Basketball not on panel agenda

Mar. 18—Cumberland County Director of Schools William Stepp said he decided last Tuesday afternoon to continue the status quo with individual basketball teams at each elementary school for the 2024-25 school year.

It was a development many on the Board of Education indicated they had just learned of later that day during the board's committee meetings, where proponents of organizing the sport as two middle school feeder teams for the county's two high schools filled the audience.

"If you guys will allow, I'd like to allow them to have an opportunity to chat individually," said Nick Davis, 5th District board member, during the meeting of the athletics committee, of which he was re-elected to chair only moments earlier.

Among those waiting to speak were Stone Memorial High School girls basketball coach Mike Buck and Homestead girls basketball coach Ivy Mayberry.

Though board members said they welcome input from the public, some of them questioned the manner in which the subject of middle school basketball was presented during the meeting.

The agenda for the athletics committee had two items: old business and meeting adjournment. It was the former that Davis said the discussion fell under.

"I've got some bullet-point items that we can talk about in old business," he said. "But the topic of allowing people to speak during committee meetings — I guess it's kind of implied. It's always available, to my knowledge."

It was Davis' preparedness, coupled with the turnout of supporters for only one side, that troubled several school board members.

"We have no clue what your bullet points are that you want to go ahead and discuss today, because you didn't share it with anybody," said Elizabeth Stull, 1st District board member.

"If you're going to go ahead and have these topics that you're going to talk about, it shouldn't be under old business, where there's nothing listed," she said. "You need to go ahead and let the public know — and the board know — that this is what you're going to be discussing. Otherwise, no one can be prepared to go ahead and speak on any of the items that you're talking about."

Becky Hamby, 7th District board member, agreed.

"Was everyone made aware?" she asked. "There was no information put out there, and I know I have been contacted by several that would love to come and speak to the board and the committee about the elementary basketball."

Shannon Stout, 9th District, said meetings are posted, and the public is welcome to attend and reach out to the board.

"It doesn't say basketball," Hamby said, referring to the agenda.

"How was the public informed?" asked board member Anita Hale, 4th District. "Because I wasn't informed."

Davis said his agenda "is not much different" from the policy committee meeting's agenda, which referenced what he said were "18 pages of stuff."

Stull disagreed. That committee's agenda, she said, spells out the policies to be discussed.

"Under your portion of the athletic agenda, there's literally nothing but the approval of minutes," she said. "Old business is something you just randomly bring up. Nobody can prepare for old business except for on the fly."

"It's all old business," Davis replied. "It's already been shared. You can go to any of the meetings we've talked about."

Stout said her impression of what Davis meant was that the matter had been brought up during the February athletics committee, and those in the audience were in attendance because of that previous discussion.

"You can't have it both ways," Stull said. "You have to have stuff on the agenda. Otherwise, other people don't know. When you put out an agenda, there's nothing there. There's nothing."

Davis asked Stull what should be under old business moving forward.

"If you're going to discuss anything under your part of the committee, then you need to put down what you're going to discuss," she replied. "That's part of the agenda; that's why we have an agenda. Otherwise, you can put just anything under old business."

Davis referred to the February board meeting in which Stepp's contract with the board was discussed under old business, saying he was quoting Chairman Teresa Boston as saying, "You can put anything under old business." That resulted in a disagreement between Davis, Stull and Hamby, with Davis saying he'd received an email asking why his agenda looked so vague.

"Because your agenda looks like you're not discussing anything," Stull said.

Boston asked Davis if he'd invited the audience members to speak at the meeting.

"I've answered phone calls for the last two years from a number of these people, many of which aren't even here today," he said.

Stull said she welcomed the audience to speak, but she has a problem with making the agenda so vaguely worded that the public is unaware of discussions.

"You've not listed anything of what you're going to discuss, period," she said to Davis. "There's not one thing."

She added, "You have bullet points already over there. You've already said you have bullet points you were going to discuss. Then share it with the public on the agenda. You already know what you're going to discuss, not anybody else is privy to that."

Davis replied, "I could say the same thing. All this stuff should have been included in the policy meeting. So why wasn't it? There's things that were turned in today that we talked about."

Davis referred to a policy on school employee dress code, which had been discussed with staff earlier that day. No action was taken on the policy.

"It literally says it — we're going to talk about it," Stull said. "That's what it says."

Stull and Davis continued to talk over one another until Hamby, the board's parliamentarian, interrupted.

"It doesn't matter," she said. "It's a moot point. Let's allow our public to speak. Go on. Move forward."