By Louie Graves
Votes taken at the three meetings of the Mineral Springs School Board last week signaled a lingering split in the board’s previous unity.
On Monday night, July 8, the board voted 4-3 to suspend Superintendent Thelma Forte with pay for the remainder of her contract. Voting against the motion were board members Sheila Jackson, Dorothy Vaughn and former board president William Dixon. Voting for the suspension were Jaimie Jackson, Ray Hawkins, Kay Thornton and board president Mike Erwin. Two black and two white board members voted for the suspension. All of the opposing votes were by black board members.
At Tuesday’s special board meeting, the board voted 4-2 to hire former Superintendent Curtis Turner Jr. as an interim replacement. That meeting drew a crowd of about 25, most of whom appeared to be in support of Forte. The votes against the motion to hire Turner were by Dixon and Vaughn. Sheila Jackson was not present.
On Wednesday night’s special meeting, the board adopted measures to replace Forte’s signature with Turner’s on school credit cards, the school ‘lockbox’ and bank transactions. The vote was 4-0. Forte’s supporters Dixon, Vaughn and Sheila Jackson did not attend the meeting.
Following the Tuesday night meeting, Dixon told the ‘News-Leader’ reporter that “She (Forte) has done nothing wrong. There are some on the board that just don’t like her.”
Also at the Tuesday night meeting, the board voted to hire Jacob Warford as basketball coach and assistant football coach, and Shane Wilson as math teacher. Those votes were also 4-2 with the Forte supporters in opposition.
On Saturday morning, a small group gathered at the town library for a protest march to the school, approximately four blocks away. A number of the participants held signs supporting Supt. Forte and the school. The march was late-forming, and a group of about 15 persons marched the four blocks to the school campus.