Chester board votes employee complaints ‘moot,’ names interim superintendent

The Chester County School Board voted 4-3 on last Thursday to release the district’s superintendent from her contract,with two years pay.
The Chester County School Board voted 4-3 on last Thursday to release the district’s superintendent from her contract,with two years pay. Special to The Herald

A Chester native and former Fort Mill school district superintendent will serve as Chester County schools’ interim administrative leader, officials announced Wednesday.

Chester school board trustees unanimously voted Wednesday night to pay Keith Callicutt – previously a principal and superintendent in other public school systems across South Carolina – the same daily rate as Agnes Slayman was earning until her resignation from the superintendent job last Thursday.

Also Wednesday, the Chester school board unanimously voted to declare outstanding employee complaints “moot,” without offering publicly further detail of those grievances. It appears that issue relates to the former superintendent, who stepped down and negotiated a $300,000 compensation package with the school board just hours after The Herald published details of an investigative report showing multiple allegations against her.

Before naming Callicutt interim superintendent, school board members spent about three hours meeting privately. They said they were talking with lawyers about a “contractual matter” related to Slayman, the outstanding employee grievances and possibly naming an interim superintendent.

During their executive session, school trustees met with Callicutt and were impressed with his qualifications, said Denise Lawson, school board chairwoman, after the meeting. One other candidate was considered, she said.

Past coverage: ▪ School board could have avoided $300K payout ▪ Chester board vice chair ‘heartbroken’ after vote ▪ Slayman resigns, will be paid $300,000 ▪ Chester sheriff: ‘Very concerned’ about racial comments

Callicutt led the Fort Mill school district in York County from 2005 to 2010, including shepherding through two large borrowing plans of nearly $165 million total to pay for five new schools and repairs and additions to aging and cramped facilities. Most recently, Callicutt worked in Florence County School District 3. There, he was hired as an interim superintendent but saw his contract extended to serve a total of four years.

His contract in Florence County expired in June, according to the district’s website. Callicutt has also previously worked in Lancaster County schools, including serving as principal for four years at Andrew Jackson High School.

He graduated from Chester High School in 1968. Callicutt holds a political science degree from Clemson University and graduate degrees from Winthrop University and Francis Marion University. He earned his Ph.D in educational administration from the University of South Carolina in 1999.

Chester school officials said Callicutt will start immediately. A search for a permanent superintendent will begin in coming months, Lawson said.

The board was looking for an interim superintendent to “hit the ground running,” she said.

Slayman to remain ‘consultant’ for Chester

Callicutt’s appointment comes nearly one week after Chester trustees accepted Slayman’s resignation and agreed to pay her the equivalent of two years’ superintendent salary. Since then, she’s commented only through her lawyer about the numerous employee accusations against her, including claims that she threatened her staff physically and made racist remarks.

Slayman denies those allegations, her attorney has said.

This month, the school board has spent more than a dozen hours behind closed doors, mostly meeting with lawyers and talking about Slayman’s employment. As many as 100 people attended one of the board’s recent meetings, but since then the crowds have tapered off.

On Wednesday, no one other than members of the media, a board member’s spouse, and a security official attended the meeting.

Earlier in the day, district officials released to the public a 10-page investigative report detailing allegations made against the former superintendent. It’s unclear whether Wednesday’s executive session of the board included discussion of that report.

More past coverage: ▪ Report: Employees allege superintendent threatened ‘I will kill you’ ▪ Board probes employee ‘grievance;’ 100 people pack meeting ▪ S.C. education agency investigates claim of grade tampering in Chester

Read the report here.

The Herald first reported on the investigation and the investigative report last Thursday, hours before Slayman resigned.

Officials told The Herald this week that consultant Betty Bagley – who wrote the investigative report – did not provide any other documentation to the school board. And the district did not give Bagley any records to aid her investigation, said board Chairwoman Denise Lawson.

Bagley’s report indicates she interviewed several employees in late August and early September. She also spent about three hours interviewing Slayman, the report states. The board commissioned the investigation sometime in August.

The board took no action Wednesday night on contractual matters related to Slayman. An attorney for the district explained that trustees discussed the issue behind closed doors to finalize the terms they already announced last week – relevant to her pay, continued benefits through January, and her service as a consultant for the remainder of the school year.

Lawson told The Herald Wednesday that Slayman will likely not be involved in day-to-day district operations as a consultant, but that she’s agreed to be available if questions or issues arise that the district needs assistance on. Chester school district’s attorney said a contract will set forth those details and others soon.

Slayman worked nearly four years for Chester County schools. Officials last week described her tenure as successful and, in a written news statement, Lawson noted Slayman’s contributions to the district including improved student test scores.