Hancock County School Board not addressing superintendent firing

Hancock County School Board members Jennifer Seal, Billy Thomas and Tammy Garber on August 29, 2022 at the Kiln <a class=School District office.” title=”Hancock County School Board members Jennifer Seal, Billy Thomas and Tammy Garber on August 29, 2022 at the Kiln School District office.” loading=”lazy”/>

Hancock County School Board members Jennifer Seal, Billy Thomas and Tammy Garber on August 29, 2022 at the Kiln School District office.

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Tempers flared Monday night when parents realized they wouldn’t be able to speak at the school board meeting or ask about the firing of Hancock County Superintendent Teresa Merwin.

Dozens of people showed up at the school district office hoping to tell the board about their decision and get answers about why the beloved leader was ousted.

The board has not released any details since Merwin was fired Aug. 18 during an executive session at a specially called meeting.

Merwin was appointed to the position in July 2021.

“Are we going to address the elephant in the room?” a parent asked as school board president Jennifer Seal scanned the agenda.

Seal told the parent she needed to submit a letter before the meeting to be added to the agenda and address the council.

“You guys are really unreal,” the parent replied before storming out of the meeting. Others followed.

“Stop calling yourself Christians because you only do what you want,” shouted another from the entrance just outside the office.

“Fire all the people on the board,” said another man.

The board skimmed through the seven-page agenda on Monday, and Merwin’s name was not on it. No parent in the crowd followed the formal process to speak to the council, and no one on the council responded to questions or comments made out of turn.

A school board member, however, commented on the decision and its implications.

Danita Holladay, who represents District Five, said “the past two weeks have been very difficult for this board” and thanked Acting Superintendent Rhett Ladner for taking on the role. Ladner was considered for the role in 2021, but Merwin was hired, Holladay said during the meeting.

“It takes a big man to come out on top,” she said. “He could have said, ‘I’m not going to get you out of this mess. “”

Hancock County School Board member Danita Holladay represents District Five. Justin Mitchell [email protected]

Holladay also said the board had to endure social media “persecution” and complaints from parents and Hancock County residents. She apologized to all the council members “for having had to go through this”.

“We are fighting for this county…we are fighting for these parents…we will continue to do so no matter what.”

About three of the roughly 50 attendees applauded Holladay’s speech, while others got up and left.

“We want to hear what Ms Merwin has to say,” one man shouted.

A Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy escorted resident Charlie Stroud outside after he stood up to address council, explaining he was unaware of the formal process to speak.

“Nobody knows what’s going on,” he said. “I feel like we deserve an explanation why Ms Merwin was fired.”

Before Seal adjourned the meeting, she encouraged parents to sign up to speak to council and attend other meetings in the future.

The Hancock County School District Central Office on Highway 603 in Kiln. Justin Mitchell [email protected]

Hancock County Schools Superintendent Teresa Merwin was fired from her position on August 18, 2022. Hancock County School District/Facebook

This story was originally published August 29, 2022 7:47 p.m.

Justin Mitchell is the Sun Herald’s News Editor and works on McClatchy’s Audience Engagement and Development team. It also reports on LGBTQ issues in the Deep South, with a particular focus on Mississippi.

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