The Richland 2 superintendent will stay with the district until mid-2025 and will receive a 4% raise after the school board approved changes to his contract, the board decided in a split vote.
Following a lengthy debate that revealed continued infighting among its members, the board voted 5-2 to approve extending Superintendent Baron Davis’ contract until June 30, 2025. In addition to the raise, the board agreed to a payout equal to 18 months worth of salary should the board prematurely fire Davis.
The raise places Davis’ salary at more than $230,000, a nearly $9,000 raise over his 2019 salary. Davis, who has been the superintendent since 2017, has been with the district 20 years, rising from principal to assistant administrator, a superintendent-elect and then superintendent.
Board members who voted for Davis’ salary increase cited his positive annual evaluation and noted other superintendents either received raises because of their work during COVID-19 or enjoyed perks such as country club memberships.
Wednesday was the second time the board had considered changes to Davis’ contract, and the board’s back-and-forth was a continuation of bickering that boiled over during last week’s meeting that resulted in some members walking out.
Wednesday, at a specially called meeting, board member Monica Scott, who voted against Davis’ raise, argued the severance was too high and called for other employees to receive raises.
Board Chair Teresa Holmes noted the board has increased salaries for employees across the board and paid bonuses to teachers in recent years, and that the decision was made by the whole board, not just one member.
“No one board member can change any of this without the cooperation of every board member, or at least a majority of the board,” Holmes said. “And the majority of the board has worked to provide all these people with all this extra money, and we will continue to do so.”
School board in-fighting
The board’s decision came as board members regularly talked over one another and were heard giggling on their microphones while others were speaking. Scott, who has clashed with Holmes in recent meetings, called her a “dictator” and “control freak.”
In one exchange, Holmes, in the middle of the meeting, called for another special meeting Friday to address teacher hiring and student issues that weren’t addressed last week.
“I will not be here on Friday because I don’t do short-notice and I do have a life,” Scott said. “That kind of dictatorship won’t work.”
Holmes responded saying she wasn’t being a “dictator,” and was making her decisions based on board policy.
Board vice chair James Manning said he was “offended” by Scott’s comments toward Holmes and accused her of being unprofessional.
“We actually had one of our board members ask us to work together and not do name calling, but I guess that’s beyond some people,” Manning said.
Board member walkout
Last week, during a regularly scheduled meeting, three of the seven school board members walked out of the meeting after saying they didn’t have enough time to review proposed changes to Davis’ contract. The board needs at least five members present to have quorum and to hold a meeting. When three members walked out, the board meeting ended, leaving several agenda items unresolved.
Board member Lashonda McFadden was one of those who walked out of the meeting. Wednesday, she voted to approve Davis’ amended contract.
The walkout exposed fractures in the school board. It preceded several board members saying they weren’t aware of what they were voting for when paving the way for a lawsuit against state officials for a one-year state law banning mask mandates in K-12 schools.
Scott said the fight over details in Davis’ contract has been simmering for months.
“It really saddens me that on this board we could not come to a compromise for six months to get a unanimous vote to approve Dr. Davis’ contract,” Scott said.
The Wednesday meeting was not a normally scheduled meeting, and the only item on the agenda was Davis’ contract.
The majority of the public meeting was taken up by board members airing grievances from last week’s meeting and criticizing one another for the way they conducted themselves.
Davis, who sits in the center of the board members at meetings, did not enter the conversation. At the end of the meeting he thanked God, his family and the board for their support.
“Richland 2 has been my personal home and my professional home for over 20 years,” Davis said. “There’s no place that I’d rather be, no school district that I’d rather lead than this one right here.”