Accomack School Board Censures Turner for Unauthorized Contact with State Department

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By Stefanie Jackson – Accomack County School Board member Janet Martin-Turner was censured by her fellow school board members Tuesday night for contacting the Virginia Department of Education, without permission, to discuss changing the school division’s application for American Rescue Plan funding.

Virginia Code states, “No individual school board member has any authority or duties except as may be assigned to them by the school board,” Chair Paul Bull read from the resolution.

The school board’s code of ethics states, “all powers and authority rest in the school board as a unit … as a board member, I have no official authority unless, by official action, the board delegates me to execute a specific action,” he read.

The application for American Rescue Plan funding, specifically, the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, was unanimously approved by the school board Aug. 24 and submitted Aug. 31.

Turner contacted VDOE Sept. 2, and due to her unauthorized action, the school board’s application was denied and had to be resubmitted.

She had asked during the Sept. 7 school board meeting if any grant funding was available for an auxiliary gym at Nandua High School.

Finance Director Beth Onley responded by indicating the gym could have been included on the alternate list of possible ESSER III expenditures, but the request for the gym was unknown when the list was compiled.

During the Sept. 21 public comment period, Bobbi Jo Wert, of Melfa, said school board meeting minutes were unclear about which proposed expenditures were approved when school board members voted on the ESSER application.

The Aug. 17 meeting minutes stated Accomack schools were allocated $13.3 million in ESSER III funding. However, the minutes from the Aug. 24 school board meeting, when the ESSER application was approved, noted Onley had presented proposed expenditures of nearly $16.1 million – about $2.8 million more than the funding allocation.

Jeremy Wert, of Melfa, also asked the school board to consider a 6,500-square-foot auxiliary gym for Nandua High School, since it is “the largest school with the least amount of gym or activity space.”

According to the Accomack County tax map, the approximate amounts of activity space at each Accomack high school are: Chincoteague, 15,000 square feet; Arcadia, 13,000 square feet; and Nandua, 10,000 square feet, Wert said.

Local contractors estimated that the gym would cost about $586,000, he said.

Wert requested the school board amend its ESSER III application to include the gym as an alternate proposed expenditure.

Health Update

School Health Coordinator Tonya Martin, who has worked for Accomack County for 23 years and Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital for 25 years, read a statement into the record asking staff, parents, and guardians to stop being disrespectful to school nurses and health aides “because they are simply doing their job.

“We have to work together and we have to be kind. I am willing to explain our policy and listen to your concerns,” she said.

Martin may be contacted at tonya.martin@accomack.k12.va.us or 757-787-4968.

As of Tuesday night, there was one outbreak of COVID-19 in Accomack schools – at Nandua High School, she said.

Martin had consulted with J.J. Justis at the Accomack County health department, and Superintendent Chris Holland was expected to decide on Friday how ACPS will respond to the outbreak.

As of Sept. 21, there were no Accomack school teachers, three staff members, and 31 students who had tested positive for COVID-19.

There were 369 students who were quarantined because they had contracted or possibly been exposed to COVID-19.

Martin agreed with the suggestion of school board member Jesse Speidel that if one student is sick, every child in the household should stay home from school.