Richardson ready for second term success on BOE

By Thomas Wilson
star staff
twilson@starhq.com

  Judy Richardson says her first term on the Elizabethton Board of Education has given her a wealth of experience that will help her during a second term.
  "I have learned a multitude of things that could help me in another term," Richardson told the Star during a candidate profile interview.
  Richardson, 345 Pine Hill Road, is seeking to retain her seat when three at large seats on the School Board come before voters in the Nov. 2 city election.
  Richardson was born and raised in Carter County. She taught school in the Carter County School System and Elizabethton City Schools for 32 years before her retirement. She was elected to her first term on the board in 2000.
  Among the system's accomplishments over the past four years, Richardson said she was proud of progress made on school facilities. Three new classrooms were added at Harold McCormick Elementary, two classrooms were built at West Side Elementary, and the construction of a new media center at T.A. Dugger Junior High School is nearing completion.
  Richardson's term also saw the system during times of enormous tumult. The Elizabethton City School system has had three superintendents, saw the entire upper echelon administrative staff depart, and underwent a public dispute between former superintendent Dr. Judy Blevins and high school principal Edwin Alexander. Despite the internal difficulties of the past 18 months, the system also met all federal benchmarks set forth under the controversial No Child Left Behind for the 2003-2004 school year.
  "The teachers work so hard to keep grades up," Richardson said. "Regardless of any upheaval, the teachers continue to keep things going smoothly at the schools."
  Richardson said her future goals included finding a permanent home for the Cyclone Center, which houses the system's Early Childhood Learning program. The system leased space from the Elizabethton Boys and Girls Club facility on Hudson Drive for the current school year. She also said overcrowding conditions at East Side Elementary also needed attention.
  "East Side is in need of classrooms in the next four years," Richardson said.
  Richardson was also pleased with negotiations between the school system and the Elizabethton Education Association regarding salary. Tennessee teachers received a 2 percent pay raise and a 1 percent one-time pay raise through the state's Basic Education Plan funding. The entire EEA contract with the school system will be up for renewal next year.
  "This is the first time the teachers have gotten two bonuses back to back," she said. "It shows that good things can happen.
  The board voted 3-2 changing the existing policy to require all requests for professional leave by central office administrators to be approved by the full school board. Central office personnel are frequently required by the state to attend various seminars if they are involved in administering special education or curriculum programs.
  Richardson voted in favor of the measure and said the vote came when the question of administrative leave was a major issue at the time. She said she favored oversight by the board, but also felt the request approval had gotten a little out of hand.
  "There were reasons that was put into effect," she said. "As far as voting, I think it could be done on a consent agenda and it would be way better."
  At their September meeting, school board members discussed altering the system's existing nepotism policy on hiring family members of the superintendent or board members into the school system. The board tentatively scheduled a discussion of the policy at its Oct. 21 meeting.
  Richardson said if an applicant had the best qualifications, he or she should have the opportunity, but added that she was not sure changing the policy would serve any great purpose.
  "We need to get the best people for the job," he said. "What I am interested in is getting the best person for the job."
  The School Board voted unanimously to hire Dr. David Roper as the system's new superintendent last year. Richardson said she was pleased with Roper's performance. Since taking over, Roper has realigned the central office personnel jobs and hierarchy.
  "I think he has done a really good job," she said.
  Richardson graduated from East Tennessee State University with a bachelor's degree in education. She and her late husband, Bill Richardson, have two children who both went through the city school system.