Jasper County superintendent reprimanded for unprofessional conduct in Florence job

The state Board of Education publicly reprimanded Jasper County Superintendent Rechel Anderson this week for unprofessional conduct in her previous job in 2018, including withholding information from state investigators, requesting a payout for leave time she had taken, falsifying a personnel report, and not returning to her school district when two students were killed in a shooting.

Anderson, who was superintendent of Florence School District 4 for six months until June 1, 2018, had no record of disciplinary action previously, but the reprimand issued Tuesday cited seven instances of unprofessional conduct. She was fired by state Superintendent Molly Spearman in May 2018 after the state Board of Education placed the Florence district in a state of emergency due to its exorbitant spending and steady loss of students over the past decade.

Anderson has been Jasper County School District’s superintendent since June 1, taking over a district with fewer than 3,000 students, 87.3 percent of which were classified as “students in poverty” by the state.

Jasper County school board member Tedd Moyd said Thursday that he was not aware of the reprimand, but that it was “between her and the state department.”

“Ma’am, can you stop investigating?” he asked. “I want you to report this: She’s been doing a very good job since she got here. She has turned the schools around.”

Five board members contacted by the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette Thursday said they had not been previously aware of the reprimand.

“As the board chair, I have not been provided a copy of the reprimand,” Jasper County Board of Education Chairwoman Daisy Mitchell said Thursday. “However, Dr. Anderson has informed us that the state board has initiated proceedings against her. Our understanding is that this matter pertains to issues that may have transpired before she became our superintendent and has nothing to do directly with Jasper County School District.

“As our superintendent, Dr. Anderson has worked diligently for the success of our students and our district. The Jasper County School Board applauds and supports our superintendent for the work that she has done and is doing in the Jasper County School District.”

Jasper County school board Secretary Carolyn Bolden said she was “stunned” to learn of the reprimand. “I had no idea,” she said.

After Anderson was fired from her job in Florence, she sued the Florence district, state department of education and Superintendent Spearman in February, claiming that she was entitled to a $115,000 payout equivalent to a year’s salary. She also requested a payout of all annual leave she had accumulated over five months.

The order of public reprimand signed by state board chairwoman Del-Gratia Jones says that Anderson neglected to mention that she had taken some of that leave, including two days off to interview for the Jasper County superintendent position. She “was untruthful with District personnel about the reasons for her absence” for the interview, according to the order.

She was named interim superintendent of Jasper County School District on May 29 and was named permanent superintendent one week later, with a four-year contract and salary of $145,000.

The state board order says that between these dates, she neglected to return to Florence 4 in what would be her last week of work after the death of two students and the critical injury of another in a shooting. Instead, it said, she continued touring schools in Jasper County.

The order also says that Anderson had a verbal confrontation with an employee in front of district students and staff, omitted information from the personnel report of an interim principal hired during her tenure, kept said principal on staff for at least two weeks after she was told to fire him and “advised staff that the State Superintendent and (director of the SC Department of Education’s Office of School Transformation) Dr. Dixon did not need to know everything that goes on in the District.”

According to the lawsuit she filed in February, Anderson is a resident of Beaufort County. She did not return a phone call for comment on Thursday.

Jasper school officials say Anderson has helped improve the district’s struggling schools.

In 2017-18, just 16.5 percent of district students met or exceeded grade-level expectations on SC Ready English tests compared to a a 41.7 percent statewide average; rates on SC Ready math tests were similar, according to the state department of education’s website.

Statistics from the 2018-19 school year are not available yet, but in a July interview with Bluffton Today, Anderson said she had met her goals, citing improved student achievement, school facilities and competitive salaries.

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Rachel Jones covers education for the Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has worked for the Daily Tar Heel and Charlotte Observer. Rachel grew up in Ayden, NC, surrounded by teachers.