By Tim Gardner
School Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman honoring board members for School Board Appreciation month and discussion of proper protocol about filling a current vacancy on the board were the primary topics during the regular monthly meeting of the Avery County Board of Education on Tuesday, January 10.
All board members were present–Chairman John Greene, Pat Edwards, Randy Singleton and Kathey Aldridge.
In honor of School Board Appreciation month (January), Brigman individually recognized each member of the board and gave them a certificate of appreciation, thanking them for their efforts for, and dedication to, all students in Avery County’s public schools.
“We are so thankful for an outstanding Board of Education that is comprised of four individuals who are focused on the success of every student, staff member, and the school system as a whole,” Brigman said in a statement to High Country Press. “A thank you seldom comes to board members and the decisions made are often unknown to the general public. I hope members of the public will take time to express their gratitude to each of our elected board members for their willingness to serve in this capacity.”
Linda Webb addressed the board during its public comment session to ask how its members will fill its current vacancy. The board has been deadlocked 2-2 between Webb and Steve Smith to fill the seat which has remained vacant since Ruth Shirley retired from the board in June 2022.
Webb was a candidate for the Board of Education in the May 2022 election. She received the highest number of votes by a candidate then who did not win election.
Smith is a former Board of Education member.
The Board of Education chooses the method of appointing a new member when a vacancy arises, Brigman said. There is currently no direct protocol for filling a board vacancy by a current board. Brigman added that the board does not feel comfortable setting a precedent about appointing board members. Therefore, the seat will likely remain vacant until a majority (three) or all of the current board members agrees to appoint Webb or Smith, or until a candidate is elected in the in the May 2026 Primary Election. Webb and Smith can also run for the Board of Education then.
A Board of Education race is non-partisan, meaning that candidates do not run with by any political party affiliation and those who win in a primary election are automatically elected and do not have to run in a General Election later the same year.
In other business, Megan Pollard presented the board with the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) monitoring visit. Avery County Schools’ ESSERs plan met all the programmatic requirements, she declared.
Brigman commended Pollard for her work in building relationships with both internal stakeholders and representatives from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction while developing the plan.
The next Avery County Board of Education meeting will be at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7, as it was pushed up seven days so the meeting isn’t on Valentine’s Day (February 14). The meeting will be held in the Board of Education headquarters, located at 775 Cranberry Street in Newland.