Board members urged to step down, form questioned

By Amanda Collins

Some members of the Patrick County School Board were encouraged to step down last week at a public comment session on the division’s Fiscal 2018-19 budget.

For months, Nancy Carlson, a history teacher at Patrick County High School, has shared concerns at school board meetings. On April 12, she asked board members to “step aside” if they do not have the time or the energy to serve. Creative solutions are needed and board members are needed to listen and act.

Carlson also alleged she recently was reprimanded for trying to get feedback from other teachers in a way that would protect teacher identities by making paper copies of surveys.

The school board has said the division does not comment on personnel issues.

Trena Anderson also encouraged the three senior members of the board – Annie Hylton, of the Peters Creek District; Ronnie Terry, of the Blue Ridge District and Michelle Day, of the Mayo River District – to “step down” and resign their respective posts.

The remaining two members – Brandon Simmons, of the Dan River District; and Walter Scott, of the Smith River District – took their seats on the board in January.

Anderson also said a new ‘Request to Speak Form’ recently added to the division’s website is problematic.

The form states in part that “public comment will be placed on the agenda for meetings of the school board at the discretion of the superintendent” and board chairman. Those wishing to address the board must submit the form to the board clerk before the meeting.

Comments are limited to three minutes per individual or five minutes for speakers representing a group. The group must be identified when comments begin.

The form also states that the chairman is responsible for the orderly conduct of the meeting and that school board members do not respond to comments, answer questions, or otherwise engage in discussion during the public comment period.

Anderson said the public must be notified of each government meeting, and that meetings need to be announced via local media outlets.

She also requested that school board meetings be posted online seven days in advance. All public meetings should be digitally recorded and posted online, unedited, within 72 hours of the meeting, she said.

Betty Kirkpatrick shared her concerns about the issue with the sharing of rooms when traveling and hopes it had been decided.

The board has discussed, but not mandated school personnel attending the same out-of-town function to share lodging.

Kirkpatrick also said she is concerned to hear about yelling, people being hung up on, walking out of meetings, and not answering questions.

There are great teachers and students in the school system, Kirkpatrick said, adding that trust and faith must be re-established with administration and elected officials.

“Give us a reason to trust you again,” Kirkpatrick said.

Danny Wood said that according to the census reports, the number of children has decreased in the county, but information from the school division shows a 2 percent increase.

He also questioned the K-12 Virtual School, and alleged the 370 students enrolled in the online classes do not attend a brick and mortar building and may not live in the county. However, those students are included in the division’s overall enrollment numbers.

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