ACCOMACK: School board tries to halt ‘cronyism and nepotism’

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Accomack County Public Schools

BY TED SHOCKLEY, Eastern Shore Post —

Accomack County’s school board chair said new rules governing hiring committees were enacted because the school system “has a long history of cronyism and nepotism” that she wants to prevent from continuing.

Chair Janet Martin Turner made the announcement after a policy was approved that prohibits any school board or staff member from serving on a panel interviewing someone who is a family member, friend, or fellow club or organization member.

Two school board members will serve on hiring committees “for all positions above teacher,” according to the policy.

Turner said the new policy will help “avoid any conflicts of interest.”

The policy passed 5-4 — another in a line of divided votes on the school board, which received three new members in January.

Turner, Vice Chair Edward Taylor, and the three new members — Glenn Neal, Jason Weippert, and Stefanie Jackson — voted in favor of the motion.
Board members Lisa Johnson, Malcolm White, Jesse Speidel, and Camesha Handy voted against the measure.

Johnson said the new policy “troubles me greatly” and said she belongs to a number of organizations.

She called the policy’s “vagueness and, quite frankly, its ignorance potentially discriminatory.”

“If I’m prevented from being on an interview panel … and I’m discriminated against, there will be consequences,” she said.

Johnson made a motion that the policy be sent to a committee for additional research, but it failed, with only Johnson, White, Speidel, and Handy voting for the measure.

Johnson said “inexperienced board leadership has the ongoing potential” to impact recruitment of staff to the school system and retention of current staff.

She said the multiple 5-4 votes indicate conversations “are occurring outside of meetings and I, for one, am not consulted.”

“I look forward to the point when we, as a board, get back to focusing on student-centered matters and stop promoting things that are self-serving.”

Turner, however, said the new personnel policy was about fairness.

“We want to hire the best people for the job,” she said.

In another 5-4 vote, the school board voted in favor of a measure that allows school board members to have computerized card “badge” access to enter schools.

Turner, Taylor, Neal, Weippert, and Jackson voted in favor of the measure.

The school board voted 7-2 on a measure allowing law enforcement including town police officers to have school entry cards like school staff.

School Superintendent Rhonda Hall said doing so would put a lot of entry badges into circulation.

“You’re going to have a lot of access to buildings out there,” she said.

Hall said many first responders already have entry badges.

However, Neal, a former state trooper, said police officers he talked to did not have access badges.

Neal said ensuring all police officers have entry badges will be important during an emergency.

“I’m a plan-for-the-worst and hope-for-the-best type of guy,” he said.

Handy and White voted in opposition. Handy said she didn’t want to vote on the matter because statements by Hall and Neal contradicted each other, and she wanted to know the truth.

— School board member Stefanie Jackson is a staff writer for the Eastern Shore Post. She has no input in the Post’s coverage of Accomack County Public Schools.

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