HOLLY SPRINGS — Several Cherokee County teachers and school employees hoping to join the crowd Wednesday night at a town hall meeting conducted by School Board Member Kelly Marlow were almost turned away after they were greeted with a sign on the door stating they were not allowed inside.
The school employees were eventually let in the meeting after protesting, and Marlow’s political consultant, Robert Trim, said Thursday that she was so pleased with results she has scheduled another meeting July 8 specifically for teachers.
As Marlow was set Wednesday to kick off her “What’s Inside Dr. Frank’s Piggy Bank?” town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m., Trim stood in the doorway of the Holly Springs Train Depot explaining to school employees why they weren’t allowed inside.
Behind Trim, a sign was taped to the glass of the door which read in bold print: “If you work for CCSD ... you will not be able to attend this meeting.” The sign cited school board policy as the reason for denying entry to the employees.
Trim told the school employees hoping to go inside that Cherokee County School District policy prohibits Marlow and other board members from speaking with district employees.
“She’s not supposed to talk to any teachers, and she’s not to talk to any employees, because that seems to generate complaints,” Trim said. “Even though teachers talk to her and call her, that seems to be her fault.”
Valerie Wallace, an employee of Cherokee County schools, said she talked to the principal at her school and was told she was allowed to enter the meeting.
“But according to this man, we’re not (allowed), because it’s not the county’s meeting — it’s her meeting,” Wallace said motioning to Trim.
Because of the complaints filed against Marlow, Trim told the district employees that the school board member had to be careful of who she talked to.
“Unfortunately, she has to protect herself against (employees) who want to make malicious complaints,” he said. “I’m sorry. It is the administration’s rule that causes us to make this decision.”
In the wake the incident, Cherokee Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo released a statement Thursday morning saying that no such policy exists.
“There is no Cherokee County School Board policy that prohibits Cherokee County School District employees from attending public meetings of elected boards, commissions, councils, etc.; or town hall meetings or other such meetings that are held by elected officials and advertised as being open to the public,” the statement read. “The Superintendent has issued no directives indicating that CCSD employees are prohibited from attending such meetings. CCSD employees, like all citizens, have the right to attend such meetings.”
But Trim said Thursday that he wasn’t referring to a specific policy when addressing the school employees Wednesday night.
“It’s not a particular policy that specifically excludes teachers or employees,” Trim said.
Instead, Trim said the decision was based on the “behavior of a couple of teachers,” who have filed complaints against Marlow.
After the barred employes protested Wednesday night, Marlow came out of the building and spoke with them directly. An agreement was made that they would be allowed in, but could not pose direct questions to Marlow.
“I’m just trying to protect you, as well as me,” Marlow said.
Trim said Thursday that the decision to bar the employees was not made by Marlow but recommended to her by a group of her advisers, which he heads up. In total, Trim said Marlow has about 40 people serving as advisers and consultants.
As a member of Marlow’s team, Trim said he is concerned that complaints could be raised against her after making contact with district employees, but “she thinks it went well,” and wants to hold another meeting with even more teachers and school employees.
Marlow’s teacher-specific town hall meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. July 8 at the Holly Springs Train Depot, Trim said.