Sullivan school board hires familiar face as building consultant

Rick Wagner • Oct 5, 2019 at 8:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Imagine taking a job as a replacement for a longtime leader who has retired and then having that person come back to work temporarily as a part-time consultant or employee.

That’s something Sullivan County Board of Education member Mark Ireson said has never worked out well for him in his career, something that will “muddy the waters.” At Thursday night’s BOE meeting, he questioned the wisdom of doing so with the school system’s current and immediate past top employees.

However, if the longtime leader is retired Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski, and the new director is David Cox, BOE Chairman Michael Hughes and Cox said it isn’t a problem and actually is a smart move. Given Rafalowski’s 42 years with the school system, four as director, and her intimate knowledge of the new Sullivan East Middle School and West Ridge High School under construction, both said it made perfect sense. Hughes added that he thought it only right to hire Rafalowski since Cox favors the idea.

Hughes and Cox must have been convincing Thursday. When the vote was taken, it was 7-0, with even Ireson voting to hire Rafalowski as a part-time consultant for the two school projects.

Hughes and Cox said Rafalowski will be paid between $1,000 and $1,500 for consulting work. The $20 million-plus middle school is to open in January of 2020, the $60 million-plus high school in August of 2021.

“She already serves in that capacity for free, and it hasn’t been a problem,” Hughes said. He added that she would be the “last person to try to interfere” with Cox overseeing the school system and the exception to the “rule” to which Ireson was referring.

“I’m absolutely more than comfortable with Mrs. Rafalowski,” Cox said. “She is a tremendous person.”

Hughes said Cox, most recently a superintendent in Maryland, has good experience with building new schools but that Rafalowski has knowledge of the schools nobody else has because of her involvement with their development.

“She knows the plans for these schools like the back of her hand,” Hughes said.

After the meeting, he told reporters the contract would last until the schools are completed or Rafalowski decided to retire again.

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