SRCA board operates with diminished membership


The board of administrators acts as the varsity’s governing physique and is legally liable for the tutorial, monetary and operational high quality of the varsity. The Nationwide Constitution Faculty Useful resource Middle says that “given the centrality of autonomy to constitution colleges, the board is integral to the right oversight of colleges.”

North Carolina had 210 constitution colleges at first of the 2022-23 faculty yr, serving over 130,000 college students. Constitution colleges are public colleges operated by non-profit boards. The colleges have open enrollment and no tuition is charged to attend. Tax {dollars} are the first funding supply for constitution colleges. 

Shining Rock Classical Academy was based in 2015. Lessons first met within the Wilson Middle on the Lake Junaluska Meeting earlier than shifting to a modular campus on Dellwood Highway on property leased from the meeting. In August 2021, the varsity started lessons in its new, everlasting constructing on Russ Avenue. This campus now sees virtually 600 Ok-10 college students, whereas the outdated modular campus is residence to the preschool Shining Rock Junior Academy. 

With the varsity nonetheless paying off debt from its first part of development and plans for extra development within the close to future, this board of restricted members has been making key choices for the varsity’s future. 


In accordance with its personal bylaws, the Shining Rock Classical Academy Board of Administrators is about as much as function with a minimal of seven members and a most of 13.

Till this yr, the board had been working with seven members. Michelle Haynes was faraway from the board of administrators in January following a private go away of absence that the board had authorized 4 months prior. As soon as the agreed-upon date of return handed and she or he didn’t return, the board determined to finish her membership. 

Whereas the board by no means voted on her removing, the minutes of the January assembly state “the board secretary place has been vacated and we’re in want of a brand new secretary.”

Haynes didn’t contest the removing. 

Minutes for the January assembly present the board mentioned the necessity for locating a brand new member. 

“Must recruit somebody who’s skilled in fundraising, has a ardour for organizing occasions in addition to having the ability to join with people and corporations in the neighborhood. We have to get the details about becoming a member of the board on the web site,” the January SRCA board minutes learn. 

The board continued working one member down till it voted to take away one more particular person, Rebecca Fitzgibbon, in Could. Fitzgibbon did contest her removing.  

“I’ll proceed to serve the Shining Rock group in no matter capability I’m ready,” Fitzgibbon informed The Smoky Mountain Information. “I like serving my group. I would love to see our college perform its mission and imaginative and prescient. Our household joined SRCA as a result of we heard that the varsity group was open minded and welcoming. We felt that welcoming initially. We have been additionally drawn to Shining Rock due to the promise of experiential schooling and the reason that college students are introduced outdoors extra typically than at different colleges.”

Fitzgibbon joined the SRCA board throughout the 2020 fall semester. She is the mom of two youngsters that attend the varsity. 

In the course of the 2021-22 faculty yr, an incident occurred that resulted in Fitzgibbon and her husband lodging a grievance with the varsity. As a result of unresolved nature of the grievance, the household will not be prepared to share particulars. 

“There’s at present an unresolved grievance,” stated Greg Elder, Fitzgibbon’s husband. “The shortage of a transparent course of for resolving our grievance and the mismanagement of the already unclear course of left us feeling unresolved. In my view, this, mixed with the directive to board members to at all times help the pinnacle of college, illustrates the inherent incapacity to resolve such a battle if the board’s first function is to help the pinnacle of college and the grievance includes the pinnacle of college.”

Protocol at SRCA requires grievances to be addressed to the pinnacle of college. Nevertheless, Fitzgibbon’s grievance involved the pinnacle of college and after talking with him, the couple didn’t really feel that the problem may very well be resolved by this course. Following the following steps in grievance coverage, they took their complaints to the chair of the varsity board, Melanie Norman, and filed the grievance formally. 

Board members Frank Lay and Natalie Malis have been appointed to listen to Fitzgibbon’s grievance. Nevertheless, after a gathering with solely Lay, the Fitzgibbons nonetheless didn’t really feel that their grievance was being dealt with correctly. 

