NC school board takes heat from public prior to vote ending community campus

Nelson County Schools principals, administrators and teachers stand in support of a letter critical of the school board’s recent votes against moving forward with the community campus plan and the apparent lack of leadership. The board listened to about 2 hours of pubic comment.

Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023 — The Nelson County Schools board of education ended a marathon 4-1/2 hour meeting Tuesday night with a vote to remove board chairman Diane Berry from her position.

The attempt to remove Berry came after more than 2 hours of fiery public comments mostly aimed the board members who voted against the community campus project — David Norman, Amanda Deaton and Diane Berry.


Board member Tracy Bowling told the audience she felt responsible for the chaos the board has been in because she made the motion for Berry to be board chair in January.

Bowling’s motion to remove Berry as chair failed, with Norman, Deaton and Berry voting against the motion, and Bowling and Damon Jackey voting in favor of removal.

Berry took time to defend her votes against community campus, and complained that she and other board members have been subjected to bullying behavior.

“I’ve been accused of things that never happened,” she said. “And I won’t take it anymore.”

RELEASES TNHS BIDS. Before the board voted to release the bids the board previously accepted for the Thomas Nelson High School community campus project, Superintendent Wes Bradley reviewed how the board had reached this point in the project.

Before New Haven and Boston middle school students could be moved from those schools, the middle school project at TNHS would have to be completed, he explained.

Deaton, whose objections to the community campus project were largely due to the long-term financial obligations it required, said the district needs to focus on improving test scores, and planning needed upgrades and renovations at all the district’s existing buildings.

“I care about students and our ability to fund things, and that’s not inconsistent,” she said.

When Bowling asked her what her plan was for the district, Deaton said she didn’t have a plan.

“I don’t have the answers. There’s potential within our existing facilities,” she said. “Let’s wait and see where we are in five years. Spending money we do not have is not the answer.”

Bowling asked David Norman to tell about the feedback he’s received from the New Haven community regarding his opposition to community campus.

Norman accused Bowling of being inappropriate. “Questioning my judgment is wrong.”

Board member Damon Jackey recalled the Local Planning Committee process that involved 20 people selected as prescribed by state regulations.

It’s a process that took time and energy,” Jackey said. Jackey chastised the board for failing to support the work the LPC did.

“We’re kicking the can down the road” in regard to issues at New Haven and Boston, he said. Board members can disguise it as concerns about finances, but the board has financial experts who show data that the funding is possible.

Following the board’s discussion, they voted 3-2 to release the construction bids for the TNHS community campus project, and terminate the construction manager contract with Codell.

BUS GARAGE. The board reviews preliminary plans for a new bus garage that would be built on Wildcat Lane north of the Central Office.

The new bus maintenance facility would also use the existing Academy building as part of the offices and administrative space in the new bus garage.

The plans are to relocate the students who attend the Academy; however with community campus voted down, there is no clear picture of where those students will be moved to.

Jackey said he wasn’t comfortable moving forward with the bus garage plans until they have a plan for where to move Academy students. The board voted to table the bus garage plans.

The board also voted to table moving forward on Nelson County High School campus master plan.

NEXT UP. The Nelson County Schools board of education next will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, 2023, at the Guthrie Opportunity Center.


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