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Puryear to push for new LHS if elected mayor
Sep 23, 2005 12:00 am
September 22, 2005
Former county school superintendent and Lebanon mayoral candidate Kip Puryear insists Lebanon needs a new high school, and if elected mayor, he says he'll use the office to get it.
Puryear, who served as Lebanon High School's principal from 2000 to 2003, said Lebanon residents' contributions to the county school system are building new schools in the western end of the county while "virtually nothing" has been done to address the need for a new LHS.
Puryear was quick to note Wednesday he was not opposed to constructing new schools elsewhere but added LHS was twice overlooked as plans came together for Wilson Central High School in Gladeville and a new Mt. Juliet High School.
"Lebanon High School sat and waited with very little money and very little attention when it's the oldest high school in the county," Puryear said Wednesday. " … I would ask anyone to take a look at either (MJHS or LHS) and tell me that Mt. Juliet needs to be replaced over Lebanon High School."
He explained he is concerned all county dollars available for the school system's building plan will be "exhausted" by West Wilson County's needs.
"That leaves the parents and the children of Lebanon saddled with the debt and no help for replacing their aged school with a new school," Puryear said.
If elected, Puryear said he would work to address the issue "immediately … as a priority."
The former school official explained his first step would involve approaching the Wilson County Commission and Board of Education to request an amendment to the school system's building program to include replacing LHS.
"I'd want to see the plan brought back and changed or amended because right now is when the money is available," Puryear said.
Lebanon Mayor Don Fox responded by noting he has already met with Wilson County Director of Schools Dr. Jim Duncan and Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall to discuss a pair of possible locations for a new LHS. Fox said within three to five years, Duncan indicated a "definite plan" would be in place for a new secondary school inside the city's borders.
Duncan could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but he told The Lebanon Democrat last week the county school system would shift its attention to LHS only after a new MJHS and an expansion of WCHS are completed.
Puryear's plan, however, includes two additional steps should his efforts to work with county officials fail. If such is the case, Puryear said he would approach the city's 10th school district to request the district consider expanding to include LHS.
"As mayor of Lebanon, I would ask them to consider becoming a K-12 and taking over the operations of Lebanon High School with in mind a new facility being built," he said.
Fox responded by noting the city's voters had rejected a similar proposal in the past decade.
"We had a referendum in this city not too many years ago, even since I've been mayor, and the citizens of Lebanon overwhelmingly voted against … the 10th district taking over Lebanon High School," Fox said. "That shows the man (Puryear) doesn't know the history of what he's bringing up. It's like he had this sudden fantasy or dream and started running. These things that he's pitching are not thought through very well."
And while Ward 3 Lebanon City Councilor William Farmer, the third candidate seeking the city's highest elected office, agreed the city should "do everything" to ensure its relationship with the county school system should work to the advantage of Lebanon students, he noted other, more pressing issues face the city.
"Mr. Puryear wishes to get out into the areas where the city does not have official responsibility," Farmer said, adding "wasted spending" and an aging sewer system are among the biggest issues facing city government. " … Granted, we need to do everything we can as a city to urge improvements in the educational system for high school-level students in Lebanon."
Still, Puryear noted, the third aspect of his plan involves taking the need for a new LHS all the way to the state's department of education. If the city's 10th district were to reject a proposal to expand to K-12 and overtake LHS, Puryear said he would seek the state's permission to establish a new special district to serve LHS.
"The tax dollars that are currently going to the county for those children – state dollars and local dollars – would come down to the city to operate a new Lebanon High School," Puryear said. "There's a lot of details, and there's a lot of people to work with, and we're certainly not looking for the last (option) to be first.
"But, I make a commitment that my plan is to get those kids a new high school. It may be the last thing I do, but I intend to get those kids a new high school – not to keep somebody else from getting a new school, but to make sure that I speak up for the children I'm responsible for inside this city."
Responding to the third aspect of Puryear's plan, Fox maintained the State of Tennessee no longer allows for the establishment of new special school districts. Farmer, a former board member with the 10th district, referred to the plan as "irresponsible," contending it would place numerous new responsibilities on city government.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.