Duncan’s School Board voted to accept the resignation of veteran member Craig Barnes at Tuesday night’s meeting but it was not a unanimous decision, as board member Chris Deal voiced a token protest by saying “no.”

Barnes was not present at the meeting, but when contacted later at his home, he said he quit to save the school district from possibly being named in a lawsuit.

He said that during the controversy surrounding the demolition of the old middle school auditorium, school officials received communications threatening a lawsuit because Barnes no longer lives in the district he represents.

Tuesday night, Barnes confirmed he has moved out of his district temporarily but said he would have been returning within a couple of months. He said according to state law his temporary relocation was legal, but he was still concerned that there might be too much “gray area” and turmoil if a lawsuit was filed, so he chose to step down.

His decision was grudgingly accepted by the rest of the board and School Superintendent Sherry Labyer.

“I want to state publicly that we regret having this vacancy,” said Labyer, during the portion of the meeting when the board officially declared Barnes’ seat as vacant. “Craig Barnes was a wonderful board member. He always put the students first and was an important part of this team.”

Barnes was the most experienced member on the school board, having been elected in 1996. He had held the positions of both president and vice president of the board.

His current term would have expired in February of 2008. He said he doubted whether he would have run again.

Lisa Presgrove has served on the school board with Barnes for the past eight years. When informed of his resignation, she put her thoughts on paper, and the comments were read during the public meeting.

“To me, Craig represented a model board member with both his compassion and decisiveness,” stated Presgrove. “He has always been very passionate about what he believes to be honest and true.

“He has been the voice of logic and common sense. I have long admired his professional behavior as he weighed each issue by its individual merit,” Presgrove continued. “We haven’t always agreed on every issue, but Craig is a person who can disagree with you and still respect your opinion. I want to thank him for all that he has given to this district.”

Barnes was not present to hear the praise of his fellow board members and their reluctance to accept his resignation.

But he offered several comments of his own about the current administration.

“I have served with four superintendents while on this board and seen a lot of other superintendents, not just in Duncan, and I am a strong believer in what Dr. Labyer is doing for the district.

“I guess you could call me an unabashed Sherry Labyer supporter,” he said.

His compliments did not end there.

“I’ve also served with approximately 15 different board members in my time, and I appreciated all their efforts.

“But I’ve got to say the remaining four on the board right now are a tremendous asset to the district. Each has their own thoughts on the issues but they all are looking out for the kids, and can come to a consensus in a very professional way.

“And I admire the employees of the district. These people are underpaid for the jobs they do and they work hard every day. They deserve the support of the entire community.”

The board will now seek to appoint a temporary replacement for the remainder of Barnes’ term, until the school election next February.

A candidate must live within the boundaries of Camelback Road on the north, U.S. Highway 81 on the east, Beech Avenue on the south, and west to the line dividing the Duncan and Empire school districts, said Board President Lisa Thomas.

“Anyone interested should contact a school board member,” Thomas announced.

The four remaining school board members are Thomas, Presgrove, Chris Deal and Kevin Kinnaird.

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