More than half of seats being contested

Big changes could be in the works after unusually stormy year

Hugh G. Willett,

There could be some big changes on the Loudon County school board after the Aug. 7 general election.

Six of the 10 seats on the board, including those in the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th districts, are being contested in an unusually turbulent year during which the board has battled over everything from busted budgets to broken-down buildings.

In the 1st District, which includes the city of Loudon, only one of two seats is being contested. Seat A, currently held by Bill Marcus, is being challenged by Loudon Elementary Parent Teacher Organization president Wendy Baustian.

In recent budget meetings, Marcus stood up for pay raises for teachers. He also voted to support the proposed $50 wheel tax to fund school improvements.

Baustian has children in the school system and is a small-business owner. Overcrowding at Loudon Elementary School and better long-range planning for capital projects are top priorities, she said.

The 3rd District includes Greenback, a community that might be called the poster child for the maintenance and safety problems that have plagued the county's schools.

Greenback native Larry Bass, the incumbent, is challenged by parent and activist Lisa Russell.

Bass, who supports the wheel tax, has been an advocate for the building of a new prekindergarten-to-12 school in Greenback. He said he is tired of the delays and arguments over funding that have come at the expense of children in Greenback.

Russell, who has four children in Greenback schools, has lobbied the school board and the fire marshal's office for maintenance and safety improvements in Greenback. She also feels that her background in accounting will be useful in budget deliberations.

In the 5th District, both Seats A and B are up for grabs.

Freddie Gene Walker, the incumbent in Seat A, is a longtime school board member known for his frequent protest votes against wasteful spending or improper protocol. He was the only board member to vote against supporting the proposed wheel tax, which also is on the ballot Aug. 7.

Walker is challenged by University of Tennessee professor of education Gary Ubben, who said his priorities would include improving communication with the county commission.

During the recent school director search, Ubben was the only school board candidate, other than current board members, to attend all the public hearings as well as the question-and-answer sessions that were part of the selection process.

Chris Clabough also is challenging Walker for Seat A. Clabough is an employee of Lenoir City Utilities Board. He said he is concerned that the school board is not addressing critical issues such as overcrowding, poor maintenance and mismanagement of public funds.

Seat B in the 5th District currently is held by June Klinstiver, a career educator who said she believes instruction should prepare each child to be able to compete in a society as an adult and to live a life of service.

Klinstiver is facing Van Shaver, a former county commissioner who believes in tight controls over school spending and transparency in government. Shaver has spoken out against the wheel tax and overspending by the school department.

In the 7th District, which includes Tellico Village, former teacher Nancy Paule, who serves in the seat now, is challenged by Craig Simon.

Paule, who supports the wheel tax as well as increased property taxes, said the children of the county have been ignored in an effort to keep taxes low.

Simon has been involved in adult education for 18 years.

He said that improving the relationship between the school board and the county commission would be among his top priorities.