Nelson County board of ed votes against Community Campus before voting for it

From left, Superintendent Wes Bradley, board members David Norman, Damon Jackey, chair Diane Berry, Tracy Bowling and Amanda Deaton.

Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 — At the end of a special board meeting that included more than 2-1/2 hours of fiery public comment, the Nelson County Board of Education voted 3-2 to reject the bids for the $24.8 million Thomas Nelson High School expansion project before later reversing course and approving them by a 3-2 vote.

A large crowd was in attendance at the meeting at Thomas Nelson High School Tuesday, Jan. 17th. The agenda included a vote on bids for Thomas Nelson High School improvements that include adding a middle school building with a gym, as well as an update on plans for renovations at the New Haven School.

But the board was not united in how to move forward in regard to the Thomas Nelson bids. Board member Tracy Bowling spoke at length in support of moving forward and made a motion to approve the bid package, with a second from board member Damon Jackey.

This video capture shows board of education chair Diane Berry and Damon Jackey talking to an attorney during Tuesday’s meeting with their microphones turned off.

Board member David Norman called moving forward “a huge, huge slap in the face to voters” who supported he and board member Amanda Deaton, both of whom campaigned in opposition to the Community Campus model.

Deaton told the crowd that she’s never been a supporter of the Community Campus model, and that she’s never hidden that fact.

In the end, the motion failed, with chairwoman Diane Berry joining Norman and Deaton in casting “no” votes.

Berry reminded the crowd that she had voted against the Community Campus idea months earlier when it came to the board from the Local Planning Committee.

Clearly unhappy with the outcome, Jackey reminded Berry the board voted unanimously several times over the past months to approve various parts of the Community Campus project to move it forward since her initial “no” vote.

“So what I’m hearing is that the time that was spent by the architects, the design team, and us as a board was a waste — even if it had been supported by the board 5-0 the entire time,” Jackey said.

Berry explained that she still has concerns about security and keeping middle school students separate from high school students. After additional discussion, the board moved to the next item on the agenda.

NEW HAVEN RENOVATIONS. Superintendent Wes Bradley reminded the board that the New Haven renovations were designed with the Community Campus model in mind — with the middle school grades moved out, leaving the school a primary through 5th grade school

Bowling asked if the Community Campus model was now dead, why should the board vote on the New Haven renovation because they are based on the changes driven by the Community Campus model.

Damon Jackey said if the Community Campus model is dead, there’s not a path forward on the New Haven renovation plans.

The board continued to discuss the matter for several minutes. At one point, Damon Jackey and Diane Berry shut their mics off to talk privately with the board attorney for several minutes.

When Berry returned to her microphone, she asked for a motion to revisit the previous agenda item in regard to the Thomas Nelson High School renovations.

This time, the board voted 3-2 to approve the bid package for the Thomas Nelson construction project, with Berry now voting in favor of their approval.

With that vote, the Community Campus model was resurrected to the raucous approval of the audience.

Berry said that she still had reservations about the Community Campus, but said the board “was over a barrel” because the New Haven renovations were dependent on the Community Campus model moving forward.

The board then reviewed the request to approve construction documents on the New Haven renovations. Those were unanimously approved.

NEXT UP. The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, at Nelson County High School.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed