The Lumpkin County School System held a special called meeting on Monday morning at 7AM to discuss personnel recommendations, in response to the public backlash over the recent resignation of LCHS principal, Billy Kirk.
The meeting began with a motion to go into executive session, but no other board members second that motion. BOE member, Craig Poore, addressed the sizeable public crowd stating he refused to enter an executive session, “What happened down there [the walk-in at LCHS] was unprofessional, and I am embarrassed by what we did down there. I am not going into an executive session, and I will not sit there and talk about this, where you bow my hands and I can’t speak no more on it.” Poore then went on to explain, “I think the level of unprofessionalism is awful; we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.”
Before adjourning, LCSS Superintendent, Dr. Robert Brown, then presented personnel recommendations to the board, “I have a recommendation for the board to rescind the resignation submitted from Mr. Billy Kirk on March 11, and to recommend him for employment as the principal of LCHS for the 2019/2020 school year.”
After Brown’s recommendation was made, Poore requested to speak his opinion on the walk-in once more, explaining that he would have been more open to considering rescinding Kirk’s resignation if he had not, “gone up there [LCHS]… using and abusing those kids in that building [referring to the walk-in]…” Poore’s comments received a strong reaction from the crowd, as citizens expressed their disagreements. One citizen yelled out, “You’re wrong,” and another asked Poore to “step down” from his BOE position.
Poore further explained his dissatisfaction with Kirk’s decision to allow the students participate in the walk-out without any disciplinary action, “I received 12 phone calls alone from parents that said they didn’t want their child participating in that event [the walk-in].” One LCHS student who was in attendance then responded with, “They didn’t have to,” in which Poore responded, “They may not have had to, but you know what? They were children.” Although students are protected by the First Amendment to the right to free speech, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) schools do have the right to discipline students for participating in a walk-out, “The law in most places requires students to go to school, schools can discipline you for missing class. But what they can’t do is discipline you more harshly because of the political nature of or the message behind your action.”
Self then presented Brown’s recommendation to the board, with McClure making a motion to approve it. However, no other board members seconded the motion, resulting in the denial of reinstating Kirk as the LCHS principal. Lumpkin County citizen, John Dowdy, expressed his anger with the board’s decision, “You can say no public comment if you want to, but if we aren’t going to get a second on this, [recommendation] all five of you [BOE members] will answer to us [the public] for what you’ve done.”Another angry resident, Leigh Ann Linn, told the board, “Richard Woods will receive an email. He’ll receive lots of emails, and the board will be investigated. We are not letting this go.” Linn also told FYN, “It is apparent by today’s meeting that there is a personal agenda from some board members against [Billy] Kirk. Craig Poore made completely false accusations against Kirk. He obviously controls the board and did not hesitate to let us know that if we didn’t like it, we could do something about it in four years. A good man, and family, is being attacked without just cause.” Linn also stated that the fight for Kirk was “far from over.”
Brown released a statement to FYN, regarding the results of the board meeting, “I am very disappointed with the circumstances of today’s called school board meeting. I hope that our school board can work together to get this issue resolved and to ensure our school system continues accomplishing great things. We have seen many successes in recent years, and it is my hope that can get through this conflict and get back on track as soon as possible.”
Poore summed up his statements by telling the crowd that he does not have any regrets, “Four years from now…I’m going to leave here and my conscious is going to be clear.”
The public will be allowed to imput regarding Kirk during the next board meeting, which is scheduled for April 15, at 7PM and will be held at the LCSS Central Office in Dahlonega.
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