Aiken County names new superintendent after contentious meeting

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Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019
News 12 at 11 o'clock

AIKEN COUNTY, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Aiken County Board of Education announced King Laurence as interim superintendent of schools Tuesday night after a contentious evening.

It was the public's first chance to address the board following Dr. Sean Alford's resignation last week. Hundreds showed up and more than a dozen got up to speak. Pastor Paul Bush was the first to voice his concerns to the board.

"We hold all of you accountable, and we expect answers from you all," he said.

Accountability and answers were two of the main themes in Tuesday's meeting.

"I think the public needs answers about it," said Sarah Young, an Aiken County parent. "I'm concerned about my child's education."

Young is relatively new to the area, but she still felt compelled to speak tonight.

"I don't think you can make a decision of this gravity and expect everyone to go back to business and move on," she said, which was met by a roaring applause.

There were 14 speakers signed up to address the board. The floor was then opened to anyone who had a question or comment. Betty Ryberg was the first to get up. Ryberg has been in Aiken County since 1977, and worked with Alford when she was a track and field and cross country coach at Aiken High School.

"I could understand his qualities that were finer than anything we've seen before in this district," she said.

She wasn't the only one to praise Alford's character.

"When I got here [it] was haves and have nots," said Tara Reeder, a Silver Bluff graduate. "Dr. Alford bridged that gap for us."

"A person that was doing such a great job," Pastor Bush said. After an hour of listening to the public, the board moved on with its normal agenda. Most people in attendance left at that point, but about two dozen stayed until the board came back around 10:45 p.m.

The school board named King Laurence as interim superintendent. Laurence was the Chief Officer of Administration under Alford.

Board member Rosemary English then announced her official resignation, something she said she had planned on doing. She became the third board member to resign after Alford, joining Tad Barber and Ahmed Samaha.

English's announcement was met with a standing ovation of support from the few who were still in attendance.

In a comment after the meeting, Laurence said it's time to begin the healing process.

"My first responsibility is to try to provide a sense of calm and make sure that our school district stays on track and we focus on our children," he said.

No timetable was announced on when the board would search for a permanent replacement for Alford.

There will be a special election for the vacant board member spots, but the dates have not yet been released.

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