Lakeland citizen persists with school mold inquiry

Aspergillus mold (stock photo)
Aspergillus mold.
Stock photo via; some rights reserved.

A citizen who has asked the Lakeland School Board and superintendent repeatedly to answer specific questions about mold abatement at the elementary school was affronted Monday night by an accusation of grandstanding and suggestions that she take the conversation offline once again.

Lou Melton of Lakeland says she is done with offline conversations.

During the public comments portion of the board’s Aug. 3 work session, Melton again asked the school board to answer her questions about whether mold could remain in the Lakeland Elementary School building and/or HVAC system.

She followed up on the Tioga mold report she provided the board at the June 15 meeting, asking if it had been read.

The report, which she got from Shelby County Schools, describes a mold investigation, cleanup and a follow-up check during a period of about one week in March/April 2014 when the building was still under Shelby County Schools’ control.

The point that Melton keeps pressing is whether the final investigation was thorough to assure there is not a mold problem at the school.

She asked the board again whether the Lakeland Elementary building’s air conditioning was active on the day of inspection and if the HVAC units were ever directly inspected for mold. Supt. Ted Horrell mentioned again that those answers would have to come from SCS.

When pressed by Melton, board member Matt Wright said the superintendent’s role involves looking into such concerns and reporting back to the board.

Melton then asked if Horrell had done that.

Wright said, “I feel very comfortable with how Dr. Horrell has handled this situation. I understand that you’re here to try to make a point, and to — I’m just going to be real frank — grandstand. And um, it gets old, to be honest with you.”

Melton replied, “How dare you insult me like that.”

Vice chairman Laura Harrison interrupted their exchange to restore order, and Wright continued taking Melton to task, telling her, “Listen, you have met with Dr. Horrell, and Dr. Horrell has clearly stated to us as a board that he feels very comfortable that this problem has been handled. I personally, that’s all I need to hear, is that our superintendent looked into this issue, that he feels like this the issue has been resolved to the best of our abilities, and that he’s comfortable with the safety of the school. As long as he can clearly tell me as a school board member that that is what he feels, then I’m completely comfortable with that decision as it stands.”

Melton also asked the board if there have been any other leaks, repairs or mold problems since the early 2014 Tioga report was issued.

Horrell said he has talked with her multiple times about recent roof leaks at LES and their repairs, and there are records from recent board meetings about expenditures to cover those repairs. He said he has answered Melton’s questions over the phone as well.

She said she asked him if the heat and air filters had been changed, and Harrison interjected that the conversation should be taken offline so the meeting could go back to agenda items.

“But I’m tired of this part right here,” Melton said. “I’m tired of the private conversations and nothing getting accomplished. Now, if y’all want to stonewall me up here, stonewall me. I’m concerned.”

Melton took umbrage at the accusation of “grandstanding” on an issue she’s been dealing with since April.

“I don’t understand y’all talking to a citizen this way,” she said. “I do not understand it at all.”

Harrison suggested that Melton talk offline about the issue, but Melton flatly refused. Instead, she said she’d be back next week for the Aug. 10 school board business meeting.

And the next meeting. And the next. And the next.

“However long this takes,” Melton said. “I’ll come back for two minutes, every single time until y’all realize there is a problem there that was not addressed. Period. The end.”

Two minutes is the usual time allotted for individual citizens to speak to the LSS board during the public commentary portion of a work session or business meeting.

On Tuesday, Horrell said, “We hope to be able to address Ms. Melton’s concerns with specific data at Monday’s regular board meeting. The questions she was asking the school board have already been answered by me in conversations with her to the best our ability to answer them.”

At press time, Horrell had not yet clarified whether that means the school district will or will not make further inquiries to SCS or Tioga in an attempt to answer Melton’s remaining two questions.

Editor’s note: For more background on this story, see the Tioga firm’s mold report, linked in The Bartlett Express’s July 15 coverage of an LSS board meeting.