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Council appoints Radford Hester to RCS board

The newest member of the Russellville City Schools Board of Education is settling into his role after being appointed earlier this month.

In its regular meeting Dec. 6 the Russellville City Council appointed Radford Hester to fill the expired position of Bret Gist on the RCS BOE.

Gist, a resident of District 4, served two consecutive five-year terms and was vice president of the board. During the work session before the meeting, Gist addressed the council, expressing his desire to be reappointed.

Councilman Jamie Harris, representing District 5, made the motion to appoint Hester, also a District 5 resident, and Councilman David Palmer seconded the motion. The motion carried on a 5-1 vote, with Harris, Palmer, Councilman Darren Woodruff, Councilman Dexter Hamilton and Mayor David Grissom in favor and Councilman Gary Cummings voting against.

Harris explained he feels each of the five districts deserves representation on all the boards. “Since the people of District 5 elected me, it’s my job to work toward doing what I can to make that happen.”

Mayor David Grissom said Gist “did an excellent job, and Councilman Harris thanked him for his service but explained he feels each district deserves to have input into matters involving the children in their district.”

Harris said reappointment would have put Gist at 15 years of serving on the school board. “Mr. Hester’s education and experience in all facets of education makes him very well-suited to serve in this capacity.”

Grissom said Hester’s background speaks for itself. “Mr. Hester has more than 42.5 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in the public schools of Alabama,” explained Grissom, “with 40 of them devoted to administration. He will be an asset to the Russellville City Schools Board of Education.”

Among Hester’s experience is being elected as superintendent for Franklin County Schools in 1976, a position he held for four years and eight months, as the outgoing superintendent left eight months early.

Hester has also been a principal and assistant principal, in addition to being a coach for basketball and track and helping with football.

Gist explained his desire to continue in the role was based on a vested interest, as he is a Russellville alumnus and his three children graduated from Russellville City Schools. His first grandchild is set to start school in the system next year.

He said the school system is “thriving academically and athletically,” noting he felt like it was bad timing for a change. “Others on the board have been appointed to multiple consecutive terms,” Gist pointed out. “It takes a while to understand a school system. If it’s not broken, why ‘fix’ it?

“I believe we should make decisions based on what’s best for the city, not just a certain district.”

Gist said an example to drive home his point is that of Russellville baseball winning multiple state titles in the past few years. “If it were possible, should the nine players be split up equally among the five districts, or should the best players be on the field?”

“I have no negativity toward Mr. Hester,” added Gist. “I don’t really know him, and I don’t know much about him, but the concern I have is how the city council makes these kinds of decisions, whether they are deciding based on what might be best for them politically or personally or based on what they think is best for the city.”

Palmer said the city council appoints the members of all the boards in the city, and appointments are taking place all the time.

“Sometimes members are reappointed, and sometimes they aren’t. It’s not unusual for a sitting board member not to be reappointed,” Palmer said. “The sitting city council has had a real push to provide equal representation for all the districts for each board, and we don’t currently have that.”

Palmer said appointing Hester helps rectify that imbalance.

“It’s an imbalance we inherited,” said Palmer. “I’m just looking for people who can serve on the boards that are capable of making the best decisions for the board they represent – folks who can work together and partner with the city council and mayor to work for the betterment of the entire city.”

Hester said he is looking forward to serving on the board.

“Although I didn’t campaign for the position, I’m honored to be asked to serve,” said Hester. “I look forward to working with the superintendent and other members of the Board. My only goal is to listen and be attentive and do what’s best for the school system.”

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