School leaders prep for meeting with supervisors

Published 11:48 am Wednesday, January 12, 2022

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Southampton County Public Schools leaders updated the school board Monday, Jan. 10, on preparations for a joint meeting with the Southampton County Board of Supervisors to discuss the supervisors’ proposed resolution on parental rights that could impact funding of the county’s public schools.

Deborah Goodwyn

The Board of Supervisors had invited the school board to its Dec. 14 meeting to offer thoughts and observations on the draft resolution, and the school board voted 8-0 on Dec. 13 to decline the request and instead propose a joint work session on a future date to engage in an informed, facilitated discussion regarding conflicts, real or perceived, between the commonwealth’s cultural competency training and parental rights.

At its Dec. 14 meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted 6-0 to table the resolution and meet with the school board for a joint work session that supervisors agreed should be held at Camp Community College’s Regional Workforce Development Center around mid-January.

“The joint meeting will be open to the public,” School Board Chair Dr. Deborah Goodwyn said to the rest of the school board Jan. 10. “The purpose of the joint meeting is to discuss that proposed resolution.”

She noted that the meeting will have an experienced facilitator.

“The facilitator is a neutral individual, a person who can create an inclusive meeting environment, somebody who can synthesize, clarify, summarize main points made by participants, a person who can guide the process so that the meeting stays on course, somebody who can make sure that all voices are heard, ensure that everybody has a role to play,” she said. “The facilitator will help us move toward consensus.”

Goodwyn emphasized that the meeting will have only one item on the agenda — discussing the Board of Supervisors’ proposed resolution.

The resolution expresses serious concerns with the school division and accuses it of violating state law.

Both boards read the resolution aloud in their respective regular December meetings.

Goodwyn said there will not be any presentations at the joint work session.

“However, the county administrator and the superintendent will develop and distribute a resource list, a list of readings, webinars, videos that participants can use to prepare for the meeting,” she said. 

Gwendolyn P. Shannon

Moments later, SCPS Superintendent Dr. Gwendolyn P. Shannon shared with the school board that in her search for a facilitator of the joint work session, she had reached out to several entities, including the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

On the Cooper Center’s team is Charles W. Hartgrove, who is director of the Virginia Institute of Government, and Shannon asked him if he would agree to serve as facilitator.

“He has agreed to serve,” Shannon said. “We are currently working on dates, and so I’ll update you all as soon as I have the dates from him. I’m hoping to have them by the end of this week.”

Shannon has been working with Southampton County Administrator Michael W. Johnson on preparations for the meeting.

“He is aware that I have reached out to Charles Hartgrove, and so Mike and I are going to work together on creating the agenda, and so we’ll provide an update back to you all soon,” she said. “Now, Mr. Hartgrove did say that he would not be able to meet in the month of January, that it may have to be pushed out to February, and I did talk with Mike Johnson about that.”

She said Johnson wanted to share the information with the Board of Supervisors.

Goodwyn concluded the discussion Jan. 10 by saying, “So our plan is to have this meeting in February, and hopefully by the end of the week, Dr. Shannon will be able to share some possible dates with us.”

Among the key passages of the draft resolution on parental rights is its fourth paragraph, which states that “the Southampton County Board of Supervisors is very much aware of the concerns of parents, students and taxpayers that the administration of the Southampton County Public Schools has ignored the fundamental rights of parents to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education and care of their children…”

The last four paragraphs of the draft resolution are as follows, with the last two addressing Southampton County Public Schools directly:

“Whereas, cultural competency training promotes the teaching of ideologies that likely contradict the social, moral and religious beliefs of the parent’s child in direct violation of §1-240.1 of the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended; and

“Whereas, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors is fundamentally opposed to the offering of taxpayer’s dollars to Southampton County Public Schools if it will not adhere to §1-240.1 of said code and all of its practices.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Southampton County Board of Supervisors hereby places the Southampton County Public Schools on notice and demands that the Southampton County Public Schools cease its violation of the law of this commonwealth and adhere to §1-240.1 of the code and all of its practices; and

“Be it further resolved that the Southampton County Public Schools, boards, administration and employees do everything in their power to restore the traditional partnership between teachers, students and parents by directly communicating with parents and students before teaching any subject that does not address the Southampton County Public Schools objectives, which, inter alia, is to teach every student to achieve their highest academic potential. It is counter to the Southampton County Public Schools mission to design educational experiences that allow students to make contributions as productive citizens if the Southampton County Public Schools teachings include personal bias or personal political opinions or indoctrination. The Southampton County Public Schools will not achieve its mission by including conversation, lesson plans, literature, personal stories or other means to teach students to identify their agenda, denounce their American culture and patriotism, apologize for their race or religion, or to have teachers encourage their students to keep secrets from their parents.”