09/11/12 — Board argues on need to meet

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Board argues on need to meet

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 11, 2012 1:46 PM

School board member Arnold Flowers wants to hold more work sessions.

The majority of the board would support that, they said, if there is a reason to meet.

"It hasn't felt like we have had enough time to talk," Flowers said before proposing a time be set aside each month for that purpose.

But only the board's other newest member, Len Henderson, held the same opinion.

"Coming on this board, I found that we don't really get to sit down and talk about issues except for executive session," he said. "There are a lot of issues out there.

"I would like to see us sitting down and talking about some of those together as a board and come up with some strategies on how to deal with those issues."

Board member John Grantham said he supports scheduling a meeting or work session "any time we need it" but not without a reason.

Board member Rick Pridgen said he has had several conversations with Flowers on the subject recently and understood some of the concerns related to training and information, especially for the newer board members.

"I offered my time to any board members who have gotten on here -- you, Mr. Henderson, Chris (West)," he told Flowers. "I have looked back and I did a lot of thinking about what you said. Me personally, I don't have a problem with us having work sessions."

Like Grantham, Pridgen said there should be something of substance to prompt a work session. He suggested that instead of having a meeting and exchanging opinions with other board members, that it has been helpful to him to consult the experts, administrators or staff in positions to answer questions about the school system.

"If you're meeting just for the sake of meeting -- I asked you why would you be meeting. Your answer was, it will be whatever we want to make it. That's not a good enough answer for me," Pridgen said.

He added that many of Flowers' issues since joining the board could be resolved by "taking the initiative" and "going to the source" rather than making the board "look bad in public" by his comments.

"I don't have a problem with us having a special work session that covers a special thing but I think it's up to each board member individually to take the time to learn his or her job and to learn his or her responsibilities and to take the initiative to learn what they need to learn," he said.

Flowers defended his position, saying his desire has been to discuss things "it seems like nobody wants to talk about," like the possibility of redrawing district lines.

Grantham said the board is free to talk about anything it chooses and can put such items on the agenda.

When put to a vote, though, only Flowers and Henderson favored having a regular work session each month. Board members Pridgen, Grantham, West and Thelma Smith were opposed.

The debate, however, was far from over. It surfaced again during board comments.

"First of all, let me say that I appreciate the passion of the board members. We all have our different opinions about how we need to proceed," Flowers said. "I'm disappointed that the board doesn't have a desire to have a work session."

Henderson conceded that Pridgen, being on the board for nearly a decade, could be considered "an expert." For new members, though, there can be fear about bringing up some subjects in public, or even in closed session.

Pridgen reiterated his willingness to meet, citing examples of the administration or committees calling for a work session for a specific purpose.

"I would like to say, my wife and I raise horses, so we really hate to see people beat dead horses," Grantham said.

West said each board member probably has concerns relative to his respective district, but lacking a specific topic, could not support a vote for an arbitrary meeting.

"In respect to your work session, Mr. Flowers, I certainly have no objection to going to a work session," he said. "If we have one a month, three a month, we have an obligation to meet."

Mrs. Smith agreed, then made an announcement of her own.

"I have been having people to call me because a certain person has been going around Wayne County saying that I'm not running. I want that certain person and all of Wayne County to know that I'm running for re-election," she said. "I'm making it public because I don't want people to misunderstand that just because I'm in a wheelchair, there's nothing wrong with my mind or my eyes or my ears."

Board Chairman Eddie Radford also addressed another meeting issue that had been proposed recently, by the county commission calling for a joint meeting of the two boards.

"There's been a discussion out there that we did not want to meet with the board of commissioners," he said. "I will let you know right now that that's not true. Our board could have a different look just like the commissioners could have a different look after November.

"We decided just to move and wait until after November. That's what we feel like is the best thing to do."