Historic day: Schools pact signed
by JENAY TATE • Editor & Publisher
WISE — Before a room filled with dignitaries and well-wishers, members of the county School Board and Board of Supervisors signed the official comprehensive agreement clearing the way for construction of two new high schools. Speakers declared it a historic day.
One day, it will be recalled as a good day, too, Superintendent Jeff Perry told the crowd in his concluding remarks. Welcoming guests, Perry said Thursday’s signing was the culmination of many months of hard work and years of struggle. “Fortunately, at the end, we’ve all come together,” he said, “to make sure our students have the best education facilities they could possibly have.”
The signed documents apply to building a new Central High School in Wise and new Union High School in Powell Valley, but the occasion also marked the celebration of building a new gymnasium at Appalachia Elementary School and embarking on renovation and a new wing at Eastside High School in Coeburn. Together, the projects represent a $60 million commitment.
Schools Finance Director Ron Vicars recognized the efforts, dedication and sacrifice of some of those who made the day a reality — school board members and administrators, county supervisors and administrators, each town manager and town council in Wise County and Wise County Industrial Development Authority. He also recognized S.B. Ballard Construction Co., RRMM Architects and Maxim Engineering, who will lead the high school building work, and Thompson & Litton, the design team for Eastside High and the Appalachia Elementary gym.
School board chairman Ted Thompson said he was honored to be part of the board’s “collective wisdom to get to where we are today.” The greater goal, he said, is to continue the mission to meet the needs of all students and to “constructively support YOUR Wise County public schools.” Thompson said citizens and officials must be committed to “seeing that we move ahead together in a positive way.”
County supervisors chairman Dana Kilgore said “this trip that we have traveled has been long with many detours” while many have stayed focused on the journey.
This last leg, Kilgore said, has had many leaders, including the superintendent and school board, school finance director Vicars and county finance director David Cox along with school legal counsel Scott Mullins and county attorney Karen Mullins who have worked with attorneys across the state. Most important, she said, were the students, faculty and school staff that made the transition from six high schools to three this fall.
Glad that both boards ultimately voted 8-0 to endorse the comprehensive agreement, Kilgore said she hoped this signaled hope for healing in the county. Steve Ballard of Ballard Construction said he knew this project had been controversial and felt privileged to be part of bringing it all together. Ballard said he has been involved in a lot of controversial projects during his 30-year career and he has witnessed what has happened as buildings start to go up.
“I really believe when you all see these new schools in place and the excellence of learning they will bring . . . I think everyone is going to be applauding even more than you are today,” he said. “You’re going to be impressed.” “We’re just excited,” Ballard told the crowd, “and look forward to being part of the community.”
Bill Thompson of Thompson & Litton expressed enthusiasm for the work already underway at Appalachian Elementary and straight ahead at Eastside. “It is wonderful to experience what has happened at two community meetings in Appalachia,” he said, “Where citizens are filled with ideas. That process begins Tuesday at Eastside. We’re excited to be part of the visioning process,” Thompson said, and then taking those ideas to paper “is a real joy for us.”
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