School board calls former superintendent's lawsuit centering around racial discrimination 'absolutely ridiculous'

By: Justin Fabiano Email
By: Justin Fabiano Email
Mary Rice-Crenshaw

Former Superintendent Mary Rice-Crenshaw was fired from her position after the school board's decision Tuesday. (WRDW-TV / Oct. 12, 2011)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012

EDGEFIELD, S.C. -- Former Edgefield County school Superintendent Dr. Mary Rice-Crenshaw is slapping the school board with a lawsuit.

Rice-Crenshaw was terminated without cause in October 2011. Her lawsuit says the board of education breached her contract.

"We had not heard anything back from her in months, and then this gets dropped on us yesterday," said Edgefield County School Board Chairman Brad Covar.

According to her contract, if the school board terminates her employment before Jan. 15 of any year, then they owe her the rest of her salary for that year. If they terminate her after Jan. 15, then they owe her for the rest of the year plus an additional school year. She was terminated in October.

"We fulfilled our obligation as far as we understand our contract with Dr. Crenshaw," Covar said.

He says they paid her through June of 2012.

Her term of employment began in July, so it becomes an interpretation of the phrase "any year." If a so-called year begins in July and ends in June, then October falls before January. If the meaning of the word "year" remains in its traditional January through December sense, then October falls beyond Jan. 15, meaning the longest period the board would have to pay her contract out to would be June of 2013.

According to the lawsuit Dr. Crenshaw filed, she says she should be paid through June of 2013 plus an additional year. The lawsuit goes beyond just contractual agreements, however.

It brings race into the equation.

"[I'm] shocked quite frankly," Covar stated. "Some of the allegations in there are just absolutely ridiculous and very personal with me."

He's referring to a statement in the lawsuit that allegedly quotes Covar saying to Rice-Crenshaw in a meeting before she was fired, "You no longer have the number. Look at the board."

That alleged statement was supposedly referring to the number of African-American board members to the number of white board members.

"I'm very upset about it," Covar said. "I think people know me and know that's not the case."

Rice-Crenshaw has requested a jury trial, which means Covar and four other board members may have to prove it's not the case in court.

"Personally, I am offended by what is said in that lawsuit, and I certainly don't intend just to stand by and let someone accuse me of things that are in there," he said.

A news release issued by the school board says in order to defend themselves, they'll be forced to publicize what they believe to be Rice-Crenshaw's shortcomings. The release says they fired her without cause so they wouldn't have to discuss those.

Neither Rice-Crenshaw nor her attorney returned any of News 12's calls.

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