Gibson steps down, Clawson  returns to school board chair

Dr. Joe Gibson Jr., longtime chairman of the Hamblen County school board, stepped down from the role Tuesday night.

The school board unanimously voted during its regularly scheduled business meeting Tuesday night to install Carolyn Holt Clawson as chairwoman of the board and Jim Grigsby as vice chairman. Grigsby takes over the vice chairman role from school board member Clyde Kinder.

Gibson said he had been thinking of not running again for the chairman role for several months. He said he feels more than comfortable with Clawson filling his former role, a role she has held in the past as well.

“I felt like it would be good to have some new leadership in there,” he said. “She’s been chairman before.”

Gibson was first elected to fill the seat of his father, Dr. Joe Gibson Sr., in 2003. He has served as chairman of the board since September 2009.

But, he said over the course of the last several months, he began rethinking his role on the board.

“It was time for a change,” he said.

He also praised Clawson, saying that he thinks she will play a beneficial role as chairwoman.

“I think she’ll be great,” Gibson said. “She takes things seriously. She’s been on the board longer than I have. We’ll be fine.”

Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said he has been honored to work with Gibson.

“It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with Dr. Gibson as the chair over the last several years,” Perry said. “He has been extremely good to me and I’ve benefited from his leadership and sense of service. I think that clearly he was elected to become a school board member for all the right reasons.”

Perry said the former chairman has been a solid member of not only the school board, but the community.

“He sought a position on the board not for political gain or personal promotion, but simply to serve this community,” he said. “We need more individuals like him to serve in positions of leadership who are simply doing it for the good of the community.”

Perry also said the Hamblen County Department of Education is looking forward to moving forward.

“We’re excited about Mrs. Clawson taking over as chairwoman and we look forward to her leadership also,” he said.

The decision to install Clawson came as part of a regularly scheduled installation of officers for the board. Each September, the board votes to install new officers.

Also, part of the school board meeting Tuesday night saw the school board talking about active COVID-19 numbers in the school. This week, the number of active cases dropped to 78, a low in almost two weeks as the Delta variant of COVID saw numbers spike across the county and the state of Tennessee.

At one point, the number of active cases spiking led to the 7th grade of West View Middle School to conduct online classes for a few days.

“It is going in the right direction,” Perry said about the active cases drop. “We hope it continues.”

He said many medical experts had predicted the latest variant would rise quickly and burn out quickly. He said he hoped that was the case happening right now.

“It burnt hot for a short period of time,” he said. “Then it went down. We hope that trend continues.”

He also updated the school board on the construction of a new Lincoln Heights Elementary School.

Jim Hinton, vice president for Cope & Associates, the architects on the project, said he believed the price tag for the new school would be around $24 million. He said that falls in line with the price tag of two schools presently being constructed in Knox County.

The cost would be for a 700-person elementary school. Perry said there were currently around 540 students at Lincoln Heights Elementary, so a new school would be able to handle any growth.

He said if there were cuts to be made, it could possibly be made on the overall size, but he would not advise it.

Perry said it’s always better to have more than not enough.

Hinton agreed.

“My recommendation is build as much as you can afford because you’re never not going to need more space,” he said.