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Incumbent Wells, challenger Robinson square off in District 2 Sullivan school board race

Rick Wagner • Jul 14, 2018 at 7:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Political newcomer Paul Robinson and political veteran Dan Wells are vying for the District 2 Sullivan County school board seat in the Aug. 2 election.

Three-term incumbent Wells of Lynn Garden and challenger Robinson of Bloomingdale are seeking a four-year term on the seven-member Board of Education, which has three seats up for grabs this election cycle.

Robinson, 36, works for Eastman Chemical Co., while Wells, 68, is a retired insurance agent.

The Kingsport Times News asked each candidate three questions. Those questions and the candidates’ responses are below:

ROBINSON 

1. Should plans have been in place for an improved access road before the site for West Ridge High School was chosen and purchased?

YES! Studies should have been done on the roads leading to the new high school. In my opinion the school board should have done studies on bus routes and routes that teenagers could/would possibly be driving. From my house in Woodwinds, it’s 29 minutes to the site of the new high school. That’s taking Bloomingdale to John B. Dennis Highway, Fort Henry Drive and Interstate 81. There isn’t a good route to the new school. Then you need take into consideration how long these kids will be on school buses. If it’s 30 minutes for me to drive, it will easily be an hour-plus on a bus for some in our part of the county. They also should have taken into consideration that these buses will be on busy highways as well as narrow roads that some cars have trouble with when trying to pass another vehicle.

2. Why are you the best candidate for the seat you are seeking on the Board of Education?

I was born and raised in Bloomingdale. I attended Kingsley Elementary, Ketron Middle School and I am a 2001 graduate of Sullivan North High School. I still live in the community, where I have two children who attend schools that are affected by all the change. I have been very active in my community. I’ve coached basketball, T-ball, and softball as well as oversee the Bloomingdale Optimist Baseball/Softball program. I have seen what our current school board has done to District 2 and our community as a whole. I am one that will stand up for our kids, their education and safety, while trying to save our communities.

3. How could or should soured relations between the school board and County Commission be mended?

First the school board needs to apologize to the county commissioners for bringing them a incomplete plan that wasn’t ready and lacking in studies. Perhaps present options can be done now to fix the dispute. One option would be to have another vote on the location where the commissioners would also vote. Another option would be ax the new school plan and look at upgrading our current schools. There would be losses if this was done, but the communities have spoken. Perhaps the land on Lynn Road (BOE overpaid to start with) could be used for other things. Perhaps like a sports complex to bring money in for our county schools.

WELLS

1. Should plans have been in place for an improved access road before the site for West Ridge High School was chosen and purchased?

Regarding plans for an improved access road for the West Ridge High School site, as indicated by various proposals by the highway commission, the county had the obligation to build an access road in the spring of 2017. Sixteen of the commissioners voted for the resolution to apply for a state grant, which required the county to match the state and pay one-half of the cost. Until recently, there was no indication that the county would not build the road.

2. Why are you the best candidate for the seat you are seeking on the Board of Education?

I have served on the BOE for more than 12 years. The county has been faced with many crucial decisions during these years. Two facility studies have been conducted during this time. Both recommended that under-used facilities be closed. Due to declining enrollment caused by annexation and other issues, we have been forced to close many small and outdated schools during this time. I served as chairman of the BOE for four years, and I believe the master plan has us headed in the right direction. I have been involved in all of the planning for Sullivan East Middle School and West Ridge High School. I have a good understanding of the master plan, which will help set the direction of our schools for man years.

3. How could or should soured relations between the school board and County Commission be mended?

Relations between the school board and commission could be improved by better communications. There were miscommunications such as taking money from the school system after being assured that there were no plans to take money from the school budget. Also, the public was told taxes were being raised to pay for the school bond when the real plan was for the three school systems to repay the loan. Miscommunications such as these have led to a lack of trust between the school board and the commission. The relationship could be improved between the two groups by building trust and better communication.

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