Criminal Defense Attorney in Rock Hill, SC

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Fighting For You

When you are charged with a crime or are involved in an accident, it can seem like the world is crashing down around you. Between the threat of incarceration and the chance of financial loss, these foreboding situations often feel overwhelming. Friends and family cut ties, your employer threatens termination, and life seems hopeless. It is imperative to have a fighter on your side during these trying times: one that will stick with you through thick and thin, without any judgments.

Welcome to the Law Office of Richard Waring: where defending your rights and freedoms is paramount in securing your future.

Richard implements a powerfully simple yet effective model for all his clients’ cases:

  • The Relentless Pursuit of a Positive Outcome
  • The Use of Creative Problem-Solving Tactics
  • Excellent Communication

When you are ready to fight back against the allegations against you, it is time to call the Law Office of Richard Waring – a criminal defense attorney on Rock Hill, SC, with the knowledge, experience, and drive to defend you during your most difficult time.

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What Clients Say About Us

Richard Waring

From Prosecution to Protecting Your Rights in Rock Hill

Richard Waring began his commitment to community service years ago. As a young man, he would spend his summers volunteering his time to help needy communities.

As an adult, his desire to help others manifested itself while I served as a prosecutor for "close to 10 years."?. During this time, he would take part in some of the most difficult trials in the Lowcountry’s history. He prosecuted thousands of individuals for crimes such as assault and battery, armed robbery, drug crimes, DUI, financial crimes, and even murder.
His time as a prosecutor was priceless, giving him valuable insight and knowledge into the inner workings of Rock Hill’s legal system. Today, Richard uses that experience to vigorously defend good, hardworking men and women whose freedoms are only one judgment away from disappearing.
Whether you made a mistake and need a second chance or have been wrongfully accused of a crime, you need a professional who has put in time on both sides. At the Law Office of Richard Waring, you can rest easy knowing this former prosecutor will fight tooth and nail for your freedom.

Criminal Defense

When you are charged with a crime, it can become a horrible experience. The range of emotions one goes through can be taxing: embarrassment, humiliation, regret, sadness, despair. The domino effect that often happens when charged with a crime can be awful, as well: loss of job, abandonment by your family or significant other, dirty looks from those in your community.

Fortunately, a criminal defense attorney in Rock Hill, SC, can help restore your reputation and repair your life. In times of legal crises, your friends and family may cut ties, but Richard Waring will be on your side from the time you call his office to the time your case is resolved.

Having prosecuted thousands of cases in South Carolina, Richard has a set of skills and experiences; assets that have guided him to win criminal cases against the government. Richard truly knows the criminal justice system’s ins and outs and is dedicated to fighting for his clients to achieve the best possible outcome on their criminal cases.

While some cases result in a positive outcome quickly, others must go to trial. Much like a combat athlete trains for months, hones his or her skills, and goes to war with an opponent, Richard Waring has prepared for and battled it out in many high-profile trials.

When you trust the Law Office of Richard Waring, you can rest assured that you are in capable hands. Each of our criminal defense clients receives the following when entrusting Richard Waring as their criminal defense lawyer in Rock Hill:

  • Vigorous representation
  • Quick response to emails and phone calls
  • Compassionate, understanding treatment
  • You will never be treated as unimportant or second-rate
  • Thorough investigation for your case
  • All of your constitutional rights, including the right to a fair trial, upheld
  • Notifications of important updates

The following are common cases that Richard Waring can handle for you:

  • Misdemeanor DUI/DWI
  • Felony DUI/DWI
  • Violent Crimes including: Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature, Assault and Battery, Attempted Murder, and Murder
  • Strong Armed Robbery
  • Armed Robbery
  • Drug Crimes
  • Manufacturing of Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Heroin, Crack, or Cocaine
  • Distribution of Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Heroin, Crack, or Cocaine
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Heroin, Crack, or Cocaine
  • Gun crimes including: pointing or present a firearm, possession of a pistol with obliterated serial numbers, possession of a stolen pistol
  • Restoration of Your Gun Rights
  • Trespassing
  • Larceny and Burglary
  • Property Crimes
  • Domestic Violence
  • Shoplifting
  • Financial Crimes including: Forgery, financial transaction card theft, fake IDs, breach of trust, obtaining goods by false pretenses
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Minor in Possession of Alcohol
  • Traffic Crimes including: driving without a license, speeding, reckless or careless driving
Criminal Defense
Importance Of Your Criminal Defense Attorney In Rock Hill, SC

Importance Of Your Criminal Defense Attorney In Rock Hill, SC

There are several key players in the criminal justice system, each with its own roles. The prosecutor is tasked with enforcing laws and convicting offenders. The judge serves as an unbiased decision-maker. The criminal defense attorney’s role is to protect the rights of the individual who is charged with a crime – a vitally important role in the criminal justice world.

Having a proactive, experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side almost always improves your chance of a positive outcome. While their primary role is to defend your rights and protect you from excessive sentences, they have many other duties.

When you entrust Richard Waring as your defense advocate, he will fight to protect your rights throughout the case by:

  • Arguing in court to reduce how much you must pay to post bail
  • Being present during police interrogations and interviews
  • Discovering and applying potent legal defenses
  • Advising you on your decision to plead guilty, not guilty, or to go to trial (if applicable)
  • Explaining the implications of pleading guilty
  • Gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses relating to the allegations against you
  • Meticulously examining the circumstance surrounding your search and arrest (if applicable) to uncover Fourth Amendment violations
  • Meticulously examining any drug or DUI-related chemical tests to ensure accuracy and uncover errors
  • Representing you during scheduled hearings
  • Representing you during a jury trial
  • Working with the prosecutor to discuss plea deals or the possibility of a reduced sentence
  • If convicted, representing you during the sentencing phase and arguing on your behalf for a fair sentence

Knowing Your Rights

As a defendant, you have important rights. Some of the rights that Richard Waring will fight to protect on your behalf are:

  • The right to a speedy trial
  • The right to remain silent
  • The right against unreasonable seizures and searches
  • The right against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • The right against cruel and unusual punishment
  • In most cases, the right to a jury trial
  • The right of innocence until proven guilty
  • The right to legal representation

While United States law does not mandate that a defense attorney be assigned to a defendant, the prosecutor must uphold your right to legal representation. If you cannot afford an attorney in Rock Hill, the government must supply you with a public defender.

While United States law does not mandate that a defense attorney be assigned to a defendant, the prosecutor must uphold your right to legal representation. If you cannot afford an attorney in Rock Hill, the government must supply you with a public defender.

Knowing Your Rights
Knowing Your Rights

Criminal Case Timeline In Rock Hill, SC

If you or a member of your family is facing criminal charges in Rock Hill, there is no doubt that you are anxious about the road ahead. You are not alone – most of our criminal defense clients worry about the uncertainties surrounding the legal process and what is next in their case.

At the Law Office of Richard Waring, we empathize with this stress, and as such, make every effort to address anxiety-inducing questions like:

  • How long will it take for my case to be resolved?
  • What type of sentence is common for the crime in which I am being accused?
  • Will the prosecutor offer me a favorable plea deal?

We cannot answer these questions in detail until we have time to review your case and speak with you one-on-one. Until that time, this high-level view of Rock Hill’s criminal case timeline can offer some insight into what lies ahead.

Arrest And Investigation

Arrest and Investigation

This is the first step in the criminal case timeline. During this time, police officer(s) will investigate the potential crime at hand and arrest whomever the officer(s) believes to be responsible. At this point, the person in question is considered a Defendant.