As a mum or dad, Fitzgibbon was angered that her grievance was not being addressed in a passable method. As a board member, she grew to become annoyed that the method for lodging a grievance wasn’t functioning effectively, and that extra work was not being finished within the governance committee to resolve the inefficiencies. 

Finally, Fitzgibbon determined to formally drop her grievance as a way to handle the varsity’s grievance and self-discipline insurance policies as a member of the SRCA board. 

“I wished to work for the betterment of our complete faculty group,” stated Fitzgibbon. “I noticed that this concern went means past my very own. I made a decision to formally drop my grievance after being informed that we might be capable of work extra effectively as board members if I wasn’t in the course of a proper grievance course of. I made a decision to take action with the hope of constructing vital enhancements for our college on the board degree.”

After formally dropping her grievance, she started working with the board to develop insurance policies and procedures that may allow it to perform in a constant method when addressing any future grievances in addition to self-discipline and reporting of bullying and harassment. 

“I consider the board determined to take away me as a result of I had a battle with the pinnacle of college, and since I used to be diligently working for board and head of college accountability,” stated Fitzgibbon. “By this level, I had turn into conscious of the truth that many others had skilled related concern to what my household had confronted, and I believed that these points wanted to be addressed at board degree.”

In accordance with Norman, it’s uncommon for the board to hunt removing of a member and solely finished to make sure the board can proceed to successfully function the governing physique for the varsity. Norman stated “unresolved points” with Fitzgibbon prompted the board to hunt her removing. 

“The accountability of the chairperson is to maintain the board functioning effectively,” stated Norman. “When it turns into obvious {that a} board member can’t uphold the tasks of the position, the chairperson is required to take motion on behalf of the board, the varsity and the group.”

At first of the common Could 25 assembly, Norman added an merchandise to the agenda to think about the removing of a director from the board. Board members Fitzgibbon and Lori Castner voted in opposition to the modification to the agenda, whereas Norman, Lay, Malis and Kelley Lewis voted in favor. 

When the agenda merchandise got here up later within the assembly, board member Frank Lay made a movement to enter closed session pursuant to Common Statute 143-318.11(a)(6). 

“I invoke the necessity for a closed session out of the character that typically we don’t do closed periods for board membership, however staff could come up,” he stated. 

This part of Common Statutes additionally states, “a public physique could not think about the {qualifications}, competence, efficiency, character, health, appointment, or removing of a member of the general public physique or one other physique and should not think about or fill a emptiness amongst its personal membership besides in an open assembly.”

Within the assembly, Fitzgibbon acknowledged that she didn’t want a closed session and that she didn’t must carry up different staff. 

“I wish to hear in case you guys have causes for eradicating me from the board,” Fitzgibbon stated. 

Castner and Fitzgibbon each voted in opposition to going into closed session, however with 4 votes in favor, the movement handed. 

“Going into closed session to take away a board member was a transparent violation of G.S. 143-318.11(a)(6),” says Beth Soja, an lawyer who’s an open conferences knowledgeable for the North Carolina Press Affiliation. “Even when the board wanted to debate the pinnacle of college’s ‘{qualifications}, competence, efficiency, character, health, circumstances of appointment, or circumstances of preliminary employment,’ and albeit it doesn’t sound like that was the case, that piece might have been finished in a separate closed session; the dialogue concerning the board member undoubtedly ought to have been in open session.”

Following the closed session, the board voted on the movement to take away Fitzgibbon. Norman, Lay, Malis and Lewis voted in favor of removing; Castner abstained from the vote. 

In feedback after the vote, Lay made it clear that Fitzgibbon had been faraway from the board as a consequence of points in regards to the head of college. He additionally divulged personal details about one in every of Fitzgibbon’s youngsters earlier than he was lower off by fellow board members who have been involved that he was sharing an excessive amount of info in an open assembly. 

