Beach superintendent, school board meet in open after controversial closed door session

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — For two hours on Tuesday night, the Virginia Beach School Board met out in the open and aired out issues they had with each other.

The meeting stemmed from closed door session back on August 13, in which Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence voiced grievances he had with some board members.

Spence was upset with Victoria Manning and Laura Hughes. Those two board members, along with Carolyn Weems, all recently opposed extending Spence’s contract.

After the board held the meeting to discuss Spence’s grievances, the three school board members said the meeting was illegal and they called an attorney.

At hand at Tuesday night’s meeting: was the closed door session legal or illegal?

“This is not about differing options,” Weems said. “This is about following the law.”

Weems, Manning and Hughes point to state code and believe that Spence, who makes more than $250,000 per year, is not considered an employee and doesn’t have the same rights as other school system employees. One of those rights is to hold a grievance hearing behind closed doors.

“The law is clear,” Manning said. “He is not allowed.”

Spence says he is tired of being portrayed as a “snowflake.” He said he asked for the meeting to be behind closed doors, because he didn’t want to air out dirty laundry.

Spence, who is in his fifth year with the school system, tells 10 On Your Side several board members were making it hard for him to do his job.

Tuesday night, he pointed to two Facebook posts by Manning he called “dreaming.”

“There comes a point where the straw breaks the camel’s back,” Spence said to the board. “I filed a letter of complaint. I did not seek a grievance. I felt as if my personal reputation was being attacked.”

Manning says the closed door meeting violated the Freedom of Information Act and tried to point that out to the board several times.

“We are public representatives,” Manning added. “We want the law to be followed.”

At many times the two hour meeting Tuesday night strayed from the conversation, and had members throwing jabs at each other.

“Enough is enough,” said member Sharon Felton. “What message are we sending to our students? You need to think before you speak and think before you act.”

“It is wrong for us to be focused on each other rather than the students,” added member Dan Edwards.

Board members ended up coming to a conclusion that discussing any wrongdoing behind closed doors was inappropriate and it won’t happen again.

They also asked each of the members to monitor what is being posted on their public Facebook pages.

“I hope the efforts that the board made tonight to reach some consensus on some pretty challenging issues is a good first step to having a functional and committed board,” Spence said.

”We all need to remember why we are here,” added Hughes. “We all need to understand that as adults you can agree to disagree and you can compromise. You can’t have anybody in the room that is not willing to bend at all.”

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