Initial Bond Setting

Initial Bond Setting

Shortly after the arrest (typically within the same day), defendants are granted an initial bond hearing. This short proceeding determines whether a defendant will be released from jail while charges are pending. It is wise to hire a criminal defense lawyer in Rock Hill, SC, before this hearing so that they may argue on your behalf.

Preliminary Hearing

Preliminary Hearing

The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence (or probable cause) for the case to carry on. Defendants must request this hearing within 20 days of their initial bond setting. Hearings typically commence within three to six weeks. It is especially important that defendants retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney at this stage.

Initial Appearance

Initial Appearance

The main purpose of this court date is to determine if the defendant has hired an attorney or will need a public defender appointed to them. If you have an attorney before this hearing, defendants are not required to be present. The initial appearance typically happens 45 days after the arrest.

Plea Offers

Plea Offers

n some cases, the State may offer a plea offer to the defendant. If the defendant accepts this deal, a hearing will be scheduled to finalize the defendant’s acceptance. If the defendant pleads guilty, they are typically sentenced on the spot. If the defendant rejects the plea, he or she may have to go before the judge to ensure they understand the consequences of rejecting a plea offer.

Discovery

Discovery

Under Rule 5 of the South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure, the defendant will receive all evidence that will be used against them. As your criminal defense attorneys in Rock Hill, we will submit a written request to the court to obtain this information. It may take the State weeks or months to turn over their evidence, especially if that evidence is new.

Indictment

Indictment

The first barrier for the State to prosecute takes place during the preliminary hearing. The second occurs during the indictment phase. In general terms, an indictment is a document that details the criminal charges which the defendant must face. Each crime listed on the indictment is called a “count.” During this phase, the State will gather a “grand jury” comprised of public citizens. This jury is presented with evidence to help them approve or disapprove of the charges contained in the indictment. If the indictment is approved, the defendant’s case will proceed to trial. If it is rejected, charges are usually dropped.

Trial

During the trial, both the defense and prosecution will present evidence to a jury, who will hand down a final verdict. The prosecutor’s job during the trial is to convince the jury, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty. The defendant is under no obligation to prove anything. As an experienced criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor, Richard Waring will work hard to convince the jury of his client’s innocence while pointing out holes in the prosecution’s case.

Typically, a trial in Rock Hill includes the following phases:

  • Jury Selection
  • Pre-Trial Motions
  • Opening Statements
  • The State’s Case
  • Directed Verdict
  • The Defense’s Case
  • The State’s Rebuttal
  • Closing Arguments
  • Jury Instructions and Deliberation
  • Verdict and Sentencing

Latest News in Rock Hill

Weather experts predict wintry weather. What does that mean for the Rock Hill region?

Road crews and utility companies stepped up preparations Friday for a winter storm that could bring significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice to the Rock Hill area and much of the Carolinas on Sunday.A Winter Storm Watch is in effect for the area, with forecasters saying the big threat for the Rock Hill region will be freezing rain and sleet.The National Weather Service’s latest forecast calls for around .4 of an inch of ice accumulation in York, Chester and Lancaster counties. Experts say scattered power outages can be ...

Road crews and utility companies stepped up preparations Friday for a winter storm that could bring significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice to the Rock Hill area and much of the Carolinas on Sunday.

A Winter Storm Watch is in effect for the area, with forecasters saying the big threat for the Rock Hill region will be freezing rain and sleet.

The National Weather Service’s latest forecast calls for around .4 of an inch of ice accumulation in York, Chester and Lancaster counties. Experts say scattered power outages can be expected when ice accumulations exceed .25 of an inch.

To make matters worse, breezy conditions are forecast Sunday with the storm.

Duke Energy officials said Friday they are calling in 600 utility repair workers from Florida and the Midwest, in addition to the 1,000 Carolinas employees ready to fix outages.

“Customers need to be prepared for a wintry mix that will bring with it the potential to cause outages in our service area,” said Jason Hollifield, Duke Energy Carolinas’ storm director. “We have power line and tree crews, along with other storm personnel, ready to safely respond to power outages this weekend.”

