The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Building schools
School Board's senior members plan for growth


Fayette County Board of Education members Greg Powers and Mickey Littlefield take their seats this month as the senior members of the board as they welcome three newly elected women Marion Key, Janet Smola and Terri Smith.

Last week, Powers and Littlefield shared their thoughts and ideas about the board's direction and the top issues facing the board this year.

Powers said he feels more secure in his position on the board after two years. "I feel like I can set the direction; not just follow along," he said. He and Littlefield served with Debbie Condon, Connie Hale and Woody Shelnutt, all three veteran members of the board. Shelnutt and Condon chose not to seek reelection this year. Hale lost her bid for reelection to Marion Key.

"Coming together and electing a chairman" is the first item of business Powers said must be done before the board can move forward with its biggest project a school building program that will add three elementary schools, one high school and a number of structural improvements to existing schools.

The board will meet in a work session Monday, Jan. 8 to elect a chairman and listen to presentations on construction management with the intention of developing a philosophy on how to oversee the latest building project.

Powers said the first two schools to be built will be elementary facilities, followed by a high school next year and a third elementary in 2003. "Look for the whole program to be a four- to five-year process," Powers said.

Renovations will be sandwiched in during the five-year plan.

Voters passed a $65 million bond referendum Nov. 7 to finance the building project. Powers said the final price tag would be $72 million, with the remaining funds earned through interest generated over five years. According to Littlefield, the board is right "on the verge" of purchasing land to begin construction.

Powers said the board is seeking large tracts of land, similar to the Peeples property that was used to develop the South Complex, composed of Peeples Elementary, Rising Starr Middle and Starr's Mill High schools. "We're looking at large tracts to meet future growth and future needs," Powers said.

But there are a lot of variables to be met when purchasing property for schools, he indicated. Traffic and environmental issues must be dealt with, and the state department of education must give final approval.

Littlefield and Powers also have personal items of interest on their agendas. As an insurance agent, Littlefield said he has seen the results of automobile accidents involving teen drivers. "One legislative issue I would like to see passed is mandatory driver's education and driving age raised to 17," he said.

Powers is interested in promoting fine arts programs in the schools and optimizing use of the LaFayette Educational Center. Both men agreed that they are ready to do business and give their full support to Dr. John DeCotis, Fayette County's school superintendent.