the superintendent’s decisions before she goes through with them. The board should not become intimately involved with the interview or transfer process, as this is beyond the scope of their responsibility.
However, the board must at least approve of what the superintendent does before they execute the decision, and the public should be provided detailed rationale. This transparency will help prevent the poor decision making this spring in regard to the resignation of Jake Rambo and the transfer of William Lee Runyon.
Finally, the Quality Education Project has noted that the demonstrations and protests in regard to the hiring and transfer of principals have been largely white. Teachers must be aware that these decisions impact all of the community not only the schools they attend. Issues such as this have surfaced at Burke and North Charleston high schools in the past and few teachers rallied to the call for support.
As recently noted at the Charleston branch of the NAACP meeting, black principals are being transferred and removed at alarming rates, yet this has not generated the same concerns among white teachers and parents. If teachers are to organize, teachers across all schools must act as a united front.
The board has the choice to move in the right direction by adopting the proposal that will be discussed Monday. The Quality Education Project encourages all stakeholders to voice their concerns and to support the efforts to increase transparency across the district.
Jon Hale and Kendall Deas are co-directors of Charleston’s Quality Education Project.