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New principal hirings affirmed for BHS, BES

The Brookhaven School District board of trustees held a called meeting Thursday afternoon and reaffirmed its approval of two candidates recommended by Superintendent Dr. Lisa Karmacharya for the job of principal at Brookhaven High School and Brookhaven Elementary School.

     Karmacharya had previously offered her recommendations to board members by phone Wednesday morning and taken a phone vote.

     “In a follow up to our telephone conversation, I would like to make a formal, public recommendation,” Karmacharya said during Thursday’s meeting.

     Board members proceeded to unanimously approve David Martin as principal of BHS in a roll call vote.

     Karmacharya requested board member Willie “Doc” Harrison recuse himself and leave the room while Janee’ Harrison’s candidacy for the BES position was voted on as Janee’ Harrison is Willie Harrison’s daughter. With Willie Harrison absent, all board members present voted by roll call to approve Janee’ Harrison.

     Willie Harrison also abstained from the phone vote approving his daughter, Karmacharya said.

     Following Thursday’s called meeting, she reaffirmed her confidence that Wednesday’s phone vote was appropriate.

     “I didn’t have any concerns about the phone vote,” Karmacharya said after the meeting.

     Karmacharya described the called meeting as needed to deal with other matters, including moving the date of the June board meeting and dealing with a contested proposal to rent the BHS football field. When asked why the board repeated its approval of the district’s newest principals if she had no concerns, Karmacharya said the decision was made following a conversation with the district’s attorney, Bob Allen.

     She referred all further questions about the matter to Allen.

     A called session was already planned to deal with the football field rental, Allen said Thursday, at which point he recommended the vote of approval for the new principals be repeated.

     “I always tell them if they are taking a phone poll vote to come back in a meeting and reconfirm that,” Allen said. “Otherwise you’ve got people coming in and questioning the vote.”

     Opinions issued by the Mississippi attorney general’s office have affirmed the use of phone voting in certain circumstances, Allen said.

     A 1990 attorney general’s opinion quotes a Mississippi Supreme court ruling on the matter: “public boards may use ‘telephone polls’ for the recording of final votes where ‘all deliberation prior to the final vote has taken place in accordance with the open meetings act.'”

     A regularly scheduled, open meeting was held Tuesday night by the school board at which time hiring of principals was not discussed. Comments made by Karmacharya that board members voted Wednesday morning prior to their phone vote to “extend” a Tuesday night executive session are inaccurate, Allen said.

     David Martin and Janee’ Harrison will formally begin their new jobs July 1. Karmacharya said she plans to meet with them both before that date, but has not scheduled such a meeting.

     Board members also voted Thursday to reschedule the June board meeting from June 26 to June 19 and to tentatively allow a local semi-pro football team an exception to the district’s football field rental policy pending final discussions with Athletic Director Tommy Clopton.