LTAD says scheduling preventing protesting

Published 10:20 am Saturday, December 23, 2023

Chambers County School Board (CCSB) meetings have been quiet lately. Since Tytiana Smith and Yolanda Ratchford were arrested during the Nov. 15 School Board meeting, protestors concerned with the contentious consolidation of Valley and LaFayette High School have not been in attendance.

Smith and Ratchford are a part of the LaFayette Teachers Against Displacement (LTAD). She emphasized that the LTAD would not stop protesting after the arrests. She said the time of the last two meetings prevented LTAD representatives from being able to protest. 

Smith said the meeting on Dec. 4 was called with little notice, leaving inadequate time for the group to prepare. The Dec. 4 meeting was called to confirm the hiring of Lauren Dabbs as the new Fairfax Elementary principal. Smith said they were also unable to attend the Dec. 20 meeting, which they had been preparing for, due to it being scheduled at 12 p.m. CT.

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Smith and Ratchford were arrested at November’s meeting for carrying signs into the meeting, in violation of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) prohibiting signage within the board room during meetings of the board. 

The MOU was signed between the CCSB and the city of LaFayette’s mayor, Kenneth Vines, as most of the CCSB meetings take place in LaFayette’s jurisdiction. However, the Nov. 15 meeting took place at Langdale Auditorium in Valley. 

When asked if she is considering legal action after her arrest, Smith said, “I can’t really answer that right now, all I can say is that the MOU was signed in LaFayette and didn’t apply to Valley.”

The group was formed in January after the high school consolidation was confirmed. They began protesting after a judge ruled the new consolidated school would be in Valley. The group has expanded in highlighting other issues within the county’s school system.

“One, that looks like building the new consolidated school in a centralized location. Two is basically making sure that our students and our teachers have a voice and are not afraid to speak up in fear of retaliation from the board in the administration,” Smith said. 

She continued, “… We have children, parents, teachers and faculty suffering on both sides of the county. Not just in LaFayette but people in Valley as well.”

At Wednesday’s School Board meeting, Superintendent Casey Chambley said the appeals window for the case has passed. He also revealed schematics of the new high school to the other board members. 

According to Cookie Thomas, administrative assistant to the superintendent, the typical procedure is to notify the public the Friday before the meeting. Normally meetings fall on the third Wednesday of the month. However, the Dec. 4 meeting was a special called meeting held on Tuesday. The announcement of the meeting was sent out the Friday before. Thomas said the school board is required to give the public at least 24 hours’ notice. 

Smith said last week that LTAD would have a float in the LaFayette Christmas parade, although they were not present. LTAD did hold a community meeting on Sunday to discuss the importance of voting in local elections and discussing candidates in the upcoming school superintendent election.