The S.C. Department of Transportation will be applying a brine mixture to highways Friday and Saturday, in an effort to prevent ice formation on roads.

Friday’s sunny skies and high temperatures in the mid 50s are a far cry from what can be expected late Saturday and Sunday across the region, forecasters say.

Colder air is predicted to funnel into the region Saturday, with highs only reaching the mid 40s under cloudy skies.

The storm system expected to affect the area took shape Friday over the Rockies. Precipitation from that storm is expected to arrive in the Rock Hill region late Saturday night.

“Conditions will then go downhill in a hurry Saturday night,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Justin Lane.

Snow will mix with or change to sleet in the Rock Hill area in the early-morning hours Sunday, then mix with or change to freezing rain sometime Sunday morning. Freezing rain is predicted to continue into Sunday afternoon.

The precipitation is predicted to change back to light snow Sunday evening before ending.

“Damaging accumulations of ice appear more likely along and south of a line from Anderson, to Spartanburg, to Gastonia, to Salisbury, including Charlotte and vicinity,” Lane said.

The Weather Service said it expects about 1 inch of snow and sleet accumulation in the Rock Hill area. Much heavier snow totals are forecast to the north, in the North Carolina foothills and mountains.

Duke Energy officials encouraged residents to use Friday and Saturday to prepare for the storm.

They said residents should make sure they have flashlights, batteries, bottled water and non-perishable foods, as well as a battery-power radio or television for news updates.

Families with people who are elderly or have special medical needs should make alternate shelter arrangements, Duke Energy officials added.

Cold air is predicted to follow the storm, so black ice could be a problem Monday and Tuesday mornings, forecasters say.

Highs on Monday and Tuesday are only expected to reach the low 40s, despite sunshine. And Tuesday morning lows could be near 15 degrees, meteorologists say.

The cold weather is forecast to continue for the rest of the month, and if all this isn’t enough, meteorologists say they are watching a pattern late next week that could bring another threat of wintry weather..

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttl

This story was originally published January 12, 2022 11:30 AM.

Self-defense or murder? Ex-SC cop still jailed in retired Rock Hill policeman’s death

Bond was denied Thursday to a former South Carolina deputy accused of murder in the beating death of a retired Rock Hill police lieutenant, according to officials and court records.However, the accused former Chester County deputy’s lawyer claimed in court Thursday that the killing was self-defense....

Bond was denied Thursday to a former South Carolina deputy accused of murder in the beating death of a retired Rock Hill police lieutenant, according to officials and court records.

However, the accused former Chester County deputy’s lawyer claimed in court Thursday that the killing was self-defense.

Evan Robert Hawthorne, 28, will remain in the York County jail without bail after Judge Dan Hall denied a request from Hawthorne’s lawyers to have Hawthorne released pending trial, records show. Hawthorne is charged with murder in the July 2021 beating death of retired Rock Hill Police Department Lt. Larry Vaughan.

Vaughan, 54, retired in 2020 after 30 years with the Rock Hill police. He was found dead July 23 in his apartment across the street from the police department in downtown Rock Hill.

Hawthorne was charged in the death after York County deputies said the two men had a fight, according to an arrest warrant obtained by The Herald.

Jack Swerling of Columbia, Hawthorne’s lawyer, said after court Thursday he was disappointed Hawthorne will remain jailed, but Hawthorne maintains his innocence. Swerling said he told the judge that Hawthorne was acting to defend himself.

“Our position is Mr. Hawthorne acted in self-defense after he was attacked,” Swerling said.

York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson confirmed bond had been denied but declined further comment. Sheriff deputies investigated the case to avoid a conflict of interest because of Vaughan’s three decades of employment with Rock Hill police.

