Bellamy believes board needs focus back on education

By Thomas Wilson
star staff
twilson@starhq.com

  Patricia Bellamy believes the Elizabethton Board of Education needs a shakeup of personnel and re-emphasis on education over politics.
  Bellamy, 811 Johnson Ave., is seeking one of three at large seats to the Elizabethton Board of Education in the Nov. 2 city election.
  "I have been keeping up with some of the issues," Bellamy told the Star during a recent candidate profile interview. "Being a resident, I feel I would be bringing a lot of experience to the board."
  Bellamy says she's interested in restoring the board's focus on the students and teachers. She has worked in the field of human resources department at East Tennessee State University for more than 25 years.
  She and her husband, Paul Bellamy, have three children and one grandchild. Bellamy said her children frequently recalled the positive impact ECS teachers had on their lives when they were going through the system.
  "If we have quality teachers, the students will look back and remember which teachers taught them the most," Bellamy said.
  Bellamy said she was aware of the turmoil the Elizabethton City School system had endured in recent years. The system has seen three superintendents in the past three years, an entire upper echelon administrative staff departed during the past 15 months, and a messy and very public dispute between former superintendent Dr. Judy Blevins and EHS Principal Edwin Alexander.
  Bellamy said the turmoil created a bad situation for the school system and a negative impact on students and teachers.
  "Personally, it was embarrassing to have a school system that was supposed to have professional people acting this way," Bellamy said. "I feel they need to put that behind them and get on with educating the students."
  The board spilt 3-2 in a vote giving the board approval authority over all requests for leaves made by the superintendent or central office administrators. The state requires attendance by school system administrators over programs such as special education, and curriculum.
  Bellamy said she supported the board reviewing and approving travel destinations of administrators. She said travel policy review was common practice in the university setting at ETSU where she and other colleagues were also required to attend seminars and education courses.
  "Anytime you are dealing with dollars, you need to get that approved," she said.
  During a review of existing system policies at the board's September meeting, board members hinted at possibly reviewing the system's existing nepotism policy about hiring family members of the superintendent or board of educations members. The current policy forbids any immediate family member of the superintendent or board member from being hired as a school system employee.
  Bellamy said she understood some positions could be difficult to fill when searching for a qualified candidate, but added making nepotism an accepted policy could be dicey.
  "The hiring of family members can get messy," Bellamy said.
  Bellamy cited four areas she wanted to improve: the quality of education for students; support the quality of teachers; maintain and strengthen the leadership of system administration; and inspire more parents to become involved in school issues.
  The school system met all federal benchmarks set forth by the No Child Left Behind legislation. Bellamy credited the system's success to the system's teachers. She also said the system needed to do a better job in preparing students for either a vocation or college.
  "We have high school students who cannot write a decent paper," she said. "We've got a great school system, but there are still some issues."
  Bellamy was born and raised in Elizabethton. She graduated from the last class at the Douglas School in 1965 before integration of black and white students in city schools. She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from ETSU.
  Bellamy also said she sought to improve the climate of diversity for the school system. She said the opportunities now afforded her children fueled her determination to lead the city's education system to be its very best.
  "I am thankful I have the opportunity to do a lot of things," she said. "This is my home, and I am going to do my best to be fair and honest with all people and see that all we do comes with respect and fairness."