In a near-unanimous vote at a special called meeting Thursday afternoon, the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees decided to accept the resignation of Superintendent Nancy McGinley. The board also voted to appoint Michael Bobby, the district's chief financial and operations officer, as an interim superintendent.
The decision came just over a week after McGinley made the controversial decision to relieve Eugene "Bud" Walpole of his football coaching duties at Academic Magnet High School. McGinley initially removed him from the position due to a post-game ritual among Academic Magnet players involving watermelons and alleged "monkey sounds" that offended some African-American parents. Walpole was removed from coaching duty last Monday night, but after hearing opposition from parents of Academic Magnet students, McGinley reinstated Walpole last Wednesday under the conditions that Walpole attend sensitivity training and "teach all of the students to better respect the differences of others and to be sensitive to their feelings."
The public uproar over the Walpole decision came just as McGinley was up for evaluation by the school board. The board held a hastily called meeting Monday morning to discuss personnel matters in executive session and then held another meeting Thursday at 1 p.m. The only school board member who voted against accepting McGinley's resignation was Michael Miller, who initially brought the watermelon ritual to McGinley's attention after a parent at a school with a majority African-American student population approached him about it.
Miller was not immediately available for comment after the meeting. Other board members would not discuss the specific reasons for McGinley's resignation.
When asked if the resignation had to do with the Academic Magnet incident, board chair Cindy Bohn Coats said, "It was not discussed in anything I've talked about with our attorneys or the district since Saturday when this began." She clarified that Saturday was when she called the special meeting for Monday morning.
Board member Chris Collins said the board "didn't force her to resign at all." When asked if McGinley had given a reason for her resignation, he said, "We don't know why she offered to resign, other than she felt it was time to go to advance her career somewhere else."
NAACP Charleston Branch President Dot Scott led a chorus of opposition against the decision in the board chamber. As the board members exited the room following their vote, she shouted, "I will gladly leave now, but I want to make sure you understand this is not the end of this."
Afterward, in the lobby at the district office, Scott called on voters to vote against the upcoming ballot referendum to extend the penny sales tax, which would ensure funding for planned capital improvement projects in the district.
"If these people, who are going to be responsible for the decision of how the money is spent, make this kind of decision, how do we now go and recruit for a good superintendent to come to South Carolina if this is the way you treat your superintendent?" Scott said.
Scott said it was obvious McGinley's resignation had to do with the Academic Magnet controversy and the district's investigation of the watermelon incident.
"This is what's scary: The coach obviously knew about it. This board had the opportunity to get the result of the investigation. They didn't even want to hear about the investigation," Scott said. "Prior to the Academic Magnet stuff, there was no discussion about the firing of the superintendent, so if anybody wants to believe that this has nothing to do with that, well, then I do have some property to sell."
Under the terms of the resignation announced at today's meeting, McGinley will continue to be employed by the district as a consultant through June 30, 2015, and she will also be paid eight months' benefits and salary starting July 1, 2015. Coats said that the board would accept McGinley's resignation "on very generous and harmonious terms," a phrase that elicited laughter from several members of the audience present in the boardroom. Coats also said that McGinley and the board "have agreed to a non-disparagement clause."
McGinley has not responded to a request for comment.