Murray Glenn, spokesman for the 7th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, declined to discuss details of the case. The case is being handled by the 7th Circuit Solicitor’s Office from Spartanburg to avoid any potential conflict because of Vaughan’s history with York County prosecutors.

Rock Hill Police Department Chief Chris Watts said at Thursday’s hearing that Hawthorne is a potential threat to the community if released on bail. Dozens of current and former Rock Hill officers attended Thursday’s bond hearing.

Hawthorne has been jailed without bail since his arrest. He was a deputy with the Chester County Sheriff’s office until he was fired in 2019 after an arrest for alcohol-related offense in a patrol car, according to Chester and South Carolina law enforcement officials. Winthrop University officials said Hawthorne was a student at the time of his arrest.

No trial date has been set.

This story was originally published January 13, 2022 4:01 PM.

Would snow cancel school or send it virtual in the Rock Hill region? What we know now

A grade school tradition could meet a modern alternative early next week. What exactly might become of the snow day?With significant snow, ice or wintry mix in the weekend forecast, area school districts could face a new challenge. Traditionally, if roads weren’t deemed safe due to winter weather, students didn’t go to school. When COVID-19 hit, districts across the country invented and introduced a range of virtual school options.Weather forecasts for Saturday night into Sunday, show cold temperatures and precipita...

A grade school tradition could meet a modern alternative early next week. What exactly might become of the snow day?

With significant snow, ice or wintry mix in the weekend forecast, area school districts could face a new challenge. Traditionally, if roads weren’t deemed safe due to winter weather, students didn’t go to school. When COVID-19 hit, districts across the country invented and introduced a range of virtual school options.

Weather forecasts for Saturday night into Sunday, show cold temperatures and precipitation that could bring snow and ice. Some current models show 2-4 inches of snow possible in the Rock Hill region. Whether that winter weather materializes or how severe it might be should become clearer as the weekend progresses.

As of Thursday morning, it was too early to say what impact the weather might have on Fort Mill schools. A day off or a virtual learning day are on the table.

“We have not made a determination at this time but we have asked schools to prepare for either option should we miss school due to weather,” said Joe Burke, district spokesperson.

The area hasn’t had a significant, widespread snowfall since schools developed virtual options in spring 2020.

In a traditional snow day students don’t have school, but would make up the day later in the school calendar. A virtual day could count as traditional instruction. It could be live virtual, or have students work on their own.

“There are a lot of factors that will determine if the day out is used for an eLearning day or if a later day would be selected,” Burke said. “Some of these factors depend on the severity of the storm and possible damage done in our area.”

A little before noon Friday, the district sent a message to parents that schools were asked to have students and staff take necessary items, lesson plans and devices home should they need them next week due to weather.

“This is a precautionary measure and we have not made the final decision to transition to eLearning yet but we want students and staff to be prepared should we face issues from the severe weather in our area,” reads the message.

Area schools may not get their test run with this storm. It may not bring snow and ice. If it does, schools have an extra day for roads to thaw with Monday off for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Or, ice could linger into Tuesday to force a decision.

Like Fort Mill, Rock Hill Schools have a plan as the threat of snow or ice approaches.

Rock Hill Schools spokesperson Lindsay Machak told The Herald in an email that the district will make every effort to ensure students’ educational opportunities continue while at home.

The district, through the state, has the flexibility to use five eLearning days each year for inclement weather. That means in the event of ice, snow or torrentially terrible wind, the district would use an “eLearning day,” which, in other words, is a day when students receive work through an online platform and must complete it within a certain time.

“If for some reason we run out of eLearning days, we would use the weather days (snow days) and then have to make them up as dictated by our calendar make-up days,” Machak said.

It would take a significant storm to force the question in Clover or York. Both districts are scheduled to be off Tuesday.

The Clover School District board voted Wednesday during a special meeting to move the originally scheduled teacher workday from March 14 to Jan. 18. The calendar change was made because a significant number of staff are out as a result of COVID-19, according to the district’s website.

