A third member of the Aiken County School Board resigned Friday and is calling for an ethics investigation of the board.
Rosemary English, a retired teacher and administrator in Aiken County Public Schools, resigned following the board's vote to accept Dr. Sean Alford's resignation as the superintendent of the Aiken County Public School District at a special called meeting Sept. 5.
She said her resignation will become effective at 11:59 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.
"I have heard the great outcry from the citizens of Aiken County ... to not resign, but remain on the board," English said in her letter. "I have given much thought, consideration, and prayer to your request; however, as recent as Tuesday, September 10th, the board and I are still not on the same page, and we do not share the same vision for the students, employees, and citizens of this great county.
"However, if the school board (in good faith is willing to regain the trust, respect, and support of this community) is willing to submit itself to a thorough investigation by the Ethics Commissions or its commensurate, then, I would re-consider my resignation. If the board chooses not to be investigated, my resignation is effective Friday September 13, 2019 at 11:59 p.m."
Former board members Tad Barber and Ahmed Samaha resigned from the board effective immediately at the meeting Sept. 5. The School Board voted to accept their resignations after meeting in executive session at its regular meeting Sept. 10.
Former Aiken County School Board members Tad Barber and Ahmed Samaha released their letters of resignation to the Aiken Standard on Friday.
At the Sept. 5 meeting, English said she would resign but would wait until Friday, Sept. 13, which was Alford's last day with the district.
Alford resigned after the School Board obtained an audio tape of an exchange between the Aiken County schools superintendent and former school employee Andrew Cox where the superintendent allegedly threatened Cox in June.
The Aiken Standard asked Cox on Wednesday to provide a copy of the audio recording, but Cox did not respond to that request. The Aiken Standard intends to have the audio examined by an independent authority for its authenticity and any possible editing.
The full content of English's letter of resignation is as follows:
“To: The Citizens of Aiken County and the Aiken County School Board
Re: Resignations of Dr. Sean Alford, Mr. Tad Barber, Rosemary English, Mr. Ahmed Samaha
Date: September 13, 2019
“It is with an extremely heavy heart and broken spirit that I address you at this time. Being an elected official is an honor of distinction, characterized by integrity, responsibility, impeccable character and accountability. Often times an elected official is referred to as “Honorable” or “The Honorable,” indicating the level of respect and esteem in which one is held. It has been and remains to be that same level of respect and esteem that I have always held for myself: as a Christian, a lady, wife, mother, professional, role model, and board member.
King Laurence will be the interim superintendent of Aiken County Public Schools effective Sept. 14.
“At the Aiken County School Board meeting on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, I witnessed a host of concerned Aiken County citizens voice their feelings about the untimely resignations of Dr. Sean Alford and one-third of the board members. I heard accusations, truths, perceptions, promises; however, most of all heard questions, but no answers!!! At this meeting, the chairman apologized for his action at the Thursday meeting (September 5th ) when no public participation was allowed.
“However, at the September 10, 2019, meeting following a lengthy, emotional public participation session, the chairman thanked the public for their participation, stating we have heard you and will consider your concerns. The board continued the rest of the meeting, ending with a motion and second to go into executive session.
“Although the question was posed by a member during executive session, there was no discussion of, on, or about public participation. Well, as a concerned citizen, I have a couple of questions to ask:
1. As an elected board member of Aiken County, to whom are we held accountable?
2. Do we not owe the citizens of Aiken County a full and thorough account of what happened?
3. What in Aiken County could have reduced a solid, sound, well respected school board to this point?
4. Are we both judge and jury?
5. In these United States, is not a man innocent until proven guilty?
6. Is it true that both student/employee have a right to due process?
7. As board members, are we sworn to be governed by specific ethics, rules, responsibilities, guidelines?
8. What can we do to rebuild trust and restore the integrity of a very tainted school board?
9. Finally, as a sitting board are we willing to submit to a thorough investigation of the board members, practices, proceeding, etc. from November 2018 through September 13, 2019, with such investigation being conducted by the Ethics Commissions or an organization so designated and qualified to scrutinize ethical behavior of elected officials?
“Therefore, I very regretfully submit my resignation from the Aiken County School Board, a position I have held since November, 1998, having served both Vice Chair and/or Chair for a total of ten consecutive years; said resignation will become effective Friday September 13, 2019 at 11:59 p.m.
“I have heard the great outcry from the citizens of Aiken County, former students, co-workers, supervisors, friends, and fellow board members to not resign, but remain on the board. I have given much thought, consideration, and prayer to your request; however, as recent as Tuesday September 10th, the board and I are still not on the same page, and we do not share the same vision for the students, employees, and citizens of this great county.
“However, if the school board (in good faith is willing to regain the trust, respect, and support of this community) is willing to submit itself to a thorough investigation by the Ethics Commissions or its commensurate, then, I would re-consider my resignation. If the board chooses not to be investigated, my resignation is effective Friday September 13, 2019 at 11:59 p.m.
Rosemary B. English
Aiken County School Board.”
Editor's note: This item has been updated in conformity with the clarification published in the September 22, 2019 print and electronic versions of the paper.
An audio tape of an alleged exchange between the Aiken County schools superintendent and a former school employee appears to be a factor in recent resignations involving the Aiken County Public School District and School Board.