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NAACP, Civil Rights Groups Vow To Fight School Board Superintendent Decision
7/8/2015 2:12:06 PM

(from left) Charleston Branch NAACP Vice President Joe Darby and NAN Vice President Rev. Nelson Rivers stand with community leaders at press conference in front CCSD headquarters at 75 Calhoun street May 19, 2015. Photo: Joel Woodhall

Gerrita Poselwait
By Barney Blakeney

Criticism of Charleston County School Board for naming Gerrita Postelwait the county’s new schools superintendent has drawn a lot of criticism, but beyond criticizing the decision, there’s not much those in opposition to the choice can do.

The process of naming a new schools superintendent has been criticized almost from the beginning. In a statement released early June Charleston NAACP officials said, “The Charleston Branch NAACP deplores the arbitrary, secretive and flawed search process that has led to the naming of three finalists for the position of superintendent.”

The board June 4 named Dr. Terri Breeden, Dr. Lisa Herring and Dr. Gerrita Postelwait as finalists for the position. They were chosen from among some 32 candidates. But critics of the process said Postelwait was a majority of the board’s choice from the beginning and the search was a camouflage to give the appearance of propriety.

In May board member Michael Miller revealed that seven of the board’s nine members met with Postelwait, a former Horry County schools Superintendent, before the formal process began. Postelwait was recommended by the S.C. School Board Association. CCSD contracted the association to assist with the national search. The meetings were co-ordinated by Columbia attorney Ken Childs, a principle in the company employed by the school board association. Those meetings compromised the process, Miller said.

After Miller’s revelation was publicized a group of local clergymen offered their input and support. The clergymen commended Miller for his courage and integrity, but went further. They also filed a complaint with the state’s attorney general’s office asking for an investigation into charges the members may have violated state open meeting laws.
“If they did not violate the law, certainly they trampled upon the spirit of the law,” the group contended.

And three weeks ago when the board held pre-planned interviews with the finalists in the wake of the July 17 racially motivated massacre of nine Black worshippers by a white gunman at Emanuel AME Church just a block from the CCSD headquarters, that criticism escalated. But July 2 the Board followed through with it’s decision to name a superintendent. Board Chair Cindy Coats has been targeted for responsibility in the decision.

National Action Network Vice President for Operations and Religious Affairs Rev. Nelson B. Rivers said opposition to the board’s decision will continue and take different forms over the next few months. But in the mean time, the decision stands.

Complaints against the school board must continue to escalate, Rivers said, but he thinks any action in opposition to the board has to include federal litigation. Any action taken also should include voting. Five board members are up for re-election in 2016.

Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott said while the community may be unable to force the board to rescind its decision, maintaining pressure on its members can be productive.

“We’re going to have to fight to fix this. Our mistake was electing the wrong people. We don’t want to make promises we can’t keep, but we have to continue to looking for alternatives. We have to use whatever we can. Whatever we can do, that’s what we’ll do.”

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