Additional items on agenda include class size, school calendars

An Onslow County school board member who was recently charged with driving while impaired was previously cautioned against consuming alcohol prior to board meetings.

Board of Education Chairwoman Pam Thomas sent a letter to school board member Jonathan Merritt in September in follow up to a conversation they had regarding reports from several people of the smell of alcohol on Merritt’s breath while attending in his official capacity.

“During our conversation you were honest about the consumption of beer(s) before the meetings and immediately asked how you could rectify the concern,” Thomas wrote. “My response to you remains the same: not to do this again before our meetings. I would be remiss if I didn’t reiterate that this includes any school function or visit to a school.”

Thomas said in the letter that school board members are “held to high standards and each of us should remember to act ethically and responsibly.”

Merritt was contacted by The Daily News about the letter but said he could not comment due to the pending DWI charge.

While Merritt has not commented publicly on the matter, it is one that will be discussed Friday during a special meeting of the Board of Education.

A discussion of board conduct and public perception is on the agenda for the meeting, which will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Meeting Room 1 at the school system’s central office.

The letter to Merritt, which was also sent to all members of the Board of Education, is included with the agenda materials for the meeting. Also included are the code of ethics for board members and other related policies.

The agenda doesn’t specify what, if any, action may be taken by the board.

“We want the public to know we do take ethical standards seriously,” Thomas said.

Merritt said he plans to be at Friday’s meeting.

Other items on the agenda include a discussion of the impacts of legislation on class size for grades K through 3; discussion of whether school board elections should be partisan or nonpartisan; school calendar flexibility; summer school; and superintendent evaluation process.

In accordance with a new policy revision, the agenda and meeting materials can be accessed via the Onslow County Schools website at Look under the tabs for Board of Education and current meeting agendas and videos.