“[When you and I sat down and first talked] it was a fully open need to get as a lot element from you as we might by this. In the long run I believe there have been too many issues which have occurred to make it a seamless focus, simply because for me once you work with an individual as a head of college, in our position as a physique politic to work with that head of college, positive all of us wish to enhance and get higher but when we will’t…” Lay stated earlier than he was lower off. 

“It has been my expertise that constitution faculty boards typically battle with Open Conferences Regulation compliance for a wide range of causes,” stated Soja. 

Shining Rock’s lawyer doesn’t repeatedly attend the varsity board conferences. Having the board lawyer current throughout conferences is widespread amongst most public faculty boards. 

Different board members thanked Fitzgibbon for her service. 

“I’d identical to to say that for the time that I’ve served on committee with Rebecca, she’s been invaluable,” stated Malis. “She loves this faculty, she cares deeply about our group and it’s been a beautiful useful resource in services. For the needs of how we have to transfer ahead, that’s why I voted the best way that I did.”

“I’d second that. I like your ardour, that, however you’re by no means going to really feel like it’s resolved in the best way you need, and we received’t be capable of transfer ahead with you having these emotions,” stated Lewis. “In the meanwhile, it’s not working. We don’t need you to go anyplace, we want your voice.”

“Allow us to be taught some issues from this,” stated Castner. “Allow us to find out how vital communication is, as a result of I personally really feel that that’s on the heart of all of the frustration that she’s had. We have to be taught one thing from this, each one in every of us.”

The final member to go away the board, Lori Castner, submitted a letter of resignation from the SRCA Board of Administrators July 1. She nonetheless serves on the Shining Rock Junior Academy board. 

“Over the time I’ve served on the SRCA Board of Administrators, it has turn into clear to me that my involvement with the Board will not be a wholesome match with my values concerning schooling and management,” Castner acknowledged in her letter of resignation from the board. “Shining Rock may very well be a present to schooling in Western North Carolina. I proceed to want for the success of SRCA.”


Throughout a governance committee assembly Aug. 19, board members Norman and Malis mentioned techniques for recruiting new members.

“The Board is actively recruiting new members and can onboard them as rapidly as is prudently potential,” Norman informed The Smoky Mountain Information. “We goal to make sure that SRCA meets and exceeds the variety of members outlined in Article 4.2. After that, the board plans to onboard a minimal of 1 board member annually.”

The protocol for including new members to the SRCA board includes placing them on a committee for a sure period of time earlier than bringing their software earlier than the board for a vote. This permits the applicant time to be taught in regards to the workings of the board and turn into concerned previous to formally becoming a member of the board. As soon as the potential member has served on a committee for some months, the board critiques the applying throughout a public assembly and takes a vote on whether or not to confess the applicant to the board. 

Nevertheless, because of the present scarcity of members, Norman and Malis mentioned techniques that may permit the board to fill vacant seats extra rapidly. The board is contemplating reaching out to earlier members to ask them to fill vacant seats on the board till potential members have had the prospect to spend time as a part of a committee. 

“Traditionally, rising board membership has been difficult given the time dedication required of board members,” stated Norman. “With three candidates at current, SRCA has discovered the board member search course of to be a lot sooner, which we attribute to the varsity’s success, recognition, progress and the belief that our Head of Faculty, Josh Morgan, has constructed throughout the group.”

In accordance with Norman, the board has three potential members “within the works.” A particular governance committee assembly to interview these potential board candidates was held Tuesday, Aug. 23, at 6:30 p.m., and one might be held Wednesday, Aug. 24, at 7:15 p.m. 

“The Board is in search of new members to return to at the very least seven board members,” Norman informed The Smoky Mountain Information. “Per our bylaws, the Board requires a quorum to carry a gathering, and a majority vote is required to approve choices. All SRCA’s board choices have been authorized by a majority of the Board.”

In the intervening time, plans for part two development of the varsity are on pause. As the varsity was going to marketplace for the bond, rates of interest spiked a number of time and costs for supplies have been increased than anticipated. To make sure the varsity stays financially sound, the board determined to attend on additional development. 


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