School board reverses plan to omit citizens concerns

BIDS FAREWELL – School board member Lee Williams (right) attended his last board meeting last Thursday night after he resigned from the board to accept a job in Fort Worth, Tex. Humboldt City Schools’ superintendent, Dr. Versie Hamlett, wishes him well and offers his name plated that is displayed on the board table during meeting as a memento of his time serving Humboldt’s students.

by Danny Wade

In a strange turn of events, the Humboldt School Board did a 180-degree turnaround regarding a policy that would halt concerned citizens from addressing the board. During Thursday night’s school board meeting, the second reading of Policy 1.404 Appeals to and Appearances Before the Board was on the agenda.

This is the second time this board has attempted to remove certain text from the policy that allows citizens to address the board regarding any item on the agenda. The first attempt last year failed due to lack of a majority vote.

Changes or updates to school board policies require a first and second reading. The first reading is a formality and gives board members time to research the changes. The vote to approve an update is called for on the second reading only.

Last month, chairman Phillip Hardee brought the policy back to the board, again removing language that allows people to sign a sheet prior to the board meetings and voice their concerns regarding the agenda. The first reading was held that night.

As the agenda item came up Thursday night, board member Chuck Samples read sections from Roberts Rules of Order stating certain changes in principles and policies voted on by the board require a two-thirds majority. Samples said this policy falls under those guidelines.

Board member Leon McNeal, who had motioned to approve the policy update, said the board can change the policy. He noted Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) said it was okay to change the policy, deleting language that would remove the citizens concerns agenda item.
McNeal also said the public can still request to be on the agenda and have their voices heard.

Samples told McNeal he was not saying McNeal’s comments were not correct but instead he was saying policy change takes a two-thirds majority.

Chairman Hardee said he wants to change the policy because you never know what someone will say.

Samples said he wanted the chairman to be aware of the sections of Roberts Rules of Order Samples referred to, as Hardee goes through the voting procedure.

Since McNeal had made the  motion to accept the policy update, Hardee asked for a second. No one seconded the motion, so it failed. The policy will remain the same, allowing people to have a voice during board meetings regarding agenda items.

According to the policy, citizens may sign up before the board meeting and speak regarding items on that night’s agenda. The board cannot take action or vote on concerns brought before the board. The person speaking is to only address the board chairman. The chairman and the board do not have to respond to any remarks made.

After the policy failed, McNeal instructed the chairman to govern the rules and not allow someone saying something negative. “You can step in and stop them,” McNeal stated.

In other school board action:

•The board approved the 2017-18 school calendar. Highlights for the next school year are:
Aug. 1 – first day of school
Sept. 4 – Labor Day
Oct. 9-13 – fall break
Nov. 22-24 – Thanksgiving
Dec. 20 – Jan. 3 – Christmas
Jan. 15 – MLK Day
Feb. 19 – Presidents’ Day
Mar. 26-30 – spring break
May 10-11 – Strawberry Festival
May 18 – graduation
May 23 – last day of school

•The board also approved changes to this year’s school board calendar moving the July 6 meeting to July 13 due to Independence Day, and moving the October 12 meeting to October 19 due to fall break.

•The board unanimously approved to extend the contract for lawn maintenance for one more year at a cost of $49,819.92. McNeal said they are doing a good job, often going above and beyond.

•According to school board policy, it is the duty of the chairman of the board to appoint one member of the school board to serve on the Budget Committee, along with the chairman and superintendent.

Hardee said he wanted everyone to be on the committee but policy states he must choose one. He selected McNeal to serve but noted he wanted the entire board to attend budget committee meetings.

•During the superintendent’s report, Dr. Versie Hamlett asked HJSHS principal for an update on the Vikings basketball team going to the state tournament.

Walker said the Vikings play Grace Christian Academy on Thursday, March 16 at 1:15 p.m. in the opening round of the tournament in Murfreesboro. With confidence in the Vikings, he said they would play in the second round on Friday, March 17 at 4:45 p.m. in the semi-finals and on Saturday, March 18 at 6 p.m., the Viking would be playing 3-time defending champions, Memphis Mitchell. Of course the Vikings and Mitchell must win or they are out of the tournament.

Dr. Hamlett also offered a special thank you to Lee Williams who is moving to Fort Worth, Tex. She noted Williams had served on the school board for five years and was always very passionate in all that he does. She said Williams made the school board better.
With that remark, Williams was given a standing ovation by the board and the audience.

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