Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

Almost half of Charleston Advancement Academy (CAA) High School’s 31 staff members didn’t go to work Dec. 14 at its James Island and North Charleston campuses. A day earlier, the board of directors told them the school’s administrator, director Wayne Stevens, resigned.

“There is no way Wayne just resigned without telling the staff himself,” said one employee of the charter school who asked to remain anonymous to protect her job. “He had too much respect for his employees and his students and their parents not to say a word. He was so close with our staff.”

Neither Stevens nor any of the school’s seven board members returned the City Paper’s several calls and emails requesting comment on what is happening at the school.  

But before the walkout, there had been turmoil between administrative staff and the charter school’s seven-member governing board of directors. CAA is an independently run charter school overseen by the South Carolina Public Charter School District. It is not tied to the Charleston County School District, but receives public tax dollars and is administered by the board of directors. 

In a Dec. 8 board of directors election, board chair Nadine Deif and the board secretary Traci Combs reportedly lost their seats after receiving 5% and 6% of votes, respectively, according to the results published on the school website Dec. 9. The board election results were not online at the time of publication, but the City Paper obtained a copy. The Public Charter School Alliance of South Carolina administered the election in which CAA employees, students and parents voted to ensure confidentiality and accuracy.

On Dec. 12, a staff member sent a letter to the S.C. Department of Education and the S.C. Public Charter School District stating concerns about paper copies of an agenda that a board member reportedly posted on the North Charleston campus bulletin boards. The agenda alerted staff to a special Dec. 13 board meeting that included an executive session on personnel issues. 

The employee who wrote the letter of concern told the City Paper the only reason the James Island campus staff found out about the special meeting was through a text from an employee at the North Charleston campus.

“The board never contacted anyone at the James Island campus,” she said. “They never sent the agenda out. This was highly unusual and staff members were nervous.”

The letter said staff members felt as though the board had purposely scheduled this meeting while North Charleston staff were going to be off-campus for a field trip and unable to participate in the meeting. 

The letter also stated staff members felt the Dec. 13 special board meeting was being held in retaliation to the election results. The agenda also included the item “appointment of board members,” but the two newly elected board members from the Dec. 8 election apparently were not present. Their swearing-in ceremony was to take place at the regularly scheduled board meeting Dec. 21. The employee said she also wrote the letter because she wanted to make it clear that staff members were afraid Deif and Combs would be appointed back on the board. 

The board of directors announced at the special meeting Dec. 13 that two other board members resigned, and Deif and Combs reportedly were appointed to news seats. Neither resigning board member responded to the City Paper inquiries. Deif and Combs also did not comment. The school’s governance board is comprised of four elected seats and three appointed seats. Six members reportedly attended the special board meeting and voted to appoint Deif and Combs. 

“All of a sudden at this emergency meeting, the board claimed [two board members] resigned,” the employee said. “I have never seen resignation letters in writing. [One member] was not there at the meeting to state whether he was resigning.”

Stevens is said to be the sixth administrator to leave a position at CAA since the school was founded in 2018, according to numerous school employees. Another employee who asked for anonymity told the City Paper that Steven’s resignation was forced. 

“None of this is in the best interest of our students,” the second employee said. “To right the wrong, the board needs to reinstate Wayne Stevens,” he added. “The board fired him for no reason whatsoever. I know staff members, students and parents who are beyond upset that this happened.”

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