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Herring Advised To Take The Money And Run
9/16/2015 4:27:56 PM

Lisa Herring
By Barney Blakeney

Charleston County School District executive Dr. Lisa Herring last week accepted a deal that will get her from between a rock and hard place into a very soft spot. She has agreed to a new contract that offers her a guaranteed salary even as she explores other options for employment.

 It’s a position many would admire, but it didn’t come easy or without some sacrifice. Herring came to CCSD in 2009 as an education administrator and soon was named the district’s chief academic officer. Although sitting at the top of the district’s organizational structure, Herring was subordinate to superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley, who often has been described as a consolidator of power. Herring and Chief Financial Officer Michael Bobby formed the supporting legs of McGinley’s power base.

Herring already had begun looking for another job when last year McGinley suddenly ran afoul of the board of trustees which she previously had manipulated into two contract extensions. The board chose an unconventional and unprecedented approach to filling the void left by McGinley’s sudden departure. Instead of naming the chief academic officer interim superintendent, it split the superintendent's responsibilities between Herring who is Black and Bobby who is white.

Critics said school board members made the decision to deny the Black woman the role as superintendent. The search for a new superintendent offered little opposition to the conspiracy theory. A white female, Dr. Gerrita Postlewait, emerged as the leading candidate for the post though both Herring and Bobby had applied for the job. And when Bobby backed out of the race, it seemed logical Herring would win the position. She didn’t.

Postlewait got the job in a contentious process that again subordinated Herring in a seemingly dead-end position. Adding insult to injury Herring’s former position as chief academic officer was eliminated. Herring had a job with no title or clear responsibilities. What did seem clear was the Herring was on her way out. But not without a fight.

She hired an attorney. The same attorney who negotiated the separation deal for McGinley. Herring’s new contract, slated to endure only a year, guarantees her salary, with perks, through the 2016 school year. School officials were unwilling to go on record with comments, but offered some insights.

Herring probably is the most talented administrator in the district, said one. CCSD’s school board is screwing up by letting her get away. Herring will get paid, but her’s is far from a sweet deal. A sweet deal would have been hiring Herring as superintendent, the official said. Now Herring’s trading one year of job security for the three years Postlewait got in her contract with the district.

“It’s a waiting game, but she’s gone,” the official said. “The real issue is what is the next step for the district? Herring’s been with the district over five years. She knows the people and the data. Who’s going to take her spot after we lose her talent?”

Another official said he expects Herring will leave the district some time within the next few months. Her talent is a prized commodity among school districts across the nation. More importantly, the official said Herring’s departure likely will herald an exodus of other top administrators as Postlewait builds a team with which she’s more comfortable.

Only county school board member Rev. Eric Mack went on record with comments. He said Herring played an intricate role in moving the district forward and doesn’t see her departure as a win for either side. He too says district officials should begin the process to find Herring’s replacement.

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