LAURENS COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Two trustees have resigned from the Laurens County School District 55 Board.

Neal Patterson and Todd Varner submitted their resignations Monday. Patterson moved out of his district, while Varner cited the “rift” between Superintendent Dr. Ameca Thomas and Board Chair Cathy Little as his reason for resigning.

Varner’s resignation letter read, in part:

I continue to see no progress in repairing the working relationship between the two of you. This rift and unwillingness to see the other perspective leaves little to no hope for any forward progress in the near future. The vitriolic behavior of Dr. Thomas’ supporters in recent meetings has degraded what should and could be a constructive and positive collaboration into chaos and disorder.

Todd Varner, former Trustee of the Laurens County School District 55 Board

“With two board members resigning, with all of the disarray and dysfunction of the board, my hope is now that the state comes in and mediates it to see where we go from here,” Traci Fant of Freedom Fighters Upstate SC said. “Right now, everybody is kind of at a standstill. What do we do next? What should be done next?”

A special election will be held on August 1 to fill the vacant school board seats.

Monday’s school board meeting

The resignations came after Monday’s school board meeting, which ended after none of the trustees motioned to approve the meeting’s agenda.

The board had planned to approve teacher contracts and discuss Thomas’ contract.

In February, dozens of community members were outraged when Thomas’ contract was reviewed though it is not set to expire until 2026.

“We have board members that are trying to remove the superintendent,” Jendayi Shumate, a parent, said. “If you could give me a perfectly good reason why, then okay. But, if there’s no reason why, then why are you trying to take this lady’s job?”

Some community members said Little was trying to oust Thomas. A petition is now circulating to remove Little from the board.

“She’s unethical,” Anthony Carpenter, a trustee of the Laurens County School District 55 Board, claimed. “She doesn’t do anything the board is supposed to do. She constantly interferes with the superintendent.”

“Something needs to change,” Shumate added. “Right now, Cathy Little needs to go. There’s no agreement amongst the board members. There’s no coming together.”

Little released the following statement Tuesday:

A discussion took place on Feb 27th  that ended in no action.  From that point forward there have been no board discussions regarding any changes to the superintendent’s contract. 

The AGENDA ITEM regarding the superintendent’s contract for the May 1st meeting was added at the request of the superintendent, NOT the board. 

My hope was to use the meeting to enable the superintendent to do her job to the best of her ability and support the work going on in big and small ways in the district. It’s time to find unity in helping to educate our children rather than chaos that robs our children of the time we are here to serve them. And that starts with us being able to conduct board business in a civil manner.  That was my hope and expectation for the meeting last night.  

In an effort to bridge the gap, I reached out on two occasions requesting a meeting with one particular board member.  On both occasions, the meeting was refused.   Compromise is not possible without civil discussion.   

Unfortunately, due to the actions of some board members last night,  we were not able to conduct business.  Board members are servants to the community and have an obligation to perform the duties in which we were elected to perform.   The negligence of some have grossly let down our students, teachers, other staff, our district as a whole, and our community.  They all deserve better. 

Cathy Little, Chair of the Laurens County School District 55 Board

The board will hold a Special Called Meeting on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, at 12:00 p.m. via Conference Call.