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School board worries about ailing member

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Monday, September 17, 2018

Members of the Edgecombe County Board of Education are expressing concerns about a board member who has not attended a board meeting in seven months.

Olga Dickens, who represents District 2, has had serious health issues that have interfered with her ability to serve as a member of the school board, said school board Chairwoman Evelyn Wilson. The last session Dickens attended was in February.

School board member Marva Scott raised the issue at the school board meeting on Sept. 10.

“Do we have any idea if this seat will become vacant or if our fellow school board member will return to us?” Scott asked.

Wilson said she had been told that Dickens’ treatment schedule has been interfering with her board meeting attendance.

“I am just not sure what will happen in reference to her return,” Wilson said.

Scott said that two people have approached her with concerns about the lack of representation of their district on the board. Other school board members said they have received calls as well.

“From the comments I have heard, people feel that we are allowing this situation to continue and we don’t care about them,
 said the Rev. Raymond Privott, board member for District 6.

Wilson said there is nothing the school board can do about the situation.

“The way the law stands, the situation lies in Mrs. Dickens hands,” Wilson said. “We can only wait until her term expires.”

Deborah Stagner, attorney for Edgecombe County Public Schools, confirmed the statement.

“It is difficult situation and there are not a lot of good options,” Stagner told the Telegram.

According to an article by Robert Joyce for the UNC School of Government, school board members can generally only be compelled to leave office if they become disqualified by moving out of their district or are convicted of a felony. In other cases, the law does not allow for forced removal from office or recall, except in the case of certain districts where the policy is written differently.

“General law in North Carolina does not provide for recall elections for elected officials. Twenty-five cities (including Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham and Winston-Salem) and two school administrative units do have recall as a possibility by local act of the General Assembly: But for elected board members in the 500 other cities, all 100 counties and all other elected school boards, recall is not a possibility,” Joyce wrote.

In the meantime, school board members say tey are torn between their concern for their fellow board member and concern for the abandoned school board district.

“My heart goes out to Mrs. Dickens and I hope she improves,” said Ann Kent, vice chairman of the school board. “However, I am more concerned that her district is not being monitored and represented the way it should be.”

Dickens’ term on the school board expires in 2020.

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