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In a 5-0 vote during an emergency called meeting, Tuesday, April 27, the Coffee County Board of Education rescinded a controversial mask mandate. 

Board Member Robert Gilley addressed the board and gathered parents and citizens in the audience that  

"I was not on the board in August of 2020, I did not vote for this, however, when you are in this position...you are worrying about every single student and every single employee," Gilley said. 

"At that time, there are reasons that some would probably vote for things of this nature. I don't know what I would have done at that time." 

Gilley said that "grilling" the board and school administration is not the way to handle the situation. 

"At this time, I personally believe that it's time to move on," he said adding the board has the best interests of the students at heart.   

Board Member Freda Jones said that if the mandate saved one child it was worth it. 

"I am all for following the people in the know, the science, the governor... the advice they provide us," she said. 

She said the mandate was not to punish anyone, but to keep people from dying.  

Board Member Pat Barton said the board was following information from the CDC when it passes the mandate. 

He told a heartfelt story of carrying the burden from his days as a junior high assistant principal of a student who died after complaining of severe head pain. 

Barton had kept an eye on the girl until her father arrived, but when Barton told the man that his daughter needed to be taken to the emergency room, he said the family didn't have the money. 

"I didn't have the backbone to stand up and carry her to the (ER). I should have. She passed away about 5 o'clock," Barton said. 

He said that now the Governor's executive order limiting local governments' authority to mandate mask use has taken the burden of someone dying or having long-term illness. 

Board member Sandra Klonaris and Larry Crabtree  were not at the meeting.   

The board paused the emergency call meeting to move into an executive session with board attorney Chuck Cagel. 

The board posted the agenda  to social media about 3 p.m. The executive session was added immediately prior to the meeting and approved by the board.          

John has been with the Manchester Times since May 2011. He covers Lifestyles in addition to handling education reporting and general news assignments.John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories. John is a 1994 graduate of Tullahoma High School, a graduate of Motlow State Community College and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Middle Tennessee State University. He lives in Tullahoma, and enjoys the outdoors with his wife, Mitsy, and his 17-month-old, Sean.

Staff Writer

Download the free Manchester Times mobile app at the app store. John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories.

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