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Censure vote against school board chair fails

SoVaNow.com / September 08, 2021
The dysfunction that has been a recurring hallmark of the Mecklenburg County School Board spilled out once again Aug. 30 in a vote taken during a special called meeting to censure School Board chairman Gavin Honeycutt.

Immediately after returning from a closed session in which personnel matters were discussed, vice chair Dora Garner made a motion to censure Honeycutt for “behavior that is putting unreasonable working conditions [on] the Central Office.”

Board trustee Ricky Allgood seconded the motion, but it failed on a 4-4 tie vote.

Garner, Allgood, Glenn Edwards and Gloria Smith voted in favor of the censure resolution. Trustees Wanda Bailey, Lindell Palmer, Brent Ritchie and Honeycutt voted against the motion. Rob Campbell was absent.

Ahead of the vote, Honeycutt asked Garner to define “unreasonable.” She replied, “Putting people in the Central Office in uncomfortable positions” but gave no further details.

Honeycutt said he was “blindsided” by the motion.

Neither Garner nor any other member of the school board offered examples of specific conduct by Honeycutt that warranted the censure motion.

Honeycutt has on several occasions publicly voiced his disapproval of Superintendent of School Paul Nichol’s oversight of the school division. It is unknown if these comments prompted Garner’s motion, or if she was referring to other incidents that could be considered violations of either the school board’s stated norms of conduct adopted in January, or Governing Principals adopted in June.

In January, a majority of the school board approved a set of guiding principles under which they agreed to operate. These “Board Norms” call for the trustees to:

» “be mindful of the different roles and responsibilities throughout the school system and maintain a focus on policy and governance.”

» “not interfere with the day-to-day operations of the school system, which is the responsibility of the superintendent.”

» And, direct any communication with or about school staff “to the Superintendent.”

The board agreed in June to be bound by an additional set of policies promulgated by the Virginia School Board Association that calls for the trustees to:

» “adopt policies to provide for the day-to-day supervision of schools;

» “see that the school laws are properly explained, enforced and observed;

» “secure, by visitation or otherwise, as full information as possible about the conduct of the public schools in the school division and take care that they are conducted according to law and with the utmost efficiency; and

» “care for, manage and control the property of the school division.”

Without further explanation from Garner or Allgood, who seconded the motion, it is unknown if Honeycutt was accused of overstepping his responsibilities under either the board norms or the VSBA policies.

Immediately following the vote, Honeycutt gaveled the meeting to a close and departed the room. As he walked past Sharon Shuttleworth, who was recording the official minutes for the evening, Honeycutt asked her to provide him with a copy of Garner’s motion.

Speaking after the meeting, Honeycutt said he would prefer not to comment on the events but hoped the board would find ways to work together on the important tasks that come from overseeing a school division in the midst of a pandemic, and as the county prepares to consolidate its two middle and high schools.

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