Richland 2’s school board meeting ground to a halt Tuesday night after three school board members walked out in protest.
The three board members — Lindsay Agostini, Monica Scott and Lashonda McFadden — left because they believed they were not given enough time to research potential revisions to Superintendent Baron Davis’ proposed new contract. The four board members who remained say that’s not the case.
“As I stated back in executive session, I would have loved to have voted tonight, but this information was not received in a timely manner to give us an opportunity to digest, research and go back and look at other information as far as other superintendents, what’s on their contracts and what we want to do,” Scott, who was the first to walk out, said at the meeting.
The walk-out ended the meeting because in order to have a quorum — the minimum number of voting members needed to hold a meeting — Richland 2’s seven-person board needed five members.
At the beginning of the meeting, Agostini tried to motion to postpone voting on Davis’ contract. But board Chair Teresa Holmes determined Agostini’s motion was invalid because it was not germane to the original motion to accept the board’s agenda. Holmes’ determination to deny Agostini’s motion was backed up by advice given at the meeting from a district attorney.
“I’m truly disappointed that we’ve asked to have this postponed and because we just received the information late yesterday, we got clarifying information today presented to us during our meeting and that is not enough time to allow the board to make accurate judgment on what’s being put before us, so I will join Dr. Scott and I will also be leaving this evening,” Agostini said before walking out.
McFadden said she received the draft contract at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday while she was still at work.
“I”m rushing around, trying to get information. I’m going online and trying to figure out ‘well, how much does the superintendent make?’ ‘what are the perks?’ and I’m asking for information, so I’m going with what I can get offline because I can’t really call the staff to get information. I have to go through the proper protocol,” McFadden said.
“I haven’t been able to read the first line,” McFadden said of the contract.
Scott and McFadden both said their criticisms were of how the contract process was handled, and not a criticism of Davis.
“I think Dr. Davis has been doing a phenomenal job, but I want to make sure that I’m at peace with myself by comparing what he’s newly asking for compared to what other superintendents ask,” Scott said. “It’s going to look like I’m not supporting Dr. Davis, but it’s not that. I’m not supporting the decision and how it was made on short notice because giving Dr. Davis a raise, I think he truly deserves one, but also our bus drivers, teachers assistants, our cafeteria workers, our career facilitators, and so (do) many other folks.”
Board Vice Chair James Manning pushed back on fellow board members’ assertions that they were not given enough time to review the contract.
“I called all board members with the details of the draft changes and spoke with each of them individually to present the changes, and there are a couple board members that asked for more information and I’ve worked diligently from yesterday evening to this afternoon to provide those details, and in fact had more details to provide in executive session,” Manning said.
Board member Amelia McKie said she also had questions about the contract, but asked them earlier and got answers. She criticized fellow board members for leaving the meeting.
“I take exception today, to what they are going to do,” McKie said as McFadden was walking out. “That’s pretty juvenile… what I do want the record to state is we are not here for a special interest, single-item agenda tonight. I will not be leaving the board meeting tonight. Because Dr. Davis is the superintendent. His evaluation deserves the same attention as student appeals…as the proviso… an update on COVID.”
Because the walkout happened at the beginning of the meeting, the board did not cast policy votes nor hear presentations. The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting included a presentation on COVID-19, admissions into the adult education program, public participation and a resolution urging the S.C. General Assembly to allow schools to enact mask mandates.
Before the meeting closed, Holmes said board members walking out was highly unusual and indicative of politics corroding the district’s ability to tackle key issues.
“As a chair, I’ve never seen this happen before. I’ve never seen this and I have been an educator for 30-plus years. And here’s my thing, I’m an educator that’s actually here for children. I’m not here for the shenanigans and the games and the politics, because what I’m beginning to see too much of is politics beginning to eat its way into our school district,” Holmes said. “We have a pandemic going. We have real issues going.”