Two Kingsport BOE members slam BMA over MeadowView director's appointment to board

Matthew Lane • Jul 10, 2012 at 10:46 AM

KINGSPORT — Filling a vacant seat on the Kingsport Board of Education is typically done with little fanfare or controversy.

Not so Tuesday night, as two members of the BOE took issue with how Mayor Dennis Phillips and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen filled the vacant seat, calling the move a “complete lack of respect for another public body.”

BOE member Cheryl Harvey resigned last week in light of her husband, Kim Harvey, being tapped as the new principal of Sevier Middle School.

Cheryl Harvey, a work force development manager at Eastman Chemical Co., was first elected to the BOE in 2009 and would have been up for re-election next year. Per city charter, a vacancy on the BOE is to be filled by a majority vote of the BMA, to serve until the next city election.

During a BMA work session Monday afternoon, Phillips recommended Andy King to fill the vacancy. King is the executive director of the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center and has served on numerous boards within the city during his eight years living in Kingsport.

The BMA was receptive to the recommendation, and the matter was on the board’s regular agenda Tuesday night. When asked to speak, BOE members said they would do so after the BMA voted to appoint King, which they did unanimously.

Following the vote, BOE member Carrie Upshaw, also elected in 2009, took issue with Phillips’ comment Monday afternoon that the BOE needed more diversity and a non-educator, business-type person on the board.

“We have four members — a dentist, an engineer, a medical technologist and a former educator,” Upshaw said, adding if the public wants more diversity on the BOE, they have the right to exercise that choice.

Susan Lodal, veteran member and former chair of the BOE, said in years past when a vacancy occurred on the board, the BMA asked the BOE for a recommendation. In those instances, the BOE recommended a former member for the vacancy.

“We did not expect it to be different this time,” Lodal said.

According to Lodal, BOE Chair Randy Montgomery recommended a former BOE member to Phillips last week to fill the vacancy, and Phillips said nothing would be official until the BOE met during its regular meeting Tuesday evening.

Phillips said after the meeting there was no agreement made in this regard.

Lodal continued by saying she received an e-mail from Phillips on Saturday regarding the King recommendation and by Monday had received three e-mails from other BMA members recommending King.

“Our input was not considered at all,” Lodal said, adding the BOE did not vote on a recommendation Tuesday night because it was a “useless exercise.”

The BMA did not respond to either Upshaw or Lodal during the public comment section of the meeting.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Montgomery said the name he gave to Phillips was former BOE member Pat Turner.

Phillips told the Times-News he sent an e-mail to BOE members last week, asking for names to fill Harvey’s seat. He said if any good names were proposed, they would have been considered by the BMA, even including at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’m not anti-school board or anti-education. We’re all in this together,” Phillips said.

Phillips said he does not believe that it is critical at this time to have a replacement with previous BOE experience.

“The two most important things the BOE does, much like the BMA, is appoint a superintendent and approve a budget. Both of those have been done,” Phillips said. “I don’t see why it’s so important for that one member to have previous experience at this time.”

Vice Mayor Tom Parham explained his diversity comments made Monday afternoon.

“No disrespect to the current school board. Diversity comes in a lot of different ways, and my thought was nudging someone — coming from the outside — would make a good school board even better,” Parham said.

In other business Tuesday night, the BMA gave final approval to the annexation of a 17-acre strip of commercial property and one house along John B. Dennis Highway, essentially across the street from Pal’s Sudden Service and south of Brookside Elementary School.

The vote was unanimous, and the property will officially become a part of the city in 30 days.

The annexation includes a gas station, grocery store, car wash and 150 feet of Morelock Street. According to the city’s planning department, this city-initiated annexation includes five residents in one house and one trailer and no school-age children.

The one-time cost associated with the annexation includes $20,000 for sewer line work and $5,000 for two fire hydrants. Kingsport is projecting $23,700 in annual property taxes from the annexation. The average city taxes for property in this annexation area is just under $1,400.

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