On the heels of recent criticism about travel expenditures Eugene Lawson, board of education chairman, opened the door for an explanation.
When Lawson questioned Dr. Michael Martin, director of schools, about the trips in question, Martin was ready with the answer.
“Who paid for the trip to Seattle?” Lawson asked.
“You have asked the right question,” Martin said with a grin.
“I don’t want people to think we are trying to sweep anything under the rug,” Lawson continued.
In response to Lawson’s question, Martin informed the group the trip that was an integral part of the work on the High School Redesign grant was funded entirely by grant money.
“The grant defined the positions of the people required to participate on the (high school redesign) team. I spent the money exactly how they told me,” Martin said.
Lawson also asked Martin for an explanation concerning the recent requests for increases in the travel budgets of both board members and school system employees.
“I requested the board be involved in lots of TSBA (Tennessee School Board Association) things and we have had better participation this year,” Martin said explaining the current travel budget had been based on the budget of the previous year. “We have to pay employees when they move from site to site,” the director said commenting on the necessary increases for school system employees.
Several board members raised questions about capital projects they are pushing for their districts.
Board member Homer Rutherford requested information from Mark Randolph, of Michael Brady, Inc., regarding the progress in getting air conditioning for the LaFollette Middle School auditorium.
According to Randolph, a moisture problem stemming from the building’s roof must be addressed before the air conditioning equipment can be installed. Randolph said estimates for replacing the buildings roof have come in at around $50,000.
Rutherford expressed disappointment that the unforeseen expense would likely derail the project, but indicated he would continue to push for the improvements.
Board member Bo Buckner also had questions for Randolph. When Buckner asked how soon earth could start being moved at the proposed site for the Jellico Elementary School football field there was more bad news.
Randolph explained that a number off hoops would need to be cleared including providing a survey and site plan for approval by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
The status of the former East LaFollette Elementary School building also arose during the meeting.
“What I can tell you is we are out of there,” Martin said giving board members a run down of where the various programs have been relocated.
While there was some concern about losing students from the alternative school due to the long commute to Ridgewood, Martin said there has not been a decline in attendance.
In other discussion concerning the dilapidated East LaFollette building, board member Mark A. Wells suggested the board get a cost estimate on tearing down the unusable portion of the old school so it could be a viable option for future use. Board members voted in favor of exploring this option.