Members of the Lincoln County Board of Education came to a decision on two long-discussed issues during a special-called meeting Monday night.
After interviewing four potential candidates to become the group’s new attorney, a majority of the board voted to stick with Campbell Shatley, an Asheville-based law firm specializing in education law that has been filling in as the interim counsel since former School Board Attorney David Black submitted his letter of resignation in December.
Black had served in the position for nearly 12 years when he decided to step down, though his contract wasn’t due to be up until June 2015.
The motion to select Campbell Shatley as the board’s permanent legal representation is dependent on all reference calls checking out, which Chair Candy Burgin and Superintendent Sherry Hoyle planned to conduct Tuesday.
The decision was also dependent upon negotiations regarding travel-time expenditures. Following post-interview discussions during which School Board members Cathy Davis and Ed Hatley raised some concerns over the law firm’s suggested level of reimbursement for time spent traveling, Burgin and Hoyle were able to negotiate the cost down in a phone call Monday night.
Both Dean Shatley and Chris Campbell, co-founders of the law firm, were present for Monday night’s interview. While Shatley has been and will likely continue to be the attorney present for Board of Education meetings, Campbell’s services may also be used depending on the expertise required.
Campbell Shatley, which lists various school districts in western North Carolina as among its clients, was the first choice of all School Board members, though some wrestled with whether to select a more local attorney while using the Asheville firm as an education-law consultant.
However, a similar setup was previously in place during Black’s tenure, which resulted in the board having to often defer to special counsel and, thereby, racking up a significant expense.
Hatley, who suggested looking at the split option, said there would have to be a clear delineation of services if done again.
In previous discussions throughout the search process for a new attorney, board members had said they would likely seek a candidate who is a specialist in education law this time around.
The issue of liability likely factored into that decision, as well as in the selection of Campbell Shatley.
“There’s a lot of liability on the board … far more than you even know,” Burgin said.
Questions asked during the interviews centered on general legal experience and services provided, in addition to specific issues such as familiarity with open-government law, school-employment law and special-education law.
Local budget request finalized
Also during Monday’s special-called meeting, Board of Education members voted on the amount of additional funding to request from the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners for the next fiscal year, setting that number at $632,947.
As the Times-News previously reported, the additional requested funding, which was previously cut due to budget constraints, would go toward teacher assistant positions for kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, increasing teacher supplementals, technology and adjustments to mandated and fixed costs.
Board members also discussed funding school resource officers in the district’s middle schools.
“Remember, this is our wish list,” said Bob Silver, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, noting that it was a number they were very likely not going to get.
The board also voted to donate $25,000 to the Child Advocacy Center, which is at risk of closing after losing federal funding because of sequestration. The county and various other local agencies are also likely to chip in for the program, Silver noted.