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Bedford County School Board refuses to hear students, parents Wednesday night

Board member requested public hearing, motion squashed

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – Some Bedford County families are irate after the Bedford County School Board refused to allow them to speak at a meeting Wednesday night. The families are upset over possible reassignment of staff, and the school board isn't having it, citing personnel matters.

Wednesday's meeting was a specially called meeting to meet in closed session with the school's lawyer regarding personnel matters and no public comment was on the agenda, but one school board member did try to hear them out. The large crowd attempted to speak during the procedural open part of the meeting before the board voted to go into closed session.

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The crowd of more than 100 people marched to the meeting Wednesday night. They're upset over the suspected reassignment of two beloved figures, Liberty High School Principal Kathy Dills and Bedford County Schools Deputy Superintendent Cherie Whitehurst.

Bedford County Schools said in a statement Wednesday that leadership at Liberty High School would not change, except for moving an assistant principal. But Wednesday night's crowd wasn't buying that statement, and they wanted to talk about it.

"You have to let people speak, you have to let people voice their opinions in order to get a little bit of the bigger picture," Liberty High School graduating senior Zachery Key said.

"This was not our normal school board meeting, nor was it a meeting where we had public comment time," Bedford County School Board Chairwoman Julie Bennington said. "We were only going back there to meet with our lawyer as it said when we went into closed session."

However, a motion was made by Martin Leamy to amend the agenda, adding a 30-minute public comment session, which Bennington squashed. When then asked to vote on approving the agenda as originally planned for only the closed meeting, both Leamy and Susan Kirby voted no, to applause of the crowd.

"We've heard from them, I've gotten all their emails and stuff and phone calls, but we just don't comment on personnel issues," Bennington said. "We never have and we never will."

Those in the crowd were upset by the decision.

"If you could at least answer us why, maybe we wouldn't be so livid, maybe we wouldn't be here sitting here in your meeting where you are scared to answer us," Liberty High School rising senior Danny Johnson said.

"It's very disappointing, but that's bureaucracy," Key said. "I mean, that's just local government at work."

Those upset with the school division see this move as fanning the flames and are concerned with about what may happen next.

Students and parents say since they couldn't be heard Wednesday night, they plan to show up again when they can speak at an on-the-agenda public comment session. The next regular school board meeting, which provides that opportunity, is in mid-June.


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