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Studio owner asks county schools for shot at portraits

Members of the Carter County Board of Education heard concerns from a local photographer and about

Jack Tester, owner of Best Portraits, told members of the Carter County Board of Education that local photographers are not being given an opportunity to compete for school portrait contracts at some county schools.

Jack Tester, owner of Best Portraits, told members of the Carter County Board of Education that local photographers are not being given an opportunity to compete for school portrait contracts at some county schools.

plans to put more officers in schools during a workshop session on Monday.
One of the items on the agenda for the workshop was contracts for school portraits. Currently, each school handles contracts for school portraits on its own so the needs of the individual schools can be better met. The three service providers currently being used by county schools are Best Portraits, David Sellers Photography and LifeTouch. Best Portraits and David Sellers Photography are both Elizabethton-based businesses, while LifeTouch is a national company which has a local office in Bristol.
Jack Tester, owner of Best Portraits, spoke to members of the Board regarding his concerns with the way the school portrait contracts are handled. He said there have been occasions where he has attempted to speak with a Carter County school regarding his portrait business and the services he can provide, but was not given the opportunity to provide that information before the school decided to contract with LifeTouch.
“Our Carter County schools in a way are supporting Sullivan County Schools,” Tester said, explaining that sales tax paid on portraits ordered through LifeTouch are paid to Sullivan County, which means a portion of those tax dollars are funneled into the Sullivan County School System.
Tester said he was not asking for preferential treatment from the Board, but only for the opportunity to talk with the schools about what he can offer. He said because his business is local, he can better tailor his services to meet the school’s needs.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the community,” Tester said. “We ask that the local schools support the local small businesses.”
Director of Schools Kevin Ward suggested the Board consider having the schools send out Requests for Proposals detailing what their school portrait needs are and get pricing proposals from different companies.
Members of the Board also heard a proposal to create seven new school resource officer positions in the County School System thanks to a school security grant received by the school.
Carter County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Ron Street said the seven new positions would be in addition to the six current SRO positions, bringing the total number of law enforcement officers at county schools to 13.
As part of the agreement between the school system and the Sheriff’s Department, the school system will transfer $250,000 in grant funding to the Sheriff’s Department budget to cover the salaries of the officers as well as equipment and training expenses.
The Board will have to vote during their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, June 19, to approve the agreement with the Sheriff’s Department.