LaVerne Lebby Davis, for 14 years a popular principal at St. Helena Elementary School, died Friday at her residence in Beaufort, according to an obituary from a local funeral home. She was 69.
Davis was a third-generation principal who was cited for sharply improved test scores and increased community involvement as principal at St. Helena from 1990 until 2004.
Her contract was not renewed after the superintendent and Beaufort County Board of Education said she violated personnel policies and ignored district-mandated staff training, among other infractions.
Hundreds of St. Helena residents demanded that Davis be rehired and held large protests, including one at a school board meeting and another at a St. Helena church that included actor Danny Glover.
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Davis then sued the district, alleging breach of contract, slander and libel. In 2007, the district made a secret $60,000 settlement with Davis.
In 1998, a resolution passed by the South Carolina General Assembly stated, “As a result of her high expectations, her institution of numerous innovations, and her leadership, the students’ scores at St. Helena Elementary School were tops in Beaufort County for 1997, scoring 17 points better than the national average and outscoring all other Beaufort County elementary schools in the three R’s: combined math, reading and language.”
It said “their standardized test scores climbed from worst to first in just six years with her at the school’s helm.”
The school took on a higher profile under Davis, and was known for its St. Helena 100 Voices All-Boys Chorus, which was invited to perform for the Ghanian government in 1999.
“Being a part of that community over on St. Helena Island was just a great blessing,” she told The Beaufort Gazette in 2010. “I was glad that God put that in my life.”
In retirement, Davis did some consulting work and said in the 2010 interview that she planned to write a book about education theories and strategies. Her volunteer work included the Beaufort-Jasper Higher Education Commission, the Lowcountry chapter of the Claflin University Alumni Association, and the Governor’s Mansion Foundation.
She was the daughter of principal, historian and Fulbright Scholar George Washington Lebby Sr., who was principal at Michael C. Riley School in Bluffton in the mid-1950s.
She is survived by her husband, attorney Hugh Davis, and a daughter, educator Kylene Lebby Davis.
Funeral services will be arranged and announced by Lebby Funeral Home of Barnwell, S.C., according to an announcement by the Marshel’s Wright Donaldson Home for Funerals in Beaufort, which was in charge of local announcements only.