A 4-4 Tie Again

Published 3:29 pm Tuesday, June 17, 2014

PRINCE EDWARD — The school board will have eight members until the end of June, but then there may only be seven.

County supervisors, after an extended appointment process spanning months, deadlocked 4-4 on an appointment for the Farmville District (101) seat. Chairman Howard Simpson (who represents District 101) favored the reappointment of current member and retired teacher Linda Leatherwood along with Supervisors Charles McKay, Robert “Bobby” Jones, and Howard “Pete” Campbell. The remaining four supervisors, C.R. “Bob” Timmons Jr., Pattie Cooper-Jones, Jerry Townsend and Jim Wilck supported the appointment of adjunct professor Dr. Peter Gur.

Timmons suggested that, rather than resort to a coin flip that they have another vote and, if it remained a tie, that the citizen committee meet “with the applicants again and try to see, or come back with some additional information…I do not support running the government by a coin flip.”

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A second vote was held, but no votes changed.

Board bylaws, County Attorney James R. Ennis cited, are silent when it comes to breaking a tie. Previously, Ennis noted, a motion was made to suspend Roberts Rules when they decided to go to a coin toss.

Still, it was clear the board collectively did not wish to go the coin flip route as they did last year to fill another seat.

Simpson asked what would change between from now and the next board meeting. Timmons offered it would give folks time to talk to the two candidates.

“I’m not opposed to let it go vacant and then do it in the July board meeting,” he said.

Townsend agreed.

Ultimately, the board (with Jones opposed) voted to table action on the appointment. Jones would note that it’s “an interesting way to do business,” with Timmons assessing that it’s better than a coin toss.

If no one changes their vote, Jones said he didn’t know what was going to happen.

The Choices

Dr. Gur, an adjunct associate professor for Southside Virginia Community College, graduated with his doctorate from Michigan State University in 1987. He offered an extensive teaching background including time as high school teacher at the County’s School as well as the Governor’s School. In an application to the board, he offered to help the County’s school division meet all federal annual measurable objectives, improve student retention and graduation rates, provide a safe learning environment, support faculty and staff and use taxpayers money wisely.

Leatherwood, a retired teacher and Longwood University graduate, has served on the school board approximately 12 years. In her application, she offers that she believes her 44 years in the middle and high school classrooms give her a realistic view of the educational process and that her previous years on the County’s school board show her support for students and teachers while keeping in mind the community they serve.

The two candidates fielded several questions from the board in advance of the tie votes. Prince Edward is one of the few counties where the County’s board of supervisors still select individual school board members. The County utilizes a supervisor-appointed citizen committee that over the course of the process are to interview and seriously consider those nominated and have expressed a willingness to serve. Supervisors hold a public hearing on the candidate(s) in May and are scheduled to select a candidate at their June meeting by majority vote.

While the board was divided on the District 101 seat, the board approved the reappointment of Farmville District (801) school board member Dr. Lawrence Varner without opposition.

A Call For Change

While the hearings have previously been held for public input on the candidates, several speakers, not from the districts where the appointments are to be made, pushed in the public comment portion of the meeting for change on the County’s school board, citing school performance.