Blevins hopes to make school system even better

By Bob Robinson
STAR staff

   The new director of Elizabethton City Schools has responsibilities comparable to a chief executive officer (CEO) of a large corporation.
   Dr. Judy Blevins oversees a $13 million operating budget, more than $1 million in physical assets, and a workforce of 315 serving 2227 students.
   For the past 21 years, Dr. Blevins has been a teacher at Keenburg and West Side Elementary Schools, Elizabethton High School, and director of federal projects and assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction with Elizabethton City Schools.
   Dr. Blevins believes these experiences, plus her desire to encourage students to excel for the competitive business world, helped prepare her for the undaunting task of CEO for Elizabethton City Schools.
   What do you believe is the biggest obstacle facing you as director of schools?
   "I don't see a big obstacle that I can identify at this time. I am fortunate to have already been a part of this school system. I know the administrators, faculty and staff," Dr. Blevins said.
   One of her major functions this past year was to chair interview sessions for new staff positions. "I believe it is important to hire high quality, competent teachers. I have the utmost confidence in our present staff.
   "I do see a bleak funding situation developing at the state level, however, and this could impact programs and quality of education within the Elizabethton School System," Dr. Blevins said.
   Extended contract monies for remedial and enrichment programs, serving about one-half of the student population, could be adversely affected, according to Dr. Blevins.
   What are your immediate plans as the new director of schools?
   "To have a smooth and orderly transition from assistant director to director and continue doing both jobs to the best of my ability until an assistant director is hired.
   "Hopefully, a contract will be worked out with the school board within the next few days and we can proceed with posting the assistant director's position," Dr. Blevins said.
   The assistant director's position will be posted for 10 days and will also be on the school board's Web site.
   All school personnel who are interested in applying for the position should send a letter of intent to the director's office and interviews will be arranged, according to Dr. Blevins.
   "I anticipate that within the next 30 days, or sooner, we will have the assistant director on board," Dr. Blevins said.
   Will you be visiting each school to meet with teachers and staff?
   "Yes. I will be making arrangements with the principal at each school within the coming weeks to attend one of their faculty meetings. I already visit the schools frequently and know the staff very well," Dr. Blevins added.
   Elizabethton City Schools/Principals
Elizabethton High School/Edwin Alexander
   T.A. Dugger Junior High/Richard Culver
   East Side Elementary/Rondald Taylor
   Harold McCormick Elementary/John Hutchins
   West Side Elementary/Rick Wilson
   Cyclone Center (preschool)/Kathy Berry

   What are your feelings about negotiations?
   "I think it is wonderful that management, representing the Elizabethton Board of Education, and the Elizabethton Education Association, representing member teachers, can have an open and free dialogue and discuss options which may provide optimal working condition for our teachers. I will do everything possible for our teachers.
   "Historically, both groups have had an excellent working relationship. Much of our contract information is available to our staff prior to negotiation because our budget must be presented to the city by early February-March," Dr. Blevins said.
   What importance do you place on standardized test scores?
   "The school system is judged on standardized test scores and accountability is at an all-time high. Test results and material used to prepare students for the test are important but should not be the only method of assessment.
   "I think we have to look at educational system accomplishments in other areas, such as a high graduation rate, large number of graduates attending college, high writing assessments, and the number of students participating in extracurricular activities, sports and band. It is great to have high standards but one test one day should not be the sole criterion of success or failure," Dr. Blevins said.
   What is your short-term and long-range vision for the Elizabethton School System?
   "Short term, to complete several facility projects, including the Harold McCormick gym and the T.A. Dugger Junior High School Media Center and elevator.
   "Long term, to remove 'mediocrity' from our mindset and standards for our students and staff. We are already a school of choice. We want Elizabethton City Schools to be a school system that prepares our students to compete against all other students across the nation," Dr. Blevins added.
   You have extensive grant writing experience. Will you continue to seek grants as vigorously in your new administration?
   "Yes. We will continue to apply for the same grants we have now and always look for additional ways to expand educational opportunities for our students," Dr. Blevins said.
   What importance do you place on band and athletics?
   "Extracurricular activities are extremely important. Sometimes the activity a student participates in defines them and their role as an important member of the student body.
   "Through these activities, students learn the importance of working together and being a team player. Some rise to leadership roles from these experiences. Above all, they get a glimpse of how they can be an integral part of their school and this same process is replicated in society.
   "One of the most important things we as educators want is to help our students become positive, productive citizens," Dr. Blevins said.
   What message would you like to send to students in the Elizabethton School System?
   "I know a lot of students, personally, because I taught school for several years. I think all my students know that I wanted them to 'do the best that they can.' Do not compete with others, but compete with yourself. Set goals and achieve them.
   "They are blessed to be in such a wonderful environment where teachers and principals truly care and look after them. They may not realize it now, but they sure are lucky to have so many people who care," Dr. Blevins added.
   What message would you like to send to parents with students in the Elizabethton School System?
   "The faculty and staff of the Elizabethton School System wants the very best for your child. As a classroom teacher, I used to seek divine guidance each morning that I would treat each child the way that I would want my own child to be treated and that I would have the wisdom to know what to do to help each and every child in my classroom. I expect to continue that practice in this position as well.
   "I know that you can't make everyone happy at all times but I want parents to know that for each and every decision made in this education system, the focus will always be based on what is in the best interest of the children of Elizabethton.
   "I will always have an open door to listen to concerns of parents and appreciate the kind words of encouragement and community support, the many notes, letters and cards that I have received over the years and continue to receive," Dr. Blevins said.
   "It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve as director of Elizabethton City Schools. It is my desire to make a great school system even better.
   "With students, parents, teachers and staff working together, anything is possible," Dr. Blevins added.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Contract negotiations between Dr. Judy Blevins and the Elizabethton School Board are underway. On Sept. 27, the board, unanimously, voted to appoint Dr. Blevins the new director of schools.)