Clover School District spokesperson Bryan Dillon told The Herald in an email that the district’s calendar has three days built in to be used as bad weather make-up days, which is required by the state. The district also has the ability to call an “eLearning day” in the case of inclement weather, he said.

Since the district has the ability to plan in advance, the district could call an “eLearning day” on Wednesday if the weather requires it, Dillon said.

“CSD will be closely monitoring the amount of weather we receive and its impact on our roads,” he said.

York School District students also are scheduled to be off Tuesday. York School District spokesperson Tim Cooper told The Herald that the district is monitoring the weather and has started considering its options.

The district’s board voted Thursday during an emergency meeting to amend its calendar, moving the originally scheduled teacher workday on Feb. 18 to Jan. 18, according to the agenda. The change was made to “assist with staff and student COVID-19 numbers that are reaching a critical point,” according to a release from the district.

A decision won’t be made for Chester schools until there is a better picture of Tuesday’s conditions, Chester County School District’s public information officer Chris Christoff said.

“The District has designated virtual days on reserve for weather related issues if needed. Fortunately Monday is a holiday, so the snow wouldn’t affect the schools,” he said. ‘We will have to wait to see what the conditions are like for Tuesday morning.”

York County school districts are all growing. But where do they go next?

Editor’s note: Superintendents and board members from the York, Clover, Rock Hill and Fort Mill school districts met Jan. 7 in Fort Mill. This is the third in a series of articles that explores common issues they face, including teacher shortages, COVID funding, state funding and impact fees.Fort Mill and York seem like an unlikely pair to face the same issue.Fort Mill has three high schools, 20 total...

Editor’s note: Superintendents and board members from the York, Clover, Rock Hill and Fort Mill school districts met Jan. 7 in Fort Mill. This is the third in a series of articles that explores common issues they face, including teacher shortages, COVID funding, state funding and impact fees.

Fort Mill and York seem like an unlikely pair to face the same issue.

Fort Mill has three high schools, 20 total schools and almost 18,000 students. All packed in what geographically is the smallest public school district in South Carolina. York has one high school, half the schools Fort Mill does and not a third of the students. The York district has 40% of York County’s land mass, said school district superintendent Kelly Coxe, but just 7% of its assessed property value.

“We are the most rural district in the county,” Coxe said.

Yet both districts share a concern. So do district officials in Clover and Rock Hill. As York County grows, how will schools respond?

In York, Coxe sees new residential developments approved by the city that in time could bring 2,000 homes to her district. For comparison, U.S. Census Bureau data shows from 2018 to 2019, the entire county grew by about 2,000 residences. The city of York has about 3,500 total residences now, per census data.

“We’re nervous about that,” Coxe said. “We’re excited about the growth, but it will be a challenge.”

York has begun its own study into one possible solution to keep pace with population, one used in Fort Mill and Clover schools with mixed results.

An impact fee is a charge on new construction, where the money helps offset public costs brought on by growth. Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Tega Cay and other high growth municipalities have them for law enforcement, fire protection, recreation or related needs. York, Lancaster and Chester counties each have explored or passed their own impact fees in recent years.

Fort Mill for a time was the lone school district in the state with a fee, a $2,500 per residence charge passed in the mid-90s. A state law change that allowed the fees for school use led others to adopt them the past few years. In 2018 York County Council approved new impact fees for Fort Mill schools, at more than $18,000 per new home and $12,000 per apartment.

The Clover School District, which superintendent Sheila Quinn said grows by up to 350 students and hires 13 to 17 teachers each year, asked the county for its own fee. Clover studied fees for two years. Clover used the same consultant Fort Mill did. That consultant found Clover could by law charge up to $15,000 per home, more than $7,400 per apartment and $9,800 per mobile home.

York County approved fees, but at less than one-third of each amount.

“We thought we’d be able to collect more, but it wasn’t allowed,” said Clover board chair Mack McCarter.

