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THE KINGSPORT TIMES, KINGSPORT, TENNESSEE, SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 1936

DISGRUNTLED FEW FLAYED BY SCHOOL BOARD 

SCOTT COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD SMITES RADICAL ELEMENT SEEKING CONTROL

Smith Denies Misappropriation of School Funds; Says Books Open to Inspection

By FRANK D. RULE (Kingsport Times Staff Writer)

GATE CITY, Va., March 28.—A new angle on the Scott county school situation came to the forefront today as the school board struck point blank at its opponents with bared fangs and turned thumbs down on any and all proposals to oust W. D. Smith as county school superintendent.

     The sphinx-like attitude taken by the board, was unmasked here long enough for the board to defend its action and at the same time cast a few aspersions of its own.

     The action against it, members of the board declared, is being taken by a "disgruntled few, seeking to further their own political ambitions, who do not have strength enough to further these ends in an election of the people."

     A small group of the radical element of the Democratic party is seeking control of the Scott county situation, they said. Charges preferred against the board are unfounded and have been brought without cause, the board contends.

     Every question, the board claims, asked by the supervisors at the meeting early this week, was answered to the satisfaction of the supervisors and to the public at large.

Above Board

     The board declared that its record was above board and open to the public at all times for inspection.

     The political feud between the two factions, it was pointed out, dates back prior to the World war.  In 1914 a school building program was instituted. High schools were erected in all sections of Scott County.

     This, the board said, incurred an indebtedness of $266.000 to the tax payers of the county. Shortly after this the United States became involved

in the war. Then peace time and the lull that followed the war.

     People of Scott county were unable to meet taxes. Delinquent taxes began to pile up thus preventing the board at that time from meeting its obligations on the school bonds.  Taxes have never been collected sufficiently since that time to meet the bonded indebtedness of the schools they say.

     This has been blamed on the present school board, members said, again being brought to the front because of personal animosity of a few, seeking to lead the public to believe the debt is the direct result of the action of the present board.

     This enmity was stirred up in the party ranks by a minority who, board members said, pay a minimum tax to Scott county.

Low Operating Cost

In defending" its action the board pointed to its record that Scott county uses less money, per capita, than any county in the state for the maintenance of its schools. The school levy is slightly more than $13 of the present tax rate. Lee county, the second lowest in the

state, is better than $19.

     The county's appropriation for schools, the board said, is $42,000, while adjoining counties are more than double this amount.

     At the same time educational facilities are of the highest standard, board members declared, with the best teachers available furnishing their services to the county.  State officials have had high praise for the unusual results gained from Scott county schools at such a low cost, they aver.

     "The board," one member said, "feels that the people of Scott county have received dollar for dollar value on funds expended on Scott county schools."

     The board did not deny that it has shifted funds from one budgetary

item to another. They declared this was done when occasions demanded it, but that the funds had been replaced.

     In most instances, they claim, opponents have gone into questions haphazardly where there was no foundation.

     The board declared emphatically that it will not ask W. D. Smith to resign as superintendent of Scott county schools.

50 Years Service 

     "Mr. Smith" they said, "has given his entire life to the elevation and promotion of education in Scott County.  He has spent 50 years in the office and has refused better jobs.  Now that he is ill and has but one year to serve, the board feels that it would be very unfair to make such a request."

     The efforts to have Mr. Smith ousted, they charge, is so great that opponents are sparing no one in order to remove him from office.  The move to have the supervisors office abolished is an indirect thrust through A. S. Noblin to force him out of office. Knowing of Mr. Smith's physical condition, they said, the radical element realizes that Mr. Smith would be unable to handle the duties of the office at this time. He would be forced to resign.

     When interviewed at his home near Yuma, Va., this morning, Mr. Smith emphatically denied that any funds had been misappropriated in the school superintendent's office or that he had received any compensations, other than his salary, for his services.

     "There; have been irregularities in the office," Mr. Smith said, "but I am willing to eat, red hot, every dollar that has been misappropriated Intentionally."

     He went on to say that former clerks who had misused funds had done so unintentionally and that every dollar had been replaced when the discrepancy had been found.

     "Scott county has a school board made up of men of integrity, who stand at the high heat point In county circles. They should be commended for their work. You will find that the majority, and the better element, is behind the board," he added.

Agrees With Board

     He concurred in the contention of the board that the situation now centering around the school board is the result of action of a "few disgruntled, politically ambitious, men.".  He said further that there was no foundation for their charges.

     Questions presented to the board at its meeting Monday were answered by the board, but were declared “frivolous” and created by a group that failed to search the records  for their information.

The questions and answers are as follows:

1. Do you propose to accept our recommendations as to the cutting from your proposed budget, appropriations for a school supervisor and supplementary salary for W. D. Smith?

Ans. No. We do not propose to cut it out.

2.  Do you propose to conduct your business in accordance with the laws enacted by the legislature of Virginia, or do you propose to continue your business in accordance with your own laws?

Ans. We have always conducted the office in accord with the state laws and intend to continue to do so.

3. How many buses does the school board own? How much did you pay for each?. How much does it cost to run them each year?  How many are under contract? How does the cost of the two compare? Would it not be better to place all of the school buses under contract? Then you would know exactly how much money is being expended.

Ans. The board owns four buses, seven are under contract. As to the cost that information is on record and open to the inspection of the public. We do not have the information available at this time. We have found that the operation of buses under contract is cheapest and the board is gradually working to that end.

