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McGinley Resignation About Race, White Folks Having Their Way
11/5/2014 3:19:23 PM

Rev. Nelson Rivers, III (middle) addresses media at press conference at 75 Calhoun Street in suppport of Dr. Nancy McGinley Friday along with Rep. Seth Whipper (left), Charleston Branch NAACP President Dot Scott (far right) and North Charleston Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance Chairman Rev. Robert Kennedy (on right of Rivers) and supporters. Photo: Tolbert Smalls, Jr.
By Barney Blakeney

Charleston County School District Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley resigned the position she’s held the past seven years Oct. 30. Her resignation came after a contentious struggle to address what many in the Black community considered racist activities at predominantly white Academic Magnet High School. In her attempt, McGinley angered parents at the elite school, her forced resignation was the outcome.

CCSD Consolidated School Board’s emergency meeting Oct. 30 was disrupted by chaotic outbreaks from Blacks in the audience who had attended the meeting to show support for McGinley. For days prior to the meeting McGinley had been embattled with board members and AMHS parents.

Ten days earlier McGinley fired AMHS football coach Paul Walpole for allowing his team to conduct post football game rituals many felt were racist or racially insensitive. The boys smashed watermelons named after their school’s campus founders - J.R. Bonds and John T. Wilson - who were Black.

Many in the Black community felt the watermelons decorated with Sambo-like caricatures and the sounds the boys chanted during their rituals defiled the cultural history of the Black high school formerly located at the site AMHS now calls its home.

McGinley fired Walpole after receiving and investigating complaints about the rituals. His reinstatement three days later ignited fumes of dissatisfaction among the Black community, but more importantly, among board members which led to her forced resignation.

According to one source, several board members long were dissatisfied with McGinley’s performance. Like most of her predecessors (with seven years on the job McGinley was CCSD’s longest serving superintendent) she had a contentious relationship with the nine-member board. However, she always managed to keep at least five members in her favor.

Sources say that sway shifted when McGinley went afoul of parents at AMHS. Although McGinley routinely was criticized by Black parents in the district for initiatives many felt disenfranchised Black students, “She crossed the wrong group of parents at AMHS,” the source said.

The Charleston Branch NAACP, the local National Action Network, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and members of Bonds-Wilson High School Alumni Association held a press conference prior to the board’s announcement of McGinley’s resignation.

In calling for the press conference the group said, “We’ll take a stand in defense of Dr. McGinley and her action in the AMHS football team controversy. We need to make it clear that we’re just as determined to do the right thing as the supporters of Academic Magnet who have been aggressive and mean-spirited in pushing to have their way.”

During the press conference the group said, “We stand to honor, respect and defend the rich legacy of Bonds-Wilson school and the impeccable leadership of the men for whom the school was named. To have their names and legacy denigrated by such thoughtless behavior is offensive to Bonds-Wilson alumni everywhere.”

Responding to what then were only rumors of McGinley’s termination they group said, “We also gather in support of Supt. McGinley. While not always agreeing with everything she has done, we believe she has brought positive change to CCSD. Firing Dr. McGinley will send a message to our community Charleston County School Board condones disrespect within this school system.”

After the announcement of McGinley’s resignation (she receives full pay and benefits through March 2016) NAACP President Dot Scott said they could see McGinley’s forced resignation coming. Some board members had personal vendettas against McGinley while others supported Walpole and AMHS. McGinley’s resignation was about her position on the racially charged issue, Scott insists.

Outgoing CCSD board member Craig Ascue defended the board’s actions saying though the AMHS issue must be taken seriously, McGinley’s unilateral decisions amounted to insubordination. The board required her to investigate the complaint and come back with a report. She instead fired Walpole aggravating deep-rooted sensitivities about race and race relations in the community, he said.

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