PE Supervisors Should Have Used Their Heads, Not Heads Or Tails, To Fill School Board Seat

Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Deciding what football team will kick-off and which will receive to begin a game is of such small consequence that using a coin toss to achieve that goal is not inappropriate.

But decisions by the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors-such as this month's school board appointment-should be decided for reasons other than because a coin landed one way rather than another.

Let me make it clear that my concern has nothing to do with the fact the coin toss landed in favor of Sherry Honeycutt rather than the longtime incumbent Dr. Ellery Sedgwick. My feelings have nothing to do with Honeycutt or Dr. Sedgwick and everything to do with a public body deciding an appointment to the Prince Edward County School Board by flipping a coin.

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Supervisors were deadlocked four-four on the appointment for the Farmville District (701) seat on the school board. Two separate votes each produced the four-four tie and apparently the Board of Supervisors was legally able to then substitute a coin toss for any other more legitimate and logical means of making an extremely important appointment to a body that oversees the county's public school system.

The issue is not whether the board of supervisors could legally do so. Board chairman William G. “Buckie” Fore confirmed the legality of the coin toss with the County Attorney. The issue is whether the Board of Supervisors should have done so.

The process matters.

I do not believe a coin toss reflects the importance of the decision being made.

Why not roll a pair of dice or take a deck of cards and the highest drawn card wins the appointment?

Why not?

Because selecting a school board member is a crucial decision by the governing body and deserves more than a very small game of chance to decide the issue.

That's why.

The June meeting of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors witnessed a coin given complete decision-making authority. Meanwhile, the selection committee given the responsibility for making the appointment recommendation-the Farmville District citizen committee recommended reappointing Dr. Sedgwick-was not taken into consideration at all in terms of tie-breaking the vote.

Furthermore, it is most unusual for a district's school board selection committee's vote not to be supported by a majority of the board of supervisors. The committee is appointed by a Supervisor who represents the district, in this case, Jim Wilck. A coin's chance landing on “heads” was given all the weight and the citizen's selection committee from the school board district itself was given none.

Far better, I believe, to have continued the June board of supervisors meeting, reconvening later in the month, and asking both Dr. Sedgwick and Honeycutt to appear at the reconvened meeting to answer questions about the appointment and their interest, in Dr. Sedgwick's case, of being reappointed, and, in Honeycutt's case, being appointed (she had previously served on the school board from 1992-2005).

Importantly, the time between the June meeting and the reconvened meeting would also have given residents in the Farmville District the chance to tell members of the board of supervisors their feelings on the two candidates.

The reconvened meeting would have allowed both candidates for the appointment to provide the board of supervisors members with reasons for voting one way or another. Yes, the subsequent vote might have been four to four. There is every chance, however, that, given constituent feedback prior to the reconvened meeting and the personal statements of the two candidates, the deadlock would have been broken sooner rather than later.

It is also quite possible, given the fact the citizen committee from the Farmville District recommended Sedgwick, and Sedgwick was supported by both Farmville District Supervisors-with Wilck bringing the nomination forward-that a member of the board of supervisors from another district might have concluded the wishes of the district in question should count for something and changed his vote.

The decision by four supervisors to vote contrary to the recommendation of the

Farmville District's citizens committee is curious.

If a four-four vote were to persist in a reconvened meeting it is likely that, given the integrity of both Dr. Sedgwick and Honeycutt, one of the two candidates would have gracefully stepped aside.

Even that, I strongly believe, would have been far better than making this important appointment by flipping a coin, allowing the coin to fall to the carpet and bending over to see whether heads or tails was showing.

Members of the board of supervisors should always use their heads, rather than the alternative.

(Fore, a part-time employee of this newspaper, Lockett District Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones, Leigh District Supervisor Don Gantt, and Vice-Chairman Howard Simpson voted for Honeycutt, with Wilck, the other Farmville District Supervisor Pattie Cooper-Jones, Hampden District Supervisor Charles McKay, and Prospect District Supervisor Howard “Pete” Campbell voting for Sedgwick)