Hot mic catches Spotsylvania School Board rep mocking constituent

by | May 14, 2024 | ALLFFP, Schools & Education, Spotsylvania, Uncategorized

When Carol Medawar decided to run to represent the Courtland District on the Spotsylvania County School Board last year, she said she did so with the intention of stabilizing a group that was constantly embroiled in controversy. 

But it was Medawar who found herself apologizing Monday night after a recording of a hot mic conversation last month with Battlefield District representative Nicole Cole was played during the school board meeting by a member of the public. 

In the recording, Medawar could be heard mocking one of her constituents who she called a “piece of work” after mimicking her voice and stating that she always complains about taxes being raised to support schools. 

The resident, Dale Swanson, addressed the board during public comments, saying that she speaks up for seniors in the county who cannot afford increased taxes. She added that, in her opinion, Medawar behaved like one of the “mean girls” and was unprofessional. 

Swanson said Medawar should be censured by her fellow board members and called for an apology. During board comments, Medawar apologized to anyone who was offended by her remarks but did not address Swanson specifically. 

“What I won’t apologize for is wanting to be done with the noise and the nonsense that detracts from the amazing things that are happening in our school buildings each and every day and all the talented educators and administrators and support staff that we have,” Medawar said. “I just want our focus to be on them and their hard work and the efforts that they make and the impact that they make on our students’ lives.” 

Medawar said she prefers that student achievement becomes the primary focus of board meetings rather than the infighting that seems to occur whenever the public body meets.  

Monday night’s meeting was abruptly adjourned with a 6-1 vote well before the agenda was complete because of bickering between the members. This time, Berkeley District representative April Gillespie demanded to make a motion without being recognized by Chair Lorita Daniels. 

“I am just exasperated by the antics, which is what ultimately led me to come and run for this office,” Medawar said. “So, my apologies that I let it get the better of me and it’s only been five months. I will continue to advocate that we keep the main thing the main thing, and that is our students.” 

Monday’s meeting will be continued Tuesday at 6 p.m. The board will consider all matters of business that were not heard because of the sudden adjournment. That does not include issues that were already put off to a later date, such as the affirming of a code of ethics resolution that was delayed until May 20. 

Regionalwebtv.com, which typically broadcasts meetings, will be unavailable to air the continuation because it was previously scheduled to stream the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. Rich Lieberman, the administrator of the Facebook page Spotsy Parent for Public Education, plans to livestream the meeting. 

Megan Jackson of the Livingston District was the sole vote against ending the meeting on Monday. 

Lieberman and others spoke Monday that they are concerned the board  — with three new members elected in November — is headed in the wrong direction.  

“Spotsylvanians voted for change on this board,” Lieberman said. “I don’t believe they voted for a conservative board or a liberal board. The voters said they were tired of the fecal matter show this board was and wanted a functioning board … You are in danger of becoming everything we fought against. Please do better.” 

Lieberman urged the board to drop the public reprimand of Phelps that it previously voted to seek because he does not believe it will impact students in a positive way. Gillespie was demanding to make a motion to reverse the reprimand during board committee reports. A brief recess to allow members to calm down was unsuccessful, so the meeting was discontinued. 

The resolution to affirm the code of ethics was also a hot topic. The ethics agreement includes promises to attend meetings, have integrity, come prepared, not use the office for political gain and abstain from harassing others, among other pledges. 

Cole said she supports the resolution but is not sold that it will make an impact, because, in her opinion, Gillespie and Phelps only want to sow discord. Cole said the conservative duo also declined to participate in a board retreat that was scheduled for last month. It was not held because it requires 100% participation. 

“Do I think it will change their behavior?” Cole said of the resolution. “Not necessarily because it’s obvious that they are intent on being disruptive. But we’re doing it more because it is our duty to show students and staff that as a board, we do not condone violations by board members. I’m looking forward to having a clean slate after this is done.” 

Phelps said Cole is a bully, and she is hopeful the new superintendent has thick skin to put up with her.

In addition to concerns about the reprimand introduced by Cole, Phelps and Gillespie continued to push for Cole and the other four board members who voted to terminate former Superintendent Mark Taylor to publicly disclose the causes of his firing. 

Phelps and Gillespie said they made an appointment at central office to review Taylor’s personnel records and did not find sufficient cause to fire him. They said they are upset that their names were included in his file, but they did not state how their names were used.  

Several supporters spoke out in favor of Taylor at the meeting, including his wife, who said she was disappointed that more of his qualifications were not highlighted when controversy ensued regarding his hiring in 2022. 

“During the hiring process, I called Ms. Gillespie and asked her why they were silent about Mark Taylor’s qualifications and their reason for hiring him,” Fran Taylor said. “She told me that discussions had been in closed session which is confidential. Also, because the [previous] majority was destabilized by the unrighteous lawsuits brought against them, they were silent.” 

Jeff Kent, a speaker from the Livingston District, said that most Spotsylvania residents wanted Taylor to be ousted. He cited election results which brought forth a board that was widely believed to desire a new superintendent with experience in public education. Daniels was reelected, while Jackson, Medawar and Belen Rodas joined the board as first-timers. 

“It’s like 10 people who think Mark Taylor should still be superintendent,” Kent said. “There were tens of thousands who voted for the four women up here to come in and make sure he was not superintendent anymore.” 

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