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Griess, Leuthold address Farragut Republicans


Despite recent furor surrounding term limited county officials and validity of Knox County’s governing charter, Fifth District County Commiss-ioners Craig Leuthold and John Griess agreed recently that progress has been made in county government.

That includes park improvements, law enforcement and a start on a long-awaited west sector high school to ease West Knox classroom crowding, the two Republican commissioners told a small but appreciative audience at the Concord Farragut Republican Club.

Both told fellow GOP members more dramatic progress was possible locally in public education, if county voters could elect a school superintendent more responsive to school patrons who did the electing.

The current Knox County school superintendent, Dr. Charles Lindsey, is employed by the nine-member Knox County Board of Education, all of whose members represent separate geographic

districts.

Speaking to a group with numbers thinned by competition from a simultaneous U.S. Senate GOP debate at West High School, Griess said he, as a former Farragut High School teacher, remains a staunch proponent of public schools and teachers who staff them.

“But I think the school board should’ve fired the superintendent a long time ago,” Griess said. “I can’t wait to get a superintendent who will end this indecisiveness and put pressure on the commission” to do what is necessary to improve Knox County schools.

Griess, a former Farragut alderman who’s served 12 years on county commission, noted “great” improvements during his tenure to facilities such as parks and marinas that line Northshore Drive.

“But growth is exploding out here,” said Griess, a commercial real estate broker. “Real estate values are going up like crazy, and there needs to be another elementary school built. We [commissioners] are the money source, but the school board must buy” into the idea first.

Leuthold agreed that an elected school superintendent, having a mandate from school patrons who elected him, could better influence board members and Knox County commissioners to fund education and build schools where most needed.

Leuthold said it took from 1984 until a December 2005 ground-breaking to make a badly needed west sector high school a reality with prospects of relieving crowding at Farragut, Bearden and Karns high schools.

Yet “no one’s putting pressure on us,” Griess said — neither the superintendent, PTAs, principals, nor the Knoxville Education Association. He called it the superintendent’s job to rally such education support, but he added that an appointive superintendent, ans-wering primarily to the school board, lacks the necessary popular support.

Leuthold said efforts to build a new west sector high school were delayed, even when funds for land acquisition were regularly appropriated, under the board’s five-year plan.

“Every year,” Leuthold said, “the money would be gone again. It became a political football that just kept being punted.”

Griess said an elective superintendent could “bring real pressure” to bear and end divisiveness among school board members.

“He’s pulled in nine different directions,” Griess said, by school board members, each working hard to represent his or her district’s own interests.

“This issue needs to be resolved,” Griess told Republicans, meeting at the Gondolier Restaurant. “I want to support excellence in our public schools, but the guy who runs them now gets on my nerves so badly, I can hardly stand it.”

Leuthold, unaffected by term limits, defeated a Republican opponent in the primary and has no opponent in the Aug. 3 election.

Griess, a Turkey Creek Road resident serving in Seat 5C, is among elected officials who have challenged term limits provisions that — as Knox County Chancellor John Weaver ruled June 9 — bar some county elected officials from serving another term. Weaver’s decision hass been appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Griess told his fellow Republicans he will continue to run for office, “assume the best and try to get re-elected,” if

possible.

 

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