The new Campbell County Board of Education met Tuesday night and lost no time in setting a new first by electing a Chairwoman to lead the board’s meetings. Fifth District school board member Crystal Creekmore was selected by a vote of 7-3 to replace Clint Bane, who was defeated in his bid for re-election to the BOE in August. WATCH HERE.
Johnny Byrge and Creekmore were both nominated for the Chairman’s position, with Byrge being voted upon first. With three board members abstaining, Byrge failed to gain the six votes needed.
Creekmore’s nomination was then approved with Byrge, Lisa Fields and Faye Heatherly casting the only “no” votes. Brent Lester was then elected as vice chairman by a unanimous vote.
The board then recognized School Resource Officer Brandon Gross, who is credited with saving the life of a student at LaFollette Middle School who was choking. After receiving a certificate from Director Jennifer Fields, Gross received a standing ovation from the board and large crowd in the audience.
That crowd included a number of band boosters who attended the meeting hoping for more support for the CCHS band program. Two parents told the board that the band needs financial help with costs such as cleaning uniforms or paying for bus transportation to road games. They suggested that CCHS increase admission to home football games by one dollar with that extra money going to the band program.
The parents also repeated the request from last year about access to a better practice field, with mixed reaction from the board.
Director Fields complimented the parents and students who attended the meeting, then went over the $87,000 plus that the school system has spent on the band in the past five years.
“We want you to be a success, and not have to practice on an unsafe field,” Fields stated, but she stopped short of making any recommendation on the parents’ request.
The board then kicked around various options for providing a safer practice field, from grading and filling at the current field to allowing the band to practice at the baseball field.
Johnny Byrge suggested that the band boosters were “getting the cart before the horse” by approaching the board about a field, pointing out that current procedure should be to first ask the athletic director (Sherry Chapman) and principal (Jamie Wheeler) at CCHS for a solution to the field problem.
Byrge then concluded, “My point is, once they decide; bring it back to the board to vote up or down.” He then added, “We also have other events, car shows there. That’s another consideration.”
Other board members were more supportive, but in the end, there was no consensus on either an increase in ticket prices or a different practice field and the board moved on to other matters.
Those matters included a request from bus owner Marty Jackson to consider a raise for bus drivers. Jackson went on to point out that the recent negative publicity about two buses being out of service due to failure to pass inspection did not apply to him.
“That’s not my buses; those were owned by Cumberland Mountain. I keep all of my buses in top condition,” Jackson pointed out. He added that current contracts pay owners $1.78 per mile but an increase of 10 to 15 cents would enable bus owners to pay drivers more.
Fields pointed out that the budget has already been set and approved for the school year, but Byrge commented that “In the past we’ve managed to dip in somewhere and find money that’s needed.”
Without making any commitment, the board moved to another transportation issue, the bus shortage caused by two buses that failed state inspection and were temporarily out of service.
Finance Director Jeff Marlow offered what he termed “a simple solution, contract with another owner for a substitute bus.”
Byrge challenged that idea, asking, “You’re saying every bus owner should have a back-up bus?”
“No, I’m saying that if one bus breaks down, see if another owner wants to cover the route,” Marlow explained.
“I’d be willing to try it, but I’d want to see quick results,” Byrge conceded.
The board did manage to make one or two decisions, approving on second reading, revised vacation leave for all full-time personnel and finally, voting to change the board’s next meeting from October 9 to October 16 due to the Fall Break. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 09/13/2018-6AM)