“It was completely inappropriate for that to come out in this commissioners’ meeting,” Duncan began. “I’m not very happy this morning. I would appreciate some professional courtesy to be notified before the public is notified in this way.”
Duncan went on to say it is his responsibility to release pertinent information to parents in what he deems an appropriate manner.
At that time Commissioner Parrish Swift responded to Duncan’s accusation by saying, “Out of fairness, it was communicated with us that it is an unconfirmed case of swine flu and that we will have confirmation in 48 hours.”
Swift went on to explain that Pike County Manager Steve Marro had made the initial announcement after excusing himself during the meeting to take an important phone call. He also said he believes Marro did nothing wrong by informing the commission of the situation, as both Marro and the county commissioners need to be informed of any serious situation that may directly impact Pike County residents.
Marro then explained that he was told of the unconfirmed case of swine flu by Pike County Fire Chief Danny Henderson, and that prior to making the announcement, he questioned doing so during the Board of Commissioners meeting.
“I asked that question specifically — ‘Should this be communicated with the commissioners?’ — and I was told yes, absolutely,” Marro said.
Duncan responded by agreeing that commissioners do have a right to know; he simply disagreed with the manner in which the information was disseminated.
Following the conclusion of the meeting, Swift said, “We have every right and responsibility to communicate information we deem necessary,” and he questioned Duncan’s motivation for addressing the commission.
“I would like to know if Dr. Duncan — who appeared at the last second because of information we received and then questioned us in our official capacity — was speaking on his own behalf or was he representing the majority of the board of education,” Swift said.
When later asked to comment on Swift’s question, Duncan said, “I appeared as the school superintendent. I wasn’t there on behalf of the board members. I think that was clear.”
Duncan then described the approach the Pike County School System intended to utilize to inform parents of the unconfirmed case of swine flu. He said that because the voice messaging system used by the school system only allows a three-minute message to be delivered to parents, he had opted to send a letter home with students Wednesday afternoon that would allow him to fully inform the public of the issue.
However, the letter sent home Wednesday did not state that there were two students within the Pike County School System — one at Pike County Elementary School and the second at Pike County Middle School — who were currently exhibiting flu symptoms.
“I don’t think, myself, that we’ve been informed by the school system,” Swift said Friday when asked to respond to the situation. “All he had to do was let folks know that children have been diagnosed with flu-like symptoms and that they should be aware of their children. If they exhibit any sort of symptoms, to respond accordingly.”
Swift then said that he took offense at Duncan’s appearance at Wednesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting due to the nature and tone of his comments. He said he doesn’t believe any Board of Commissioners member would ever attempt to address the Pike County Board of Education in the same way.
Swift said, “(Marro) has every right to respond to our EMA (Emergency Management Agency) director and fire chief. They are the one who have control of that type of situation, not the Board of Education.”