'No Child Left Behind' keeps students, educators running

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
No Child Left Behind has raised educational standards not only for students, but teachers as well. "Whether you like it or dislike it, you have to abide by it," interim director of Elizabethton City Schools, Richard Culver, told a spartan assemblage of the Elizabethton Board of Education at its September meeting Thursday night.
The BOE barely managed a quorum of representatives with BOE Chairman Dr. Bob Sams, Catherine Wooten Armstrong and Dr. Jonathan Bremer on hand but Judy Richardson and Bob Berry were unable to attend.
At issue were two requests for professional leave submitted for ECS Director of Special Education Kim Lavin. The first trip co-sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education, Division of Special Education set a conference for Oct. 8-9 in Knoxville to focus on NCLB standards. Armstrong stated the training seemed "repetitive" and she also cited an opportunity provided by other conference sponsors to offer free professional development to the school system's teachers.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for our teachers to get some in-service," she said. Armstrong also felt a second conference Lavin requested to attend at Montgomery Bell State Park on Oct. 19-22 seemed too close for comfort.
While Lavin told the board she had no problem with the first travel request being denied, Culver stated that the system's principals and administrators needed professional enrichment, particularly with the sweeping NCLB law now setting the standard for K-12 education nationwide.
"I've been here eight weeks and I would guess Elizabethton City Schools is one year behind when it comes to No Child Left Behind," said Culver. "Kim has to go to a lot of them because she is the only one we have to send to an in-service."
The system has not yet filled the position of director of curriculum since Rondald Taylor resigned from the position in August.
The board voted 3-2 in June to modify the system's existing travel and expense policy, giving board members more oversight into the travel requests of central officer system administrators. Under the revised policy, the director of schools and system supervisors must have prior approval by the board of directors for travel. Armstrong, Bremer and Judy Richardson voted to approve the revised policy while Sams and Berry voted no. The school system's fiscal year 2004 budget cut $13,000 in travel expenditures from the general fund budget.
Bremer initially moved to approve the first travel request but amended the motion to table the vote until Culver talked to other board members. Armstrong voted against tabling the request, which effectively killed it since the motion needed three votes from the board to be approved.
Perhaps the biggest issue not discussed by board members Thursday night was the acceptance of resumes for the school's board next attorney. Patrick Hull will apparently not continue to serve as board attorney after the lucrative, but busy, 2002-2003 school year. The school system put out requests for proposals among law firms to select the board's next attorney in late August.
Elizabethton lawyers, Thomas R. Banks and Richard Z. Gray have submitted resumes and letters to Culver and the BOE indicating their interest in becoming the system's next attorney. Michael S. Lattier who served as the board's attorney from 1999-2002 is also looking to return.
Now with the Hunter, Smith and Davis law firm in Kingsport, Lattier submitted his resume and letter to the board and Culver this month. Lattier has practiced since 1987. He received a bachelor's degree and law degree from Louisiana State University.
The county's former judge of Juvenile and General Sessions courts, Gray, is a graduate of East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville College of Law. He was in private law practice for six years before being elected to the bench in 1990.
Banks is an alumnus of Milligan College and received his law degree from Harvard University. Banks served as the BOE's legal representation from 1995-1996. The firm also currently represents Milligan College and Emmanuel School of Religion.
The legal services fee schedule proposed by Banks, Gray, and Lattier was set at $125 per hour for professional services in their letters. Lattier and Elizabethton Mayor Sam LaPorte responded to the proposal request sent to him with a letter declining consideration as the board's next attorney.
Bremer recommended the decision of selecting an attorney should be made by the full board. In other action, the board approved 3-0 a contract with Nextel to provide 27 cellular telephones and services at an annual cost of $7,720.68. The contract calls for 23 direct connect phones and a pool of 3600 minutes.
The board also approved 3-0 the purchase of $17,493 in computer equipment for the Vocational Department of Elizabethton High School. The purchase includes 21 Dell computers to be used in the vocational department. The purchase is made possible through a state-awarded grant.