School Board Honors Brainerd Hero, Loftis Cheerleaders

Rhonda Thurman Says Stop “Brow Beating” Students About Going To College

Friday, February 22, 2013 - by Andrew Clark

The Brainerd High School student who saved his family’s life was the center of attention at Thursday night’s Hamilton County School Board meeting.

Young Eddie Pitmon, who rescued his three siblings from a blaze at the family’s Brainerd home last Nov. 27, was the topic of praise from Hamilton County’s education brass.

Dr. Marvin Lott lauded the student, who was accompanied by his mother, Sharon Pitmon, as a hero for rescuing his younger siblings.

Being a Brainerd High School student, said the principal, is about exemplifying one motto:  “Attitude Not Aptitude Determines Your Altitude.”

For that speech the principal received a standing ovation.

School board member Jeffrey Wilson praised Eddie Pitmon as a “fine young man” and “a good example of what all students should look like.”

Also honored at the monthly school board meeting was a group from Loftis Middle School. The girls are members of the Loftis Middle School cheerleaders, a group that recently won a national championship in that sport.

In addition to their recent national title in competition in Dallas, the cheerleaders from Loftis Middle School won first place at competitions in Dalton, Nasvhille and Atlanta.

Loftis Middle School principal Brent Eller said that the cheerleaders maintain high athletic standards, as well as a very high overall academic standards.

Head Coach Anita Newsom told the school board that without the board’s help in signing- off on the cheerleaders’ field trip permission forms to leave school to compete, they could have never achieved the heights of success that came to fruition for the girls.

School Board member Dr. Greg Martin praised the Renaissance Program at Loftis Middle School, an advanced placement curriculum that the vast majority of the girls on that school’s cheerleading squad participate in.

School Board member Joe Galloway joked that he was glad to see Brent Eller at the helm of Loftis Middle School, as Eller had been a pupil of his eons ago at Lookout Valley.

Fellow board member George Ricks said that principal Eller also taught at Howard High School, and congratulated the educator on his student body’s academic and athletic achievement.

But, like most public schools, Loftis is not without its problems, said one school representative.

It was brought to the school board’s attention that the roof of Loftis Middle School has been leaking since it was built in 1995.

The last time it rained, said the representative, 76 buckets were employed to catch dripping water from the ceilings.

The gymnasium floor is now buckling due to the faulty roof; the wrestling mats are now drenched and near ruin; water has pooled in light fixtures; and a $5,000 percussion instrument in the school’s “band room” was narrowly saved from ruin when leaking water poured into that facility.

According to Loftis representatives, the ceiling tiles in the school’s “band room” are growing mold of some kind.

In addition to the moldy band room, ceiling tiles throughout the facility turn pink and brown with each ensuing rain event, and with each rain comes a “brown ooze” on classroom walls.

In other news, school board member Rhonda Thurman expressed consternation because she “still doesn’t know what our (the school board) relationship is with the Public Education Foundation (PEF).”

Ms. Thurman suggested that the school board meet in special session and decide what exactly the relationship is between the public school board and the private PEF.

A budget line item of $150,000 directed from the school board to the PEF sparked Ms. Thurman’s comments. The money had been earmarked to fund additional college counselors and for training school officials.

Ms. Thurman expressed concern that the Hamilton County School System is farming out work to the PEF that could be taken care of at the school system’s central office.

“Why do we trust them? Who are their counselor’s,” queried Ms. Thurman.

She said adding more college counselors to Hamilton County High Schools could very well be a waste of time.

“Why do we continue to brow beat kids into going to college? Not all kids need or want to go to college, Why do we march to the beat of their (PEF) drum? They are unelected, un-appointed and unaccountable,” said Ms. Thurman of the PEF leadership.

She added, “PEF is trying to do the job of central office. PEF gets grants that we should get; we should keep that money in house. Why are we letting them, basically, be in control?”

Dr. Martin invited Ms.Thurman to go to the PEF offices and converse with that group’s leadership about its role in the Hamilton County Schools. Dr. Martin said he had questions about PEF and went to talk to its leadership and it was very illuminating.

In addition, Dr. Martin told Ms. Thurman that PEF’s involvement with Hamilton County’s schools was a topic of conversation at a recent school board member retreat.

“Greg, I’m sorry. I’m not elected to the PEF board. I don’t work for Dan Challenor. You all can, but I’m not going to,” retorted Ms. Thurman.

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