The Rev. Nelson Rivers points during a Tuesday press conference. Activist Millicent Brown and others look on. Photo by Skyler Baldwin.

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More than three dozen people appeared up in arms Monday after waiting almost two hours to hear why the Charleston County School District (CCSD) Board of Trustees voted to meet in secret to discuss the contract of newly hired Superintendent Eric Gallien.  

Audience members, many of whom attended an earlier public meeting that lasted almost four hours, were disappointed. The school board almost immediately adjourned when it returned to public session Monday night..

“This confusion, generated by the five CCSD board members who were supported by Moms for Liberty, is not going to work out well for the children of Charleston County and their educational development,” said the Rev. Thomas Dixon, a North Charleston activist.

Another taxpayer who attended the meeting and asked not to be identified, said, “I was completely dismayed by the dysfunction on display at today’s CCSD school board Meeting. The school board seems unable to effectively run a meeting, set an agenda, communicate with the public or each other with transparency or professionalism. It’s disturbing and our children deserve better.”

Earlier, four  members of the Charleston County School Board of Trustees said they felt left in the dark after a majority group of board members backed by right-wing political group Moms for Liberty scheduled a special meeting set for Sept. 11 without proper notification. It followed an earlier regularly scheduled committee of the whole meeting. 

Board chairman Pamela McKinney and four other trustees — Carlotte Bailey, Keith Grybowski, Edward Kelley and Leah Whatley — each were financially and politically supported by Moms for Liberty during last year’s election. 

More than three dozen people waited for about two hours as trustees met in secret. Photo provided.

McKinney called the special meeting to discuss Gallien’s contract, according to the agenda. But Gallien and none of the other trustees — Darlene Robersoon, Carol Tempel, Courtney Waters and Daron Calhoun II –—reportedly were notified of the meeting or its purpose.  

“We have a superintendent who has been on the job 70 days who it appears that five of the nine board members want to replace for no reason whatsoever,” Dixon said late Monday. “We have a curriculum that has produced the best district-wide improvements in CCSD in decades and has finally gotten Black and Brown children enthusiastic about going to school, and the same five of the nine board members want to replace this working curriculum.

“Lynching is over”

Several community activists gathered at noon Monday for a press conference ahead of a regularly scheduled 3 p.m. meeting.

The Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, vice president of religious affairs for the National Action Network, likened the special meeting to a lynching. 

“Today, in Charleston County, this board plans to try to lynch Dr. Gallien,” he said. “But we got news for them: lynching is over. … we’re not going to let you lynch him publicly or privately here. Our children are on the verge of a breakthrough, and how dare you try to take us back to from whence we came.”

According to a press release sent over the weekend by Waters, when information was requested about what the intended motion for discussion would be, Mckinney, the board chair, responded by saying, “I reference policy BCA and BE. The agenda is straightforward. The meeting will be also.” Roberson today said she felt as though the response was neither respectful nor informative. 

During the special meeting, McKinney asked for a motion to enter executive session, but was met with several objections from other board members. Tempel and Waters said because Gallien’s contract was public, any discussions regarding it should be held publicly. These objections were ignored, and a vote to enter executive passed 5-4, with all Moms-for-Liberty-backed board members voting in favor. 

Board members were in executive session for almost two hours. After leaving the executive session, no action was taken. Outraged public attendees received no explanations for what discussions had taken place behind closed doors. 

“We’ve been here since 3 p.m.,” one attendee yelled. 

Shortly after, several attendees began chanting, “No justice, no peace,” a rallying cry for racial justice movements. Others yelled at board members as they were leaving that they would attend every meeting moving forward.

“We’ll keep coming, again and again and again,” one woman said.

This is a developing story. Follow Charleston City Paper for updates.

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