published Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Fight escalates between Thurman, Normal Park

by Kelli Gauthier

After school board member Rhonda Thurman was written up in a police report for allegedly lurking outside the house of a Normal Park parent in a dark-colored Lexus, she is threatening legal action.

And now Board of Education Chairman Kenny Smith said he is investigating formal complaints filed against her.

Ms. Thurman vehemently denies that she was outside Kelly Elliott's house before a Normal Park parent meeting on April 30.

"That's poppycock," she said. "This is just ludicrous. I haven't had a vacation in three years, and if I was going to take off, it certainly wouldn't be to go to Normal Park. I've talked to an attorney twice, (and am) still trying to decide what I'm going to do. "

The police report states that, when Mrs. Elliott went to see what the woman she claims was Ms. Thurman wanted, the woman left.

"Mrs. Elliott felt this was more than a coincidence and felt scared due to rumors she has heard in regards to Mrs. Thurman," the report states.

Attempts to reach Ms. Elliott for comment were unsuccessful.

The giant he-said-she-said argument between Normal Park parents and Ms. Thurman has been brewing for months. Talks of a zone change at Normal Park led Ms. Thurman to assert that some students at the North Chattanooga magnet school were not actually zoned to attend there.

She said she has used maps and a school directory to try to determine who should be attending the school.

"This is not rocket science. You look at their address and say, 'Are they in the zone?'" she said.

Dennis Clark, a Normal Park parent and husband of school system spokeswoman Danielle Clark, arrived at Mrs. Elliott's house on April 30 after the incident.

"While Officer (William) Campbell was on scene, I asked the parent, 'Are you stating that it was someone who looked like Mrs. Thurman, or, are you saying that it was Mrs. Thurman?' Without any hesitation, the parent responded that 'it was Rhonda Thurman,' or words to that effect," Mr. Clark said in an e-mail to the Times Free Press.

Mr. Smith said he turned a formal complaint he received about the school board, which mentions Mrs. Thurman by name to school board attorney Scott Bennett. He would not specify details about the complaint.

He also said he has heard that there are about six more complaints against Mrs. Thurman on their way.

Depending on Mr. Bennett's advice, Mr. Smith said he may reinstate the school board ethics committee to investigate the claims.

Follow Kelli Gauthier on Twitter at

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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Humphrey said...

A school board member had been telling a friend of hers who lives in hixson that she would be able to get the friend's child in to normal park if they didn't get it through the lottery. When she wasn't able to do that, she lost face and it embarrassed her, and she has been on a bit of a vendetta ever since.

May 8, 2010 at 8:13 a.m.
one4community said...

If Danielle Clark is a communications staffer at Hamilton County Central Office, why does her husband keep making all of the comments?

May 8, 2010 at 5:19 p.m.
jabatten said...

Why can't we all just get along?

May 9, 2010 at 12:44 a.m.
elvisd said...

Is there a conflict of interest here with Mrs. Elliott? That's sure a lot of pay to be "communicating".

This is just one more example of the neverending Normal Park saga, a good school that nonetheless is fawned on by the media way too much.

By the way, NP, how's that takeover of CCA coming along?

May 10, 2010 at 8:14 a.m.
elvisd said...

Oops. I meant "Mrs. Clark" rather than "Mrs. Elliott" in the previous post, concerning her hefty "spokesperson" job.

May 10, 2010 at 8:15 a.m.
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