Just weeks after she was name South Carolina superintendent of the year, Christina Melton has resigned as superintendent of Lexington-Richland 5.
An emotional Melton made the announcement at the end of Monday’s school board meeting, after board members met in an executive session and one member resigned mid-meeting.
Melton said her last day as superintendent will be June 30.
“This is a bittersweet message,” said Melton who called Lexington-Richland 5 her home and the staff and faculty there her family. “It truly is a privilege to lead District 5. ... We’ve been tested, but we are resilient and student-centered.”
Vice chairman Ken Loveless, presiding over the meeting, accepted Melton’s resignation and said the board will hold a special meeting in the future to replace her by July 1. He said the district wishes Melton well.
Melton had been with Lexington-Richland 5 for more than a decade, starting as an elementary school principal. She won principal of the year in 2012 and district-level administrator of the year in 2016 from the S.C. Association of School Administrators. Just last month she was named S.C. superintendent of the year.
School board member Ed White announced during the meeting that he was resigning from the school board because of his disagreements with the school district’s handling of Melton’s resignation. White then got up and left the room.
After the meeting, Melton quickly left the room with other staff members for an adjoining room where crying could be heard.
Criticized for COVID response
Despite her accomplishments, Melton was criticized by some parents for her cautious response to the COVID-19 pandemic. School board members were criticized for deferring to Melton on when and how students could return to in-person classes at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.
After the school board elections in November shook up the board majority, Lexington-Richland 5 starting moving more quickly to return to normal operations. When the board decided to move forward with a reopening timetable against Melton’s advice, it led to student protests and a walk-out of teachers at three district high schools that caused the schools to close.
There was more tension between the board and administration last month when the board voted to no longer require students wear masks in school before the end of the school year. But two days later, before the change went into effect, the district rolled back that action on the advice of its attorney, out of concern it would clash with guidance from the S.C. Department of Education.
After consulting with attorney Andrea White and being advised of a potential lawsuit brought by district employees, the board voted to move forward with lifting its mask requirements. Gov. Henry McMaster lifted legally-enforced face mask requirements statewide the next day by executive order.
By the end of the school year, Lexington-Richland 5 saw a high of 125 vacancies on staff, with teachers citing the approach to the pandemic making their jobs more difficult and less safe. After Monday’s board meeting, that number was cut to 57 when the board approved a new slate of hires.
As superintendent, Melton made $182,000 a year as of 2019, the second highest paid superintendent in Lexington County after Lexington 1’s Greg Little, but less than the superintendents in Richland 1 and Richland 2.