Other Views

School board’s hands are tied on grievances | Opinion

In a recent editorial, questions were raised about how the Beaufort County Board of Education handled grievances filed against a board trustee earlier this summer by several district employees.

Because I am being personally criticized about how the board responded to the grievances, I want to take this opportunity to explain how the matter unfolded. Please note I am speaking as one trustee and not on behalf of the board.

In June, then-Superintendent Dr. Herb Berg gave me in my capacity as board chair copies of four employee complaints/grievances that had been filed against a sitting trustee.

As the board did not have in place a Governance Policy addressing how the board should handle employee grievances filed against a sitting board member, nor any precedent to provide guidance, I contacted the South Carolina School Boards Association to seek advice. I was advised by a SCSBA attorney that this was a difficult and unique situation and that the board needed independent legal counsel to assist the board in navigating the matter.

The Board of Education then approved (by unanimous vote) to hire legal counsel to handle this matter. Our counsel conducted her investigation by talking with each grievant and the trustee in question and then advised the board of her conclusions and recommendations moving forward.

As far as the identity of the trustee against whom the grievances were filed, I can confirm I am not that trustee. It will be up to the individual trustee to share his or her identity with the public should he or she choose to do so.

Because this matter involves employees who have not consented to release of their written grievances, I am unfortunately unable to release the details of the assertions set forth in each grievance about the conduct of a trustee.

Employee confidentiality must be maintained if our district wants to attract and retain quality staff.

As far as the information shared with the board during executive session on Aug. 6 by our legal counsel, that information is protected not only by the attorney/client privilege but, more importantly, involves employee confidentiality.

Some have imputed nefarious motives to me and the board as a whole in handling this matter and The Island Packet has chosen to give a voice to these views. The board simply tried to handle a difficult and unique situation as best as we could in a manner to protect the employees of the Beaufort County School District.

I would ask that, as our students return to school, we all remember what our focus should be: our duty to provide a quality education to the children of Beaufort County.

Christina Gwozdz chairs the Beaufort Co. Board of Education and represents District 9 (Bluffton/Pritchardville/Daufuskie Island.)