City BOE to review nepotism policy

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  The Elizabethton Board of Education plans to review the board existing policy on nepotism that could open the doors for the hiring of board members' families heretofore prohibited.
  Board members agreed at its monthly meeting on Thursday night to place the nepotism policy up for review when they meet in October. Board members said the pool of applicants seeking jobs within the system and not related to board members or system administrators was shrinking.
  "In our city, the family tree is large," ECS board member Bob Berry said.
  Current board policy prohibits nepotism, or hiring the family member of any sitting school board member or the superintendent.
  BOE Chairman Dr. Bob Sams produced a copy of the Carter County School System's nepotism policy that the city system could reference if a policy revision was considered.
  The county policy does not prohibit the hiring of family members of school board members and school administrators. The policy also permits hiring relatives of Carter County Commission members or any other elected county official. However, the county policy requires a person being considered for county school employment to make public his or her relationship to any county school board member or elected county official.
  "It could get very political," said Catherine Wooten Armstrong of a change in policy permitting the hiring of family members.
  The board began a review of board policies either new or revised under state law at its August meeting. The policy review portion of the meeting came under the board's regular agenda items.
  The most prevalent items on Thursday night's agenda were the number of professional leave requests for school system administrators to attend various education conferences around the state. The board approved 12 leave requests for administrative personnel to attend conferences with many requiring a system official to attend under state law.
   The requests - required for approval by the full board vote under a policy change adopted by the board earlier this year - seemed to irk Berry who referred to several items on the agenda as a joke.
  In other business, T.A. Dugger Junior High School Principal Regina Cates told board members construction of the new T.A. Dugger Media Center building is moving forward. The media center construction costs are estimated at $262,000.
  "We are really excited about that," said Cates.
  Parents and teachers of East Side Elementary School who attended the meeting were also excited, but for a far different reason. The school is operating three kindergarten classes for the 2004-2005 school year after incoming student population swelled.
   "We are concerned that our school is very overpopulated," said Mona Evans, parent of a student attending East Side.
  The higher enrollment forced the use of classrooms previously dedicated to other educational subjects. Evans said the students were lacking resources needed for art and music with the cramped school conditions.
  "We no longer have an art room; we no longer have a music room, and our computer lab is now in the library."
  East Side's enrollment has expanded in recent years with more than 230 students attending classes in the 2003-2004 school year. ECS Superintendent Dr. David Roper said system and school officials had to scramble to accommodate the rise in students this year.
  "We are keenly aware and concerned about the situation," he said. "Our kindergarten numbers were certainly up and we had to adjust that accordingly."
  West Side Elementary has seen a marginal decrease in student enrollment. Harold McCormick Elementary has the largest student enrollment, but the school has undergone expansion for space in recent years.
  Roper also announced the resignation of Cynthia Roberts, long-time ECS director of finance. Roberts' last day will be Oct. 1 after several years as the system's financial manager.
  "We are going to miss Cynthia," Roper said.