CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Troy Weathers, a long-serving member of the Bradley County Board of Education, bid an emotional farewell to an audience packed with students, teachers and administrators on Thursday evening.
Weathers, representing the county's 4th District since 1998, lost his re-election bid to Diana Ball Calfee in the Aug. 7 general election.
In the meeting that marked his last as a board member, Weathers left no questions regarding his feelings about students, teachers and Johnny McDaniel, director of Bradley County Schools.
"It never was about power or those kinds of things," said Weathers. "It was about people who make a difference."
Teachers answer a calling as "life-changers," he said, recalling the care and support that he received from a teacher as "a snotty-nosed" child from East Cleveland.
Weathers described the students who came out in his support as friends.
Big changes to the county school system's success and standing occurred because of commitments and investments in the students' futures since he first joined the school board, he said.
"Our school system was nothing to be proud of," said Weathers. "Our test scores stunk and our graduation rate was 70-some-odd percent -- and some people were proud of that."
Graduation rates at the two county high schools -- Walker Valley and Bradley Central -- are currently 95 percent and 94 percent, respectively, he said.
"These things just don't happen," said Weathers, giving credit to McDaniel. "I'm proud to serve with you. It was about serving with people with integrity that really, truly loves our kids and is willing to fight for it."
Board member Charlie Rose commended Weathers for his tireless drive and other members recognized his strong relationships with students and faculty.
During Weathers' farewell address, he also made a reference to friction between the school board and McDaniel.
"I'm not promoting him, but we all know he's on the block," said Weathers.
A performance evaluation given to McDaniel in June revealed a significant rift within the Bradley County Board of Education.
Using a 5-point scale, McDaniel's overall rating averaged 3.58 between the scores given by the board's seven members. In the previous year, his overall average was 4.47 using a different evaluation instrument.
Three board members consistently gave McDaniel a score of "5" in categories such as facilities and finance, vision, student achievement and relationships with the board, staff and community.
"I question whether your expectations are realistic," said board member Chris Turner in regard to board members who rated McDaniel as a "5" in all categories.
One member gave the director 16 ratings of "1" and 13 ratings of "2" or "3" out of 30 line items across the evaluation's six categories.
Weathers, who said he scored McDaniel a "5" across the board, questioned whether the low scores were driven by personal matters and not results.
He will not abandon the cause of students and teachers even though he is no longer on the board, said Weathers.
"I'm going to continue to fight for what I believe is right for our teachers and students, he said.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.