Five days after the School Board voted to formally censure Leesburg District School Board member Beth Barts, Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan on Tuesday announced she also was removing her from committee posts.
“It is never an easy decision to take action in judgment of a colleague. As chair it is the most difficult aspect of this leadership position,” Sheridan said in announcing her decision.
Barts had chaired the Pupil Services Committee and served on the Human Resources and Talent Development Committee.
The censure vote March 4 came after a closed session during which board members concluded Barts’social media postingsviolated the board’s private deliberations and spread misinformation. At that time Sheridan announced it was the fifth such meeting to discuss concerns about Barts’ conduct. Following a closed session in November 2020, the board voted to publicly reprimand Barts, claiming she publicly disclosed confidential information.
The censure motion by Sheridan stated: “The School Board finds that School Board member Beth Barts did violateSchool Board policy 1030 Code of Conduct for School Board membersin failing to put student interests first, paragraph B2; failed to show respect for fellow board members and staff in the spirit of harmony and cooperation, paragraph B3; failed to welcome and encourage active cooperation of Loudoun County residents and the district, paragraph B9; and failed to work in the spirit of teamwork in service to the community, paragraph B10. And that this board does not condone the behavior of School Board member Beth Barts and does hereby publicly censure her.”
That was approved on a 7-0-2 vote, with Barts and Corbo absent.
According to a notice of the closed meeting sent to Barts by school division attorney Stephen L. DeVita, the concerns centered on Facebook postings about efforts to reopen schools safely and criticisms of parents who had pressured the board to do so more quickly.
“These actions have hampered the Board’s ability to function effectively and has led to continuing negative public comments at board meetings. These allegations reflect continuing problems in being able to work respectfully, harmoniously and as a team despite prior efforts of the Board and members to address this with you,” DeVita wrote.
As a vocal skeptic of a safe return to school, Barts has been a frequent target of criticism from parents who have appeared at most School Board meetings during the pandemic to urge a return to in-person learning. In recent weeks, those critics have announced plans to launch a recall campaign seeking to have a Circuit Court judge remove her from office.
When Sheridan announced the additional sanctions against Barts, parents gathered outside the board room waiting to address the board in the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting cheered.