The Charleston County School Board has reached a new low by making a hugely controversial appointment at the worst possible time. The board’s lack of sensitivity and failure of leadership have broken the public trust. It is time for a change in the board’s leadership and we call upon the chairperson, Cindy Bohn Coats, to resign now.
It is striking that while so many of our public officials and community leaders have come together — mayors, clergy, police chiefs, county council representatives, activists — only the school board has chosen to act in divisive ways.
The school board has continued with a tainted search process for superintendent where early favoritism was shown to one candidate; it has ignored community calls for a suspension or restart of the process; it has failed to be public and transparent in its decision making; it has steamed ahead with little sensitivity by scheduling meetings that thousands of Charlestonians could not attend because they were grieving and attending funerals for our sisters and brothers who died in the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church.
And it has done so while under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education. The board’s response to that investigation so far has been to release the only diversity consultant they had, form a diversity task force that should have been in place long ago, and simply carry on with business as usual.
Now we are offered a superintendent whose candidacy is tainted by a corrupt process and whose tenure will begin, if it does begin, under a deep cloud of suspicion and in a climate of community anger and distrust. We would be remiss if we did not mention the particular insensitivity shown to the African-American community.
From the dwindling percentages of black students in our magnet schools to carrying on as normal while the community grieves, our African-American sisters and brothers have been consistently disrespected by our school board and by the chairperson who sets the tone.
Greater Charleston is better than this. Our schools are better than this. And our school board should be better than this. It is time for a change in leadership that will match the exemplary leadership we have seen from so many others.
Rev. Jeremy Rutledge
Circular Congregational Church
This letter was also signed by the Rev. M. Dow Sanderson, Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion; Marjory Wentworth, S. C. poet laureate; and the Rev. Danny Reed, Unitarian Church in Charleston.