- Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 12:01
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Colonial Beach School Board members set a good example last week for students on how to resolve differences.
For several years now the Colonial Beach School Board meetings have remained nothing less than civil. So it was a big surprise when the board passed a resolution to censure school board member Wayne Kennedy.
School Board Chairman Tim Trivett began the process by saying, “Unfortunately this is something that cannot take place in closed session.”
The resolution, an official reprimand, said that during multiple closed sessions Kennedy had engaged in belligerent, threatening and offensive behavior toward other school board members.
It also stated that during the most recent closed session meeting of the board, on Feb. 20, Kennedy’s behavior was so abrasive that other board members and staff were concerned he might physically assault other members.
The resolution went on to say that such behavior disrupts the orderly functioning of the school board and interferes with the board’s ability to conduct the business it is legally charged to conduct.
The resolution ends with the board expressing its disapproval of the recent behavior of Kennedy in interfering with the school board’s ability to conduct its closed meetings in an orderly fashion.
Kennedy addressed the audience and other board members: “I don’t want anyone to take anything that I say wrong because anything I do say is an attempt for the board to work together for the betterment of the students and the school system.
“I’ve given a lot of thought and prayerful consideration as to how I would respond to this situation. I’m sad that we have reached this point. I do accept full responsibility for anything I have said and have done. I blame no one else.”
Kennedy told the group that nobody loves the school system and the town more than he does. He said he prides himself on being an independent thinker.
“If I see something that I perceive as wrong, I’m going to speak up,” Kennedy said. “I’ve never worried about being politically correct, rather getting it right is more important to me than being politically correct.”
Kennedy addressed the board’s statement that this has occurred during multiple closed sessions. Kennedy said he only remembers three meetings over the last three or four years where there were some heated or animated discussions. During one, Kennedy said he chose to excuse himself from the meeting because he thought the meeting was no longer productive and decided that it would be conducive to business if he left for the remainder of the meeting.
Kennedy said at another meeting a different member chose to leave the meeting and return.
Kennedy feels the censure was not relevant to those meetings. Kennedy did, however, admit to actions in the Feb. 20 meeting that he regretted and apologized for.
Kennedy admitted he may have been belligerent and perhaps offensive, but disagreed with threatening. “Really I have to be me,” he said. “I can’t be somebody I’m not. I’ve always been a competitive, passionate, aggressive and also compassionate individual for the things that I believe.”
Kennedy said, “When I’m speaking, if interrupted, disrespected, provoked or belittled with sarcasm, it’s a weakness of mine. I tend to respond in kind.”
Kennedy assured the members he would never physically assault anyone and said, “The last time I ever struck anyone was when I was assaulted at the age of 15 and it was only in self defense.”
“I did raise my voice, I did feel like I was interrupted and I did have to talk over someone, because I had the floor, and while I was still talking someone else was talking so I did raise my voice,” Kennedy said.
He continued, “I did strike the table once. The biggest regret I have is that Ms. Payne was sitting next to me. After I had a chance to think about it, if myself or anybody else strikes a table when they don’t know it’s going to happen it probably frightens them.”
Kennedy admitted, “I did trade barbs with another board member,” but claims that after the exchange was over he was not angry or upset. I just tried to provide insight and experienced information about a position that I feel like I have significant knowledge of.
Kennedy indicated, if needed, he would resign his position. He said, “If I can’t continue to work with you all and make things better, I’ll choose not to work with you, because the kids and the employees of the school system and the town and the image of those things are far more important than I am.”
Kennedy closed by saying “In going forward I believe that if each of us takes time to listen to one another in a respectful manner we can work together toward making Colonial Beach School System the best it can be. I apologize for anything that was perceived or was real that was incorrect, and I hope you will accept my apology.
Members of the school board thanked Kennedy, and the resolution was passed unanimously with Kennedy voting to show his measure of resolve. Michelle Payne was not in attendance.