published Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Marion County parents to help guide Richard Hardy Memorial School

by Chris Carroll
  • photo
    Joshua Cantrell, kindergartener, hangs on the playground equipment behind Richard Hardy Memorial School in Richard City in this file photo.
    Photo by Juliette Coughlin

A five-member parent committee will recommend cuts and fundraising ideas for financially troubled Richard Hardy Memorial School in South Pittsburg, Tenn.

"We're looking at places to cut without cutting any staff," Principal Beth Webb said Saturday. "That's our ultimate goal."

The idea for a parent committee emerged from a Saturday meeting where about 50 parents aired concerns about a skipped annual bond payment of $87,114 and other problems.

Richard Hardy Memorial School operates independently from Marion County Schools. According to a recent audit, the school's liabilities exceed its assets by $1.8 million. The 86-year-old K-12 school has about 300 students.

School board Chairman Bill Norman said Saturday there are "no plans to close the school any time soon."

"I don't know where that rumor came from," he said. "We did not make any decisions today on what to do -- it was kind of an open meeting where everybody could express their opinions."

Webb said she hoped an accountant or "someone financially savvy" would join the parent committee, which will be formed this week and will report to her.

September's skipped bond payment was supposed to go to the Rural Development Corp. Webb said the company is "working with us on restructuring" the school's debt.

Neither Norman nor Webb elaborated on the ideas that came out of Saturday's meeting, saying that's the to-be-formed committee's responsibility.

"We need to make sure we're spending our money where it needs to be spent," Webb said. "This school is a part of this county that needs to continue."

Tennessee Department of Education spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier recently said Richard Hardy is "definitely a district we've been monitoring."

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