The Lowndes County school board started the year on an eventful note during Friday morning’s monthly meeting.
Board member Jane Kilgore was elected the new president 4-1, replacing outgoing president Robert Barksdale. Jacqueline Gray cast the lone dissenting vote. Barksdale was chosen vice president, and Brian Clark was named secretary, with both men receiving unanimous approval.
But tempers flared when Kilgore made a motion to combine the elections of the board attorney, architect, 16th Section land appraiser and disciplinary hearing officer.
Gray interrupted Kilgore several times and asked for the votes to be separated, saying they were separate agenda items and should be separate votes.
“I have a right to speak,” Gray said when Kilgore asked her to be quiet. “Can you all sit here and let this happen? This is ridiculous. And she’s going to be president for the whole year? You are sitting here doing this when I have told you I do not want this.”
Barksdale then called for the votes to be separated. A motion was made to keep the four positions combined as one vote, but the motion failed 3-2. Gray, Barksdale and Mike Gibson voted against the measure.
Board Attorney Jeff Smith retained his seat with a 4-1 vote. Gray voted against him. Gray votes against reappointing Smith each year. Gray previously said she does so because Smith testified against her in an ethics investigation involving a discrimination suit against the district. Gray’s husband is one of the plaintiffs in the suit, on behalf of the couple’s son.
The remaining three positions passed unanimously in separate votes, with Joey Henderson being chosen as board architect, Tina Richards as 16th Section land appraiser and Gary Goodwin as disciplinary hearing officer.
After the meeting, Barksdale said the votes have been separated in previous years. He was fine with combining them, but he asked for them to be separated since Gray wanted to vote on each position individually.
He declined to speak further about the matter, as did Kilgore, who said via telephone Friday afternoon that she wanted to combine the four votes to make things less complicated and save time.
Kilgore said she didn’t want to dwell upon Gray’s outburst during the meeting, which culminated with Gray asking Kilgore to step down as board president.
“I’m here for the kids,” Kilgore said. “We’re going to work together for the betterment of the students of Lowndes County.”
“It doesn’t bother me whether you agree with me or not; I just want to exercise my right to vote yea or nay on any and all board issues,” Gray said Friday afternoon.
Kilgore and Gray are serving their second terms as board members.
Superintendent Lynn Wright missed the majority of the meeting after learning of a bomb threat at New Hope High School. After speaking with Kilgore, he left immediately and went to the scene.
The school was evacuated but no explosive device was found on the premises. As of Friday afternoon, no suspects had been identified.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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