School board pays tribute to departing member, Mike Barbour

Members of the PCHS Chorus sing to retiring School Board member Mike Barbour. (Mike Williams photo)

When Pulaski County Middle School opens next fall, one of its many features will be a brand-new baseball field. And, following action Tuesday night by the School Board, that field will be known as “Michael J. Barbour Field.”

Approval of a resolution naming the field was one of the highlights of a retirement celebration for the former School Board Chairman and current Vice Chairman.

Barbour – who is ending nine years of service on the board – chose not to seek re-election to the Ingles District seat in the last election.

Come Jan. 1, Barbour’s seat on the board will be taken by Penny Golden who ran unopposed for election last month.

Besides several musical salutes in his honor including songs written by Angie Clevinger and performed by members of the Pulaski County High School Chorus, Barbour was showered with words of praise from his fellow members of the board and others.

His legal assistant, Lisa Burnett, said Barbour had a number of goals he wanted to see achieved during his tenure on the school board. Those included improving the quality of education provided to students in the county, improving teacher pay and benefits, and resolving the issue of the dilapidated and crumbling middle schools.

“I believe we can all agree that those goals have all been successfully accomplished,” she said.

Burnett said she could attest to the number of hours Barbour had spent preparing for meetings, researching issues that were before the board and speaking with people who had reached out to him in his capacity as a board member.

“I believe he leaves Pulaski County Schools in a better state than they were before he began his service on this board,” she noted.

“Mr. Barbour is a champion of those who are all-too-often overlooked and ignored, and I sincerely hope this is not the end of his public service.”

Massie District board member Beckie Cox said considering her and Barbour’s past histories in politics, “you’d probably think we could never agree on anything. But we always seemed to come together and agree wholeheartedly on what was best for the students, teachers and staff of our schools. I don’t think there was a time we disagreed on what needed to be done.”

Cloyd District representative Bill Benson said Barbour had played a role in all of the other four board members being on the board.

“Even before we were on the board, he talked to me about wanting to see an end to so many teachers crossing the bridge going to work in Radford, and how we really needed a new middle school,” Benson said.

He noted a lot has been accomplished and Barbour had played a big role in all of it.

“Many of these things wouldn’t have been accomplished if it hadn’t been for you. I thank you and the students and teachers of Pulaski County thank you,” he told Barbour.

Board Chairman and Draper District representative Tim Hurst spoke of Barbour’s knowledge of the school system.

“We (board members) joke all the time that we’ve never seen anyone that had more knowledge about everything that goes on in Pulaski County Schools than Mike. Whether it’s school buses or teacher salaries, nobody knew more about the school system and all the things we have to deal with than him. I always joked that I never brought up my business when talking with him because I was afraid he’d know more about it than I did,” Hurst joked.

In response, Barbour praised his fellow board members for being “stalwarts in moving the school system forward,” and remembered others with whom he’d served – Jeff Bain and Linda Hill especially – who he described as being “absolutely devoted to the students of Pulaski County.”

“It has been a privilege to serve with them and the current board,” he noted.

Barbour said he had always known Pulaski County had a good school system, but there have been many challenges in recent years.

He spoke of how schools had been affected by the recession.

“I think by 2011 we were struggling after a lot of successes earlier in this century. We had built two elementary schools and we had a lot of things moving forward,” Barbour said.

“Then we got hit really hard by the recession. Rural counties got hit the hardest. I think we struggled to come out of it,” he said, noting that state funding levels that had been reduced by the recession have never been restored.

In the meantime, he said, expenses have constantly accelerated despite there being fewer students and almost 10 percent fewer employees.

Barbour closed by saying he isn’t going anywhere and might drop in occasionally.

He noted he looks forward to his successor joining the board.

“Seeing the accomplishments of teachers and students,” Barbour said, is where my satisfaction comes from.”

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot

Caption: Mike Barbour and wife, Mary display the gift given to him by the Pulaski County School Board.