by Paul Bowers
The Charleston County School District voted Monday night to refer a possible contract extension for diversity consultant Kevin Clayton back to the district's Audit & Finance Committee. Clayton helped lead an investigation into the Academic Magnet High School football team's postgame ritual that some community leaders found racially insensitive, and district e-mails show he called for the district to fire AMHS coach Eugene "Bud" Walpole over the incident and its aftermath.
Under the original terms of the district's contract with Clayton's consulting company, Axxis Consulting, Clayton was paid $50,000 for a term lasting from July 1 to Nov. 30, 2014, "to support the Leadership Team and District in addressing multiple issues with specific focus on closing the achievement gap and building better community relationships through diversity and respect," according to district documents.
The modified contract, which the school board declined to vote on Monday night, would have authorized the district to pay Clayton an additional $48,956 to continue work on the district's Strategic Diversity Plan, provide "dignity and respect training and executive team building," and "leverage consultant relationships with key Charleston community leaders to garner required support for CCSD Diversity & Inclusion / Dignity & Respect strategy," among other responsibilities.
The Audit & Finance Committee already voted 3-2 against recommending the contract revision last week, sending the school board a recommendation for a "No" vote on the contract at its Monday night meeting. Now the school board is returning the issue to the committee for further discussion at its Mon. Feb. 2 meeting.
The Rev. Eric Mack, a member of the school board who is also on the Audit and Finance Committee, says the committee will have to answer some more questions about the nature and scope of Clayton's work before the school board will vote on it. He says one board member wanted to get a few questions answered before voting on the issue.
"The board member wanted to know more of the scope of work that has already been done and the plan to move the diversity issues forward in the district," Mack says.
Mack was one of two Audit and Finance Committee members who initially voted in favor of revising Clayton's contract. "I think we have to look at the bigger spectrum of work that had been done," Mack says. "My question was, did Mr. Clayton deliver on his contract of plans for the district prior to the scope of the Academic Magnet incident? And the answer to that question was yes. The other part was that Mr. Clayton actually was not hired to do that scope of work but was pulled into that situation. It's just unfortunate that he was involved in that component of it."
Clayton, who is based in Atlanta, previously worked as chief diversity officer for the U.S. Tennis Association, where he says he worked with the organizations including the Family Circle Cup and the school district on tennis programs starting in 2009. He says he is not currently working as a diversity consultant for any other school districts.
Reached by telephone, Clayton says his work for the district in 2014 included providing training for school administrators and attending community meetings to talk about diversity initiatives on behalf of the district.
"The scope of that work was to help the district in developing their diversity and inclusion strategic plan," Clayton says. "I came on board when they'd already had six or seven months already into it, so it was to help guide them and lead them through taking the plan from what was generally just kind of a diversity plan focusing on the numbers and making it much broader and much more inclusive to talk about not only just the workforce, but what do you do to create a more inclusive environment within the school district, period, so that everybody is receiving the same level of access to education and services and resources."
The Charleston County School District has not responded to a request to see a copy of the Strategic Diversity Plan.
The City Paper is a codefendant with Axxis Consulting, Kevin Clayton, and CCSD in two separate lawsuits being brought by parents of AMHS students and by Coach Eugene "Bud" Walpole. Read about the parents' lawsuit here and Walpole's lawsuit here.