CHATHAM, Va. — Pittsylvania County School Board met Tuesday night to honor students, give awards and vote on requests. Four people were kicked out of the meeting for defying COVID-19 protocol.
The atmosphere was extremely tense from the start of the meeting because of the ongoing mask mandate.
Chairman J. Samuel Burton recapped what happened at last month’s meeting when two were removed for not wearing masks the correct way.
“As far as the people that were escorted out, we are under health orders,” Burton said. “They were informed twice before the meeting. It is not our choice. It is the state health order. We can’t start the meeting if everyone isn’t wearing a mask.”
Burton then gave one warning to everyone and commented he will have security remove people who aren’t wearing the masks and spoke to the crowd, saying, “When I’m conducting a meeting, I can take my face shield off to speak into the microphone.”
The meeting got underway with an acknowledgement of 72 students who earned perfect SOL scores from elementary to high school.
After the awards, one person got up and asked Burton why he wasn’t wearing a mask. She was the first to be escorted out, stating on the way out, “Children are our future!”
The meeting went into the Character Word of the Month and Rylee Fletcher from Dan River High School gave a story about how she always struggled with spelling and one day, she cheated on a test off her friend’s paper. They were caught and mentioned how her friend didn’t want to talk to her again. From that point forward, she never cheated on another test.
“My lack of honest was not only damaging to my education but also my friendship,” Fletcher said.
The meeting went into pubic requests to speak, and it became intense very quickly. Sharon Johnson went up to the microphone and explained her concern to the board. She explained she was a mother of a 17-year-old. She expressed concern about lack of knowledge about the COVID-19 vaccines. She said the board should take extra time to inform students about the pros and the cons of the vaccines, so they could educate their parents.
Barbara Hancock took her turn and blasted the board calling them hypocrites. She ended her speech by asking, “Do you even care about children?”
Burton then reminded her the board body has never been a political body, but she was making it.
At that moment, another attendee was removed for not having a mask on at all, but before he left, he shouted, “Wear your mask, Burton!”
School Board Candidate Jacob Hancock (Callands-Gretna) took the podium to also express his concern reminding the board of the impact of their decisions.
“The decisions you make will ultimately drive where the schools and the country go,” he said. “Parental rights and student rights steadily being stripped away. We the people run this place, not the other way around.”
At this point, Burton was not having any of it stating, “This is the issue we have. No one is willing to listen.”
After another brief pause for shouts, Dr. Jessica Jones went up to the podium. She explained how Pittsylvania County transportation makes he proud to be a member. She outlined the lack of substitutes and how that it putting a strain on the system.
“Teachers are taking time out to cover other classes because there isn’t enough substitutes. We need help,” she said.
Superintendent Dr. Mark Jones gave his comments from COVID-19 mandates to shortened lunch periods to tardiness and dress code and versified lunch menu. There were comments in cell phone policy, and there will be additional water dispensers placed in the schools. He ended with comments on AP classes and the push for new enrollment.
The meeting ended with requests for naming school board property, permanent signage at Dan River Middle School, a Procurement Bid, a revision of school board policy, VCU tobacco survey, authorization for a grant application. Student recognition protocol, regional position for the adult education center, temporary use of Gretna Middle School for the 21st Century Learning Communities Program and a grant approval from a construction state to work from home.
Every item was passed with a 6-0 vote.