BUTT, Where will they sit; Bleacher Cost questioned?


Family Liaison Dewayne Arp (l) attends meeting. Lisa Russell (r) tries to share concerns about Bleacher Report. Larry Proaps, forefront.

School Board's Image needs a Make Over!

By: Pat Hunter

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At the July 7, 2008, Budget Committee meeting, Greenback Commissioner Bob Franke inquired about the status of bleacher repairs at Greenback School. Greenback School received a life safety deficiency of its bleachers but it appears that it was Loudon High School that was slated to receive $175,000 in bleacher repairs. Franke was re-assured by Assistant School Director Gil Luttrell that the money allocated was sufficient to repair all four schools including Greenback School.


Marcus Calls for Protocol; Parent Silenced!


At the June 30, 2008, Special Called School Board meeting, public discussion was cut short before all the facts could come to light about the bleacher repairs and the costs difference.  


Greenback parent Lisa Russell had obtained the Bleacher Inspection Report earlier that same day from Leo Bradshaw, County Maintenance Director, which was originally prepared by Dave Hemelright, School Board Facilities Maintenance Coordinator.  The School Board was about to approve $175,763 when Russell tried to explain how the bleacher costs was more but nobody seemed to listen or want to investigate  her concerns. The agenda was missing public comment at the beginning of the meeting.


Written on the cover page of the Bleacher Report was the number $197,376.20. But upon careful examination however, there was only one problem; the $197,376 didnít seem to cover the bleachers at Greenback School. If you add the Greenback Bleachers cost, then the total repair cost grew to nearly $300,000. 


School Board member Leroy Tate made the motion to approve $175,763 for bleacher repairs and $530,000 for roof repairs, bringing the Capital Budget to over $700,000. Russell asked Chairman Johnson if the School Board would correct the amount to reflect $197,000 when Board member Bill Marcus requested that Chairman Bobby Johnson, Jr., follow proper protocol to silence Russell. Johnson agreed with Marcus.


School Board members Leroy Tate, Chairman Bobby Johnson, Jr., and June Klinstiver made various comments about the contradiction in cost and how the public had more information than the School Board. Leroy Tate spoke about being embarrassed because the costs differed. Long story short, the School Board went ahead and voted however will the $175,763 be sufficient to fix the bleachers at all schools?


Tate, Johnson and other School Board members it seems had forgotten how the bleacher cost of nearly $300,000 was discussed at the June 12th School Board meeting!


$300,000 Bleacher Cost discussed at June 12th Meeting

But Board members forget by next meeting!


At the June 12th school board meeting, a motion and second was made to approve the revised FY 08-09 Capital Projects Budget when Chairman Bobby Johnson, Jr.,  asked for discussion by the School Board.  Leroy Tate asked if it was to replace the bleachers at Loudon High School. There was a price earlier of almost $300,000, Tate commented, how did it get so cheap? Are we just doing parts of it, Tate asked.


Former School Director Edward Headlee addressed Tate's concerns.  He felt that it was probably to replace any boards that were cracked or broken and hardware. Headlee said that it was based on an inspection conducted by a bleacher company. 


Bleacher Report and quotes by school, pdf


North Middle $32,133.40  

Loudon High School $132.117.80   

Ft. Loudon Middle School $33,137.40   

Greenback School  $97,341.00       

TOTAL on front page: $294,717.60

Does not include electrical work, electrical work additional at $75 per hour.  


What's going on, School Board asks?


Chairman Bobby Johnson, Jr., spoke about looking like ďidiotsĒ because the Board was voting on thousands of dollars when information provided to the Board was contradictory and it looked like the School Board didnít seem to know what they were doing!  Well said, Chairman Johnson.


This isnít the first time that Russell questioned the School Board about the cost of repairs. At the June 12th BOE meeting, she inquired about the accuracy of roof repairs costs. Russell said that she had requested copies of roof repair costs that were much higher than what the Board was about to approve.


Later at the June 30 BOE meeting, the School Board then amended the cost of roof repairs to reflect the higher amount of $530,000, which was referenced by Russell. Mayor Arp and the Budget Committee also questioned the accuracy of the school roof repair costs.


Chairman Bobby Johnson, Jr., wanted to know how the $175,000 amount came to be but he received no real answers. If the School Board received bad information who is responsible?


Why didn't the School Board ask Dave Hemelright to attend the Board meetings to address the bleachers and roof cost estimate issues? Hemelright is the maintenance coordinator for the School Board in charge of making sure that the maintenance of all schools is completed on a timely basis and of obtaining information for the School Board.


Since the original request was made for Loudon High School by the principal, was this the only school that was going to receive bleacher repairs before Russell started asking questions?        


School Board's PR Dilemma


Voting to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars without proper documentation just adds to credibility and accountability issues. Could this be the reason why the School Board has decided for two of its employees hired for other purposes to now devote part of their time and energy to Public Relations (PR), improving the School Boardís image and trying to spin good news and bury bad news?