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Broughton cites communication in Sullivan school board victory

August 6th, 2012 1:42 am by Rick Wagner

KINGSPORT -- For Todd Broughton, it all boiled down to communication.

Broughton said his successful campaign for the Sullivan County Board of Education seat in District 3 -- the greater Bloomingdale area -- can be summed up in that one word.

Broughton defeated 28-year incumbent Jim Kiss in Thursday's election 1,085 to 808, according to unofficial results.

In other BOE races, District 1 incumbent Jack Bales fended off a challenge from Heather Price, District 5 challenger Randall Jones defeated Anissa Lyttle and incumbent Ron Smith, and District 7 incumbent Betty Combs defeated challenger Michael Hughes.

Broughton said the gist of his campaign was to help improve communication from the school district and BOE to parents, as well as improve how school board members and officials respond to questions and concerns of parents and the public.

"When they (the public) e-mail me, I will e-mail back. When they call me, I will call them back," Broughton said Thursday after the election results were revealed.

"I feel like there's been a big rift between the parents and the school board," Broughton said. "They (voters and parents) are looking for someone to repair that rift. Communication has been poor at best."

Kiss said Thursday night he had an inkling he might not win re-election, but he couldn't pinpoint a reason.

Smith, the board chairman, said voter apathy might have played a part in his defeat, since turnout was lower than his first two races. Smith had 499 votes compared to Jones with 1,051 and Lyttle with 618

"If they (constituents) disagreed with anything the school board has done, I haven't heard," Smith said. "People felt like it was time for a change."

Bales outpolled Price 1,124 to 960, while Combs had 862 votes versus 689 for Hughes.

Broughton, who has two children in the North zone, said he has no personal vendetta or dislike of Kiss.

"I think Jim Kiss is a fine man. I like Jim Kiss," Broughton said.

However, as examples of communication breakdowns, Broughton cited the system's decision to have North Middle and North High students in the same building and on the same schedule this year, as well as the BOE's short-lived decision earlier this summer to rezone more than 40 Orebank community students from Ketron Elementary to Central Heights Elementary.

Kiss cast the lone no vote against the Orebank rezoning, which the board at its next meeting voted 5-0 to reverse. But Broughton said Kiss could have done more to mobilize Orebank parents -- or at least inform them -- of the rezoning proposal.

"He knew that was on the agenda five to seven days before but chose to handle it himself" instead of getting parents notified and to the meeting, Broughton said.

"The Orebank situation was Gravely reincarnated," Broughton said of the BOE vote in February 2005 to close Gravely when closing Cedar Grove was on the agenda. That's the same year the BOE moved eighth-graders to North High.

Broughton also has questioned the expansion and renovation project that turned Ketron Intermediate into Ketron Elementary.

"A lot of parents are upset because the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are supposed to be kept separate," Broughton said of the North situation.

As for Ketron, he has repeatedly said the county system didn't get enough bang for its buck for the more than $15 million project funded by low-interest federal money.

Originally, Ketron was to be a K-8 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school, then the plan shifted to a 2-7 and it settled on a grades pre-K through 5.

As for getting his message out, Broughton said the social media network Facebook was a big help.

Hughes, who failed in his quest to take the seat held by incumbent Combs in the Bluff City area, also used Facebook.

Broughton, a North High graduate, has worked eight years at Eastman Chemical Co. as an engineering technician. He has a degree in electromechanical technology from Northeast State Community College and worked at Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin before working at Eastman.

Kiss retired from Eastman as an engineering technologist after 43 years there. He attended ETSU and has audited classes at Northeast State.

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