The Bulloch County Board of Education elected Mike Herndon as its new chairman for 2016 with no difficulty. But after Cheri Wagner and Maurice Hill were nominated for vice chair, the board members repeatedly cast the same number of votes for each and wound up having them share the assignment.
For a moment there were also two nominees for 2016 chairman. Wagner, the District 1 member, nominated Herndon, the member from District 7. Then District 4 member Steve Hein nominated Dr. LeVon Wilson, who was chairman last year.
But Wilson declined to continue as chairman.
“I would unfortunately decline the nomination due to circumstances that would prevent me from devoting the requisite time and energy to the position,” he said.
Previously legal studies professor at Georgia Southern University, Wilson in October started a new job as associate provost of Clark Atlanta University. He is maintaining his Bulloch County residency and remains the board member representing District 3. He and his wife own their home in Statesboro, and their daughter is a Georgia Southern student.
After Wilson declined, Herndon was the only nominee. District 5 member Glennera Martin made a motion to close the nominations, District 2 member Mike Sparks seconded, and Herndon was elected by a unanimous vote of the board.
Herndon, 51, is an independent insurance agent with the Statesboro Agency and area manager and recruiter for Woodmen of the World Life Insurance. He has served as vice chairman of the school board before, but not as chairman.
“We’ve got a good group of people who don’t mind disagreeing with each other,” Herndon said in a brief interview. “We don’t hold grudges because a vote doesn’t work out our way. It’s been a good group to work with as far as just working through issues and moving on to the next one, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
The board sets policy and makes financial and other decisions for a 10,000-student school system with 15 campuses and a current year budget of more than $80 million.
The chairman, chosen by the eight district members each year, retains a regular vote.
But Thursday’s vice chair selection illustrated what can happen when nobody has tie-breaker authority.
Martin nominated District 8 member Hill for vice chairman. Hein nominated Wagner.
In contrast to other matters that are decided by voice votes or raised hands, the members used paper ballots, as they have done for years in choosing their leadership positions..
The board’s attorney, Susan Cox, and her law partner Marc Bruce passed out and collected the slips of paper and then counted the votes with the superintendent’s administrative assistant, Mary Henley.
“You have a tie,” Cox announced.
The vote was apparently 4-4. The lawyers handed paper slips to the board members for a second-round vote, but it also produced a tie. So did a third round.
“Your policy really doesn’t provide a tie-breaker,” Cox said.
Finally, Sparks made a motion, seconded by Martin, to have Wagner and Hill serve as “co-vice chairmen” for the year. Two members said “nay” on the voice vote, but Cox observed that a majority had said “yes.”
Hill previously served three years as chairman. Wagner is starting the fourth year of a first term on the board and has not served as a chairman or vice chairman before.
The board also adopted its meeting schedule for the year. Most regular meetings will continue to be held on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at 6:30 p.m.
But the next meeting will be the annual Speak Up for Education forum, 6-8 p.m. Jan. 28 at Statesboro High. This year’s forum will focus on the Bulloch County Schools’ state application to be a Strategic Waivers School System and how the proposed waivers from certain regulations will be used.
This year, as begun in 2015, the second meetings in some months will be held at the high schools. Besides the Speak Up forum, the July 28 and Oct. 27 meetings are to be held at Statesboro High. The March 24 and Sept. 22 meetings are slated for Portal Middle High, and the April 28 and Aug. 25 meetings for Southeast Bulloch High.
All other meetings are to be held at the board’s central office on Williams Road.
Calendar & construction
The board also received a proposed school calendar for the 2016-17 term Thursday but only “placed it on the table” for a possible vote Feb. 11. The proposal mostly follows the pattern of the 2015-16 calendar but moves fall break to the week of the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair.
On a more definite action, the board Thursday night approved a contract for Pope Construction to begin building a $999,664 set of improvements for Portal Middle High School’s athletic facilities. These will include a new fieldhouse, restroom and concession stand improvements at the football field, restrooms for the baseball field, and making the football field handicap accessible.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.