Prince Edward school board chooses chairperson on third vote

Published 3:21 am Wednesday, January 24, 2024

They tried the first time and it came out to a tie. The second vote saw a similar result, with the Prince Edward school board again unable to agree on a chairperson. After a 10-minute recess and one of the candidates stepping aside, Lucy Carson was voted in as the chairperson for this year’s school board term. Afterwards, Carson made it clear her overall role doesn’t change with the new title. 

“We make policy, we approve policy, we hire superintendents,” Carson said. “But the everyday operation of the schools belongs to the superintendent. My job is to run the meetings. I don’t have any more power than anybody else on the board. I have one vote, just like everyone else.” 

The discussion over naming a chairperson started with two candidates being nominated. Carson was one and Susan Kimbrough was the other. The board was deadlocked 4-4 on the first vote between the two. The group tried again and got the same result, deadlocking again at a 4-4 tie.

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At that point, Superintendent Dr. Barbara Johnson explained that the Wednesday, Jan. 17 meeting couldn’t continue until a chairperson had been selected. If the school board was unable to choose a chairperson, she added, there is a code that says the county board of supervisors can appoint one in a tie-breaking vote. But that would have meant waiting until February to move forward, until supervisors could meet. She called for a 10-minute recess for members to discuss the issue. After everyone returned from the break, Kimbrough withdrew her name from consideration. 

“In the interest of our board, while I appreciate the nomination, I’d like to withdraw,” Kimbrough said. “We have way too much important business to waste (time) on this. This is not how we should operate. We have so much important business to do this year. So let’s take another vote.” 

Prince Edward school board makes choices 

After Kimbrough withdrew her name, the vote came in unanimous for Lucy Carson to serve as chairperson. Carson told the group she appreciated their support. 

“Thank you for your votes and your confidence in me,” Carson said. “This is a lot of work, it keeps you busy. It’s my way of giving back and it’s my way of being close to the students without being a teacher. But I’m there for students because I like to advocate for students.”  

Afterward, Kimbrough was nominated to serve as vice chair for this term, with new member Cainan Townsend also put up as a candidate by fellow board member J. Harvey Tackett. Kimbrough won with a 7-1 vote. 

What about meeting times? 

After the chair and vice chair were chosen, the board also discussed something to consider for next year. Tackett raised the question of changing the day and time of school board meetings in Prince Edward, pointing out that some residents can’t come because it’s church night. Other members agreed, mentioning that the Farmville town council holds its meetings on the same night of the month, which restricts both groups from attending the other’s respective meetings. 

“Maybe we look at Monday, Tuesday, first Monday of the month,” Tackett suggested. “We look at other activities going on, but just for consideration next year.” 

School board member Elzora Stiff said previous boards had looked at moving the day and time of meetings before and found there wasn’t a perfect solution. 

“What we’ve learned, there are days and times for operations in Farmville and there are days and times for operations in the county,” Stiff said. “So either way, you’re going to bump into those obstacles. So it’s not that we haven’t considered it.”  

Kimbrough suggested the board members take this term to think about it and bring it back when they set the schedule next January. That way everyone will have time to do their own research. 

“Our goal should be to encourage anyone who wants to come to attend and not have to choose between a school board meeting and going to Bible study, choir practice or whatever their church activity is,” Kimbrough said. “I’ve looked at every single church in Prince Edward County and every one had some sort of activity on Wednesday nights.” 

The group agreed to take a look at the idea and revisit it within a year’s time.