Barnett remains school board chairman despite attempt to step down

Published 7:56 am Thursday, September 24, 2015

After attempting to step down as chairman of the Carter County Board of Education, Rusty Barnett found himself holding on to the gavel for another year when the group deadlocked over picking his replacement.
Typically, the Board selects a new chairman every two years. Barnett has served as chairman for one year, but said in the coming year he had a personal endeavor he wanted to work on so he had decided to step down as chairman to free up more time for his other project.
After announcing his intention to step down, Barnett opened the floor for nominations. Board member Steve Hyder nominated current Vice Chairman Kelly Crain for the post, and Board member LaDonna Stout-Boone nominated fellow Board member Craig Davis.
Crain received four votes, and Davis garnered three. Board member David Buck was absent from the meeting.
While Crain won the majority of the members present, Board attorney John Banks told the group votes require a majority of the total number of members in order to pass, which means a candidate would have to get five votes to be elected chairman.
A second vote was held with the same results.
“I would like to offer a compromise,” Board member Tony Garland said. “Mr. Davis, would you be willing to accept vice chair?”
“No sir, I would not,” Davis said in response.
A motion was made and subsequently passed to postpone the election of a chairman until later in the meeting after the Board had attended to other business.
At the end of the meeting, the appointment of chairman was once again brought up, but Davis asked for a five-minute recess from the meeting before the debate was re-entered.
When the group returned from the break, Board member Ronnie McAmis made a motion to leave Barnett as chairman and Crain as vice chairman for another year.
The motion passed with members Boone, Crain, Davis, Garland, Hyder and McAmis all voting in favor of the motion. Barnett passed on the vote.
“I wasn’t planning on doing this, but I’ll do it to the best of my ability,” Barnett said after the vote. “I appreciate all of your support, and I will be calling on you all to help me.”
In other business, the board unanimously approved for the school system to contract with architect Tony Street to complete plans for a six-classroom addition at Central Elementary.
Currently, the school is so overcrowded that two special education classes are meeting in what used to be teacher workrooms and another class has to move back and forth between a computer lab and the library, depending on which one is not in use, Central Elementary Principal Terry Morely said.
“The other day, they had to hold class in the picnic shelter outside because the library was in use,” he said.
Director of Schools Kevin Ward and Maintenance Supervisor Phillip Nave told the Board the project was estimated to cost up to $1.7 million to complete.
The bulk of the money for the project will come from the Basic Education Program capital improvement fund, which can be used for one-time projects, Ward said. Currently, the school system has $1.25 million in that fund.
“We have a couple of options as to where the rest of that money can come from,” Ward said, but added that no additional funds will have to be sought from the County Commission in order to complete the project.
Members of the Board took some time during the meeting to recognize a student for an act of kindness shown in the community.
Ward told the Board he had been contacted by a woman in the community named Nancy Berry who wanted to commend Happy Valley High School student Austin Hicks for an act of kindness she was able to witness. She wrote a letter, which Ward read aloud at the meeting.
Berry works at a local shoe store and one day a young homeless man dressed in shabby clothes came in the store to purchase some shoes, saying that the ones he had were worn and hurt his feet. When he went to pay for his shoes, he realized he had lost his money. Dejected, the young man left the store.
In line behind this young man, Berry said, was Hicks. When Hicks got to the counter he asked why the young man was so upset and Berry said she told him the man had lost his money he had worked for in order to be able to buy the shoes.
Berry said Hicks left the store and ran after the man, brought him back into the store and then bought the shoes for him.
In her letter, Berry said the kindness shown by Hicks to a stranger had touched her heart and she wanted to commend him for his actions and make other aware of what he had done.
The board presented Hicks with an award and those in attendance honored him with a standing ovation.

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