Board members want to amend superintendent's emergency powers... but they're having technical issues

Posted at 10:37 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 22:37:03-04

FORT MYERS — The first virtual meeting for the Lee County School Board didn’t go as planned Tuesday.

The board members called in from home to stop the spread of COVID-19, but technical issues got in the way. The meeting was streamed on YouTube so the board didn’t violate the Sunshine Law. That’s a law that keeps public officials from meeting privately, so the public can hold them accountable.

The video began smoothly, but quickly went off the rails.

“I could not understand anything that the superintendent said," said board member Gwen Gittens at one point in the meeting.

“What do we do to fix he echo?” said board member Betsy Vaughn.

The board members continued to have issues hearing and were getting feedback on their devices throughout the meeting. And it was important to hear, because there was a big agenda item. Because of COVID-19, Superintendent Greg Adkins has invoked board policy 1.18. It allows him to make decisions in an emergency without board approval, but now board members want to add some caveats.

“We still are the elected officials and represent our communities, and we are constantly being asked questions from our community," said Gittens in a phone interview after the meeting.

She believes certain restrictions should be in place, like adding a deadline to the Superintendent’s emergency powers.

“There wasn’t a date on that, but what I was proposing was the 15th of April," said Gittens.

In the meeting, Adkins addressed the debate over the emergency powers.

“That was an area where there was some divisiveness that I could detect, and therefore, we pulled that from the agenda," said Adkins.

The board will now vote on adding restrictions to those powers on April 7th.