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Patrick school issues aired in Richmond
State Board of Education hears from Patrick residents

Sunday, July 28, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The state Board of Education met in a closed session Thursday in Richmond in part to discuss issues related to Patrick County School Superintendent Roger Morris.

The reason given for the closed meeting was “to consult with legal counsel regarding specific legal matters requiring the provision of legal advice concerning issues regarding the Patrick County school superintendent,” according to a video of the meeting.

No action was taken specific to Patrick County when the board returned to open session, the video showed.

Several teachers, staff members, parents and others from Patrick County addressed the state board earlier during the public comment portion of its meeting. They cited concerns that ranged from alleged retaliation, teachers/other school personnel allegedly aiding students in taking Virginia Standard of Learning (SOL) tests and the Patrick County School Board’s alleged lack of governance and/or transparency.

The last speaker, former attorney general Mary Sue Terry, who lives in Patrick County, asked the state board to revoke Morris’ license.

Terry said the state board issues licenses for superintendents and has “the authority to revoke licenses, and that’s what I’m asking you to do.”

Morris said Friday that he knew a delegation from Patrick County planned to address the state board, but “I didn’t hear anything affecting my license to practice, and I doubt the state (board) did either, but that’s up to them.”

Terry has become a central figure in the issue and has said she was prompted to get involved after an early retirement program was changed.

After entering a closed meeting of the Patrick County School Board in July, Terry was served with a “no trespassing” order prohibiting her from attending Patrick County School Board meetings unless she had permission from the superintendent or School Board Chairman Ronnie Terry (no relation).

At the time, Mary Sue Terry alleged the closed meeting was illegal, and she made the same assertion to the state board on Thursday.

“I refused to leave” that closed meeting when asked to do so, she said. “I sat down.”

She also said — as Ronnie Terry has said in the past — that school board members are divided on certain issues, including her no trespassing notice. She said the notice was not voted on before it was sent and not approved by the school board.

Other Patrick speakers who addressed the state board included Janice Largen, a nine-year veteran teacher in the school system; school librarian Linda Maxie; Dr. Karen Wood, a 37-year veteran teacher; retired teacher Barbara Pendleton, who had 42 years of service in Patrick schools when she retired, and spoke for Beverly Dillard, who has taught for 40 years and was out of the country during the Thursday meeting; Elizabeth Wallace, who works in the math department at the high school; Treena Anderson, the grandparent/guardian of a rising ninth-grader at Patrick County High School; resident Debbie DeHart; Paula Drady, who spent 32 years in public education and now is an adjunct faculty member at Patrick Henry Community College; and resident David Wallace.

Largen alleged she was berated by a former high school principal, and administrators did not heed her concerns. She also is among 10 teachers/staff who have been transferred, a move which Largen claimed was in retaliation for allegations of grade changes, diploma rates, switches in student scheduling and disagreements with a high school principal.

Maxie, a high school librarian who is being transferred to an elementary school, also alleged retaliation for stating her opinion on various issues.

Wood said she was transferred from her position as director of instruction in the central office to a position off-site in a move that she claimed was the result of retaliation. She did not identify her new position.

Pendleton claimed that Dillard is not certified for her transfer from the high school to an elementary school in a move that Pendleton also alleged was retaliation.

John Halsey, a retired high school teacher who also traveled to Richmond on Thursday, said the state board “gave no immediate feedback” to the speakers. But, the board “will take it under advisement. We feel very positive about the response we received from them,” he added.

The state board next meets in September.

 

 
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