By Paul T. Choate
Nov. 5, 2012. The Watauga County Schools Board of Education will soon look a lot different regardless the outcome of tomorrow’s election. Three school board members will be stepping down and on Monday, Nov. 5, they were honored in a surprise honorary ceremony at the school board meeting.
Board members Steve Combs and John Welch, along with Board Chair Deborah Miller, will all be stepping down from their positions on the WCS Board of Education. In a surprise adjustment to the Nov. 5 agenda, a motion was introduced and passed to give recognition to the three exiting members.
“Truly we have snuck this in on them,” said Superintendent Dr. David Kafitz. “We asked them to do an addendum to the agenda here this evening because, honestly, the three of them didn’t really want any special attention paid to their outgoing service. But we cannot let them sneak out of here under such conditions.”
Each of the three members were called to the podium and awarded a plaque in recognition of their service. After which, each were given an opportunity to call their families up and offer thanks and recollections of their time spent on the board.
The following are Supt. Kafitz’s introductions (in bold) following by each exiting board member’s speech (in italics).
First called to the podium was current candidate for county commissioner, John Welch.
“As you may know, John was elected to the Board of Education in the last election — in 2010 — and has served on Watauga County Board of Education for two years. In my search to find a new school system, John was one of the school board members frequently cited in the press as young and innovative and coming in with a fresh perspective, and so it was with great pleasure that I have had the opportunity to work with him. But I speak for all the Watauga County Schools employees in saying, ‘Thank you for your service and thank you for the time away from your family to do this.’ You know that the future are our kids; you know that education is something that we need desperately to do more of, but we appreciate your time and your service. Good luck tomorrow night. On behalf of Watauga County Schools we would like to present you with this plaque to recognize your service, so thank you. Best of luck to you.”
“I really have to thank my family because it’s a lot of long hours — we all know that — a lot of meals left in the microwave and on the plate. So I really appreciate everything they’ve done for me, especially now that I throw in a campaign for another board. It’s really been an honor and a blessing to serve you guys and to work for you guys in the school system that I went through from kindergarten to 12th grade. Hopefully my service will continue on another board after tomorrow night, but the two years I’ve had on this board — it’s just been — I can’t even describe it. I’ve met such great people. We’re really lucky to be in Watauga County and I appreciate everything, so thank you guys.”
Next to take the podium was Watauga County Schools’ longest serving outgoing board member, Steve Combs.
“Steve Combs is our longest serving outgoing board member here on the Watauga County Schools Board of Education. Steve has served not only as board member but as vice chair. In my time coming to know Steve, he’s outspoken, he tells you what he thinks, he’s honest. But he has our kids at heart, especially since being a parent at Watauga County Schools much like Mr. Welch. So it’s been a pleasure getting to know you. I know you are going to be well missed by your partner in crime over there [Vice Chair Dr. Lee Warren]. I think we need to hire him another secretary to take care of him the way you do at these meetings — but I know he’s going to miss you sitting there — and we will also. Thank you for your long time and service at Watauga County Schools. Thank you, Steve, we appreciate it.”
“Being able to serve on this board wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t had the support of my wife and my girls. I’ve been here for three four-year terms. We put a lot of hours in campaigning during those years and I’ve been here for a lot of midnight meetings and later. But I want to tell you a little funny story right quick. The first school board meeting I ever came to was in 2000. We all came in and I was sitting where [Delora Hodges] is. Dr. Warren comes in real brightly dressed — pair of yellow pants on, nice blazer — and I’m looking and thinking, ‘Boy, if this is what it takes to be a school board member I’m going to have to go to the bank and borrow some money, ’cause I don’t fit in.’ But no, I appreciate the 12 years I’ve put in. Every decision I’ve ever made has been prayed upon — has been made with each and every kid and every family at heart, and each employee at heart. It’s going to take me some time to get used to not coming to board meetings and being on committees and stuff, but I wouldn’t want to serve on any other school board but this one in Watauga County because I know, in my heart, and I’ve seen it in the classrooms, that we have the best teachers, we have the best administrators and we definitely have the best students. In the beginning and always, the reason I ran for being on the Watauga County Board of Education was because of this right here: [gestures] my kids. When this year came around I thought about running for the board again — and these two little girls right here are my world. I’m just going to be honest with you, they’re my world, right here. We do a lot of stuff together. And the girls came up to me and they said, ‘Daddy, do you really have to run again?’ And I said, ‘If you don’t want me to run, I won’t run.’ I’ve got two little girls here — one of them plays basketball, one of them does music — and they want me to be able to take time now to go to music concerts and basketball games and become a parent again. And I’m really looking forward to that. And I’m going to miss each one of you. Thank you.”
Lastly, Supt. Kafitz brought current and outgoing Board Chair Deborah Miller to the podium.
“Deborah Miller is exiting after two four-year terms on the Watauga County Schools Board of Education, where she has served not only as board member and vice chair, but in her most recent position as chair of the board. [Pause]. You can’t go! And I’ll say the same thing about Steve and John, too. None of the three of you go, but especially you. The Superintendent and the Board Chair probably have a very special relationship. We talk quite frequently. She is my sounding board a lot of times and — fewer times than not, sometimes I am her sounding board. But you could not ask for a greater person of character, a greater person of leadership, a more thoughtful person than Deborah Miller. She has managed this group very well and I think all four of them would sing her praises as Chair in her time at that position. But I will tell you, it’s going to take a lot to fill your shoes in the next 15-20 years I intend to be here. You’re welcome to run again, just as John and Steve are. We could even start a write-in campaign tomorrow if you really wanted to. But, on behalf of Watauga County Schools, our employees and our students, Deborah, thank you for your time and your service and your leadership. You will be well missed. Congratulations.”
“Eight years ago I was afforded a wonderful opportunity to be a part of this family. I’ve been a volunteer for a long time in the school system. Watauga County Schools truly is a family. Each unit — each of the nine — stands alone. But any time education is a question, or the best thing that we need to discuss is how to help a child, each and every one of us come together. Not just as a school system but, fortunately for us, Watauga County as well. There’s no place that I’ve ever seen that stands up for education and for the children like Watauga County. Each of the board members will tell you that it takes a lot more hours than most everybody understands. Except for our family members. It’s without words that I can express my gratitude to my family for the times that they went without me or waited up late for me to come home at some of those 12 and one o’clock meetings. But to each of you — I’ve said it to you before — you’re in the trenches each and every day. Thank you so much for doing that. You have a heart and a mind that is centered on children and may god richly bless you, because you are important in the lives of those children. Thank you.”