S.C. Department of Education and D.P. Cooper Board Announce Changes for D.P. Cooper Charter School in 2018-2019 School Year

Staff Report From South Carolina CEO

Friday, June 29th, 2018

After extensive negotiations, State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman and the D. P. Cooper Charter School Board of Trustees have reached an agreement whereby D. P. Cooper will operate as a traditional Williamsburg County School District elementary school serving students in grades K-6. The agreement also resolves the lawsuit filed by D.P. Cooper in March regarding issues related to its funding pursuant to the South Carolina Charter Schools Act. 

D.P. Cooper sues District for funding.

In March, D. P. Cooper sued the Williamsburg County School District alleging the District had underfunded the charter school between 2014 and 2018. The suit sought to obtain $1,393,737. As a result of the allegations contained in the lawsuit, the Williamsburg County’s Legislative Delegation (Senator Ronnie A. Sabb, Representative Carl L. Anderson, and Representative Cezar E. McKnight) asked the State Department of Education and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to investigate.  

Superintendent Molly Spearman and the Department of Education acted quickly.

On April 10, 2018, Superintendent Spearman held a community meeting at Kingstree Senior High School to hear local concerns. The following day, on April 11, 2018, Superintendent Spearman declared a state of emergency in the Williamsburg County School District pursuant to Proviso 1A.12 of the Appropriations Act of 2017. As a result, the Department immediately discharged the Williamsburg County School District Board and assumed responsibility for the day-to-day management of the District. Superintendent Spearman’s appointed Dr. Rose Wilder as Interim District Superintendent.  

The District and D. P. Cooper begin to work cooperatively.

During the April 10, 2018, Community Meeting at Kingstree Senior High School, Superintendent Spearman reassured those in attendance that all Williamsburg County schools would remain open through the end of the school year and that all District teachers would be paid. D. P. Cooper and the Department were able to begin working through issues raised by the lawsuit and to discuss how new plans for the District might benefit the students of D. P. Cooper. The agreement announced today is the result of those discussions.   

Terms of the agreement.

The parties have agreed that after this school year, D. P. Cooper will no longer operate as a charter school. The current District plan is for the school to return to its previous designation as a elementary school serving students grades K-6. D. P. Cooper’s summer programs will proceed as planned. The District has agreed to fund all remaining D. P. Cooper Fiscal Year 2017-18 payrolls, including retirement payments, through the end of this school year. The District will also fund the other costs of operating D. P. Cooper through the end of the 2017-18 school year.  The District has further agreed to provide a liaison staff person to assist former D. P. Cooper students who will now attend schools for which they are zoned this fall.