IW School Board adopts revised protocols

Published 6:50 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Isle of Wight County’s School Board, on Feb. 10, adopted new protocols its members are to follow.

The board had last discussed its protocols on Jan. 6, but tabled voting on the list after District 1 board member John Collick described certain provisions as bypassing Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

The Jan. 6 draft, which at that time was unchanged from the 2021 protocol document, had stated phone calls were “the preferred method of communication” among board members and between the board and school staff, and that board members should “never use ‘reply all’” when sending emails. The adopted Feb. 10 version now states phone calls “and emails” are preferred, but leaves in the provision that board members should never use “reply all.”

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Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton, on Jan. 6, had described the “reply all” provision as protecting the board from running afoul of Virginia’s open meeting requirements, which require public notification in all instances where three or more board members are discussing school business — in person or via email.

The Feb. 10 version also adds four new protocols.

One bars individual board members from speaking on behalf of the entire board without the consent of its other members. The board chair, or the chair’s designee, the document states, is the only member authorized to speak as the board’s official voice. Board members making personal statements in any format, including speeches, articles or social media posts, should “clearly state that these statements are their opinion and not the position of the board.”

Another states board members are to reach out to the chair when requesting that topics be added to a meeting’s agenda.

The third new provision states board members “should not be communicating directly with staff” when requesting information, and instead should direct their requests to the superintendent.

The fourth added provision states board members are to refer comments or concerns they receive from the public “through the chain of communication starting at the lowest level applicable.”

“If the teacher disagrees with you … you go up to the principal,” Collick explained. “This is not meant to tell anybody do not talk to your board member.”

Additional changes from the Jan. 6 draft include specifying the month of April as when board members will conduct a yearly self-evaluation, and requiring any addition to a meeting’s agenda, after it’s been published, to be sent to the board 48 hours prior to the meeting, except in the case of emergency additions, in which case the board clerk is to notify the board.

The vote to adopt the Feb. 10 version of the board protocols document was unanimous, as was the board’s vote to adopt a superintendent’s code of ethics.