By JIMMY ESPY
Eddie Elsberry will bring eight years of experience when he joins the Chattooga County Board of Education this month.
Elsberry, who served on the board from 2005-2012, was appointed recently to fill the unexpired term of John Turner, who resigned earlier this year. The District One seat will be voted on again in 2020.
Elsberry was one of four people who sought the post and fulfilled the qualifications. The other three were Brad Groce, Pam Albert and Kenneth Busbin.
Elsberry will be the only Democrat on the board.
“The board knew I was a Democrat when I served two terms, but I believe they wanted to put politics aside and move forward with what’s best for the school system,” he said. “I assure you, I have no political axe to grind.”
Councilman Brad Hayes nominated Elsberry and was seconded by Sammy Ballard. Dr. Julia Houston nominated Busbin but did not receive a second. The vote was unanimous, 4-0.
Elsberry said he believes his experience will be a resource for the board.
“I’m not right about everything,” he said. “But I was on the board for eight years and a lot of those years were pretty difficult. Funding from the state and federal government was going down every year and we had to make a lot of tough decisions.”
Elsberry said that about 70 positions were eliminated or reduced during the Great Recession.
“That’s why we started looking at the four-day school week,” he said. “We had cut and cut already, and we were going to have to reduce staff by another 17 positions. That’s when we started hearing from parents and from students; that’s when we started looking for alternatives.”
Elsberry said then Superintendent Dwight Pullen preferred the five-day schedule even if it meant more positions being eliminated.
“But when we went with the four-day schedule, Dr. Pullen did a very good job of putting together the new schedule.”
Elsberry also praised Pullen for planning the tw0-SPLOST strategy which allowed the system to build a new high school and make improvements at other schools.
“Because of all the things we had to deal with then, I feel like I can offer this board some of my experience,” he said.
Three of the four board members are in the first six months of service.
That lack of experience played a part in the choice made by Councilman Sam Ballard.
“Mr. Elsberry was on the board for long time,” Ballard said. “We needed someone with experience who can help us.”
Ballard said he was not worried about party affiliation.
“I didn’t really think about that,” he said. “I voted for the best overall candidate.”
“We knew he voted for the four-day school week but back then I don’t think they thought they had a choice,” he said.
Dr. Houston thanked the four candidates for their interest.
“I appreciate all four who stepped up bravely and put their application in,” Houston said. “They are four great people.”