Candidates for open School Board seat announced

Published 6:04 pm Friday, February 19, 2021

Former Mayor Linda Johnson and Jason Fawcett, the son of City Councilman Roger Fawcett, are among the candidates to fill the vacant Sleepy Hole Borough seat on the Suffolk School Board.

Chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck announced the names of the six candidates during the board’s Feb. 11 meeting following a closed session and public hearing on the candidates.

The other candidates include Christopher Old, Trisha James, Ebony Wright and Carly Bosco.

The selected candidate will replace David Mitnick, who announced his resignation due to health reasons during the board’s Jan. 14 meeting.

The board held a special meeting Feb. 18 at the College and Career Academy at Pruden and went into closed session to interview candidates for the interim appointment, and it has another scheduled for Feb. 22, also at CCAP.

School Board Chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck said it would make its pick Feb. 25, the day Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III will be presenting the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget. That meeting will be at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

The selected candidate will serve through the end of this year, and would have to run in a special election that would determine who would serve the remainder of the term in November.

At the end of the closed session and prior to adjourning the Feb. 18 special meeting, Brooks-Buck said there was “a false and misleading statement posted on Facebook” — she did not identify whose Facebook post it was — alleging that the board was meeting illegally and in violation of a Freedom of Information Act requirement because interviews with prospective School Board candidates should have been made public.

FOIA does, however, allow for closed meetings for such purposes. Section 2.2-3711 of Virginia code allows that “public bodies may hold closed meetings only for the following purposes: 1. Discussion, consideration or interviews of prospective candidates for employment; assignment, appointment, promotion, performance, demotion, salaries, disciplining, or resignation of specific public officers, appointees, or employees of any public body; and evaluation of performance of departments or schools of public institutions of higher education where such evaluation will necessarily involve discussion of the performance of specific individuals.”

“The statement was made knowing that that was a false and misleading statement, because all parties, the party who posted it as well as all parties who have been questioned earlier,” Brooks-Buck said, “knew and understood that there was no requirement for the interviews to be made public.

“We do want the public to know at this time that we conducted the meeting in accordance with the law. There was no inappropriate meeting, no inappropriate carry out of the interviews, and we thank you for those who have participated. We thank you board members, and we do appreciate the interviewees who came with interest in this position.”

When the City Council was considering candidates for the Chuckatuck Borough seat to replace Mike Duman, who now serves as mayor, it had 21 applicants for the seat. However, in responding to a FOIA request, the city did not name any of the candidates, saying that state code “exempts personnel records containing information concerning identifiable individuals,” adding that “the Attorney General has held that applications for appointment or employment are exempt from disclosure as personnel records, and therefore applications submitted to fill the City Council Chuckatuck Borough vacancy would be exempt from disclosure.”

Council discussed candidates during a closed session of its Jan. 20 meeting, and following another closed session at its Feb. 3 meeting, chose Shelley Butler Barlow for the council seat.