‘No’ to Thornton Career Center

Published 1:34 pm Thursday, July 14, 2022

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

On July 14, our Isle of Wight County School Board is to act to name Smithfield High School’s Career and Technical Education building after retired Superintendent Dr. James Thornton. This agenda action item is before citizen comments, thus silencing citizens’ right to speak on it in public.

In my experience, action items have never been placed on the agenda before citizen comment. The board has clearly stated, “Any citizen can speak on any Agenda item before the Board takes action,” until now. Why? Everyone knows the board worked for Thornton when he was superintendent. Seems now they are still working for him since he’s retired.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

I’ve read that a citizen’s filed another FOIA lawsuit against our School Board. This third lawsuit alleges multiple new violations, and a violation of two previous court consent orders requiring the board’s compliance with FOIA law. A most serious allegation involves the mysterious secret “Transition Appropriations” our board gave to Thornton during its March 10 meeting. It appears they paid him all of his accrued vacation, personal and sick leave at his full per diem rate. This, I think, is in violation of IWCS policy GCBD and GCBD-R. These policies stipulate retiring employees are maxed out at 30 days of annual leave and 250 days of sick leave at partial per diem rate of $30 per day.

Thornton’s salary was increased to $186,501 on June 10, 2021, by a vote of 4-0 (Alvin Wilson being absent). With administrators working 240 days, divide that into his salary to determine his per diem (daily) rate, a whopping $777 per day. By policy he should get $30,800. But paying him his full per diem for ALL accrued leave, especially on sick leave of 250 days, his payout of taxpayer funds would be a real whopper, $217,500-plus.

I ask board members to table their decision on CTE building naming until after the FOIA suit court hearing on Aug. 16. Also, I ask this newspaper and citizens to contact School Board members and ask them to delay this action. What’s the hurry?


Herb De Groft