Demonstrators gathered Tuesday before a meeting of the Lexington-Richland 5 school board to protest the alleged ousting of Superintendent Christina Melton.
Wielding protest signs and sunflowers, reportedly Melton’s favorite flower, a crowd of about 30 gathered outside the district office at 1020 Dutch Fork Road, in support of the decorated educator who resigned abruptly last week with little explanation. The board is scheduled to meet at the district office at 5:30 p.m. to select an interim superintendent.
Michele Steger, a former LR5 teacher who had four children go through the district, said she showed up at the protest to support Melton because the outgoing superintendent was “treated unfairly and I just wanted her to know the community supports her.”
Asked what the board needs to do now that Melton has already resigned, she said, “I don’t think it can be fixed at this point. I just hope that for the future, the people that go out and vote realize what the impact of their vote does.”
Rosie Robinson, who wore a sunflower shirt and carried a paper bag with sunflowers inside, said she is concerned the district may not be able to find a quality replacement for Melton, especially someone who is so close with students.
“Dr. Melton is an incredible influence on my daughter,” said Robinson, whose daughter is a rising senior at Irmo High.
It was common for protesters to say they only met Melton a handful of times each, but “she knew everybody’s name,” said Albert Jones, who is in his last year of teaching at LR5.
Jones described Melton as someone who always seemed to be “the voice of reason.”
Before Tuesday’s protest, several LR5 teachers told The State they were outraged at losing a popular and decorated superintendent.
“I’m absolutely disgusted by the board forcing Dr. Melton out,” Irmo Middle School teacher MaryAnn Sansonetti-Wood told The State in an interview last week. “It’s just unfortunate that it’s something we’ve seen unfolding all year long with the way the board has presented itself at every board meeting.”
When Melton resigned, school board member Ed White also resigned in protest. White has since accused several board members of creating a hostile work environment and pushing out Melton. The remaining six board members, including those accused of ousting Melton, have refused to respond to the allegations, nor say why Melton resigned, nor what will come next.
Melton, who was named statewide superintendent of the year in May, has been at Lexington-Richland 5 for more than 10 years and has served as a principal and a district administrator before becoming superintendent. In both of those positions, she won statewide awards before becoming superintendent, according to her online bio.
“I will miss her greatly. She was a uniquely charismatic, detail oriented, responsive, multi talented and knowledgeable leader,” Michael Sugar, an Irmo High social studies teacher, told The State in an interview last week.
Sugar warned that if the district’s next superintendent isn’t up to par with Melton, many teachers may consider leaving the district.
“If the leadership quality drops significantly or is inconsistent over the next year or disorganized, I would anticipate there would be serious moves to other, neighboring districts,” Sugar said.
Sansonetti-Wood, who has taught for 22 years, said she has been so upset by the Lexington-Richland 5 school board since the November 2020 election that she will be teaching at Richland 2 in the upcoming school year.
“I was a Dr. Melton fan. I think that she was an amazing leader,” Sansonetti-Wood said. “I actually accepted my job in Lexington-Richland 5 because of Dr. Melton.”
This is a developing story. It will be updated.