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School district mourns loss of former special needs director

Davis passes away after battle with cancer

Posted: January 8, 2015 5:12 p.m.
Updated: January 9, 2015 1:00 a.m.
Photo provided by the KCSD/

Deborah Davis, who retired as the Kershaw County School District’s director of special needs in March 2014, died Tuesday after a year and a half long battle with cancer. Administrators, co-workers and parents of special needs children remember her as a passionate supporter of special needs students and their families.


The county is mourning the loss of beloved Kershaw County School District (KCSD) special education educator and district director Deborah “Debi” Hardin Davis who passed away Tuesday after a year and half battle with cancer.

Administrators said Davis gave 24 years of hard work to the district where she held positions such as learning disabilities resource teacher, educable mentally disabled self-contained teacher, coordinator for special services and, ultimately, director of special needs. She held several other positions within the district as well.

Davis’ work within the district led to developing better learning solutions and experiences for special needs students by becoming their personal advocate and voice in the community, administrators said.

Davis reportedly followed in her father’s footstep, who was a superintendent, by pursuing a career in education. She taught home economics and science the first few years after earning her first degree. She started her career in special education in 1978 in the Abbeville School District and then went to work in Lexington School District 2 in 1983 and Lexington School District 1 in 1988. Her final career move was to Kershaw County where she stayed until her retirement in March 2014.

Davis’s co-workers said she was passionate about her work and never hesitated to share her knowledge with them.

“She was an excellent teacher and administrator,” Pam Whitehead, district director of interventions, said. “Debi believed in her work and students.”

Davis was one of the first teachers to work at Doby’s Mill Elementary School (DMES) when it first opened. She help build and contribute to the special education program with her years of knowledge and background in that particular area of education.

“She knew that she needed people in the right places to take care of the kids,” DMES Principal Ginger Catoe said. “She made sure a teacher was a good fit for a student.”

“In a sense, she was a pioneer in this area in the field,” KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan added.

After serving in the district as a teacher for 15 years, Davis became coordinator of special services and held that position for two years before becoming the department’s director.

According to Morgan, Davis’s job was technical. He said laws concerning special services changed so often, Davis was tasked with keeping up with the changes while performing her other duties, encompassing all aspects of special education and health services.

“She wanted to be responsible for doing everything right, but it was also her joy to make sure she was doing her best for the kids,” Whitehead said.

Those who knew her said Davis managed to balance keeping herself informed on rules and regulations and ensuring special needs children had adequate transportation and health services while professionally and compassionately dealing with the district’s special needs families.

“She was always willing to sit down with parents and spend several hours working out a problem,” Morgan said.

One of those parents was Shana Herndon. Herndon said she had an opportunity to work with Davis on deciding the best placement and education program for her daughter.

“She was special coordinator for my daughter for 10 years and she worked to give the best services she could for her benefit,” Herndon said. “We had a great experience with her and she will be greatly missed.”

Davis did not limit her work with special needs individuals to those in the school district. She was also a vital part of the Kershaw County Special Olympics.

“Special Olympics was her passion,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead and others said Davis worked with a committee to create Kershaw County’s Special Olympics so special needs individuals would not have to travel far to be a part of the event. She coordinated between schools and the community to help make it happen. Davis was able to make it to last year’s Special Olympics and provide her last stint of service to those with disabilities.

Davis was also reportedly the very proud mother of her own daughter, Dr. Kara Sue Davis. According to Davis’s co-workers, one of her last and most memorable trips she took was with her daughter and a friend who also is battling cancer to New York City.

A funeral for Davis will be held today at 10:30 a.m. in Boyce Chapel at First Baptist Church in Columbia.



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