Florence School District 1 superintendent to resign

Florence One Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges served as this year’s Annual Back to School Celebration speaker greeting and welcoming employees back to another school year.

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – The superintendent for Florence School District 1 will resign on December 31, News13 learned Thursday night at school board meeting.

“I’ll ask for a motion to accept the letter of resignation from Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges effective December 31st, 2017,” said Chairman Barry Townsend after a one hour executive session.

“I don’t see the purpose of a motion if he’s turning in his resignation,” replied board member Alexis Pipkins.

The majority of the board was visibly upset by the announcement and after 20 seconds of silence, board member Will McLeod made a motion to accept the resignation.

“I’ll make a motion, not because I think it’s the right thing for the district, but out of respect for Dr. Bridges, if it helps the process I’ll make the motion,” McLeod.

Board Member Bryan Chapman then seconded the motion and gave a statement about Dr. Bridges.

“I will second it in reluctance and sadness that someone of such great caliber, who has taken our district and his major highlights in his three years and brought bridges, along with his name, to connect many dots and faced many obstacles,” Chapman said. “He has carried us to an excellent level, I never heard anything negative coming from the staff that’s he’s served, the people he’s served and the district he’s served,” he continues, “ He has showed me character and showed me admirable qualities that will be greatly missed in that place that he has served us. I second that motion.”

Townsend then asked for a vote to accept the resignation and Board Member Alexis Pipkins was the only person to verbally vote in favor for Dr. Bridges’ resignation. Secretary EJ McIver opposed it.

“I’m not going to accept this resignation because like both of them (Chapman and McLeod) just said, I’m speaking from my heart,” said McIver. “This man has shown great character and he’s moved our district forward like light speed and all he’s done actually is carry out what we asked him to do so if anyone should resign it should be us, not him,” the secretary continued, “We gave him an agenda and he took it and he implemented that agenda. I think he was one of the best superintendents that I’ve ever been associated with and I’ve been in education now, as an educator, for 33 years. This is a sad day for our district. Nobody’s perfect,” he continued with a note he said he wrote at one o’clock in the morning. McIver said, at the time he wrote it, he didn’t know Dr. Bridges was going to resign. He said he believed it was an epiphany or revelation for how Thursday night ended. It read:

“Before you speak, learn the facts. Before you judge, understand why. Before you hurt someone, feel. Before you speak, think.”

Board members went on to give statements about the leadership Dr. Bridges has given to the district. Many members supported Dr. Bridges in his decision, but were not necessarily pleased with it. Both Chapman and Board Member John Galloway agreed this is a time to put personal feelings aside and put the children first.

“For the record I want to be clear that I do support his resignation, but again it’s with sad, sad tones and hopefully we as a board can find a moment in this moment to work together for our children and put them back as a highlight in a focus on things that’s more important than any personal agendas that anyone could have,” said Chapman. “At this time as we go into an interim period and beyond, that we use what we’ve learned from him and others to make this district excellent again and continue to stay in excellence.”

Board Member John Galloway said he’s only been on the board since January, but he’s encountered many superintendents and said Dr. Bridges is a big loss to the district.

“We as a board have not done what we should have done to support him and I don’t care who we get, it will not be like Dr. Bridges,” Galloway said. “The next person that we get, we’re going to have to support him. We’ve got to stop all of this bickering and all this old stupid stuff that we do and if we ask somebody to drive the bus, let them drive the bus and support him. Give him some gas to go in the bus. He’s a good man I hate to see him go.”

Vice-Chair Trisha Caulder said speaking about Dr. Bridges departure was difficult for her.

“”I’ve been in this district ever since the 60s,” she said “I’ve been with all of those superintendents and when I retired and Dr. Bridges came on, I said “I just wish I had had the opportunity to work for a man like him.” With the vision, the foresight, the leadership skills, that he has, it’s been amazing for me to watch him and the different ideas and the things that’s he’s brought to this school district.”

She said he brought the district together like nobody has done before.

“How he brought our principals together, the respect they have for him because that was lacking in this school district for a long time and as someone who had been there and seen all of that he was like a breath of fresh air to us,” she said. “He led us, he showed us things that we had not seen before. Our kids now have programs in their schools that they never would have had before because people didn’t have the vision here to do those things,” she continued. “This school district has been able to really shine since he’s been here, believe me it has not been easy for him, everything that he tried to do has been criticized in one way or another and it’s not fair and most the time it was criticized by people who did not know what was going on in the schools at that particular time. It’s sad that we’re going to lose the best man that we’ve had in a long, long time. How we’re going to replace him? I don’t know. This school district has so many things we’re trying to do right now, so many new programs. I am just very much at a loss tonight because I admire him as a person, as a professional.”

Caulder then turned to Dr. Bridges and spoke to him personally before the meeting was adjourned.

“I hate to lose you because, again, we found ourselves in this predicament three years ago and I’m not looking forward to it again because you set the bench mark really high for us and you’ve really shown us the way that we can grow our district and the things that we can do for our district to make it better, she said. “If there was anything that the majority of us on this board could do to convince you to stay with us for a while we would do that, but again I’d like to thank you for all that you’ve put up with and all the things that you’ve been through since you’ve been with us, but I for one, along with some of these other board members truly appreciate you and your hard work.”

School Board Chair Barry Townsend said if Dr. Bridges took back his resignation most of the board would welcome him back with glee.

“This is one of the most disappointing nights I can imagine,” Townsend said. “The time I’ve spent working with Dr. Bridges on this board have by far been the most rewarding of the years I have been on the board. I think it’s a sad, sad night for the students of Florence School District One, it’s a sad night for Florence.”

Dr. Randy Bridges became superintendent in January 2015. His contract was scheduled to end in June 2020.

Bridges felt the district needed a different type of leadership, according to board chair Barry Townsend. The board voted Thursday night to accept Bridges’ resignation.

Bridges said in a press release sent shortly after the meeting that the district had “significant items to address over the next three to five years” and “having a new superintendent to lead these efforts is better than starting them and bringing someone in after the processes have already begun.”

Townsend told News13 Bridges could take back his resignation, but he probably wouldn’t.

“It is with deep regret and heartfelt appreciation for his service to Florence School District One that the Board accepts Dr. Randy Bridges’ resignation as Superintendent,” Townsend said in a press release. “Dr. Bridges leaves us in a much better place than he found us.”