Armstrong, Berry sworn in to city school board

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   City school board incumbents Catherine Armstrong and Bob Berry took their oath of office for another four years on the Elizabethton School Board at a ceremony held in the city schools' administration building on Wednesday.
   "It's a very humbling feeling," Armstrong said. You really want to do a good job because the people have put their confidence in you." Armstrong said board members may not always see eye-to-eye on every issue, but were willing to listen and vote with their hearts.
   "I may not always vote with them, but I feel everybody is entitled to their own decisions," she said.
   Armstrong and Berry won reelection to the board in the city election held Nov. 5. Armstrong led the three candidate field, finishing with 2,721 votes, while Berry picked up 1,950 votes. Challenger William T. Hunt finished third with 1,540 votes.
   Berry and Armstrong will join school board members Dr. Jonathan Bremer, Judy Richardson, and Dr. Robert Sams when the new board meets for the first time in regular session on Nov. 21.
   "It is an honor to be reelected to be sworn back in, and I appreciate the voters and my supporters," said Berry who's daughter, Emilee, is a junior at Elizabethton High School.
   A retired teacher who spent over 40 years in the Elizabethton City Schools system, Armstrong will serve her second consecutive term on the board. Berry was appointed to the board in 1993 and won his third full term in this city election.
   "We have just a real good group there, and we have a wide variety of experience," said Berry of the school board. "We have Judy and Catherine coming from the side of teaching and Drs. Sams and Bremer bring their expertise in the medical field, which helps us with the insurance and health concerns."
   Superintendent of City Schools Dr. Judy Blevins recently completed her first year as director and expressed her contentment with the make-up of the board.
   "I am excited that we can continue in the same vein we have been working in as a board and as a director," said Blevins. "This board is always very open-minded and listens to all sides of an issue. They agree to disagree, but they work well together, and they present a united force of doing what they can for the betterment of the school system."
   Blevins said the administration had placed considerable focus on updating school facilities.
   She also noted the city's annexation policy could play a significant role in future issues facing the board -- including a potential need for a new elementary school if the system's student population began to swell.
   "We may have to consider rezoning depending on any future annexations," she said. "We could end up building a new elementary school based on annexation, but all that is tied to the state-mandated numbers of students you can have in a classroom."
   Berry serves as the board's sitting vice-chairman while Bremer is chairman. Those positions could change -- or remain the same -- when the board reorganizes officers at its next regular meeting.
   "I think we work well together, and we are not 'yes' people to each other," he said. "If two of us think this way about something, the other three don't just say 'yes' to go along with it. I just try to think of myself as just common sense with a business approach to put the children first."