Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


CCSD Superintendent Gallien suspended

Gallien retaliates with lawsuit
Superintendent Gallien during an interview on WTAT-TV.

Following September 11th’s secretively planned meeting held by the Charleston County school board to discuss his contract, Superintendent Dr. Eric Gallien was placed on paid administrative leave by the school board in a 5-4 vote on September 25th.

All five trustees who voted to put Gallien on leave are backed by the conservative organization Moms for Liberty. These trustees are Carlotte Bailey, Keith Grybowski, Edward Kelly, Pamela McKinney, and Leah Whatley.

During an executive session behind closed doors, a complaint was made against Gallien which prompted a unanimously supported investigation. However, Gallien was placed on leave despite this investigation having not been completed. Gallien became CCSD’s superintendent on July 1st, making his term last less than three months.

In the same meeting on September 25th, the Moms for Liberty backed trustees additionally voted to not hire Michelle Simmons, the school district’s interim Chief Academic Officer who has served since August of 2022. The five trustees have not provided a reason for the removal of Gallien or Simmons.

The decisions proved controversial during the meeting. In response to Gallien’s leave, a member of the community shouted to the board requesting they admit they want “the white woman to fill in for the black man [they’re] trying to get rid of,” insisting that they just “say it that way.” Earlier in the meeting, someone from the public demanded to know, “What’s the justification? If it isn’t racism, what is it?”

Board trustees not backed by Moms of Liberty have spoken out against the vote to put Gallien on leave. According to the Post and Courier, Carol Tempel, board trustee and former principal of Academic Magnet High School, praised Gallien and stated that the decision was “unacceptable.” Darlene Dunmeyer-Roberson apologized to Gallien, and Daron Lee Calhoun II described the school board as currently being “one of the most dysfunctional boards in the state of South Carolina.”

State representative JA Moore released a statement on September 26th calling the Moms of Liberty backed trustees “a disgrace” and criticizing the politicization of the education system. State representative Marvin Pendarvis, who proposed a bill allowing North Charleston to form its own school district separate from CCSD, reaffirmed his stance following the controversy.

Republican governor Henry McMaster condemned the actions of the board’s Moms for Liberty backed trustees on October 3rd, stating that it “needs to follow the law” in regard to the Freedom of Information Act.

Two days after the board voted to put him on administrative leave, on September 27th Gallien issued a statement thankful for the support he has received from the community. He assured the public that his dedication to education would not cease despite the loss of his role in the school district.

An online petition was created by Joy Brown on September 29th following the board’s vote to put Gallien on leave, demanding that Gallien be reinstated as Superintendent, Michelle Simmons be hired as Chief Academic Officer, and that members of the Health Advisory Board be reinstated within the school district. As of October 5th, the petition has over two thousand signatures.

On October 5th, Gallien responded to the vote with a lawsuit against CCSD. He alleges that the district illegally held a meeting, breached his contract, and violated its own policy.

The illegally held meeting allegedly took place during the September 25th board meeting. During the meeting, before the vote to put Gallien on leave was held, the five Moms for Liberty backed trustees unexpectedly left the room as the meeting was suddenly paused for a recess. While the other four trustees remained in the room, the others privately voted to replace Gallien with Anita Huggins, who would later be voted in as interim superintendent. The “meeting within a meeting,” as described by Gallien’s attorneys, is a supposed violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

Gallien additionally alleges that his power to handle personnel within the school district as superintendent had been effectively removed from him by the Moms for Liberty backed trustees of the school board. On May 18th, the school board voted to require administrative personnel changes by the superintendent to be approved by the board. Since then, every time Gallien has tried to hire or promote an employee, he has been prevented by the Moms for Liberty backed trustees. One of these employees is Michelle Simmons.

On September 21st, an email was sent to Gallien from an undisclosed employee who he wanted to move to a new position. As put by WCSC, “the employee felt disrespected because she was not given the job duties she wanted.”

Gallien’s attorneys state that the General Counsel revealed to Gallien that the added agenda items covered in the private executive session on September 11th’s meeting were meant to “place Dr. Gallien on leave due to the disgruntled employee’s complaint against him.”

In his lawsuit, Gallien demands that he be reinstated as superintendent as well as be guaranteed as superintendent the authority to make changes to administrative personnel and specify that the role of the Board of Trustees is exclusively to set policy.

If Gallien were to lose his lawsuit, it is possible that a new nationwide precedent could be set. Moms for Liberty has holds over many school boards across the entire country, all of which could face similar removals of superintendents and high ranking administrators if Charleston sets an example of it working in favor of the organization.

In the event of such a precedent being established, many other school districts with majorities supported by Moms for Liberty such as Miami-Dade County, Duval County, and Pinellas County, all of which are some of the largest counties in Florida, could have similar controversies.

In smaller counties, similar events have already happened. In November of 2022, Moms for Liberty backed board members acquired a majority in the Berkeley County School District and, in less than two hours after being sworn in, fired their superintendent. In addition, they terminated the district’s lawyer, banned critical race theory and organized a committee to determine if specific books should be banned in the district.

None of the five Moms for Liberty backed CCSD board trustees have made any comments on Gallien’s lawsuit to any publication. The next Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled to occur on October 23rd, 2023.

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  • W

    Will KOct 16, 2023 at 4:21 pm

    As the gem of the district, AMHS should embarrass this board

  • L

    Loreen MyersonOct 11, 2023 at 1:54 pm

    Excellent article!