BY KARISSA MILLER
Rising tensions between Iredell-Statesville School board member Anita Kurn and some school board members boiled over during a contentious meeting Monday night, prompting the school board attorney to get involved.
“Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman,” attorney Dean Shatley said over the arguing of the board members during the board member comment period. “I would suggest that you take control over the meeting. Ask the audience members to refrain from speaking. Ask all board members to be recognized before they speak. And, to limit the time of board member comment and Superintendent comment and to adjourn the meeting,” he said.
The dispute began when Kurn asked board chairman Bill Howell to clarify how “new matters” are added to the agenda. This came after a vote failed earlier in the meeting to add a discussion item of whether or not school board member Abby Trent is qualified to serve due to her residence.
“This is not the time to do it. I thought that I gave you an explanation. I know what you are trying to do. You’re trying to embarrass one of our board members. It seems like that is your SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) — you and Mr. Kubiniec,” Howell said.
“You want to criticize and say how poor everyone is but you. I know my job. I know my job isn’t the superintendent’s job. The superintendent runs the school,” he added.
Kurn denied Howell’s accusations.
“You can say it’s retaliation. That I’m trying to embarrass someone, but the law is the law. And truth is truth,” Kurn said.
Howell told Kurn that Board of Elections has already ruled on the matter. Trent has moved while renovations are being done on her Statesville home.
“After County Board of Elections rules that is final. Iredell-Statesville Schools doesn’t make law,” Howell said.
“The statute says otherwise,” Kurn continued to argue. “The people deserve a representative that lives in their district.”
During the back and forth between Kurn and Howell, Vice Chairman Charles Kelly interjected and raised concerns about the discussion that was taking place.
“We have spent 10 minutes talking about something that was planned to be on there as an agenda item, but was voted not to be on the agenda item. We voted not to include this item tonight and now we are discussing it. I think it’s not right,” Kelly said.
“For crying out loud — move on,” he said forcefully.
Earlier in the meeting, board member Mike Kubiniec said evidence was provided by an unnamed source that suggest Trent is living out of district. The school board attorney said that after the vote the matter wouldn’t be discussed anymore that night.
“You can yell as loud as you want, but the fact of the matter is Mrs. Trent does not live at (her address),” Kubiniec said.
Then he repeatedly asked Trent: “Where do you live?”
“It was not put on the agenda. So I’m not sure why we are discussing it,” Trent replied.
Censure vote postponed
Following this showdown, another standoff ensued as Howell attempted to continue discussion and vote on his earlier motion to censure Kubiniec.
“I was under the impression that once a motion had been made and a second that I could bring that up at the next meeting and it did not have to be on the agenda,” Howell said.
Kubiniec then called for a motion to adjourn the meeting, which failed 4-3 with Howell, Trent, Kelly and Doug Knight opposed.
The school board attorney then told Howell that he could add the censure on the agenda, but it would require five out of seven board members agreeing to it.
“I will just wait,” Howell said.
Last month, the board grappled with board member Kubinec’s conduct in a marathon meeting after Howell raised a list of concerns.
The board voted to remove Kubiniec from vice chairman and voted to name Kelly as his successor. Next, Howell called for a vote to censure Kubiniec.
This board then met in executive session for around 30 minutes before reconvening in open session.
Kubinec’s conduct as a board member was privately discussed because it pertained to school personnel — a closed session matter.
The board chairman told the public that Kubiniec had ignored school campus check-in procedures, which resulted in him bringing a drug offender for a visit to a school without prior permission or notice. He also outlined other concerning behavior.
While the board met in executive session, the meeting room half filled with community members who stood in solidarity with Kubiniec, stating he was doing his job.
The other half of the room called for Kubiniec to step down, along with demanding transparency of the entire board following an Iredell Free News investigation into the board’s ongoing secret meetings via text message.
Iredell Free News has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction that would require the board to follow N.C. open meetings law.
During Monday’s meeting, Kubiniec said he had reviewed the evidence against him and that there was no merit to the accusations. He call the ordeal a “sham show.”
School Board business
The board has only one meeting this month and had a lot to accomplish on its agenda.
The district’s leadership team hoped to work through the fiscal year audit, budget and other important agenda items with the board without the focus being on politics.
However, that wasn’t the case. Both the school system budget and the annual audit were tabled for a later date for approval.
In the mix of things, board member Sloan called for a discussion on prayer before the school board meetings.
He said that the board says the Pledge of Allegiance, which says “under God” with a capital G.
“If we say it, shouldn’t we mean it? Shouldn’t our supporters and children hear us say it?” he asked.
Sloan proposed that each board member be able to openly pray before board meetings. He said that he feels that he should be able to trust in God and publicly express it.
Board members agreed to have the school board attorney draft a prayer policy, which they will discuss and consider at a future meeting.