A motion was made, and later rescinded, at Monday night’s school board meeting for the board to relinquish its representation on the Joint Education Committee, a group made up of leaders in several different fields.
McDowell County Board of Education member Doug McCraw said on Monday he was concerned about how much control the committee has over McDowell County Schools, and made a motion to pull out of the group. School board member Randy Williams seconded.
“As board members, we are under oath not to be influenced by outside committees, and it seems the Joint Education Committee is getting pretty involved with the school board,” McCraw said on Monday.
The Joint Education Committee is made up of two county commissioners, two McDowell Tech trustees, two school board members, the MTCC president, the county manager and McDowell County Schools superintendent.
McCraw specifically referenced Chairman Terry Frank’s involvement with the committee, and Williams’ Board of Elections hearing on his voter eligibility and resident status. McCraw played an audio clip from the hearing where David Patenaude, who claimed Williams was no longer a resident of the county, insinuates that Frank had asked him at one of the committee meetings to “find a way to help him end this” with Williams. Ultimately, the Board of Elections ruled that Williams is indeed a resident.
McCraw said the audio from that meeting implies that Frank asked Patenaude to take action on behalf of the school board.
“As elected persons on this board, the people of McDowell County voted us to make our own individual decisions,” said McCraw.
Frank appeared frustrated by the accusation.
“Mr. Patenaude came in here and wanted to address this board and I specifically asked to please not do that,” Frank said. “I told him that’s a personal item for him and Mr. Williams. In the meantime, several people came to me and said they were getting a lot of questions about Williams’ service on the board. This is not clandestine meeting. This meeting is a group of people that want our school systems to flourish and I can’t believe the audacity that we have a board member wanting us to discontinue this.”
“Mr. Frank, I didn’t put your name in there, Mr. Patenaude did. All I was trying to do is get a clarification because I sat up there and listened first hand to what was said,” said McCraw. “I think our school board should make its own decisions.”
Other board members chimed in supporting the committee and the school’s participation. After the discussion, McCraw withdrew his motion and Williams withdrew his second.
The Joint Education Committee meets monthly at the Universal Manufacturing Center for lunch to give updates on their respective organizations, according to Superintendent Mark Garrett.
“To me the advantage is it lets everybody know what each organization is doing and what chances we have to partner,” Garrett said to The McDowell News. “It lets us talk about projects or potential ideas well ahead of deadlines or budgets.”
He referenced the Joint Education Committee helped secure initiatives such as teacher supplements, computers for middle-schoolers, Early College and the Public Safety Academy.
The committee was formed in part by former MCS superintendent Ira Trollinger and former MTCC president Bryan Wilson in an effort to discuss ideas. The committee does not vote or make decisions for one organization or another, but is a way to gather support from other entities.
Currently, the committee members include David Walker (commissioner); Tony Brown (commissioner); Terry Frank (school board); Terry English (school board); Kay Medford (trustee); David Patenaude (trustee); Ashley Wooten (county manager); Mark Garrett (superintendent) and Dr. John Gossett (MTCC president).