Garner says she doesn’t want businesses to close but won’t apologize
While explaining her reasons for voting for the proposal to consolidate Mecklenburg County’s four high and middle schools into one at Tuesday’s meeting, school board District 7 representative Dora Garner, of Chase City, listed one of the reasons as she wants “to see the stores in South Hill close up with a consolidated high school.”
The comment drew a considerable amount of outrage and consternation among multiple South Hill business owners and others on social media, some of whom demanded a public apology and Garner’s resignation.
Garner responded via social media and said the comment was sarcastic and directed at a member of the public, Laurie Wright, of Blackridge, who had addressed the board earlier in the meeting and urged it not to vote again on school consolidation.
Citing multiple studies, Wright contends that South Hill will be better off economically and as a community if it keeps its schools.
Garner said her comment about wanting to see businesses close drew giggles, and indeed in recordings of the meeting District 9 board member, Glenn Edward, of Buffalo Junction, can be heard saying, “That’s funny,” and laughing.
In an interview on Thursday, Garner said she does not actually want South Hill businesses to close but stopped short of apologizing for her comment.
Garner, who is a South Hill native and Park View High School graduate, said if her constituents want her to resign, she will, but thus far she has not heard negative feedback from her constituents.
She said the comment was the result of frustration and outlined years of “inequality in education” in Mecklenburg County. She contends that for years the eastern schools and students have been favored over the western schools and students.
Further, she said the animosity spills beyond the schools and into the communities of Mecklenburg County in the form of elitism.
“We’ve been insulted so much, treated so badly, people on this end of the county are really frustrated,” Garner said of the western communities. “We’re treated like second-class citizens.”
On Friday, school board chair Brent Richey, of Boydton, said, “Her comments are her own and don’t represent the school board.”