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CCSD Board votes against new $10 million equity and inclusion curriculum

Group of women demostrating fos social equity

Photo: Getty Images

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School Board voted against a new curriculum Tuesday night.

The new curriculum has raised concerns among staff and parents in the district. EL Education is a nonprofit that partners with local school districts and currently serves around 440,000 students nationwide. It focuses on education through a lens of equity and inclusion and social emotional learning.

The final resolution included adding the adoption process of EL Education over the next three months.

The motion failed 6-3 with the superintendent saying what was being asked would have been impossible to implement in that timeline.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, the school board also elected a new chair for a third time since the November election in a specially called meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Board members voted on a chair and vice chair ahead of the regularly scheduled Committee of the Whole meeting.

Charleston County School Board re-elected Pam McKinney as board chair and Leah Whatley as vice chair once again after Ed Kelley held the position for about a week. After a potential violation of the Freedom of Information Act week during the meeting in which Kelley was elected, he called for the election to be redone and then promptly nominated McKinney for the chairmanship.

The only significant change was the Whatley’s appointment of the board member in charge of the Strategic Education Committee. It was chaired by Carol Tempel but Whatley appointed Carlotte Bailey to the position. The move came after Tempel voted with the bloc of board members opposed to the chairmanships of McKinney and Whatley including Courtney Waters, Darlene Dunmeyer-Roberson and Daron Calhoun, II.

Tuesday’s meeting comes after last-minute changes to the agenda last week were not properly updated on the publicly posted agenda in the hallway outside of the meeting room. While the online agenda was updated in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act that requires agenda items be published 24 hours in advance of a meeting, the printed agenda was never updated. Board members and the district’s legal team determined it’s up for interpretation as to whether or not the FOIA was violated.

Last week a special meeting was called to elect a new board chair after Daron Calhoun, II was sworn in, triggering the new election per board and state policy. However, the current chairperson at the time, Pam McKinney, added an agenda item for the special meeting that would have postponed the rule requiring new chair elections late in the week preceding the meeting. While that item was added to the digital agenda, it was not added to the paper copy outside.

The board approved McKinney’s motion. However, after legal counsel, it had to be altered to only postpone the vice-chair election since state law requires an election for the chair, but not the vice chair when a new person is added to the board and the trustees can’t subvert state law.

Ed Kelley was elected board chair in a split 5-4 decision. Notably, Kelley voted against himself in that election.

Because of the potential FOIA violation, last week’s regular board meeting was ended directly after public comments and no action was taken on any of the agenda items.

In a letter to board members, Kelley wrote, “I fully recognize this is uncomfortable and embarrassing for us, but I do believe there is nothing more important than complete public transparency in all we do.”

Last year the district, under a different board, ran into a similar issue with agendas being altered last minute that garnered the attention of Attorney General Alan Wilson.

Board members also looked at the calendar for the 2023-2024 school year.

According to the district website, the board is expected to approve an academic calendar survey between two options. The major difference between the two is when the week of spring break will be. If approved, the survey is scheduled to be open Wednesday, Feb. 22 through Sunday, Feb. 26.

According to the board agenda, 70 employees completed a survey about the calendar already.

Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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