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Editorial – School Board can’t continue to shut out the public

Prince Edward County has some excellent public meeting facilities where citizen leaders can hear and address the concerns of the citizens.

The Board of Supervisors has a great meeting room and has added broadcasting capabilities during the pandemic. The Farmville Town Council recently spent thousands in CARES fund money to upgrade its meeting room to one of the best in the region.

So why the Prince Edward County School Board continues to meet in what appears to be the remodeled game room of a 1970s brick rancher is a mystery. Complete with wood paneling and wires duct taped to the carpet, the meeting room lends no credence to any sense of professionalism and leadership the School Board may attempt to project.

And this just isn’t a pandemic issue. The School Board regularly used the same room for public meetings long before COVID became an issue. COVID should have actually given the board one more reason to move to a roomier location.

For a school system that has gyms, cafeterias and libraries with plenty of room for public meetings, why Prince Edward’s School Board continues to cram into an inadequate meeting room when much better options are available is a mystery.

Perhaps the reason the board doesn’t want to meet at Prince Edward Elementary School is they don’t want any ill effects from the mold in the building. Yet our youngest school kids are asked to deal with it every day as a result of the board’s failure to fix the school’s roof.

The purpose of a public meeting is to actually allow the public the attend the meetings. That didn’t happen last Wednesday.

A school official came into the board meeting and could be heard telling the board that a large crowd had gathered and asked to be present at the meeting. The board decided to bring in the eight speakers who signed up to address the board one by one. It sounded like there were many more people outside than the eight who came in to speak to the board.

Those gathered had no idea what discussions the board had already had about the transgender issue or if the decision had already been made. A couple speakers had to ask the board if they had already voted on the issue because there was no way for them to know.

That crowd could be heard outside the walls throughout the meeting chanting and talking. They should have been allowed to interact with their elected representatives. None of the people who spoke at the Prince Edward meeting were rude, disrespectful or out of line in any way. They expressed a sincere interest in how this School Board was handling a key issue, and they were denied the opportunity to hear that debate in person.

The meeting was broadcast on Facebook, and that is wonderful. But for those gathered outside the meeting room to have to watch the proceedings on their phone seems odd.

The Prince Edward County School Board can do better.

Ask Prince Edward County to use the meeting room in the courthouse. Ask the Town of Farmville to use the meeting room at Town Hall. Move the meetings to a gym or cafeteria.

The Prince Edward County School Board simply can’t be allowed to continue shutting out the people they were elected to serve.

(The views in this editorial are of The Farmville Herald editorial staff. This editorial was written by Editor Roger Watson. He can be reached at Editor@FarmvilleHerald.com or (434) 808-0622.)