Between the Fort Mill approval (at the highest figure allowed by state law, per its study) and the Clover District, school and county attorneys have spent time in court. A developer and homebuilder group sued the county, claiming the fees were arbitrary and harmful. Courts, all the way up to the state supreme court, sided with the county and school districts.

Now the Fort Mill district and York County have an ongoing legal dispute. York County is asking for a determination whether fees can be used to make bond payments. When school districts were added to impact fee laws applied to municipalities and counties, school districts weren’t specifically stated in key areas of the law. That has led to uncertainty.

Leanne Lordo, assistant superintendent over finance for the Fort Mill district, led the request from area school boards to state legislators at a Jan. 7 gathering for clarification on the law, and whatever revision may be needed. Municipalities can use impact fee funds for bond payments. Schools need the ability to use impact fees to pay bonds because high-cost school construction relies on bond referenda and come due in larger amounts than pay-as-you-go would allow.

“The logistics of that would just be impossible,” Lordo said.

About $45 million in collected impact fee money for Fort Mill schools now sits in a county escrow account. The district wants to use it to pay off school construction costs. The county wants a legal determination whether schools can spend it that way. Lordo hopes for a hearing the first quarter of this year to plan a path forward.

Rock Hill has been one of the largest South Carolina cities for decades. Fort Mill, Tega Cay and Lake Wylie have seen explosive growth for more than a decade. Fort Mill school enrollment has doubled in 10 years. York school board members told counterparts at the recent gathering their residents don’t understand impact fees the way other areas might. But, board members said, their constituents will begin to face more growth questions.

There also are changes that could impact all districts, like the state discussion on full 4K programming. Clover funds its 4K program now and York funds 60% of its program. In Fort Mill, funding would be just part of the concern with program expansion.

“We would have a challenge with space,” said Fort Mill superintendent Chuck Epps.

District officials across York County say they’re in the heat of population growth or can see it coming. Before 2007, Rock Hill was the only district in the county with more than one high school. It had just opened its third. Now Fort Mill has three. A failed bond referendum in Clover last year would have funded a second in that district.

As district officials met with legislators at the recent Fort Mill event, McCarter said the larger question is what difference that gathering ultimately makes. He voiced a question at the forefront for all York County districts, given community growth.

“But where do we go from here?” McCarter said.

SC superintendents resign under the pressure of COVID

Dorchester School District Two Superintendent Joe Pye fought back tears as a group of elementary students read him goodbye letters while crowded together in a reading nook. The goodbye letters were part of a class activity first and second grade students at Beech Hill Elementary School were doing to let Pye know how much they appreciated his leadership over the past 23 years.Pye is one of at least 19 superintendents in South Carolina who have left their positions since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Pye, who is 74, announced...

Dorchester School District Two Superintendent Joe Pye fought back tears as a group of elementary students read him goodbye letters while crowded together in a reading nook. The goodbye letters were part of a class activity first and second grade students at Beech Hill Elementary School were doing to let Pye know how much they appreciated his leadership over the past 23 years.

Pye is one of at least 19 superintendents in South Carolina who have left their positions since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Pye, who is 74, announced his retirement in November.

He said that his retirement is not specifically due to the pandemic, but while he’s proud of what he’s done to navigate the district through the unprecedented health crisis, his fondest memories are of working with children.

While the number of superintendents leaving during the pandemic seems large, it is not unusual for that type of position. The average tenure of a superintendent is five to six years, and the average annual turnover rate is 14 to 16 percent, according to the American Association for School Administrators.

The rate South Carolina superintendents are leaving their jobs is also consistent with pre-pandemic levels. In the 2018-19 school year about 15 percent of total superintendents were new to their positions, according to S.C. Association for School Administrators. In 2020-21, 17 percent were new in their roles.

