Changing of the guard

David Jones, left, outgoing Chairman of the Hancock Co. Board of Education shakes hands with newly elected Chairman Jack Mullins, right, following the board’s Sept. 5 meeting. Jones was elected as the new Vice Chairman of the board, while BOE member Hugh Kyle Livesay was chosen as the new Clinch-Powell representative. The new officers will serve during the 2019-2020 school year.

SNEEDVILLE — In its annual reorganization, members of the Hancock Co. Board of Education last week selected new officers.

Elected at the Sept. 5, 2019 meeting as Chairman for the 2019-20 school year was Jack Mullins, who replaces the outgoing David Jones.

Newly elected as Vice Chair is Jones, and, as the Clinch-Powell Representative, Hugh Kyle Livesay.

Director of Schools Tony Seal thanked Jones for his leadership over the past year.

“I just want to take just a minute to say thank you for allowing me to be chairman this year,” Jones said prior to the vote. “Its been special.”

“Thank you for serving, David,” Seal said. “I appreciate everything you’ve done.”

“It is a privilege being allowed to serve as chairman of this board,” Mullins said after being chosen and taking his seat at the head of the table. “The challenges that this system faces, along with several others in this country, are many, and working as a member of the board, trying to make things better for our students, for our teachers, for ourselves as a board, and for our administration, I’m looking forward to working for changes that need to be made, to improve things, and making those things happen,” he said.

In business matters, the board:

• Approved various routine budget amendments.

• Declared as surplus old desks that have been taken out of classrooms over the course of many years.

Director Seal said he had been contacted by an Amish settlement below Knoxville that would like to have the desks.

“They are not any benefit to us,” he said. “They’re sitting around everywhere and we need to get rid of them,” Seal said. “Some of them have been under the old rock building for years. We’re never going to use them.”

Many of the desks, he said, are in bad shape, and many are just “pieces” of desks.

The board approved declaring the desks — and about 25 old car seats — as unneeded surplus and eligible for disposal.

• Seal said that the extensive project to modernize electrical and plumbing components of local schools through an agreement with Johnson Controls is moving forward, with most of the heating and air conditioning equipment now in the state and just awaiting final approval for installation.

• Seal also reported that bids for three new buses are out.

• Discussed setting policy regarding how to handle the metal detector at Hancock Co. High School.

“I was up there this morning and we did all the riders, all the drivers on one bus this morning and we got done at 8:30,” Seal said. “Is this something we want to try to do on daily basis, or what do we want to do?”

Seal said that the task will require at least two people checking backpacks outside before the students walk through the device inside.

The board, Seal said, needs to be thinking about whether it wants to use the metal detector daily or just on a random basis.

One thing that other school systems are going to, and may need to be considered in Hancock County, are clear “see through” backpacks, which makes inspections easier and less time-consuming.

“If we’re going to do that, we need to pass that and do it now for next (school) year,” Jones commented. “That gives them from now until next year to come up with that clear backpack.”

Funding for the backpacks could be an issue, Seal said.

“Are we going to expect the kids to buy them or are we going to try to get some money from somewhere through a safety grant to purchase those?” Seal asked.

Chairman Mullins suggested taking a look at what other school systems, of a similar size as Hancock Couty, are doing in that regard, and discussing it at the board’s October meeting.

Other systems, Seal said, are randomly scanning certain buses on certain days, all riders one day, and some smaller schools are doing all students every day.

One board member said, however, that it would “never work” to try and scan all students and personnel every day.

“The schedule’s gonna go backwards, quickly,” Mullins commented.

“It’s just time consuming,” Seal agreed. “We just need to come up with a plan.”

One thing to consider, he said, is that if the electronic scanning is done at random, that could be a deterrent to anyone bringing an illegal weapon or other contraband to school because they won’t know what day to expect it.

• Seal advised the board that the school system is losing students.

“We’ve lost 15 students since school started,” he said. “We are down to 920 right now.”

Some of the students have gone to Christian schools while others are being homeschooled, he said.

The problem, however, is not unique to Hancock County, as school systems across the region — including neighboring Hawkins County and the independent Rogersville City School — are seeing decreases in enrollment for those same reasons and because many families are having fewer children.

• Seal reported that a student who experienced a seizure on a bus that morning was “doing good”.

The junior, who reportedly does not have a history of seizures, was attended to by other students on the bus while driver Chris Seal put his flashers on and drove to the Emergency Room of Hancock Co. Hospital.

The board was unanimous in expressing its appreciation to the driver and the student who assisted the young lady who was having the medical emergency.

Seal said that emergency room staff called later to tell him what a good job the driver and students did.

“Things like that just make you proud,” he said.

• In a final action, the board voted unanimously to approve amended policies relating to school board members’ duties as recommended by the Tennessee School Boards Association.

The board’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3 in the Director of Schools’ office.

Also attending the Sept. 5 meeting were BOE members Jeff Stapleton, Carl Reed, Freddie Mullins, Dennis Holt, and Finance Director Brenda Dalton