Two school board members will not seek re-election

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 15, 2008

Two members of the Lincoln County School Board have chosen tonot seek re-election, and voters will be choosing their successorsin the November general election.

Long-time District Three representative Joann Holmes andDistrict Four member Steve Rushing, who is also county sheriff,have decided not to run for new six-year terms on the board. Holmeswill step down after serving 19 years on the board, while Rushingwill move on after one six-year term.

Both outgoing board members said the decision to leave the boardwithout challengers was a difficult one, but both listed personalreasons as to why it’s time to hand their positions off to newschool servants.

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“I don’t have any children in school anymore,” Holmes said. “Ifeel like it’s time for a younger person with children in schoolthat can do a better job to come in.”

Holmes, 60, also cited health reasons for her leaving the board.She is affected by lupus anticoagulant, a blood condition thatcaused clots in both her lungs in 2006.

Holmes said her condition sometimes makes it difficult for herto get out and support activities at her district’s school, BogueChitto Attendance Center.

“Sometimes I just don’t feel like sitting out in the sun – whenyou have health problems, sometimes you just want to get in whereit’s cool,” she said. “My husband and I talked about it, and weagreed it’s time to let a new person come in.”

Holmes said she was proud of the progress made in the countysince she was first appointed to the board to fill a resignation inDistrict Three in 1989. She listed academic and facilityimprovements that have occurred at Bogue Chitto during her tenure -such as a new elementary school – that have resulted in”practically a new school.”

Holmes said she would continue to lend a hand to the schoolboard when needed, and advised the next District Three member -whoever that may be – to come to the board ready to learn.

“You’ve gotta get in there, learn everything about it and do thebest you can for the school and the community,” she said. “You’vegotta get in there and fight for the kids.”

Rushing, 35, is a reflection of that younger person withchildren in the school system that Holmes was referring to, but thecounty’s top cop is offering up District Four because of demands onhis time that he fears might detract from the position.

“I really hate not running again, but I don’t want to short thepeople of the school district,” he said. “It hasn’t been a problemyet, but I don’t want to get to a point where I can’t devote goodtime to both. I feel like I can do as much, if not more, to helpall the schools in the county – not just the county district, butall of ’em – from a sheriff’s standpoint.”

Rushing said he is most proud of the fiscal and academicimprovements made around the district during his six years on theboard.

“Our district is in great financial shape, and I feel like we’vegot out academics up there on the level with some of the tops inthe state,” he said.

Rushing said he would continue to serve the school district as aparent and as sheriff, adding that he would help hissoon-to-be-elected replacement learn the ropes. He said the newboard members should be able to make a smooth transition into theirduties with the help of the administration.

“The biggest thing to me is to keep the kids in mind whendecisions are made on the board,” Rushing said.

While the final number of people who will be jockeyingpolitically for the two board seats remains unclear, three peoplehave turned in petitions to run for the District Four seatcurrently held by Rushing, said Lincoln County Circuit Clerk TerryLynn Watkins. So far, Watkins has the names of Arlington Drive’sJack Case, Hurricane Lake Drive resident Darron Wallace and WestLincoln Drive resident Denise Roberts White.

Watkins said several other petitions are pending for bothdistricts.

Superintendent Terry Brister is not worried about the departureof two his board members from an administrative standpoint becausethe board has always been able to adapt to new members, hesaid.

“I hate to lose good board members – and we’re losing some goodones – but we always get good board members in,” Brister said.”We’ve been very blessed to have new board members who alwayscontribute dearly.”

Brister said the transition to new board members should not bedifficult, especially with both Holmes and Rushing stepping downwillingly and ready to work with their replacements. The hard partfor the new board members will be learning how the districtoperates in conjunction with a plethora of state guidelines, hesaid.

“Early in the thing, just the fact of learning how it operatesfrom top to bottom – most of the people who live in the communityknow the heartbeat of the community,” Brister said. “But schoolsdon’t operate like a businesses like Delphi or Toyota – they’llhave to learn how to make policy decisions on finances, curriculumand facilities. What they have to adjust to is the understandingthat comes out of the state department.”