Supervisors turn down School Board’s request for virtual meetings

Published 3:18 pm Thursday, December 17, 2020

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Four months later and the faceoff between the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors (BOS) and school administration regarding having a representative from the school board present at each BOS meeting continues.

During its Thursday, Dec. 10 meeting, the BOS voted unanimously not to accept the school board’s request to attend meetings virtually via Zoom and continued to encourage a representative to participate in monthly meetings.

The issue began in September when school officials said the lack of mask wearing and unsolicited comments from the public were keeping them from attending monthly BOS meetings.

During the Oct. 8 BOS meeting County Administrator Tracy Gee and Vice-Chairman Frank Bacon told members a letter had been received from the school board stating no representative from the school board would attend BOS meetings. The letter said the school board would provide a report before each meeting.

The letter went on to say that the school board did not want school superintendent Charles Berkley Jr. to attend any meetings or large gatherings until the virus is under control.

Before Thursday night’s vote BOS Chairman Randy Slayton said he and Vice Chairman Bacon had met with school administration representatives to discuss the issue.

“The school board wants to have a virtual zoom meeting and said they would not be coming back until after this COVID slacked up,” Slayton said.

“They were upset with what I call touchy-feely stuff,” Bacon said. “Bottom line is they are not going to be coming to the meetings.”

Supervisor Wayne Hoover replied, “Let me get this straight, they don’t want to come to the meetings because of COVID, but they want to send the kids to school?”

Hoover went on to say that he didn’t think any provision should be made for the school board’s request.

“If it were a money issue, someone would be here,” he said. “You’re (schools) the biggest recipient of the county’s money. Somebody should be here,”

Bacon said it didn’t matter if a representative attended via a Zoom meeting or not.

“You can still get your feelings hurt in a Zoom meeting,” he said.

Since the September meeting the school administration has continued to submit a written monthly report to the BOS.

At the October BOS meeting Supervisor, Mike Hankins addressed the issue of unsolicited comments from the public brought up by school officials.

Hankins said those who spoke were polite, orderly, and not loud.

“Chairman Slayton has a long record of letting anybody who raises their hand speak,” Hankins said, “He calls on them and gives them a chance to ask questions and, nobody on this board did anything that was remotely out of line.”

During Thursday’s meeting, the BOS enacted a new public comment period for citizens to assist the BOS in adhering to public meeting requirements and allowing citizen participation and maintaining order within the adopted agenda at meetings.

County Administrator Tracy Gee did not clarify if this new policy was enacted due to the ongoing school board/BOS debate.