The Gainesville school board agreed to hold a meeting discussing the building of a new Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy after a motion to “table the whole Enota project until we have time to go back to the drawing board” failed — getting two votes. Board members Willie Mitchell and Sammy Smith voted in favor of the motion.
The agreement to meet came at the end of a dizzying series of comments — from board members and residents — and motions and changes in motions. No vote was held to establish a board meeting, and no dates were discussed — “but sooner rather than later” was the agreement.
The future of the Enota project officially is the same — a new building will be built and it will begin in May 2017. The tenor of the meeting plainly was against that decision and schedule, but no action was taken to change it.
Board member John Filson emphasized he did not disagree with Mitchell’s motion, but he strongly urged the board to “come together” and discuss Enota, and other issues.
He said near the end of the meeting that “other things need to be discussed,” but the Enota project should be a large part of the meeting. Filson did not elaborate on “other things” that should be discussed.
The meeting also included four residents who criticized the Enota decision-making process.
Elizabeth Burnette urged the board to revisit the decision and “allow us a seat at the table.” She, and others, said decisions were made and information presented without hearing other suggestions or comments.
During citizen comments, Mitchell made his motion to table the Enota project.
Delores Diaz, the board chair, said Enota would be discussed later in the meeting and suggested he bring his motion up then. Mitchell withdrew his tabling motion.
When the board approved the agenda, Smith amended the agenda to include a specific item that would deal with Enota. The item Diaz referred to was listed as “discussion items.”
Smith called for a “specifically designated place on the agenda.”
During that discussion, he said the Enota project “has had too many missteps and misstatements” and it “has created too much mistrust.”
Smith declared, “I do not believe the Enota project should move forward.”
Diaz said she would “disagree that there have been missteps, and I’m not sure what misstatements you’re referring to.”
Smith said he would stand by his statement but did not elaborate.
Filson emphasized that he views the meeting to be held as one at which the board would discuss Enota and what happens next. He emphasized the meeting would not be to make decisions “without community involvement.”
He talked about the meeting as a way the board “can sit down in a reflective manner.”
“We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to the community,” Filson said, to talk about all aspects of the decision.
Diaz said tabling the project should not be done. “So much work has gone into this,” she said.
Smith said the school district has two other building projects — an addition at Centennial Arts Academy and the new elementary school in Mundy Mill subdivision — underway.
A meeting to rehash the Enota decision could be the basis to “send a clear message to the community that we know what we’re doing,” Smith said.
The board also approved the June 2 minutes for a called meeting by dropping one of three sections. Vice Chair Brett Mercer made the motion. Filson made the second and suggested changes to the minutes, to which Mercer agreed.
Smith asked about the legality of the notice of the meeting. “Our attorney has assured us it was” legal, Diaz said.
The called meeting discussion revolved around three questions about Enota. Board members agreed the motion for approval included only two of the three items. The board did not approve the minutes at the June 20 meeting — no one said anything at that meeting when a motion for approval was called.
Kathy Amos, one of the residents who spoke, characterized the June 2 meeting as being held “under secretive conditions.” She said there were “misrepresentations about what the decisions (at the June 2 meeting) really were.”
The board unanimously approved the June 2 minutes after the third section was eliminated.
Amos told the board, “It is important for this community to be able to trust this board and to have input and a voice.”