RICHMOND, Virginia – The Virginia Board of Education postponed certifying Greene County Administrator Mark Taylor for Spotsylvania County supervisor in its August 17 meeting after parents and school board members offered public comments criticizing Taylor’s qualifications and his ties to school board chair Kirk Twigg. School board member and former chair Dawn Shelley said Taylor hadn’t received a recommendation from the school board, which hadn’t voted in public meeting to select Taylor out of the two finalists.
“Whatever the Department of Education received from the chairman of the Spotsylvania school board was fraudulent. The application was incomplete,” Shelley told the BOE.
“The school board, as a whole did not vote or authorize the chairman to send a recommendation for superintendent censure for anyone to the Virginia Department of Education. The chairman did not have the authority to send a letter from the board,” Shelley said.
In his own comments after another speaker, Twigg said, “You’ve just heard from five of the 12 naysayers that come to all of our meetings and talk like that.”
“We have a majority thumbs-up vote, which we do in private session to select a candidate, which we have not chosen,” he said.
Twigg said that they were waiting for the BOE’s certification before holding a public vote.
“This individual is very qualified,” Twigg said.
Both Twigg and Shelley avoided naming Taylor due to confidentiality concerns.
In November 2021, the Spotsylvania County School Board voted to remove “sexually explicit” material from school libraries, before reversing that decision amid outcry and legal concerns. Twigg and member Rabih Abuismail, who said he thought the books “should be thrown in a fire,” were the only two board members to vote against reversing the decision.
In January, a new conservative majority elected Twigg to be chair, ousting Shelley, according to WTOP, which reported that in the same meeting Twigg called an unscheduled closed session and the board voted 4-3 to fire Superintendent Scott Baker.
After public comment at the August BOE meeting, the board went into closed session to discuss the matter with its legal counsel, and those in attendance left the room.
During that time Shelley told The Virginia Star that the vote in closed session was against the law, and that the school board was still waiting for advice from an attorney about how to make a recommendation without violating confidentiality concerns.
“Mr. Twigg went and did it on his own,” she said.
“This gentleman, who was now the candidate who was working to get his superintendent’s licensure, Mr. Twigg has called him his best friend. He and his wife sent letters to the editor and worked for his [Twigg’s] campaign. He and his wife are officers in Mr. and Mrs. Twigg’s nonprofit. So there seems to be some nefarious things going on,” Shelley said.
“But the main line is, this gentleman does not meet the qualification because there was no proper, if any, recommendation publicly stated, announced, voted for his name to go to the Board of Education,” Shelley said.
“If they [BOE] approve it, then I believe that there are some members of the public who are willing to sue the school board and Mr. Twigg specifically for the action that he has taken,” she said.
Twigg told The Star that he wasn’t in a position to discuss the situation, but said, “It started in a much different setting a long time ago.”
“Catch me after our dust settles in our county,” Twigg said.
After the closed session, the BOE decided to certify all the proposed superintendent candidates from various regions, except Taylor.
“I think we’ve heard enough this morning to at least inquire and to get more information about what’s going on and whether the requirements were met,” BOE President Daniel Gecker said.
“It’s not a denial of the license. That is, in fact, it’s just a deferral to the September meeting and staff will be engaged with Spotsylvania,” he said.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.
This article originally appeared in The Virginia Star. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. Republished with permission.