Mallett, Birch Were Wrong

Perhaps Ohio County Board of Education members Shane Mallett and Tim Birch thought they were doing the right thing Friday. They were not.

A board meeting had been called for 7:30 a.m. that day. Board President Zach Abraham and member Sarah Koegler attended in person. Member Christine Carder participated by telephone. Birch and Mallett boycotted the meeting.

Before it started, they met with a large crowd of people on the sidewalk in front of the board office. Most of those present appeared to be school employees who have missed work for seven days because of a strike.

Mallett handed out a sheet of paper on which he stated he had been led to believe “several votes could take place today reneging on the promises, support and protections that were put in place” at a previous meeting for striking school employees. He added that he had been informed three board members “may have met and/or consulted with an attorney wherein the outcome of said votes have already been predetermined.”

If that is true, it would be a violation of the state’s open meetings law. It is not true, Abraham said Friday, with some fire in his voice.

There was no vote by the board on Friday. Instead, school Superintendent Kim Miller announced there are plans for Ohio County schools to be open on Monday.

Indeed, as Mallett suggested, a vote on whether to reopen schools Monday had been considered. Abraham confirmed he had intended to seek a vote on whether to direct Miller to take such action.

What did the boycott by Birch and Mallett accomplish? Had the question of directing Miller to reopen schools come up, their absence meant their voices — perhaps changing the minds of other board members — would not have been heard. Their votes, perhaps decisive, would not have been cast.

They had no influence on the process. All they did cast aspersions against other board members.

As Abraham suggested Friday, if anyone has proof of collusion involving him, Carder and Koegler, they should present it. There is no such evidence, Abraham added.

But had there been, neither Mallett nor Birch would have been able to do anything to counter it, because they chose to walk out before the meeting began.

Ohio County residents have a right to expect their school board members will fight the necessary battles, even among themselves — and not be content with attempts to score public relations points.

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