published Friday, May 13th, 2011

Cleveland gives farewell to schools chief

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Many people came to wish Dr. Rick Denning well Thursday as he retires as director of Cleveland City Schools.

Don Baldree was a member of the board that selected Denning nearly 18 years ago.

“He replaced a legend, Dr. Donald Yates,” Baldree said. “And he has run a good school system, built many school facilities and [seen] the growth of many students.”

Denning was honored at an afternoon public reception at Cleveland High School’s library.

Dawn Robinson continues to serve on the city school board, as she has done through most of Denning’s administration.

“One of the charges Dr. Denning had as a new director was to improve our facilities,” she said.

As he retires, the city has built more than $70 million worth of education-related facilities, including a new Cleveland High School science wing to be dedicated this summer.

City school leaders have a tradition of longevity with the system, Robinson said.

“That is good for the school system and good for the children,” she said.

“The political front is always changing, from Goals 2000, remember that, to Race to the Top,” she said. “But in public education, you never are finished.”

And that’s where the new director, Dr. Martin Ringstaff, comes in, board Chairwoman Peggy Pesterfield said.

Just as Denning was charged with improving facilities, Ringstaff begins his administration as a site search continues for the next city school.

“He was in charge of facilities in Bristol, Va.,” Pesterfield said. “So that will be a big plus for us. And he is young enough to be part of the digital world, a digital world native. That will be beneficial to us, as well.”

Denning was honored Monday with a Cleveland City Council resolution as he made his last official presentation to the city, advocating locating a site soon for the new school.

“Dr. Denning ... has always placed the children of our city first and foremost,” said Councilman Richard Banks, reading the proclamation.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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