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Now-former LR5 School Board member calls out board over superintendent resignation

Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 7:30 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 11:30 PM EDT
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IRMO, S.C. (WIS) - A former Lexington Richland School District 5 board member expressed frustration with his former colleagues over their handling of the district’s superintendent.

PREVIOUS STORY | Lexington-Richland School District 5 superintendent announces resignation

Ed White resigned from the board on Monday over Superintendent Dr. Christina Melton’s resignation at the same meeting. Melton is the reigning superintendent of the year.

He released this statement on Tuesday:

“Last night I resigned from the School Board of School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties. I felt that it was the only action that I could take to express the serious nature of my objection to the way our Board has decided to conduct the public’s business. My fellow Board members signed a secret settlement agreement with Dr. Melton to terminate the Superintendent’s Contract without a public vote. They wanted to present the false façade that she had resigned and keep it from the public until after the school year adjourned, ostensibly to avoid the criticism they would receive for their actions. I refused to sign the agreement.

The truth is that Mr. Loveless, Ms. Gardner, and Ms. Huddle forced Dr. Melton to resign. I witnessed the hostile and abusive work environment these three created for her that would make it impossible for any Superintendent to succeed. Then they demanded that Mrs. Melton, the Superintendent of the Year, resign. There was no basis for terminating her employment. I felt that this was wrong, unfair, and not in the best interests of our District, community, teachers, and students.

This action should have been voted on in public rather than misleading the public about her departure. Ending the employment of the one person that the Board has the authority to hire and fire should take place with a public vote that lets the public know what is happening. When we hire a superintendent, we do it in public, but these board members wanted to get rid of the State Superintendent of the Year in secret.

Transparency means conducting the public’s business in public – all the time – not when it suits. It means not trying to cover up actions to create a narrative or advance a private agenda. As elected officials, we owe that obligation. I have worked for years on this Board for the public. Unfortunately, I do not believe that I can solve this problem serving on this Board and don’t want to preside over the damage to School District Five that this Board is creating.”

WIS reached out to every school board member for comment. Only Chair Jan Hammond agreed to answer questions, but only in writing. She did not give insight on the circumstances leading up to Melton’s resignation but did state no votes were taken in executive session and stated no non-disclosure agreement was signed.

Teachers with LR5 also expressed their frustration, sending WIS statements. Irmo High School teacher Drew Walker sent the following statement:

“We are heartbroken at the loss of Dr. Melton as our superintendent. She has constantly inspired the best out of everyone in this district and there is no replacement for her leadership. That void won’t ever be filled. It is even more disheartening that this clearly occurred due to our school boards inability to look beyond their own personal politics. This is crippling for a district that used to be able to claim to be among the best in the state and I think the impact of this move will be felt for years to come.”

Meanwhile, another concerned Lexington Richland Five School District employee sent this statement. WIS agreed to protect the person’s identity over concerns of retaliation:

“I have been concerned with the unconscionable actions of the District Five of Lexington-Richland Counties School Board since many new members joined the Board last November. Most trustees have been challenging and undermining Dr. Melton’s decisions ever since. Throughout the year the trustees pushed back against recommendations of the district office staff and Dr. Melton, making it clear that they serve at the will of a small percentage of vocal parents rather than what is in the best interest of all stakeholders. Unfortunately, the decisions made do not reflect the needs of the larger Lexington-Richland 5 community. Instead, they have chosen to represent members of the community who value their individual “rights” over the community’s best interests. Their latest stunt to pressure Dr. Melton into resigning demonstrates the limitless damages caused by the dictatorship of this new regime. By perverting their position of service into one of authoritarianism, the trustees have cost our district stability and strength at a challenging time. How can they expect to attract a highly qualified superintendent to come to a district where the Board continuously oversteps? Furthermore, there are now more teaching vacancies in Lex-Rich 5 than any other school district in the state. Gifted, qualified, and passionate teachers are not leaving the district in record numbers because of Dr. Melton’s actions. We are leaving because the Board of Trustees has made it clear that they do not value the dedicated employees of Lexington-Richland School District Five.”

Not all the response surrounding Melton’s departure was negative. LR5 parent Nicole Dozier has been an outspoken critic of the district and said Melton had good communication skills but questioned her decision-making.

“I definitely think a change is needed. The back and forth, that seemed like a lot of games were being played when decisions were being made. One day we’re going back to school and we’re not going to wear masks then the next day we are. There was a lot of confusion this year, a lot of back and forth. I don’t believe there’s a place for that in that role,” she said.

A to-be-announced interim superintendent will take over on July 1.

WIS has FOIA requested documents surrounding Melton’s resignation.

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