What is troubling education authorities is that the supply of superintendents is drying up both in the long and short term. Superintendents are now put in the frontline of political wars over masks and vaccinations. They have to educate children who jockey back and forth between virtual and in-person learning as new variants of coronavirus spread through the country. They have to navigate this all while morale among educators is at an all- time low and teacher retention rates in the state have plummeted.

District authorities are asking themselves: How can we convince people to become superintendents when we can’t even get them to become teachers?

‘OUT OF MY ELEMENT'

Pye had been thinking about retirement for some time, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted nearly everything he knew about the job that he finally made the decision to say goodbye.

“I was, every year, finding myself being taken further out of my element,” Pye said.

When the pandemic hit, school superintendents were forced to readjust every expectation they had about their jobs. Their priorities suddenly became masks, student quarantines, isolation periods and social distancing. They started pushing other school issues like student performance, funding and staff shortages to the wayside. They scrambled to keep students safe.

On top of it all, nearly every decision the superintendents were required to make became political. Board meetings sometimes turned aggressive as parents protested mask requirements and quarantine protocols.

Superintendents across the board have said the experience is harrowing.

A National Superintendents Roundtable survey of 400 district leaders showed that 63 percent considered quitting their job over the 2020-21 school year. (Eighty-three percent of the respondents remained in their positions while about 10 percent retired.)

For some, it has impacted their home life, taking valuable time away from their families. Eddie Ingram, who served as superintendent in Berkeley County School District, retired last year after his wife had to go to North Carolina to take care of his granddaughter who was put in remote learning during the pandemic.

He said it was stressful worrying over how school decisions would impact the health of students. He also found himself concerned about students who went “missing” during the pandemic, meaning they didn’t show up to virtual classes or respond to emails and messages.

“When they’re home and we don’t know where everybody is all the time, it concerns us,” he said.

Both Pye and Ingram left on good terms. For other superintendents, problems with the pandemic exacerbated fissures that already existed between them and their school boards.

Board tensions

Last June, the superintendent of Lexington Richland School District Five Christina Melton abruptly left a month after she was dubbed “Superintendent of the Year” by SCASA. Emails obtained by The Post and Courier show that in the months leading up to her departure there was eroding trust between her trustees.

On Dec. 29, the Charleston County Board of Trustees voted to accept former Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait’s resignation. Though the vote was conducted in public, all discussions about Postlewait’s departure were done in closed-door meetings.

School board members have stayed quiet since, citing privacy and confidentiality concerns about the public position.

It’s not uncommon for superintendents to be asked to resign when board members feel that they aren’t living up to standards. There’s no data to show that these kinds of resignations are happening more frequently, but the pandemic has put education issues in the forefront.

“The school boards are elected and they have constituents that they have to answer to,” said Scott Price, executive director of the S.C. School Boards Association. “But at the end of the day, they make decisions as an education team with their superintendents that are in the best interests of students and staff.”

SUPPLY SHORTAGES

Education leaders are concerned about how the pandemic is going to impact the supply of school administrators in the future. Typically, school administrators like Pye start off as teachers. They move on to be assistant principals, principals and eventually school administrators. From there, they might advance to superintendent.

Nearly 7,000 South Carolina teachers did not return to their school district after the 2020-21 school year, according to a November 2021 report from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement. Only 23 percent of the 6,900 teachers who left went on to teach in another S.C. district.

Those gaps in teacher availability will ultimately lead to a dwindling supply of school and district administrators, SCASA Executive Director Beth Phibbs said.

“When people sign up, when they choose a profession in education, it’s to educate young people, it’s not to navigate through a pandemic,” she said.

With the pandemic putting children’s safety in danger, actual education has fallen down the list of priorities, and it’s starting to show. In September, the 2020-21 South Carolina School Report Card showed students struggled to keep up, with standardized test scores dropping from the 2018-19 school year in nearly every area except for English I.

It’s ultimately up to superintendents to find a solution. But the job will continue to require more resilience than ever.

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