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Emotions high as legality of Hawkins BOE's director appointment policy questioned

May 22nd, 2014 10:29 pm by Jeff Bobo

Emotions high as legality of Hawkins BOE's director appointment policy questioned

ROGERSVILLE — About 10 minutes into a Hawkins County Board of Education executive session Thursday evening, two board members emerged in tears, leaving a room full of spectators shocked and wondering what was going on.

Thursday's scheduled meeting was for the purpose of appointing a new director of schools Upon coming to order, however, the BOE immediately went into executive session with County Attorney Jim Phillips to discuss the board's voting policy for director of schools appointments.

The board's current policy for such an appointment requires a two-thirds "super-majority" — or five votes out of the seven board members — for a new director of schools to be approved.

Board Chairman Randy Collier told the Times-News after the meeting that the board was informed during the executive session that state law, the Tennessee School Board Association and the University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service all said a director of schools can be appointed with a regular majority.

On the Hawkins County BOE, that would be four votes.

Upon returning from the 45-minute executive session with Phillips, the BOE instead scheduled a new meeting for June 4 at 6 p.m.

Rogersville Middle School Principal Jim Ailshie is the current main focus of the BOE's director of schools search.

When board members were asked to vote for their top two favorite candidates for the director job on May 8, Ailshie received four out of a possible seven votes from the BOE. That was one vote fewer than Dixie Bowen, the board's first choice until she rejected the BOE's salary offer on May 12.

Assistant Director of Schools Steve Starnes, who received three votes on May 8, is the next contender behind Ailshie. Two of the three board members who didn't vote for Ailshie that day were Debbie Shedden and Holly Helton, both of whom voted for Starnes.

According to sources on the board, when Phillips informed the board that the "super-majority" policy is in violation of state law, both Helton and Shedden walked out of the executive session.

For an expanded version of this article, please see Friday's print edition or our expanded electronic edition.

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