4. How much money has the school board expended for the CWA, and FERA projects? From what items in your budget did you take these funds? Did you not have enough money appropriated to operate the school buses for the entire year if you did not use this money for other purposes?

Ans. Off-hand the figures are not available. They are on record and can be had. However, the county has built four new buildings with 45 per cent of the money furnished by the federal government. Four have been repaired and painted with 70 per cent being furnished by the government and, the grounds of six schools have been beautified with the cost of the supervision the only expense to the county. We did have enough to operate the buses but due to unforeseen circumstances when one bus was destroyed in a crash at Daniel Boone, and two others broke down and an extra bus put into service, our funds, were exhausted.

5. Do you propose to have your meeting in open in the courtroom, and have your claims presented and approved before the public, or do you propose to continue your system of holding your meetings behind closed doors?

Ans. We propose to hold them in way to the best advantage of the county. However, after the meeting, the minutes are open for inspection to show any action taken by the board.

6. What system of purchasing supplies do you have? Do you allow bus drivers to buy gas as they need it, and charge same to the school board.

Ans.  Drivers are allowed to purchase gas, but must obtain a sworn statement from the service station.  Drivers are checked and when found to be too extravagant an investigation is made.

7.  Do you make any effort to buy your supplies at wholesale prices?

Ans.  We certainly do, except in emergency cases when a small amount of any certain supply is needed.

8. When your employees or representative buys supplies does your clerk give orders to the merchants to see these articles, or do your representatives buy what they want at any time?

Ans.  The purchases are okayed by the board or superintendent.

9. When was W. D. Smith last at his office?

Ans. In January.  He was ill at that time and unable to be there then. He has kept in close contact with the office at all times.

10. How often does he visit schools?

Ans. He is unable to visit them now. He visited them often when he was able.

11. How often does A. S. Noblin visit schools?

Ans. As often as he can.  Many have been visited as high as four times this year and two schools have been visited never before visited by any other supervisor.

12. When tuition was being collected, did Mr. W. D. Smith deposit

this money in the bank in his own name? Did Mr. Smith use this money for his own benefit?

Ans. No. Mr. Smith did not deposit this money in his own name.  A sworn affidavit can be obtained if necessary. It was deposited under a "tuition" account then turned over to the county treasury.

13. Why do you not comply with the law by depositing school money into the county treasury?  Money collected from incidental fees and receipts should go into the treasury.

Ans. The board does not charge incidental fees. Certain individual schools do, but this is not connected with the school board. All funds obtained by the board are turned over to the treasury.

14. In 1925 the school board sold $20.000 worth of bonds, the money derived from the sale of these bonds was to be divided among the several districts of the county. How did you distribute this money among the various districts? What was it spent for?  If spent for teachers it was not spent properly, because funds from the state are sufficient to pay the teachers.   Where was this money deposited.  There is no record of it ever being deposited in the county treasury.  How was this money handled?

Ans. These bonds were only refunded, according to the state statute, at a lower rate of interest in order to save money for taxpayers of Scott County.

15. Does the county supply Mr. Smith with his coal at any time?

Ans. No. It does not.

16. Did the county place a gasoline pump at his home and furnish him gasoline for private purposes?

Ans. It did not.

17. Did Mr. Smith pay the county for a dozen or more rolls of woven wire fencing used on his farm?  These rolls of wire were charged to the Scott County School Board.

Ans. This wire was not charged to the school board. What was purchased went to the Strong school building.

18. The school board or W. D. Smith has been collecting rent on an old school building on the Taylor property, near the home of Mr. Smith. Has this money been turned into the office of the county treasurer?

Ans. When the board quit using the property for a school it was reverted to the Taylor estate. Later it was purchased by Mr. Smith with his own funds. There has been no rent collected.

19. Was Mr. R. L. Webb, in violation of Virginia statute, given contract to rebuild the gymnasium at Hilton, rebuild a building destroyed by fire in Fulkerson district, as well as other building contracts?

Ans. There were no contracts.  Work was done under WPA with Mr. Webb as supervisor.

20. Since tuition has been abolished, you yet collect incidental fees, which is explained as being used to pay for coal, janitors, and drayage.  But the records show that the janitors, coal, and drayage are being paid by school warrants. What goes with this money?

Ans. The school supplies are a separate fund. Profit in these items is used for freight, telegrams and other incidental expenses. This is not a school fund and is out of the jurisdiction of the board.

21. If you sell books and supplies each year and make a profit of 15 per cent, what do you do with this profit? Your school book fund is reimbursed by a school warrant for all books furnished children unable to pay. How do you get around the law by not depositing all money collected into the county treasury?

Ans. That question was answered in the preceding answer.

22. Why did you pay Ryland Craft's expenses to Richmond? Warrants 804 and 222 total about$225.

Ans. The expenses were not that much. Mr. Craft and Sam Carter were sent to Richmond seeking government funds with which to pay teachers. They obtained $11,000 as a result of the trip. The expenses were divided between the two men.

23. Why do you not make financial reports on June 30 as required by section G44J of the Virginia code showing all monies collected and disbursed?

Ans. Until the past year all reports have been filed. When Mrs. Rose went into office as clerk she did not know until too late that such reports were to be filed. They are to be resumed.

24. Why do you not publish the above report in the Gate City Herald each July, as required by law?

Ans. This also was answered above.

25. Why do you not publish in the paper the day you expect to elect a division superintendent as required by law?

Ans. We intend to next year.

26. Do you know that it is contrary to law to exceed any item in your budget?  You should not shift from one fund to another.

Ans. Sometimes an emergency makes this necessary. The money is replaced, however.


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