Tifton Gazette

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December 11, 2013

Hall of Fame? It's time, says AD

TIFTON — The idea of having an Athletic Hall of Fame at the Tift County High School Performing Arts Center resulted in a lengthy discussion at Tuesday night’s Tift County Board of Education meeting.

Athletic Director Rusty Smith said he and others are proposing a Tift County Athletic Hall Fame. He said they travel to other schools that have a Hall of Fame, but Tift County doesn’t have one.

“I think that it is time for Tift County to have a Hall of Fame,” he said. Along with Smith, Bobby Bennett, Coach Ivey Vickers and Johnny Spurlin were at the meeting. He said they were on a committee to discuss the Athletic Hall of Fame.

Smith said when he first became athletic director, he and Superintendent Patrick Atwater discussed the idea, but they thought that it was not the right time to do it.

He told the board that they would like to have their approval first to go forward with the idea. He said there are always tweaks that could be done to the bylaws. He said this Athletic Hall of Fame will include the history of Tift County athletics, not just the last 10 years. He noted the only way they recognize athletics is in the gymnasium where there’s too much hanging in there.

“We need to have a place where people can go in and see and be proud of Tift County, because I am,” Smith said.

Atwater said they have located a large vacant wall in the PAC. He explained as you enter the front door of the PAC and take a right, it’s the back wall of the lobby.

Vice Chairman John Smith asked, “What about academics?”

Atwater said they did discuss this, having an Academic Hall of Fame. He said they plan to have a meeting in the future. He explained that the  idea of having an Athletic Hall of Fame was brought to his and Smith’s attention by Spurlin, Bennett and Vickers who were interested in it and did the legwork.

“We can take this as a framework and create an Academic Hall of Fame,” he said, noting interested parties in developing, maintaining and managing an Academic Hall of Fame could pursue it.

Atwater suggested that there should be a designee from the Tift County board sitting on the committee.

When discussing the idea of an Academic Hall of Fame, board member Gannon Hall noted they would need to differentiate between it and an Athletic Hall Fame because the community supports the school system more through athletics than through academia. He said it would feel more a part of the community and something they could be proud of. John said he felt that same way with ROTC’s national recognition. He said he hopes his earlier statement didn’t come off as opposition to the Athletic Hall of Fame. He said he is supportive of it. Rutland agreed with John about recognizing academia as well, which is also equally important.

Atwater noted that there is absolutely no request for public funding of the Athletic Hall of Fame. It will be privately funded.

Hall questioned why a board member would need to serve on the committee. Rutland explained, “You got a body here that is not elected that would make decisions based on what would be placed in a public school facility.” She added that the elected officials are responsible for the fiscal responsibly of the system and the schools. She said it doesn’t have to be a voting member, but a board member needs to be a part of the process. John agreed. However, Hall disagreed and said if the athletic director and high school principal are permanent members, he sees no need in requiring a board member to serve on the committee. Rutland said the member would serve as a liaison and communicate to the board.

After further discussion, the board voted on the matter. Hall made a motion to approve the bylaws for the Athletic Hall of Fame as written without having a board member serve on the committee. The vote deadlocked with Hall, Rita Griffin and Melanie Roberson voting in favor; Rutland, John and Marian Richbourg voting against; and Dr. Kim Ezekiel abstained. The board then voted on tabling the matter for their next meeting, which deadlocked again. Some board members said they preferred voting on the matter that night so that Smith and others could move forward. After attempting to vote again, which caused confusion, the board’s legal counsel advised members to start fresh with a new motion. Hall asked could they get any input from Smith, Bennett, Vickers or Spurlin about the pros or cons they may have with a board member serving on the committee. Rutland declined and then John made a motion to withdraw all of the earlier motions and start fresh. All approved.

Hall then made a motion to approve the Tift County Athletic Hall of Fame as written. No one seconded it. Griffin then made a motion to approve Atwater’s recommendation of a liaison from the board (a non-voting member) serving on the committee. All members approved except Hall.

In addition, Rutland said they recently had a finance committee meeting concerning the Schoolhouse Squeeze and cutting classes to make ends meet. She said at the recent Georgia School Boards Association conference, they talked with a lot of school systems that are facing the same financial issues that Tift County is facing. Griffin gave kudos to Atwater and staff who handles finances for what they have done for the local school system.

John asked, “What does it take to send a message to the state department? Will it take a boycott?” He added that demonstrations and boycotts raise the conscious level that as long as they accept what they do, they’re going to continue to do it.

“I just feel like it’s time now to do something that will get their attention,” he said.

Rutland said Atwater is attempting to talk to the community and teachers to get them engaged on what is going on with the system. Richbourg noted citizens need to know who (state senators and representatives who serve Tift County) to call to say that they’re unhappy.

Griffin said what bothers her is that they personally invited the people who filled their board office when they thought the board was going to raise the millage rate and only five people showed up.

“How do you educate them? It’s their children,” she said.

Atwater said they plan to have many more open forum sessions. He noted The Tifton Gazette has been very gracious with running the “Did You Know?” facts by the school system in the paper.

Hall said maybe they should make it mandatory for every employee to attend the forums. The word would get out for sure, he said. Also, he suggested doing a phone tree and getting on the radio.

Rutland and John noted it costs them 2.5 percent to collect taxes for the school system. Atwater said they’re currently polling other systems in their RESA (Regional Education Service Agencies) area. He said three of the five who have responded said their tax collectors do not charge them anything because they feel it’s their duty to support them. Rutland said they encourage people to become engaged in the legislative process. Atwater said that was the purpose of the forum.

Finance Director Klinton Guess said the board of education is on target with their financial progress. Looking over the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax report, Rutland said SPLOST revenue has been holding about the same with the difference of $20,000 or $30,000 a month.

To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.

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