By Jesse Wood
Feb. 20, 2013. The Watauga County Board of Education will hold another closed session meeting to discuss personnel issues on Thursday, Feb. 21.
However, this meeting won’t be hours long like the previous closed session meeting that was split into two separate evenings and lasted six or so hours.
The meeting starts at 6:45 p.m. – 15 minutes prior to the town- hall-style meeting at Mabel Elementary School.
School Board Member Ron Henries said the board will discuss a personnel issue in closed session and then take action in open session – all in the span of 15 minutes.
As to the specific subject matter of the discussion, Henries wouldn’t say. Asked if the topic of the meeting is the same as the previous closed-session meeting that was announced immediately after a second gaffe by Supt. David Kafitz was made public, Henries wouldn’t confirm or deny.
“No comment,” Henries said.
As to what type of hypothetical personnel topics would be possible in such a meeting, Henries said that the range of discussions and actions could concern the status of a current employee or the hiring of a position.
School Board Member Barbara Kinsey said that she did not know about the topic of the personnel issue for the closed session meeting as of Wednesday morning and that she didn’t know in advance that the meeting was taking place.
Watauga County Schools spokesman Marshall Ashcraft announced the called closed session meeting around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Both Henries and School Board Member Barbara Kinsey said the decision to call a meeting would be at the discretion of Chairman Dr. Lee Warren.
“The only person who can call a meeting is the chairman. If somebody asks him, such as another board member or the superintendent or the athletic director, for instance, then it would be his decision or not to call a meeting,” Henries said.
When asked initially if she was the one who requested this closed session meeting, Kinsey said, “It wasn’t me this time.”
Kinsey is the board member who read a statement in January talking about “perceived problems in our county’s school system [that had] reached a crescendo.” Though she wasn’t yet aware of Kafitz’s behavior at Mellow Mushroom or the “rude” conversation between Kafitz and Watauga County Director of Elections Jane Ann Hodges, Kinsey said those incidents, which took place before her statement but weren’t yet made public, put her speech into perspective.
As for Kinsey’s role on the school board, now it seems as if Kinsey is on the outside looking in.
At the school board meeting on Feb. 11, the other board members voted against Kinsey. Kinsey handed out her own survey to teachers about the morale and atmosphere in the county schools. She said her decision to hand out that survey was in light of the behavior of Kafitz – both in the schools with staff and faculty and out of the schools with members of the public.
After that board meeting addressing the survey, Henries said the survey wasn’t authorized by the entire board and that he made this motion to clarify that to teachers who were surveyed. The board members voted to direct staff to send out an email to all the teachers, recommending that they not fill out the survey.
On Wednesday morning, Kinsey sounded shocked when asked if she was aware of the meeting, of the topic, she said, “It sounds like I am out of the loop now.”
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