Deputies ensure order at school board meeting

Published 7:13 am Tuesday, March 7, 2017

About three dozen individuals sat at cafeteria tables at the Bogue Chitto Attendance Center Monday night for the Lincoln County School Board meeting, but no one spoke out of turn or chastised board members.

Two Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputies standing along the wall saw to that.

The board’s business was brief, as the five members voted to approve a consent agenda which saw the hiring of a new head football coach for West Lincoln — Bobby Smithhart of St. Aloysius High School in Vicksburg — and routine items such as the monthly docket of claims.

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Then the board’s attorney spoke, bringing up the commotion at the Feb. 21 meeting in which several parents spoke out publicly about a school principal even though they were not on the agenda and had been told they could not address the board.

West Lincoln parent Melaine Daigle had spoken at the previous meeting after respectfully asking permission to do so, and later made a request at the district office to be placed on the agenda to speak Monday night.

Her request was denied along with at least three others including self-described child advocate Melissa Posey.

In Posey’s case, the letter sent to her from Superintendent Mickey Myers said her request was “so general that it is impossible to determine specifically what you want to discuss.”

Posey’s letter from Myers, which she posted on Facebook, continued, “At the last board meeting, you discussed recordings you had placed on social media, you accused the board of corruption and you asked for a principal’s termination. However, there is nothing given in your request regarding your topic other than a ‘new plan.’ Without more, it is impossible to tell whether you have followed the chain of command in addressing your issues.”

It was that chain of command that board attorney Jim Keith addressed for the next 12 minutes.

He told the board members they must limit their roles to policy making and to delegate the day-to-day and administrative duties of the school district to Myers and his administration.

“You don’t get involved in the day-to-day running of the school district, and I think a lot of members of the public misunderstand that. You don’t get involved in the day-to-day personnel matters,” said Keith of the Ridgeland law firm of Adams and Reece.

He said the superintendent is the final say in personnel matters and they should only come before the board if someone is appealing Myers’ decision. “Those individuals have a right to come before you but if they do come before you, you have to be fair and impartial. And if you have already entertained discussion about those individuals then you have already heard one side of the story, which may or may not be true,” he said.

The same goes for confidential student matters, he said.

“You’ll be criticized as a result by this position, but I promise you it’s the legal position,” he said.

Keith warned board members that if they get involved in school business or personnel matters, they can face investigation by the state and risk losing accreditation for the district.

He told the public in attendance that to get on the agenda they must first follow the chain of command — teacher, principal, administration then superintendent — before seeking an audience with the school board.

“I understand that people will try to get on the agenda to complain about certain individuals,” he told the board. “That’s a matter they should take to the superintendent and the administration below you. That is not a matter for y’all to address.

“No. 1, it would be a violation of your accountability standard and No. 2 … you can’t do anything about it. It’s not your role. You cannot tell Mr. Myers who to hire, who to fire, who to suspend. You can’t do that. It’s not your role. And unfortunately, I don’t think the public understands that.”

He continued, “You guys are not running from anything. You’re not hiding from anything by not agreeing to hear some of these things. You’re doing it because I as your board attorney have advised you … of the law. You’re going to hear enough as it is. When you go to a ball game, people are going to bend your ear. I understand that. If it’s a problem that needs to be addressed by the administration, y’all need to direct them back to the administration.”

Keith said the public is welcome at all public meetings and can record audio or video of the meetings “as long as its not disruptive of the meeting.”

Posey arrived at the meeting several minutes after it adjourned. “I wasn’t noting the time,” she said, walking into the cafeteria after many in the audience had already left. “I was sitting there praying and on the phone. Fighting the devil’s not easy.”

Posey was calmer and quieter this time around, snapping pictures with her cell phone of the two law enforcement officers still present and looking outside to check her car to make sure no one flattened her tires, she said.

She pulled out a tie-dyed strip of duct tape that said “Silenced by fear” that she intended to wear at the meeting she didn’t attend.  “They’re squelching us,” she said.

Posey said she has been chided for being too aggressive in her pursuit to seek justice for the special needs children of Lincoln County. “I’ve been through all of the procedures and policies. I’ve followed it to a T.  I’ve been passive and kind. Now I’m aggressive and kind,” she said.

Would she have spoken at the board meeting had she arrived on time, even without being on the agenda?

Yes, she said.

Posey said she doesn’t plan to be at the next board meeting, which is set for March 20 at 5 p.m. at West Lincoln Attendance Center. “There were people here tonight who are helping us,” she said. “We know we’ve got to get out of Lincoln County to get any help.”