Hunt dissatisfied with BOE methods

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  William T. "Sonny" Hunt believes the Elizabethton Board of Education needs a shakeup of personnel and a renewed emphasis on education over politics.
  "The system needs to get its feet under it and get back to the business of educating children," said Hunt during a recent candidate profile interview with the Star.
  Hunt, 411 East K St., is seeking one of three at large seats to the Elizabethton Board of Education in the Nov. 2 city election. Hunt taught mathematics and later served as a guidance counselor in the city system before retiring from the system. He has been the public address announcer at high school football and basketball games for 25 years.
  The voice of the Cyclones says he wants his voice heard for teachers and students.
  "I know this system, and I think I know a lot about the inner workings of this system," Hunt said.
  The Elizabethton City School system has seen a revolving door of administrators during the past three years; three superintendents have held the office, and an entire upper echelon administrative staff departed during the past 15 months following a messy and very public dispute between former superintendent Dr. Judy Blevins and EHS Principal Edwin Alexander.
  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.
  Hunt said he favored the board reviewing travel destinations of administrators as a means of keeping board members apprised of their work and issues affecting the system.
  "I think it is a very wise policy," Hunt said of the travel review by the BOE. "Travel is a very big expense in the budget."
  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 education members. The current policy forbids any immediate family member of the superintendent or board member from being hired as a school system employee.
  Hunt opposed an alteration of the policy opening the door for school administrators to hire family members. He said the system needed to improve tapping surrounding colleges and universities for education graduates. He also said he found discussion of the changing the policy rather interesting.
  "It is a policy that should not be changed -- I am somewhat concerned as to why this has come up," Hunt said. "I think we do a very poor job of recruiting."
  The school system met all federal benchmarks set forth by the No Child Left Behind legislation. Hunt credited the system's success to the system's teachers. He also noted that despite turmoil in the system, the system's students and teachers continued to do exemplary work.
  "We have a very good system," he said. "That is largely due to the fact that we hired good people and allowed them to do a good job."
  As a career educator and student counselor, Hunt said the system needed to do a better job preparing students for either a vocation or college. He felt the system's vocational program needed improvement as did college preparatory course offerings. He also felt the board should improve its communication with the public.
  "We do not do an adequate job of informing the public about many things," he said. "I think this board has been very closed-mouthed about many things."
  Hunt grew up in Elizabethton graduating from EHS in 1957 and from East Tennessee State University in 1962. He later served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Vietnam and Laos. He is married to the former Charlotte Graves.
  Hunt said his experience and desire to right what he felt was an off-course board made him a good candidate for the board.
  "I can devote the time needed to do a good job," Hunt said. "And I think I can do a better job."