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Whatley, Bates recognized at final board meeting
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In a surprise move, the Newton County Board of Education changed their meeting agenda’s Tuesday night to recognize Superintendent Dr. Steve Whatley at his last board meeting before retiring at the end of the month.

"I appreciate this very much," said Whatley. "It’s a bittersweet moment and it’s one that you never think about, but life does those kinds of things to you. One minute you’re doing one thing and you’re not doing it the next."

Whatley has served as superintendent since 2006. He has been in education for 37 years. The board signed a resolution honoring him and presented him with a portrait to hang in the boardroom.

"I don’t know who wrote that," said Whatley of the resolution, "but it has been truly a team effort and I thank the board members who are currently on the board and those who have served so dedicatedly over the years. For those of you that are in the audience, and running, you could not find a better group of people to work with who have the interest of the students and the employees of this system and the taxpayers of Newton County at heart… It truly is a very delicate balancing act and so I thank you for the honor and the opportunity to serve."

Board members wished Whatley well in his retirement and thanked him for his leadership.

"I think sometimes a school system becomes a business, but not here," said board member Dr. C.C. Bates. "In your heart I know that you have always been in it for the children."

Board member Johnny Smith said incoming superintendent Dr. Gary Mathews had "some big shoes to fill."

"We have been very fortunate to work with you through the years," he said.

Tuesday night’s meeting was also the last for Bates who announced in January that she would not fulfill her term as District 5 representative. Bates’ decision was due to a position she accepted as an assistant professor in the College of Education at Clemson University in South Carolina.

"I would certainly like to say thank you," said Bates. "When I first ran [for BOE], I wondered why it wasn’t a group of educations sitting up here and now I realize how important the diversity is.

"When I look up here, I see Johnny Smith with his financial background which has been especially helpful this year; when we think about the safety of our students and how important that is we look to Almond Turner with his background in law enforcement; as the county has grown Cathy with her expertise in property and real estate has been instrumental; And our newest board member Eddie has really asked thoughtful questions…

And Dr. Whatley has done such a good job of managing us and facilitating a great working relationship we’ve had."

During the meeting the board members unanimously approved the Fiscal Year 2011 budget and the millage rate which was set at 20 mils.

"We made the cuts early then looked at the potential of staying at 18.21 mils or going to a rollback rate which we calculated then at 19.1," said Whatley. "When the tax digest came from the county the rollback rate was 20.414 mils, and as everyone knows the cap we can raise our mileage rate to is 20 mils. So there is no way we can get to the rollback rate.

The board anticipates an ending fund balance of $5.5 million on June 30, 2011.