Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Anita Huggins hired as new CCSD superintendent

Her contract signed without board approval
Anita Huggins presents a holiday message, December 2023.

Anita Huggins, who has served as the Charleston County School District’s interim superintendent since the previous superintendent Dr. Eric Gallien’s removal, has been hired as the next permanent superintendent.

Gallien was suspended as superintendent in September and in the next month reached a $350,000 settlement with the school board following a lawsuit. This school board presently contains a majority far-right Moms for Liberty backed faction composed of five members: Carlotte Bailey, Keith Grybowski, Ed Kelley, Pam McKinney, and Leah Whatley.

Gallien’s suspension, as well as the denial of a permanent title to then-interim Chief Academic Officer Michelle Simmons in the same meeting, were accused by members of the community to be racist. During the September 25th Board of Trustees meeting, a person in the audience shouted, “What’s the justification? If it isn’t racism, what is it?” Additional condemnation was made by the other four school board Trustees Daron Lee Calhoun II, Darlene Dunmeyer-Roberson, Courtney Waters, and Carol Tempel, State Representative JA Moore, and Governor Henry McMaster.

In the same September 25th meeting in which Gallien was suspended, deputy superintendent Anita Huggins was given the position as interim superintendent.

On January 22th, following a two hour private executive session, the school board voted 5-4 to offer Anita Huggins the title of superintendent and negotiate a three-year contract. The vote was unprecedented as Huggins had not gone through the same process other district administrators are required to go through before being offered the title.

Calhoun gestures to Grybowski during the January 22nd meeting.

In the meeting, Calhoun criticized the Moms for Liberty backed trustees, stating that he was never against Huggins, but rather he takes issue with the board “not going through the process.” He stated, “Let’s go through the process and do our job. We don’t do our job for anything else. At least do it for this one time.”

Waters stated in the same session that “it’s very rare that you get to watch systemic racism play out in your face” and criticized the Moms for Liberty backed trustees for hypocrisy due to the board’s nonhesitation to immediately offer Huggins the position as superintendent compared to difficulty of giving Gallien his role as superintendent. Speaking to the audience, she said, “This is what happens when you don’t pay attention when you’re voting.” Dunmeyer-Roberson and Tempel echoed her sentiment immediately after, the latter calling the board “unstable.”

Following these four trustees’ consecutive statements, Whatley condemned those “acquiring other elected officials based on what they believe in their own minds,” referring to them as “gross.” Bailey followed, referring to the day as “a bright new day” for Charleston. She reaffirmed the board’s decision to offer the job to Huggins citing immense public support and denied the allegations of racism in the school board. She acknowledged the board’s instability but stated that Huggins’ position as superintendent will help bring stability.

On January 30th, Huggins announced her intention to accept the school board’s offer on the condition that the school board trustees meet with her in groups of three and “build a consensus” regarding her position.

The same day, the mayors of Charleston, North Charleston, and Mount Pleasant—William Cogswell, Reggie Burgess, and Will Haynie respectively—released a joint letter in support of Huggins, stating that “[s]tability and a commitment to equity and excellence are needed” in the school district. Additionally, Huggins’ qualifications were emphasized.

On February 6th, school board Chairman Keith Grybowski signed a contract with Huggins confirming her as CCSD superintendent.

In the contract, Huggins was offered $275,000 per year, the same salary as specified in Gallien’s former contract.

According to The Post and Courier, Tempel claimed that Grybowski signed the contract without any approval from the school board, stating that “the contract states a salary and the board never discussed salary,” additionally asking in an email to Grybowski on February 6th, “How can you justify signing a contract we have not approved as a school board?”

Grybowski wrote, “The contract’s terms and conditions are materially similar with precedent set by District in its negotiations with past superintendents.”

To the Charleston City Paper, he stated, “I think I have board approval. Plenty of time has been given to discuss it, and I never received anything. I think we have the right person. I think we’re on track with this person.”

To The Post and Courier, Tempel said, “As far as I know, none of the trustees have ever even seen her resume,” emphasizing the complete lack of communication between Grybowski and the rest of the board, particularly the minority faction.

Whatley contradicted the minority faction, stating that Huggins “went through a rigorous interview and vetting process; and I don’t think that’s really been brought out.”

As noted by attorney William Hamilton, It is district policy that “[t]he chairman shall call all special meetings of the board and when required, sign all legal documents on behalf of the board, [and] keep all members informed.”

Additionally stated, “The chairman shall not exercise any authority as an individual to supervise or direct the superintendent or serve as a barrier between the superintendent and the board.”

Hamilton thus alleges that the contract is void due to the violation of written district policy.

As also noted by Hamilton, the South Carolina Code of Laws Section 59-19-80 states that “the memoranda of the terms of any such contract of employment or purchase shall be duly recorded in the minutes of such meeting and approved by the [school] board.” He believes that this section of South Carolina law was violated because Huggins’ final contract was not presented to the school board before being signed by Grybowski.

CCSD’s General Counsel Wilbur Johnson claims that the contract is valid because the January 22th motion which approved a contract to be negotiated with Huggins did not specify that the final contract had to be presented to the board, and additionally that the South Carolina Code of Laws clause does not specify that the superintendent is subject to it.

The full text of the contract was not given to the public immediately but has since been posted online.

The next open session Board of Trustees meeting is set to be held on February 26th.

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