Behind the scenes at last week’s meeting

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By Beth Braden

It’s been no secret that Donnie Poston’s contract is a hot topic in the county right now.

I’ve been working to cover the situation fairly from all angles, but after last Thursday’s meeting, I realized this week’s article could use some storytelling that might not necessarily have a place in my article. Here’s what happened at the meeting as I witnessed it.
When I arrived at 5:05 p.m., I thought I had a few minutes to relax in the car. The meeting wasn’t scheduled to begin until 6 p.m., but then I saw the people streaming into the courthouse. When I went in, I was surprised at the people already in their seats. I’ve covered the board of education since June, and while there have been a couple meetings where it was crowded, many people leave halfway through because they’re lost in budget amendments or only wanted to see the grievances.

I got one of the last seats on the front row and was soon shoulder to shoulder with more people.
Behind me were some high school students I recognized from November’s discussion about weighting the AP biology class. They’re not your typical students. They had the courage to get up and tell a room full of adults they are happy with  Poston and find it unreasonable that school board members aren’t willing to listen.

It was around this time I noticed Poston’s nameplate was missing from his usual seat at the front of the room. I assumed he wouldn’t be at the meeting, especially after telling me earlier last week  he hadn’t been invited.

When I looked behind me at 5:25 p.m., the entire room was already packed and people were beginning to line the walls. I wondered how long it would take before people were turned away, but more people were allowed in. When I next looked back, the lobby was also packed.

There was sudden thunderous applause and people leapt to their feet when Poston walked into the room and took a seat in the second row, on the right side of the room. He smiled at the crowd and quietly sat down.

From where I was sitting, most of the buzz I heard around me was in support of Poston. People like him and wish to see him continue at the helm of the school system after his contract expires at the end of June.

There were five guests slated to speak. Four of them, including two high school students, sang Poston’s praises and were thankful for his calm, even temperament. They said he guided them through turmoil after the departure of the last director. They felt Poston restored peace to the system. Tom Chapman said the union had been able to trust Poston’s word when they were between work contracts.  Each of those speakers was rewarded with more standing ovations.

Mixed among the positive speakers was only negative commentator. The crowd was quick to begin hacking and coughing in unison in what appeared to be an attempt to cover up his statements. Board chairman Josh Parker called for order in the gallery. Board member Mike Orick took issue with the man’s statements and was also called down for the disruption.

Before the board could discuss the only agenda item, the process of selecting a new director of schools, there needed to be a vote to approve the night’s agenda.

Parker made it quickly known he did not call the meeting and would not vote to approve the agenda.

Ultimately, Byrge, Collins, Creekmore, Lawson and Miller voted to move along with the meeting. Parker, Hill, Orick, Rutherford and Wilson voted against the agenda.

With the board of education, a tie vote results in a failed motion, and at that point, there was no more meeting. Cheers once again erupted. Byrge, Collins, Creekmore, Lawson and Miller quickly exited the room. The meeting was officially adjourned.

Approve or disapprove of Poston, it appears some of the board members should really listen to what the citizens of Campbell County want. Board members were elected to represent the interests and opinions of their constituents. It’s high time they remember that.