Arnold new director of schools

Published 11:10 am Friday, June 9, 2023

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“I am extremely blessed and excited to get started on this next journey,” said Meredith Arnold, directly following the adjournment of the Claiborne School Board meeting on Thursday evening.

Arnold, who is currently Principal of Claiborne High School, handily won the seat with five of the seven-member school board voting in her favor. Those five were Shane Bunch, Linda Fultz, Neta Munsey, Mike Reece and Wade Breeding.

Board members Juanita Honeycutt and Shannon England voted for Melissa Brock, who is the Principal of H.Y. Livesay Middle School.

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The elimination process began last month when the board narrowed the competition to four candidates – Arnold, Brock, former Soldiers Memorial Middle School Principal Lynn Barnard and Richard Gambrel, who is the current SMMS principal.

A public forum held on May 8 was aimed at getting better acquainted with the candidates. The forum lasted well over four hours.

During the forum, the board learned that Arnold, who grew up on a Claiborne County farm, adheres to four leadership qualities – integrity, personal security, sense of priority and planning for the future.

She told the board and the public that her vision is to work together with staff and parents to ensure that students have the opportunity for a successful future.

An educator for nearly 28 years, Arnold has 19 years in school administration. She was hired as principal of Claiborne High five years ago and set to work correcting the financial issues plaguing the campus. Arnold reported during the forum that the school is no longer in debt.

Just three days after the public forum, the board eliminated Barnard and Gambrel during its regular meeting, leaving Brock and Arnold to battle it out.

Arnold will officially take the directorship over from Interim Director Bob Oakes on July 1. Just prior to the meeting on Thursday evening, Oakes spoke in an interview about his experiences at the helm of the school system.

“I’ve always looked at what is in the best interest of the students and the school system as a whole. I’ve always tried to adhere to that. I’ve been humbled and honored by the fact that I was placed in a position to help in that effort. I appreciate the opportunity to do it.”

Oakes said during the interview that there have been challenges, especially when working together with state mandates.

“This is the first year going forward that we had to do the TISA funding system. We have a really strong budget going into this year. We’re leaving it in good shape, and I’m proud of that,” said Oakes, who is planning to retire at the end of June.

Immediately following the meeting, Arnold spoke of her preliminary plans once her term begins.

“Initially, we will begin by doing an age assessment and then take a look at our talents and gifts that we have available for us and move forward in that direction – as a team, unified.”

Arnold added that she would like to thank everyone for their support.

“It’s greatly appreciated.”

The new Director of Schools will be sworn-in during a special-called meeting on June 22, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Cumberland Gap High School.