Horry County Schools officials are working out a resignation deal with outgoing superintendent Dr. Cindy Elsberry, and it remains unclear who will serve as interim superintendent beginning in January.
Elsberry resigned from her position on Monday night, at least two years before her contract expires. The Board of Education accepted her decision during an executive session.
Elsberry has 21 days to sign the resignation agreement between board and superintendent, said Teal Harding, district spokeswoman. Harding said the superintendent then has seven days to revoke her decision after signing the agreement.
Board Chairman Joe DeFeo could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
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The school board met in about an hour-long private executive session Monday, before it returned with a statement announcing Elsberry’s decision. Elsberry did not attend the board meeting.
“Due to her extraordinary contribution to our district, community, and state, the Board has accepted Dr. Elsberry’s resignation,” the statement read.
The resignation was a surprise to at least one board member. “I really didn’t expect it,” Harvey Eisner, District 1 representative.
Elsberry did not give a reason for her resignation, but sent an email to all Horry County Schools employees Tuesday afternoon.
“[HCS] has the most talented and dedicated team of employees with whom I have ever had the opportunity to work, and the innovation and passion you show for student learning is unmatched,” Elsberry said in the email. “I will cherish the time we have worked together and I am honored to have had the privilege of working with you and for you.”
Elsberry urged teachers and administrators to not let her resignation distract from children’s education – “the core work and operations must continue as usual.”
“While I am uncertain of where my future will take me, I plan to explore opportunities that will allow me to continue working in education,” the email said. “
As a mother and grandmother, I am hopeful that such an opportunity will enable me to live closer to my children and grandchildren.”
Eisner said he learned of Elsberry’s resignation when Board Chairman Joe DeFeo announced it to the board during Monday night’s executive session.
“I felt that she should stay on because I have a lot of respect for her and the work she’s done with the school.”
Eisner wouldn’t say why he thought Elsberry resigned, but did say he’ll miss the superintendent’s leadership and modern ideas.
“I would put our district against any district – not even just the state, but nationally,” Eisner said. “She has moved us into the 21st century and helped the kids to perform at a higher level.
“I think, from the standpoint of the kids, I think that she has always had children foremost in her mind in any programs.”
Elsberry has been superintendent of the school district — the third largest in the state since — 2008. Her contract was through 2017.
Elsberry’s last day will be Dec. 31, 2014, but she has agreed to perform consulting services for the District as may be requested by the Board for the remainder of the school year.
“The average term of service for a superintendent, nationally, is four years, and she’s been here six,” Harding said. “Last year we had the highest performing year we’ve ever had.”
In October 2013, the board gave Elsberry and “overall exceptional performance evaluation based on another outstanding school year.”
Harding said she doesn’t expect Elsberry to release a public statement until the resignation agreement is signed and the board has decided who will serve as interim superintendent.
“This is just an awkward time to say anything,” Harding said.
She earns $215,414 annually – nearly $18,000 per month – according to The Sun News salary database. She also gained five extra vacation days – totaling 20 – after her 2013 evaluation. In 2012 she earned $207,050, not including benefits.
In 2008 her starting was $205,000, according to her contract.
She came to Horry County after six years as superintendent with Talladega County Schools in Alabama and has been a teacher and an administrator in Alabama and Georgia, as well as an adjunct professor at the University of Alabama.