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Gaffney School Board Names Interim Superintendent Amid Leadership Transition

Board meeting announcement image.

Gaffney School Board Names Interim Superintendent Amid Leadership Transition

Cherokee County Superintendent Dana Fall’s seat sat empty Feb. 29 as the school board met behind closed doors.

GAFFNEY — In a nearly four-hour meeting, Cherokee County’s school board moved from item to item on its agenda. It looked through capital project requests, heard an update on new math standards and honored 39 students and employees. But by the end, trustees found themselves back on the same topic that has consumed much of their time in recent weeks: determining who should lead the district.

Cherokee County school board named retired Spartanburg County School District 7 Superintendent Thomas White to serve as interim superintendent.

The board spent about 1½ hours behind closed doors April 15 to discuss a possible interim superintendent contract and an unrelated topic with its attorney. After executive session, it voted to hire Thomas White as interim superintendent. He starts April 22. The details of the contract weren’t finalized. White had done consulting work for the district since retiring from Spartanburg County School District 7, where he served as superintendent.

Board vice chairperson Shanese Dawkins said she was excited to see White in the role. “We need leadership and he has agreed to be that leader on an interim basis,” she said.

Looking to the Future

Chairperson Mark Nix appointed four board members to serve on a superintendent search committee. The school board has nine members, so the committee falls short of a quorum. That’s by design. Nix said it should make it easier for the committee to act as a liaison between the board and the South Carolina School Boards Association, which the board contracted with to conduct the superintendent search.

The committee will also set a timeline, determine the level of community involvement, and vet applications. Carol Gallman will serve as committee chairperson. Other members are Billy Blackwell, Dawkins, and Peter Wilkins.

Background of the Transition

It’s the board’s latest move as it navigates the wake of its embattled, outgoing superintendent’s precipitous fall. It started with what seemed to be a job offer from Spartanburg County School District 4, one that came without an official board vote. Fall told his board on Feb. 24 that he would leave Cherokee County Schools June 30 to take the helm of District 4. The following day, he told The Gaffney Ledger that “it’s a lot more money and 5,000 fewer students. … It was a tough decision, but it is what it is.” Those comments led to backlash in both communities.

District 4 decided not to consider him for the position. Cherokee County Schools placed him on leave. Fall and the board entered a separation agreement that includes his resignation, effective June 30, and nets him a $120,750 payout. He remains on paid leave until then, and the search for his replacement is ongoing.

Final Touches

The board thanked Carl Carpenter for serving as acting superintendent since the district placed Superintendent Dana Fall on paid leave at the end of February. Dawkins acknowledged that Carpenter took the helm at “a really difficult stage” for the district. “He has done a magnificent job,” she said.

The district is now moving forward with a new leader in place for the transition period, hoping to steer the school system in the right direction amid changes and challenges.

Gaffney School Board Names Interim Superintendent Amid Leadership Transition Spartanburg SC

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