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Incumbent Hughes, challenger Paduch seek District 4 Sullivan BOE seat

Rick Wagner • Jul 18, 2018 at 9:00 PM

BLUFF CITY — The chairman of Sullivan County’s school board faces a challenge from a newcomer in the Aug. 2 nonpartisan election for the District 4 seat.

One-term incumbent Michael Hughes of Bluff City and challenger Derrick Paduch of Piney Flats are seeking a four year-term on the seven-member board. Three of seven seats are up for grabs. The four other seats will be on the 2020 ballot.

Early voting started July 13.

Hughes, 59, is a Teamsters representative for UPS workers, while Paduch, 50, is an insurance representative. Precincts for District 4 are Piney Flats, Bluff City, Buffalo and Hickory Tree.

The Kingsport Times News asked each candidate three questions. 

PADUCH

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

Plans and funding for all infrastructure should have absolutely been in place. There is a sewer problem at the new middle school site too. Having proper infrastructure is typically standard practice when starting a commercial building project. An application with TDOT (the Tennessee Department of Transportation) was submitted before the land was actually purchased. However, TDOT had not rendered a decision and in the end declined the application. This purchase should have been postponed until TDOT made their decision!

2. Why are you the best candidate for the seat you are seeking on the BOE?

I feel my business background and education is what the county needs at this time. There are two large construction projects that will take someone with more than just educational experience. I not only have been successful in sales, marketing and financial services but have had experience with commercial and residential construction projects including building my own residence here in Sullivan County. I have no family in the employment of the Sullivan County school system. This will allow me to make unbiased decisions within of the system. As a taxpayer and a parent, I have a vested interest in the success of Sullivan County Schools.

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

We need to be more interactive with the commission. Currently no one from the Board of Education or in a Supervisory position with the Sullivan County school system attends the commission’s Education Committee meetings. This would be a good start. The commission should have been much more involved in the land purchases. Going forward a construction manager that reports not only the school board but also to the mayor and commission would be a good ideal.

HUGHES

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

The school system handled the road issue correctly. Before the property was chosen or purchased we had dialog with county officials about the road options. We were told it was the county and highway department’s responsibility to build the access road. Additionally, it is not legal for the school system to build a public road, and it was not listed in the resolution as a responsibility of the school system. We were asked to choose the property before the County Commission voted so that they would know what piece of property they were voting for. This also gave them the opportunity to question the road issue. The Sullivan County School System has never built an access road to any of our schools. The County Commission has built all other access roads including the access road to Northeast State (Refer to the minutes on – January 17, 2000 Minutes). In this case the commission first agreed to pay one half the cost of the road then came back and agreed to pay the total cost of construction. The Highway Commissioner started on the road project immediately after the vote by the commission to a build the school. In the spring of 2017, 16 commissioners voted for the resolution to apply for a state grant that required the county to match the state and pay one half the cost of the project. It was only recently that the county indicated they would not build the road. When the commission voted to approve the school they knew the road was part of the project.

2. Why are you the best candidate for the seat you are seeking on the BOE?

I think I am the best candidate for the Board seat in the East zone for several reasons. I have lived my entire life in the East zone and I have a vested interest in our school system’s success. I graduated from Sullivan East High School and it gives me great pleasure to serve our community and make the improvements I have been able to make. The people in the East zone have shown great appreciation for these improvements but many more are deserved. Our students and communities deserve to be treated equally with the rest of the county. We have been patient, but it is past time we get improvements in our area. The last time we had a new school built in the East zone was 1966. I am proud that we will have a beautiful new middle school that will serve generations of students. I am also proud that we had 20 students at East High score 30 or higher on their ACT test this year and overall scores are improving as well. This success will continue. I have many more plans for improvements in the next four years. I can’t hide my patriot pride!

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

The relationship between the BOE and the Commission could be improved. Some of the issues that have caused disputes were due to important documents that were withheld from the BOE and most of the Commissioners. For example, we did not see the document that disclosed the county’s intentions to take money from the Sullivan County School System until November 27, 2017 almost one year after the vote to approve the school bond. The county assured us that there were no plans to take money from our budget prior to the vote (refer to Larry Bailey’s remarks in the Dec. 2, 2016 issue of the Kingsport Times). If the County takes the money they plan to take then they distributed more than 18 million dollars from the bond money to the cities incorrectly.

The public and the BOE were also misled when they we were told taxes were being raised for the school bond when the real plan was for the three school systems to repay the loan (refer to the mayor’s comments in the June 27, 2017 edition of the Kingsport Times Times). The Sullivan County School System will be required to pay up to $110 million toward the $140 million dollar bond if they have their way. Remember we only received $67,190,889.39 to begin with from that $140 million. I will provide the document referred to here to any interested party. This document includes a time stamp, a handwritten note and signature.

We were also told we had to hire a project manager, handpicked by the mayor, and split the cost with the county. The school system’s part was $65,000 per year until the project was completed. The total cost was $130,000 per year. The contract included language that gave this handpicked person total control of the project. This was also illegal so we refused (a case from Rutherford County can be referenced). The Sullivan County School Board is not subordinate to the Mayor. We will not agree to terms like this just to have a better relationship.

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