Florence District 1 school board member recommends change after racially insensitive emails released

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Following a heated meeting with the Florence District 1 school board Thursday evening, one board member is calling for new leadership.

The school board confirmed Wednesday that longtime board member Glenn Odom resigned from his position, and while he says it’s because he moved out of the district he represented, district officials say Odom’s resignation is connected to “racially insensitive” emails.

Thursday evening’s school board meeting was tense as Board Chairman Barry Townsend said he met with the Vice Chair Trisha Caulder and Odom before having another meeting with the district attorney. Board member Alexis Pipkins noted the meetings were conducted in secret, which is unethical.

Board member Alexis Pipkins questioned why racially offensive emails were forwarded from the superintendent’s office to only Chairman Barry Townsend and not the entire board.

“I’m trying to figure out why his fingers hit one instead of all,” says Pipkins. “When this occurred, all board members should have been informed at the same time.”

Pipkins shared the emails with News13.

From board member Glenn Odom to district employee Kim Hoffman at 3:34 p.m. Aug. 29:

Kim
My school board buddy, that dangerous and irresponsible Porter Stewart, has decided that he is unable to go tomorrow night.  Would you be so kind as to send an e-mail out to the Board asking if I could get a ride?  Just don’t send it to the darkies.
Glenn

From board member Glenn Odom to district employee Kim Hoffman at 4:08 p.m. Aug. 29:

Kim
That was in jest about the darkies, just don’t send it to HD Pipkins.  Who ever wants to, we could meet at 229 S. Coit about 4pm and leave extra cars there.  I don’t feel good about driving at night.
HW Glenn

Pipkins says he believes the “HD” in front of his name refers to “head darky.”

“My name is Alexis D. Pipkins but H is not my first initial,” states Pipkins. “There is no interpretation that the H was implying AD. It means Head Darky.”

Townsend admits he and the vice chair had two meetings with Odom before sharing the information with the full board.

On Friday, Pipkins made several recommendations to the board:

  1. Develop a resolution to publicly denounce the actions of the former board member
  2. Request the South Carolina School Board Association (SCSBA) to take action and issue a resolution to publicly denounce the actions of the former board member and any board member who utilizes racism and defaming words concerning board members and anyone regardless of race, creed or religion
  3. Develop a race, equity and diversity training session with an organization that specializes in addressing issues
  4. Training for leadership
  5. Request the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the Justice Department to launch an investigation or audit the Florence School District One (FSD1) e-mail system. To determine if other acts are being communicated by other individuals in the organization
  6. Submit incident to the Justice Department
  7. Review impacts of Odom’s 25-year seat on the school board
  8. Call for new leadership for the district including the board members involved and the superintendent’s office

 

He says if the recommendations are not met, he wants the chairman and superintendent to resign.

“I will call for new leadership,” assures Pipkins.

Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges says he was the first African American to see the email.

“Have I heard that term before? Absolutely, and others,” states Bridges. “Have they been associated to me? Absolutely, and others.”

Bridges says the board has not reviewed the recommendations, but he wants to shift the focus back to the students.

Pipkins plans to present his recommendations to the board during the next school board meeting.