Sullivan school board to hold emergency pay meeting

Rick Wagner • Mar 26, 2020 at 11:30 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Board of Education will hold an emergency called digital meeting 6:30 p.m. on Thursday to authorize paying hourly school system staff during school system closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the pandemic and social distancing recommendations, officials said some participants on the seven-member board are expected to participate remotely.

Also because of coronavirus, the meeting site will not be open to the public and can be viewed on YouTube at youtube.com/channel/UCRS3AWETa80Q48kJADtcqhQ/live and also on The Video Guy Facebook page at facebook.com/thevideoguytn/, operated by Tim Flannagan.

The sole voting item on the agenda is consideration to authorize the payment of Sullivan County Department of Education staff, specifically hourly staff, in response to the need to cease daily operations due to the pandemic.

The remote or virtual public meetings are being held across Northeast Tennessee, including Tuesday night’s Kingsport Board of Education and the called Kingsport school board meeting 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, to address the same issue. However, county school board Chairman Michael Hughes and Vice Chairman Randall Jones said they planned to attend on Thursday in person, as Director of Schools David Cox said some central office staff would. Hughes said member Jane Thomas also planned to attend in person. 

Hughes said he will suggest the school board move its next regularly scheduled work session and meeting from April 2 to April 9.

Jones and Cox said the meeting will use Google Hangout for the remote attendees, something Cox said has worked well in having principal meetings recently.

“It’s (the agenda) to continue paying people through this,” Cox said. “We have a lot to figure out, as you know.”

Jones said, “Our policy covers closures related to weather-related stuff, but it doesn’t cover anything like this.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee recently ordered public schools closed through April 24, which would mean a return of no earlier than April 27. However, in neighboring Virignia, Gov. Ralph Northam has closed public schools for the remainder of the year.

Lee also put out an executive order allowing such virtual or digital meetings during the coronavirus pandemic to protect public safety, but also allow essential functions of local government and needed public body votes to continue operating government.

Cox said he will not attend the meeting in person but will virtually. He is in a self-quarantine, as recommended by the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, after traveling to Maryland over the weekend to finish moving his wife back to Sullivan County from the house they own in Maryland, where he was a superintendent before taking the job in Sullivan County.

He said no cases have been confirmed in the Maryland county where he went and that neither he nor his wife have symptoms but he is following the recommendation of health authorities.

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