Coles is on board’s agenda again

Richland 1 school board members will continue to discuss superintendent Allen Coles’ performance tonight, focusing on issues they highlighted in his November 2006 review: student academic performance, communications and staff relations, according to board member Rob Tyson.

Tonight’s meeting will be the fourth time board members have convened in closed executive session to discuss the superintendent, whose three-year contract ends June 30, 2008.

School board members said in a November statement they would consider “adjustments to the superintendent’s employment contract” during this review.

School board member Jasper Salmond said Coles made a presentation to board members during a meeting Thursday. The closed meeting stretched eight hours and ended at 12:30 a.m. Friday; Coles declined to comment when he left the building at 10:10 p.m.

“We’re looking at what he’s done in the (past) six months,” Tyson said. “Those things just take time to work through and look at and analyze.”

School board meetings to discuss Coles’ performance have drawn little public attendance.

Bill McKinney, an A.C. Flora High School parent, has organized a group of about a dozen concerned parents and Richland 1 taxpayers to rally support for Coles, who has been on the job nearly 22 months.

McKinney said the lengthy, repeated private discussions send a message to onlookers.

“It’s a sure sign to me that certain members of the board are not getting their way as easily as they thought,” McKinney said.

The lack of public attendance at meetings is a marked difference from the 2005 firing of Lexington-Richland 5 superintendent Dennis McMahon, when the controversial move drew crowds that overflowed from auditoriums and meeting rooms.

Tyson said he has received “hundreds” of phone calls and e-mails. Richland 1 has not responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by The State to view communications to the district regarding Coles.

“I don’t know why more people aren’t involved,” McKinney said. “I think a lot of people have a defeatist attitude about it. They think the board’s going to do whatever it’s going to do, and whatever they say isn’t going to help.”

Repeated attempts to reach Coles and school board chairwoman Wendy Brawley for comment were unsuccessful.