Sullivan BOE candidates speak to Republican Women

Rick Wagner • Jul 11, 2018 at 11:42 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Candidates in two of the three Sullivan County school board races on the Aug. 2 ballot appeared before the county Republican Women’s Club Tuesday night, promoting their candidacies and platforms.

Over remnants of a Pizza Plus buffet in downtown Blountville, District 4 incumbent and  Board of Education Chairman Michael Hughes of Hickory Tree and newcomer Derrick Paduch of Piney Flats addressed the group.

The two will square off in the Piney Flats, Bluff City, Buffalo and Hickory Tree polling places in the election, for which early voting starts Friday. Also appearing Tuesday were District 6 newcomers Gee Gee Hillman of Blountville and Randall Gilmore of Bristol, who will compete to replace Jerry Greene, who is not seeking re-election. Precincts are Blountville, Avoca and Anderson.

District 2 incumbent Dan Wells of Lynn Garden and challenger Paul Robinson of Bloomingdale did not appear.


“I love children. That’s my first priority,” said Hillman, a member of the club who has taught in Sullivan County almost 40 years, coming back as a substitute after retirement in 2012. “I plan to visit every school in Sullivan County,” 38-year third grade teacher Hillman said, and to “work, listen and learn.” She said board members set visions and goals for the school district, policies, hire the director, approve a budget and manage collaborative conferencing with teachers’ group.

Gilmore, who has taught or been principal in all four high school zones of the system over 23 years, said he would visit all the schools, too. He is retired and coached 12 of those years at the high school or middle school levels. He is director of teacher education at King University and an assistant professor of education. His wife and a son are teachers, while another son is seeking a doctorate in Old Testament studies. He said teachers don’t have fun as much and that hurts them and students.

“It’s great Mrs. Hillman is running because I don’t think you can lose,” Gilmore said.


Hughes, a lifelong Sullivan County resident who works for the Teamsters Union representing UPS employees, said he helps manager a $7 million pension fund and a $40 million health and wellness fund. “Each member has one vote,” said Hughes, who is nearing the end of a four-year term. “Other than to make policy and hire the director, our authority is limited.” He said he helped get new math materials adopted and allow teachers to use outside materials.

As for “fun,” Hughes said teachers don’t have much “because we evaluate them endlessly” and that those scores don’t always tell the full story and state lawmakers need to hear that. “More power needs to come back to our local school boards,” he said. He also touted a focus on career technical education.

Paduch, an insurance representative who has lived in the county 15 years, said his background is in building, construction, sales and marketing.

He said he is “for the taxpayers” and that the system spent $4 million combined on the high school and middle school sites that should have cost $2 million. He said his priorites were wise spending of money, bringing an anti-drug program back into the schools and career technical education. He said he supports a draft bill proposed by state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, that would lessen teaching to the test.

“I’m a good listener,” Paduch said. “I’m just here for the people, to run for the taxpayers, run for the students.”

Paduch quizzed Hughes on why an extra 15-acre parcel was need for the new Sullivan East Middle School, asking if it was for an elementary school. Hughes said that is a possibility for the whole site but that future sports fields for the nearby East High likely would be placed there later.

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