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Chance says decision to resign from school board was one he had been considering for months

While Jeff Chance’s sudden resignation as school board chairman following the end of a tense meeting Tuesday night was a surprise to most, including his fellow board members, the decision was something Chance had been thinking about for a long time.

In his first comments since he stepped down, Chance, who works as a physician’s assistant, shared in an email that his decision to resign “was not made spur of the moment” and that he had actually been considering leaving the board for many months.

While being a political figure can always have its challenges, the past few months have been difficult for school board members across the country, as the debate over topics like masks has grown increasingly political, with many individuals shouting, harassing and at times threatening board members.

“Over the last few months, the issues at hand have affected my health, family and even my business negatively,” Chance said. “[Tuesday] night’s meeting brought things into perspective, prompting me to step down.”

Even though he is fully vaccinated and recently received his booster shot, as someone with underlying health conditions — he was hospitalized in 2018 with double pneumonia as both his kidneys and lungs shut down and he was temporarily placed on a ventilator, he had been advised to be “very cautious” when around people without masks. Many members of the public have not been wearing masks during the meetings.

Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis said in a written statement it had been a “privilege” to work with Chance during his tenure with SCS and that “his unwavering commitment to the students and staff of Stanly County Schools will always be remembered.”

The National School Boards Association, a group representing school board members across the United States, have reached out to President Biden for federal assistance to help investigate and stop recent threats against educators. The NSBA noted more than 20 instances of intimidation, threats, harassment and disruption in states including California, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio and Georgia, according to the Washington Post. The U.S. Justice Department is now deploying federal law enforcement officials to work with local leaders to try and tamp down on the spike in violent threats.

While none of the school board meetings in Stanly County have resulted in violence, they have been heated as several individuals have called board members liars and cowards and told them to either reverse the mask mandate or resign. A few individuals had to be escorted out of the meetings.

Chance, who has been on the school board for 11 years, mentioned during Tuesday’s meeting that his life had been threatened over the past few months, though he did not go into any detail. In an interview, Sheriff Jeff Crisco mentioned Chance had contacted him before the Aug. 3 meeting asking for increased security. According to Crisco, Chance told him that he had heard through others that his life had been threatened. Since no one had directly confronted Chance, Crisco said the threat was not deemed credible.

Crisco said that though there have not been any credible threats that he’s been aware of against any board members, if one does surface, “we would investigate that to the bitter end.”

Several other members mentioned feeling uncomfortable during the previous meetings, when parents were shouting and at times harassing board members. During public comments on Tuesday, one individual — angry over the continued mask mandate — had to be physically escorted out of the meeting room by Sheriff Jeff Crisco and another deputy after he said if he saw members in public not wearing masks “you will have a conversation with me.”

Chance said that no longer having to deal with the stresses of his position as chairman, along with the criticism that has come with it, is “a great relief.”

No longer a member of the board, Chance hopes his former colleagues can continue to focus on prioritizing the needs of the students above all else.

“I wish the board of education the very best going forward in dealing with the issues associated with educating students during a pandemic, unhappy parents and the politics of being a board member,” he said. “It’s truly a thankless job in many ways, but putting the education of our students first and foremost is their most important responsibility.”

“Lastly,” he said, “I would encourage those who are unhappy with the board to find a way to work with board members to resolve their differences peacefully.”

Vice Chairwoman Glenda Gibson will likely take over Chance’s position until the board votes to formally elect a new chairperson and vice chairperson in December. He said Gibson has chaired many meetings before and is “versed in the proper procedure.”

In comments to the SNAP, Gibson noted it has been an “honor” for her to serve alongside Chance, saying he has been “a constant, devoted leader, not only in his role as board chair, but also in his strong advocacy in seeking to provide the highest level of education for all of the children in Stanly County.”

“Mr. Chance’s accomplishments on the Stanly County School Board are many,” she added. “I thank him for his years of service. I thank God for his friendship. I pray that God will bless Mr. Chance and his family beyond measure in the coming years.”

 

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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