Gowin Resigns

Published 4:24 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2013

BUCKINGHAM – Following the first closed session of the May meeting of the Buckingham County School Board, Chairman Ed Wise read a letter of resignation from Pete Gowin, school board representative for District 4, Maysville Precinct.

In the letter, which was addressed to Superintendent Cecil Snead and members of the school board, Gowin, who was absent from the meeting, wrote, “This letter is to inform you that effective May 8, 2013, I will be resigning from my position as school board member for District 4 in Buckingham County.

“It has been my pleasure to work with each of you and to represent the citizens of my district. I wish each of you continued success in your endeavors to make our school system the best it can be.”

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Subsequently, Thomas Hutcherson led with a motion to accept the resignation. After a second from Theresa Bryant, the board did so with a unanimous vote.

Wise offered, “This board reluctantly accepts this resignation from Pete Gowin.”

Later in the meeting, after the board's second closed session, the board unanimously approved its personnel agenda. That action included the appointment of Kish Gowin Heslip as a physical education teacher at Buckingham County High School.

Following the meeting, Dr. Snead and Chairman Wise explained that Gowin resigned so that his daughter could accept the position with Buckingham County Public Schools.

Gowin is the second school board member to resign in less than six months. In December, Acie Allen, who represented District 7, Gold Hill Precinct since 2000, submitted his resignation so that his son could accept a teaching position with the school division.

Currently in the second year of his second term, Gowin was elected to the school board in November 2007, when he defeated the incumbent, Dr. Wes Saxon. Then, in November 2011, Gowin proved victorious over two challengers, Saxon and John Kitchen.

During a phone conversation on Monday, Gowin expressed his sincere regret to his constituents and extended his heartfelt appreciation for their support over the last five and a-half years.

“I really enjoy being on the board and serving the people of District 4,” stated Gowin. “I will miss it and I want to thank all of the people in my district for supporting me.”

Reiterating his regret for having to leave the board, Gowin explained, “This is a great opportunity for Kish, an opportunity that may not come around again for some time.” Gowin added, “Physical education is her major and teaching is something she truly loves.”

According to Gowin, prior to starting her family, his daughter was a BCHS faculty member in the physical education and health department for several years.

Gowin shared that when she started contemplating submitting her application for an advertised position teaching physical education at the secondary level, he felt there would not be a conflict because of her previous employment with Buckingham County Public Schools.

However, after seeking a legal interpretation through the Virginia School Boards Association, Gowin said he was advised that the section would apply. “So that has me in this situation,” he stated. “And, it's been a difficult decision. I hope people will understand.”

Decoding the Code

Article 6 of The Code of Virginia, School Boards and Employees of School Boards, Section 2.2-3119, Additional provisions applicable to school boards and employees of school boards, cites, “Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, it shall be unlawful for the school board of any county or city or of any town constituting a separate school division to employ or pay any teacher or other school board employee from the public funds, federal, state or local, or for a division superintendent to recommend to the school board the employment of any teacher or other employee, if the teacher or other employee is the father, mother, brother, sister, spouse, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law or brother in-law of the superintendent, or of any member of the school board.”

However, the provision does not apply to those board members whose relatives or spouses were employed prior to that member's election to the school board.

Conversely, additional provisions of Section 2.2-3119 include exceptions for some planning districts.

The Code specifies, “The provisions of this section shall not apply to employment by a school district located in Planning Districts 3, 11, 12, and 13 of the father, mother, brother, sister, spouse, son…of any member of the school board provided (i) the member certifies that he had no involvement with the hiring decision and (ii) the superintendent certifies to the remaining members of the governing body in writing that the employment is based upon merit and fitness and the competitive rating of the qualifications of the individual and that no member of the board had any involvement with the hiring decision.”

Virginia has 21 planning districts. Buckingham is in Planning District 14 with Amelia, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, and Prince Edward counties.

Just next door, in Appomattox County, which is in Planning District 11, Gowin would not be required to resign before his daughter could accept the position as long as he and the superintendent adhered to those specifics.

Gowin offered that when he spoke with the VSBA attorney, he explained that the exclusions were enacted to help facilitate hiring teachers in areas that have difficulty getting them.

Petition for Writ of Election and Letters of Interest

After that second closed session, the board also authorized the superintendent to sign the Petition for a Writ of Election for the District 4 vacancy.

With the document, the board formally petitions the Circuit Court of Buckingham County to issue a writ of election to fill the vacancy as provided in the Code of Virginia.

To fill the vacancy until the November 5 election, the board is soliciting letters of interest from qualified voters in District 4 who would like to be considered for the position.

According to Dr. Snead, residents of District 4 who are interested in serving on the school board are encouraged to submit a letter of interest by the close of business, 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 31.

Letters should be sent to Buckingham County Public Schools, ATTN: Ed Wise, School Board Chairman, 15595 W. James Anderson Highway, Buckingham, VA 23921.

Dr. Snead explained that the appointee selected by the Buckingham County School Board may also choose to be a candidate in that upcoming election.

Subsequently, the successful candidate in the November 5 election would serve the remainder of Gowin's unexpired four-year term.