TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. – Four members of the Florence County School District Four board are supporting former Superintendent Rechel Anderson’s attempts to obtain a severance package following her departure from the district.
Anderson, now the superintendent of the Jasper County Schools district, sued the district, the state board and state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman to obtain her severance package after she was let go in 2018.
“Finally, the Florence Four Board of Trustees do believe that Dr. Anderson is entitled to her severance package because her contract was unilaterally terminated by Molly Spearman, NOT the Florence Four Board,” a statement issued Monday says. “We will not let the good works of Dr. Anderson be ill-spoken of because a select group of individuals who did not like being held accountable.”
The four board members to sign the statement were Lille Mae Joe, Brenda McKithen, Deidra Thomas and Henry Anderson.
They also added that to their surprise — they say they were bullied into hiring Anderson — Anderson was the best superintendent for the district.
The state board and Spearman dispute that Anderson is entitled to the severance pay in their answer to the complaint filed by Anderson.
The four members of the district board also dispute that an Aug. 13 public reprimand of Anderson was necessary.
The state board’s first finding was that Anderson violated the district’s leave policy by failing to report leave days and requesting payment for leave time when she left the district in the public reprimand.
“During her short tenure as superintendent, Dr. Anderson failed to comply with the system in place to record an administrator’s leave and was, in fact, absent from the District on multiple occasions without documentation,” the reprimand says. “Upon leaving the District, Dr. Anderson requested a payout for 100% of the annual leave accumulated during the five months of her term as Superintendent without accounting for or notifying that she had in fact taken leave during that time frame.”
The reprimand adds that Anderson was absent from the district for two days while interviewing for another job and was untruthful with district personnel about her reasons for being absent.
This is disputed by the district’s board.
“I, the board chair of Florence School District Four, Mrs. Lillie Mae Joe, encouraged Dr. Anderson to take her comp [compensatory] leave for any time she had to be away from the office because Dr. Anderson could be found working early hours, late hours, and weekends,” Joe said in the statement issued Monday. “She was also asked to report any time away from work to me, the board chair. She did what she was asked of her to do.”
Anderson was also reprimanded for hiring an assistant principal despite a memorandum of understanding between the state and the school limiting hires to state recommendations and failing to terminate the assistant principal when instructed to do so.
“Dr. Anderson failed to request or obtain SCDE approval prior to changing an employee’s position from consultant to Interim Principal as the MOU required her to do, and in response to direct questions from the State Superintendent and Dr. [Latoya] Dixon [the state director of the office of School Transformation], denied that the employee was serving as Interim Principal,” the reprimand says.
This, too, is disputed by the board.
“Dr. Anderson did not hire anyone, and that [previous superintendent] Zona Jefferson was aware the individual was in the district as a consultant because she signed the paycheck,” the statement issued Monday says. “Dr. Anderson did inform the individual that Molly Spearman wanted him to leave … but Molly Spearman never gave … a date that the individual had to be gone. Also, Dr. Anderson informed the [district] board of this action.”
The statement continues to say that the board questioned why the individual had to leave.
Anderson also was reprimanded for instigating a verbal altercation in front of students then denying it when asked.
“In addition, Dr. Anderson instigated a public verbal altercation with an employee in front of students and District staff, which was reported to Superintendent [Zona] Jefferson upon her return from an out of state trip,” the reprimand says. “During the investigation by Superintendent Jefferson, Dr. Anderson denied that any altercation happened, despite reports from other District employees who witnessed and heard it.”
The board also disputes this.
“There is absolutely no record, video, or media clip of a verbal alteraction between Dr. Anderson and an employee that led to Dr. Anderson being physically restrained,” the statement says. “In fact, the employee in which she was said to have had a verbal altercation with denied the altercation occurred.”
Anderson was also reprimanded for lying about her reason for being out of the district when she was interviewing for the Jasper job.
“Dr. Anderson did not lie about she was when absent," the statement says. “In fact, Dr. Anderson informed me … [Joe] where she was at all times. In this case, Molly Spearman had already informed Dr. Anderson she would not have a job after June 30, 2018. Therefore, Dr. Anderson interviewed for a job and did inform the board chair.”
Finally, Anderson was also reprimanded failing to return to the district when two students were shot and killed and another was critically injured.
The statement issued by the board members confirms Anderson was touring a school in Jasper but says she contacted her designee and a secretary to make sure “everything was in place.” The statement adds that the school was a half-day, the students weren’t shot at the school and that the incident happened at the students’ home.
“Did Molly Spearman attend the student’s funeral?” the statement asks. “How is it an issue if Dr. Anderson did not return to the district but ensured her designee was on site? But, Molly Spearman did not attend the student’s funeral, but her designee [Dixon] was there. Why isn’t Molly Spearman before the state board for not attending the student’s funeral? Where was she?”
The reprimand adds that Anderson advised staff that the state superintendent and Dixon did not need to know everything going on in the district.
This also is disputed by the district board.
The four board members are also critical of another member of the school board, saying that member continued to perform unethical acts and was supported by Spearman.
“This same board member testified against Dr. Anderson, but this board member should be investigated,” they say in the statement.
The four members also say they have never spoken to Spearman since the district was taken over by the state on May 9, 2018, despite a request.