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HCS turns 40

“Honoring the past- this is part of the philosophy of Hartselle City Schools,” HCS Superintendent Dr. Vic Wilson said while introducing special guests at Monday’s institute  kick off for the new school year. “What’s a better way to start of a new school year than by remembering and honoring those who helped the system be where it is today?”

Wilson reached out to all past superintendents and board members who had served since Hartselle formed their own school system. He included family members of board members who have died.

Hartselle became a stand-alone system in 1975, forming a city system after being a part of the Morgan County Board of Education for many years. The HCS is celebrating 40 years as a school system this year, and Wilson felt this was a good way to pay tribute to those who were there at the beginning and helped form the foundation for this great school system.

Barry Halford, who served on the first school board, said then Mayor John D. Long called and asked him if he thought they were ready to go to a city school system back in 1975.

On March 27, 1975, the city council voted to form its own school system, which they felt would offer a better educational opportunity for the children of Hartselle.

Halford, Dick Stoner, Elaine Duncan and Elmo Kerr had been serving on a city advisory board for the local schools and were appointed as the first board members. Larry Anders was also appointed to complete the five-member board.

One of the first tasks was to hire a superintendent , which was Dr. J. Carlton Smith from South Carolina. Dr. Smith mentioned Monday that Mayor Long actually gave up his office in city hall so the school system could have an office to operate out of temporarily. Smith started off with a cardboard box and began looking for staff for the central office. The system later had office space in the basement of the old post office building.

Smith also remembered fondly that the first month of operation they were not sure who all was on the payroll for Hartselle, but after a quick meeting with Morgan County Board’s financial officer, the county agreed to pay the employees and the Hartselle city system would pay Morgan County back. He also talked about the outstanding principals and teachers in the Hartselle system and what a pleasure it was to work with them.

Smith said Hartselle was good for him and his family and they had thought they would be here for the rest of his life, however, another opportunity arose, and they moved from Hartselle.

Halford mentioned the system began with approximately $150,000 and a promise of then Citizens Bank to loan the system a no-interest loan to pay the system’s first payroll until the money came in from the state in October of that year.

Halford and Smith both reflected fondly when discussing the system’s first maintenance man. The system hired Don Key because Key had the tools needed for the job, according to both men. Key was a neighbor to Halford and would call on Halford if he needed help on a project. With Key’s son Randall, HHS’s current band director, standing beside them,  Halford told the people attending Monday’s meeting that Key was the only school maintenance man who had a school board member working for him.

Dr. Lee Hartsell, former superintendent, also received a warm reception when he came on stage.

Former board member Jeff Gray said he was proud to have served with good people like Susan Puckett, Ronnie Abercrombie, Kathy White Goodwin, Dr. Andy Dukes, Greg Cain and the late Joe Berry.

Other past board members in attendance included Alton Sulcer, Mike Strickland, Dickie Glenn, Kathy White Goodwin, Monty Vest, Bruyne Rollins, Larry Beasley and Jim Gibson. Board members who have died include Kerr, who was represented by his daughter Carol Powell; Elaine Duncan, who was represented by her husband Dr. W. C. Duncan and their son, daughter and grandson; and Stoner, who was represented by his wife Nancy and their son.

Bill Russell, who was unable to attend was represented by his daughter Julie Hall.

Those in attendance at Monday’s institute welcomed and showed their appreciation to the special.