A new board vote means that the PRICE model for the 13th high school is again in jeopardy.
At the Prince William School Board meeting, held Jan. 18, the board voted to rescind the minutes from the special meeting held two weeks prior, and in doing so, invalidate the vote taken then to approve the PRICE model for the new high school.
It is unclear if the school board can retain funds granted by the supervisors, considering the money was granted only if the PRICE model is approved.
That vote had granted the school division the ability to build the larger PRICE design for the 13th high school by agreeing to accept two grants of $10.6 million. One was to be used on the eastern end of the county and the other to fund the newer model of the new high school in Bristow that could accommodate 500 more students.
Gainesville board member Alyson Satterwhite and Brentsville acting-member Shawn Brann advertised the special meeting, believing they were within their right to do so. Chairman At-large Ryan Sawyers opposed the meeting, saying they were not within their right to call it.
Despite Sawyers’ opposition, after the regular meeting, Jan. 4, Satterwhite gaveled the special meeting to order. Since they had secured a quorum all members returned to the dais.
Sawyers maintains the meeting was improper.
“The meeting was not called properly, therefore, it did not allow for proper discussion to be held,” he said.
At the Jan. 18 meeting, Sawyers’ action asked that the board “strike the improper special meeting and associate votes from the record in order to receive proper public input during the regular budget process.”
The vote was four yes: Sawyers, Lillie Jessie (Occoquan), Loree Williams (Woodbridge) and Justin Wilk (Potomac), and three no: Brann, Diane Raulston (Neabsco) and Willie Deutsch (Coles.) Satterwhite was not in attendance as she is still recovering from knee surgery.
The reference to the “regular budget cycle” implies the board could keep the grant money, but use it as they see fit. There was the promise that the $10.6 million to be used on the east would be supplied up front from the supervisors should the school be approved.
“I think we have a chance now that the [Prince William] Board of County Supervisors has allocated the money,” said Sawyers. “We have a chance to do this the proper way. We may be back in the position we are now, but at least it is done properly with proper public input and proper public debate with the money the school board has now received from the BOCS.”
Sawyers describe the motion as a procedural change. Individual members interpreted the motion and the intent behind it differently.
Wilk, who previously voted in favor of the school, said he was looking at it as a procedural necessity since the Department of Justice might investigate the matter.
“What we saw unfold two weeks ago is a problem with the process,” Wilk said, reaffirming that he still wants the PRICE model.
However, Willie Deutsch warned that to strike the minutes from the special meeting would be the real violation of process. Deutsch said the chairman has shown little interest in procedure before. He also called into question the legality of the action they were taking.
Raulton explained it makes no sense to refuse $10 million.
Brann criticized Sawyers’ leadership, telling children not to look to the school board as their example. He said the vote to strike the meeting would under mind the ability of the school board to work more closely with the board of county supervisors, and described Sawyers’ as holding a continuous grudge.
Williams said board members should stop the personal attacks. “I would encourage my board members to make sure they understand the motion and what they’re voting on.”
However, she added the vote should not have been rushed and explained she thinks it is inequitable to allocate $10 million for only 500 students at one high school.
Jessie said she said she is not not in favor of accepting money. She wants more money because the need is great, greater than one high school.
“I believe it is time for the eastern end of this county to have its turn….They gave us money only if they got money,” she said.
When Sawyers called for a vote, Deutsch questioned why the chairman asked each member individually rather than calling for a show of hands.
Raulston did not want to vote without first receiving guidance from the school division attorney. Sawyers said she had to vote then.
Satterwhite shared her feelings about the vote on Facebook, Wednesday evening.
After the meeting, Deutsch Bristow Beat a message saying he believes that striking down the minutes of a public meeting is in violation of the Freedom of Information Act 2.2-3707.
© 2017, Stacy Shaw. All rights reserved.
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