Despite public outcry, School Board sticks with status quo on principal hiring

Despite public outcry, School Board sticks with status quo on principal hiring
June 12 19:45 2017 Print This Article

The Charleston County School Board Policy and Personnel Committee, which includes all nine board members, rejected two measures to change principal hiring policies. One measure called for a 3-5 year contract for principals. The other sought to restore the hiring authority of principals to the school board with public input. The board ceded that authority to the Superintendent in 2015.

On the multi-year contract issue, board member Chris Collins stated that schools need to have stability of leadership to get community buy-in. He cited the revolving door of principals at North Charleston High School, Northwoods Middle School (formerly Alice Birney), and Burns Elementary as examples of instability leading to declining student performance, parental involvement, and teacher turnover. Board chair Kate Darby, who participated in the meeting by telephone, cited her preference for annual contracts. Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait was hired to a multi-year contract with Darby’s approval.

Board member Kevin Hollinshead discussed the state law which requires elected school board members to hire principals and approve principal transfers. A recent move by Postlewait resulted in 13 principals being put on “pending” contracts. It lead to two large protests at school board meetings in May involving parents, students, and teachers. Collins said, “We are showing all the people who called, e-mailed, and showed up at protests that we don’t care about them.” Collins’ proposal called for the Superintendent to submit the top 3 candidates for open positions for principal to be submitted to the board,  and for the board to receive public input in hiring decisions.

Darby commented by phone, “It’s not fair to say we’re not listening to the people.” She said board members shouldn’t be held responsible for the performance of principals.”  Postlewait, who has compared principals to bank branch managers, justified the recent principal transfers, stating, “Sometimes we need to share talent from one site to another.”