SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Suffolk School Board member Sherri Story says she recognized issues with the board well before she became a member.
“I could see as a teacher things were closed. Concerns weren’t addressed and seemed to fall into mysterious dark holes. I had concerns, and it was one of the reasons that I ran.”
In the past few months she’s been on the board, Story says she’s fought to make their operations more transparent. After receiving disciplinary action in the form of a five page document signed by all the school board members, Story says she feels targeted for her efforts.
The first issue involved certain closed door meetings. According to Story’s lawyer these meeting’s violated the Virginia Freedom Of Information Act’s Open Meeting policy.
“An example is the first couple meetings we got information about bills being paid, and it was in closed session, but those things should be in open session because anything about finances, as I understand it, should be in open session,” Story explained.
She says she’s not against closed door meetings as long as they follow the law.
“There are very good guidelines in FOIA, about what should be in closed session and I’m all about that.”
She also has issues with a number of the protocols and norms, which were adopted in a March meeting she wasn’t able to attend. For example, the protocol on social media states board members are to “refrain from using social media to conduct school board business.”
Story is active on her Facebook page and says it’s a useful tool for connecting with the community.
In April she posted a picture of a dirty school vent along with concerns about school cleanliness to her Facebook page. The post was included in the five page document Story received on May 9th reprimanding her for her actions. The section in the document reads in part “you have no right of free speech that allows for misstating facts and attempting to be-little your peers in public form…”
As far as transparency of meetings go, Story says the board has recently improved by posting times and dates of meetings regarding policy issues so the public can attend, as well as moving discussion over bills to open meetings.
“I’m very happy, that’s all I ask for, but I don’t feel that making these things known and asking for them should bring the repercussions on me that it has.”
We reached out to the chair of Suffolk School Board and did not hear back at the time of publication.