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Crowd shows to oppose Moritz

PACKED:Plenty of community members attended Tuesday night’s Marion school board meeting. There was a crowd of peope out the door. It was the first meeting since President Cathy Moritz shared a Facebook post supporting actress Roseanne Barr. Moritz has since resigned from her position as president.

BY Spencer Durham - sdurham@chronicle-tribune.com

A call-out on social media for concerned citizens to attend Tuesday’s Marion school board meeting following Cathy Moritz’ online support of actress Roseanne Barr drew a crowd not seen in years. Throughout the entire meeting, there was a crowd of people out the door and into one of the hallways at the high school.

Moritz came under criticism and subsequently resigned from her role as board president after she shared a Facebook post supporting Barr, around the same time the actress compared a former Barack Obama aide to an ape on Twitter. Moritz has since apologized and said she was not aware of what Barr tweeted.

Torri Williams and Andrew Morrell, two concerned citizens, said Monday the purpose of attending the meeting was to let the board know that people are tuned in and watching them. They also said they wanted the board to publicly disavow racism and bigotry.

Many prominent members of the local African American community were in attendance Tuesday night including Pearl Bassett, Art Faulkner and Joselyn Whitticker.

However, one person was noticeably absent – Cathy Moritz.

Todd Nicholson, first vice president, said after the meeting that it was his understanding that Moritz was on vacation. Board member Aaron Vermilion was also absent. Nicholson said he was in California for business.

Nicholson is the presiding officer of the school board until new officers are elected in January.

After a number of elementary students were honored for perfect IREAD 3 scores, Nicholson read a statement on behalf of the board which was based on board policy:

“Sometimes statements of individual board members imply, or the readers or listeners infer, that the opinions expressed or statements made by an individual board member are the official positions of the board. Therefore, board members should, when writing or speaking in any form or manner through or to social media, other media, community members, legislators or other officials, make it clear that their views not necessarily reflect the views of the board or Marion Community Schools. This does include all forms of social media and public comments not aligned to the mission of Marion Community Schools which is to joyfully serve the all the children of all the people. The board does not endorse Mrs. Moritz’ personal Facebook activity that has recently come to light. The specific Facebook activity does not align with the mission and board policy ethics of Marion Community Schools.”

The board then moved into the evening’s agenda. After moving through the agenda, the board heard public comment from Morrell.

Morrell questioned the board about what protocol could be taken if a member makes a statement that does not align with the school’s mission. He also asked if board members had the same views Moritz had.

“... if you do, I don’t feel safe,” Morrell said, “this community doesn’t feel safe.”

Morrell was also critical about how long it took for a statement to come out. He went on to attempt to question the board members individually on their views of Moritz’ actions. Nicholson interjected and noted that Morrell could only make a statement, not question the board.

Morrell went on to add, “Let me say it publicly, the resignation of Cathy Moritz is what we would like to see.”

Nicholson said that Moritz’ actions are not grounds for termination. Since she is an elected official Moritz could only be removed from the board for a limited number of reasons such as conviction for a felony, failure to take the oath of office or moving out of the school district. Moritz could resign on her own accord as well.

Following Morrell’s comments Superintendent Brad Lindsay gave a statement: “Our mission is clear, the majority of our staff, the majority of our parents, of our board, our mission is to love all the children … We need each other through grace and truth and teamwork ...”

After the meeting, Lindsay said the turnout was a clear display of passion and care for Marion students.

“Clearly people came because they are passionate about the issue,” he said. “They want the best for the kids and Marion Community Schools.”

“People were here, people showed up,” Morrell said when asked if any progress had been made at the meeting.

Some people displayed signs that said, “Silence is compliance,” and “One Giant nation.”

Morrell reiterated that he would still like the school board to publicly state it is against Moritz’ actions.

“What you stand against needs to be heard by the people,” he said.

During board comments, board members gave appreciation to those who attended and encouraged them to get involved by running for school board and/or voting for different candidates, a point Nicholson made after the meeting as well.

“The biggest message to send out there is to be a candidate,” he said.