Group calls for resignation of FSD1 superintendent, board chairman

Florence civil rights group Lifeline Plus and Florence School District One (FSD1) Board of Trustee Alexis Pipkins, Sr. called for the resignation of FSD1 Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges, left, and FSD1 School Board Chairman Barry Townsend, right, during a news conference Friday morning. (WPDE)

Florence civil rights group Lifeline Plus and Florence School District One (FSD1) Board of Trustee Alexis Pipkins, Sr. called for the resignation of FSD1 Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges and FSD1 School Board Chairman Barry Townsend during a news conference Friday morning.

The group said Townsend and Bridges have violated a number of district policies, including how they handled a situation back in August when the district says then-board member Glenn Odom sent emails to a district employee referring to Pipkins and the other two African American board members as "darkies."

Related: FSD1 board member outraged over racially insensitive emails

Odom resigned last week, citing a move to another area in the district. He apologized for his actions last week at a gathering at a Florence church, according to the AP.

Pipkins said he wasn't notified of the racially insensitive emails until 20 days after they were sent and that was a clear violation of board policy.

"Today I rise to bring attention to some of the policies that have been breached and violated by our chairman and vice chairman," said Pipkins.

He added it was illegal for the board chairman and vice chairman to meet with the district's attorney on Odom's situation without the presence of the full board.

"[The] question that the tax payers need to ask is, when the chairman and vice chairman were utilizing the services of the attorney, how much did she charge the public for such? And, why wasn't a report a given to the full board?" asked Pipkins.

Pipkins said Townsend has violated the following 16 district policies:

  • School board operational goals
  • School board legal status
  • School board powers and duties
  • School board member authority and responsibilities
  • School board member qualifications
  • School board member resignation
  • School board member conduct
  • School board member code of ethics
  • School board officers' duties
  • School board-superintendent relationship
  • School board committees
  • School board attorney-legal services
  • School board meetings
  • School board voting method at board meetings
  • School board-staff communications
  • School board member compensation and expenses
  • School board member insurance-liability

Related: Florence school board member calls for SLED, U.S. Justice Department to audit all district

Lifeline Plus said the apparent disregard for policy is why new school district leadership is needed.

"We need our citizenry right now to be coming together, and looking forward to supporting the growth of our district. Our district will grow, it's going to grow, but it needs effective leadership to grow in an effective and consistent manner that will serve the needs of all of our children, and our families. As far as the future, we don't believe that it represent effective leadership. This is not a vendetta against the board member who resigned. We wish him well. We pray for him that he finds success in what ever he embarks upon in the future. But you see when things aren't done right, it leads to confusion in the community," said Rev. James Williams with Lifeline Plus.

FSD1 Superintendent Bridges addressed the group's call for him to resign.

"To my knowledge, I have not violated any policies. The board charges me to implement their policies. I don't think I've been in violation with any policies in terms of my actions with Mr. Odom. I work at the pleasure of the board. And, if those individuals deem it necessary for me to be removed, I don't have a problem with that. When I received that email, if I broke any protocol, then it wasn't intentional. My disdain and anger about the email, my initial response was to communicate them to the chair of the board. There's a consistent conversations between superintendents and chairmans. We plan the agenda. We set the agenda format. So, there has to be conversations," said Dr. Bridges.

Townsend said he handled the situation with Odom legally, professionally and appropriately.

"I'm not aware of any policy that's been violated. In fact, I've taken great pains, these have been extraordinary situations with the board member moving out of his district and with the unfortunate email situation, I've taken great pains to seek legal advice before I made any moves. Not only to ensure I was following board policy, but also that everything I was doing was legal. That's the interpretation of one board member. And our attorney does not either. I was elected by the board to this position and I will not be bullied into doing anything by one board member. If the board decides that I'm not providing effective leadership and chooses to chose someone else then I will gladly serve under that chairperson, but until that happens, I will continue to attend the duties that I was elected and charged at doing," said Townsend.

Both Townsend and Bridges have said it's time to get back to the focus of what's most important and that's FSD1's nearly 17,000 students.

Lifeline Plus and Pipkins said the students are the most important issue, but it's time for school board members and the superintendent to be held accountable for their actions.

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