Young declines to sign Code of Conduct Tuesday

The Virginia School Board Association's Code of Conduct, detailing a code of ethics for School Board members, has one empty signature line this year.

The code, which garnered much attention and discussion at the board's first two regular meetings of the year, was signed Tuesday night by each board member except Sandra Young (JCC Berkeley). She signed last year, but declined to do so this year.

The code is a document the board reads and signs at the start of each year as a promise to the division that above all they will advocate for students and improve public education. It has 12 lines with specifics on upholding that promise.

Young, who signed the same document at the start of her first year on the board in 2016, this year opposed line nine which reads, "I will refrain from using the board position for personal or partisan gain and avoid any conflict of interest or the appearance of impropriety."

Lisa Ownby (JCC Powhatan) drew attention to that line to remind the public that the board is intended to be non-partisan, she said Jan. 3.

What went unsaid at the meeting is that since January 2016, Young has been president of the Jamestown Heritage Republican Women, a local GOP club, according to the James City County Republican Committee's website.

Young spoke to the point at the Jan. 17 meeting but did not return multiple requests for further comment by the Gazette.

She said at the time it went against the First Amendment, and that the line is asking board members to refrain from any outside activity.

"The majority of the Virginia School Board Association Code of Conduct is right on target but, however, number nine, I am opposed to that because I think it's in violation of the Constitution of the United States," Young said. "Therefore I will be signing the petition, but I will be exempting myself from number nine."

In practice, the document was an all-or-nothing motion, to, so Young didn't sign it.

Rawls Byrd decision slated for next meeting

After a presentation Jan. 17, recommended options for Rawls Byrd's new name were whittled down to three: Laurel Lane, Glasshouse or Sarah G. B. Jones.

After a brief discussion Feb. 7, the consensus seemed to be Laurel Lane, all seven board members favored it.

Some also liked Glasshouse, a structure at Historic Jamestowne, and few expressed interest in Sarah G.B. Jones, an groundbreaking African American doctor, because her roots are stronger in Richmond, not so much Williamsburg.

Holly Taylor (JCC Stonehouse) said she liked the alliteration of Laurel Lane; Lisa Ownby (JCC Powhatan) said it "rolls of the tongue."

"I like the color of naming it for people, but we shouldn't name every school for people," Jim Kelly (JCC Jamestown) said. "In order to avoid a revolt at Rawls Byrd, I think we should affirm the penguin. I think they are much more connected to the penguin than they are to the name."

There was also consensus among the members for confirming the penguin's tenure as the school's mascot, regardless what the final name is.

The board decided a new name was warranted last May, after activists pointed out former division superintendent Byrd's poor track record during integration.

The name, to be chosen and voted on Feb. 21, will go into effect for the 2017-18 school year.

Input sought on draft of 2017-18 school calendar

The school board saw the first draft of the proposed 2017-18 school calendar Tuesday night, and the division wants public input on it.

The school year can't legally start before labor day unless a school division meets a set of exceptions, like too many days taken off for weather incidents, which W-JCC is not eligible for. It also has to have a minimum of 180 days.

As is, the school year would start Sept. 5, the Tuesday following Labor Day. Days off for students in 2017 include Election Day, Nov. 22-24 for Thanksgiving and Dec. 21 through Jan. 1, 2018 for winter break.

In 2018, holidays include MLK Jr. Day, President's Day and Memorial Day. Spring break falls April 2-6 and graduation is scheduled for June 16, 2018.

A comment box is available on the W-JCC website for the public comment on the draft, which the board will vote on in March.

If you want to add your thoughts, visit: bit.ly/2l2EGw3

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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