(Irmo) June 28, 2005 - The following is the statement made by School Board Chair Paula Hite Monday night following the dismissal of Dr. Dennis McMahon:
"The board acted to terminate its employment agreement with Dr. McMahon under the provision of his contract that allows the board, upon affirmative vote of five members, to terminate the contract without "for cause' type grounds, but with a severance payment.
"Five members of the board have acted because we believe this district and this board needs a change in administrative leadership. No one is saying that Dr. McMahon has not served this district well over a number of years. No one person is, however, responsible for the achievements of this district. The excellent performance of our school district is based on many factors, including the outstanding quality and dedication of our teachers, thousands of caring and involved parents, bright and motivated students, and the willingness of taxpayers to devote all of the financial resources needed to support excellence in public education. The district, by all measures, has ranked at the top of school districts in South Carolina while Dr. McMahon has been our superintendent. I would point out, however, that this district ranked at the top before Dr. McMahon arrived, and should continue to prosper and be a beacon for educational excellence under Dr. McMahon's successor.
"I know that many of you want to know why the board made this decision to terminate its relationship with Dr. McMahon. It is important to realize that in any organization, including a public school system, the governing board must have confidence in the direction in which its chief administrative officer is leading the organization. Due to a number of events, that degree of confidence no longer exists between a clear majority of this board and Dr. McMahon. Unfortunately, we today have what I consider to be an unhealthy educational environment. Relationships have become bitter and contentious. The community, the board and the district staff have become polarized.
"Under the circumstances, there is no reasonable alternative but to make a change. Anyone who has followed recent developments in the district knows there are issues and concerns that go beyond the relationship between the board and the superintendent. However, in my opinion , the state of that relationship is vital to properly addressing whatever problems do exist.
"Making matters worse, a small but vocal group has orchestrated an aggressive and even vicious campaign designed to pressure this board into complying with their will. I would like to state on behalf of myself and those board members who voted to terminate the superintendent's employment that we do not intend to allow threats of reprisal or tactics of intimidation to deter us from carrying out our responsibilities as elected officials.
"This is obviously a difficult situation for all concerned, including our students, parents and community as a whole. The sole mission of this board is to provide the children of our community with a quality education. In that regard, I can assure our community and our public this board will seek the most qualified and capable person to be our new superintendent. This is a very attractive and appealing school district, and we firmly believe that many highly qualified administrative leaders will be interested in the position.
"In the meantime, we will make certain we have capable, competent leadership on an interim basis.
"While we realize that our decision will be controversial, we believe this action was needed to restore a spirit of teamwork, confidence, accountability and cooperation. We would like to express our hope that the parents, teachers and district staff and other citizens will reach out to each other in trust and friendship, allow old wounds to heal, and unite in the cause of creating an even greater school system in the future. Our children deserve the best.