By Patrick Yost
The Morgan County Board of Education will be losing a combined 28 years of leadership at the end of this year after both the board’s chairman and a member focused on school system’s finances have announced they will not seek re-election.
Morgan County Board of Education Chairman Nelson Hale, District 2, and Keith Howard, District 3, said Monday they would no longer run. Hale is completing his fourth term and has served as chairman for the past 14 years. Howard is completing his third term.
Hale ran as an Independent in 2005 after he generated approximately 50 signatures to get his name on a ballot. He has not had opposition during his tenure on the board. “I felt like it should be non-partisan. I don’t think politics should be involved with making decisions affecting our children.”
Both Howard, 55, and Hale said part of their decision to no longer serve was, in part, because they no longer have children in the system. Howard said during his first campaign “I pledged that I would not seek office beyond the graduation of my youngest child.”
Howard ran as a Republican but said politics has not guided his decisions on the board, either. “During my first campaign, I said that I was a Republican with a Democratic heart and an Independent mind to illustrate that the last place we should be partisan politicians is on the local board of education.”
“It has been a privilege to have served on the board of education with such a diverse group of individuals that put children first while working together for the best interest of the community.”
Hale also said since his youngest child has graduated from the system he would “like to give someone else an opportunity at this point.”
Both Howard and Hale said an expansive building program, addressing discipline issues and being a catalyst for academic performance would be their lasting legacy on the board.
“Discipline issues are at their lowest levels and we now have four school resource deputies patrolling our campuses. We built a gym, freshman academy, baseball/softball complex, transportation facility, fitness classroom, auditorium, high school, middle school and purchased the future site of a new primary school,” Howard said.
“I’m proud of the significant changes we’ve made to the overall campus,” Hale said.
“Historically, we’ve never had that kind of growth.”
Hale said future board members should consider one thing he learned during his service. “Keep what is in the best interest of the children always in the forefront and you won’t go wrong with the decisions you make.”