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District 55 board accepts Thomas’ immediate resignation

* Check back for additional updates, and see story in the Wednesday, Jan. 10 issue of The Laurens County Advertiser.

District 55 Superintendent Ameca Thomas was not present Thursday as Board Chair Cathy Little, above, presented the resignation request from Thomas. The board action did not include a severance package. Photos by Judith Brown

Laurens, South Carolina – Students in Laurens County School District 55 returned to school from winter break Thursday, and by that evening the district was without its superintendent.
At a called special meeting, District 55 school board members accepted the resignation of Ameca Thomas, who has been superintendent since being promoted to the position in early 2020.
A product of District 55, Thomas has spent nearly her entire 25-year career in education in the district. Her resignation was accepted by the board with a 5-2 vote.
The 4 p.m. meeting at the District 55 offices lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours, nearly all of which was spent in executive session.
“In our executive session this evening, the board discussed a proposal by Dr. Thomas, which came to us through her attorney, that she submit her resignation as Superintendent at this time,” Board Chair Cathy Little said. “The board also received legal advice from our attorneys concerning options under Dr. Thomas’s contract and other legal issues.”
Thomas’ resignation request was the only point of business addressed by the board.
“We have had discussions this evening with Dr. Thomas and through the attorneys and it is our understanding at this time that Dr. Thomas wishes to resign as superintendent effective tonight.”
Little immediately asked for a motion, which was made by Chip Jenkins and seconded by Mike Hughes, and no discussion ensued.
Little and board members Heather Elders, Hughes, Jenkins and Tabitha Keitt voted to accept Thomas’s resignation, while Anthony Carpenter and Peggy Nance voted against the motion.
Little then explained that assistant superintendents Rhett Harris and Jody Penland would serve together to run the operations of District 55 until a search begins for a new superintendent.
Thomas did not immediately respond to calls and texts seeking comments Thursday and Friday.
Little said Thomas would not receive a severance package from the district.
“Dr. Thomas and her attorney presented a proposal regarding her resignation that was negotiated during executive session,” Little said. “The negotiations ended with the acceptance of her resignation only with no acceptance of any financial compensation.”
Thomas was not present at the beginning or at the end of the open session portions of the meeting.
While the District 55 Conference Room was mostly filled with supporters last week, it was not filled to capacity like occurred in early 2023 when supporters understood she might be terminated.

A rift among board members also developed over Thomas’s future as it appeared some board members were intent on ousting the superintendent. During this past spring and summer three board members resigned, with Todd Varner citing board discord as his reason for leaving his position. In April, Carpenter called for Little’s resignation over the issue, and during the spring and summer several meetings were forced to adjourn early for lack of a quorum. 

The open seats were filled with new board members after a special election in August, 2023.

Several attendees at Thursday’s special meeting prayed during the executive session and others vented their frustrations vocally. Some claimed racial bias against Thomas.
In a clarification of her vote, Nance said she voted not to accept the resignation because she felt the district has “lost a great opportunity,” Nance said.
 “Some other district will now have that opportunity, and I’m disappointed it will not be District 55,” Nance said.
During this past spring and summer three board members resigned, with one citing board discord as his reason for leaving his position. They were replaced with new board members after a special election in August, 2023.
Thomas was hired by the board in late January of 2020 after former Superintendent Stephen Peters had announced in November of 2019 that he’d be leaving the post.
Thomas received several state level accommodations and high marks on district-level work reviews. Her most recent contract extension by the board was last year, and it went into 2026. Last summer Thomas traveled to Washington, D.C. to advocate for the school district and in late September, 2023, the district announced that it had been selected for a highly-competitive federally-funded Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grant totaling $13.5 million over a three year period.

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