Richland 1 school board member Beatrice King sent a letter Thursday to newly named superintendent Craig Witherspoon, asking him to come to a community forum within the next two weeks – before he signs a contract with the district.
“As we are sure you are aware, the vote held by our board to elect you as our next buperintendent was not unanimous and sparked a high degree of controversy within our community,” King wrote in the letter to the former Birmingham, Ala., schools chief.
“We believe this controversy is centered on the belief by many that they did not have an opportunity to be fully involved in the process and were not given an opportunity to get to know you or hear your vision for our school district.”
The letter was signed by King and school board member Pamela Adams. The two sought to delay the vote last Friday, citing growing community concern over Witherspoon’s stormy tenure in Birmingham. The board rejected calls for delay, voting 5-2 to name Witherspoon as the top candidate among an initial applicant pool of 77.
“I think it is a very, very appropriate thing for him to do,” King said Thursday, noting that she is still fielding concerns from the community.
Witherspoon survived two calls for his firing while in Birmingham and endured a takeover of the schools by the state. He abruptly resigned late last year, despite a decision by a new school board to extend his contract.
King said she wants to make sure his tenure is a success, and for that to happen she believes the community must view Witherspoon as the best person to run the 24,000-student urban district.