Final meeting for two school board members

By Lesley Hughes
star staff

  The Carter County School Board sailed through its monthly meeting on Monday afternoon, ending with farewell speeches from longtime board members Steve Chambers and Gebe Ritchie.
  In the Federal Projects report, the board was told that 100 percent of Range Elementary School parents chose to retain their child at the school despite the 2004 No Child Left Behind report that placed Range on the high priority list because of failing to meet federal benchmarks in the attendance area.
  The school only missed the federal benchmark by less than one percentage point. The required attendance rate is 93 percent, and the school had 92.12 percent as its 2004 rate. In 2003, the school narrowly missed the benchmark by .6 percent, with a 92.4 percent attendance rate.
  According to the 2003 NCLB report, Range has a small student population of 149 students. Williams said, "Since it is such a small school, only one person can increase or decrease the percentage a great deal." A contagious flu season or sickness among a few students on the test date can impact the attendance rate.
  Parents of students in a "high priority" school have the option of moving their child to another school.
  In other business, Chambers, a 14-year member of the board, addressed the audience and fellow board members about . "You can't be a board member for 14 years without making friends and having people to thank." He said that a "good strong board makes a good strong school system."
  Earlier this year, the school system completed a two-year study that concluded the system needs two new schools and renovations made to another school to grow with the needs of the community. The total cost, over $32 million, was requested from the Carter County Commission, which is under pressure from a lawsuit agreement to immediately fund $1.8 million for jail units to ease overcrowding at the Carter County Jail.
  In the near future the jail will also be renovated in a project that could cost millions of dollars. Many county commissioners have placed the needs of jail inmates in front of the needs of students, at least until the lawsuit settlement requirements are met. The school system could stand to receive $10 from a $25 wheel tax if it is passed at the Sept. 13 County Commission meeting.
  Chambers said, "I am sorry, but if you can't support education then you can't support this county. I never thought I would see the day when a jail cell is more important than a classroom."
  He added the school system has changed tremendously over the 14 years he has served. "It is in better shape today than it was when I came in. Keep up the good work, and I will always be a supporter of education."
  Ritchie made similar statements. "The school system is in better shape than it was when we came here. It has been a hard road, but we've came a long way." Ritchie's hard times involved talking to parents until 2 a.m., getting a prescription for high blood pressure, having his teeth pulled, and getting glasses. "Was it worth it? Yes," he said.
  Dale Colbaugh was elected Aug. 5 to serve in the 1st District seat, replacing Ritchie. Lee Morrow, a write-in candidate, ran unopposed, for the 8th District seat. Ritchie and Chambers decided not to run for another school board term.
  In appropriate fashion, Chambers made the motion to adjourn, with Ritchie adding the second as he picked up his name plaque and left his board seat for the last time.