Bread without the butter, cake without the icing, soup without the sandwich, baseball without the hot dog and Mom without the apple pie sum up the 2009-2010 Cumberland County School System budget unanimously passed by your Board of Education during our June 25 meeting. Forced by hard times to cut $724,423 from an already austere document, we are once again faced with funding our children's education with only a whisker over the bare minimum "maintenance of effort" required by law. Absent American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) stimulus funding, our current hard times would pale in comparison to what reality truly is. A sneak peek at the end of the bailout two years down the road is not a pretty picture.

Eliminated from our program, among many other things, are driver education and JROTC classes. Given our current state of affairs and because we can afford only the basic education program, our state requires by law and because those aforementioned programs would require local dollars to implement, which only exist in our dreams, the painful but obvious choice had to be made. Local option sales tax at the moment is just what those four first letters spell — LOST. Thank goodness folks ponied up their property tax in record numbers. According to Business Manager Cindy Randol, our property tax revenue will offset most of that which has been has been "lost."

I began advocating for a JROTC program way back in 1992, when I became head football coach at Cumberland County High School. The intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of self discipline and esprit de corps found in JROTC will now need to be shouldered by the commanding officers in the home, church and other academic disciplines. It's a tough pill to swallow. No good soldier wants to see their unit eliminated.

Cuts were made to the following line items: Board of Education, regular instruction, textbooks, alternative school programs, special education, vocational education, support services, office of the principal, operation of plant, maintenance of plant, transportation, and preschool. The surgery totaling the magic number listed above which we were directed to carry out by the County Commission's Budget Committee brought us to a balanced budget in this high wire act. As is customarily the case, there will be no small, incremental adjustment made to your property tax rate this year.

In stark contrast to our last budget rodeo, these proceedings have been much more civil and orderly. A logical, methodical process has evolved which has been devoid of gamesmanship. For this change I thank the chairman and the committee.

There was much to celebrate in our premeeting spotlight. We learned that Food Service Manager Kathy Hamby has earned her certification as a school nutrition specialist! Quite an undertaking, we are very fortunate to have someone of her caliber working with us. In addition, the Tennessee School Nutrition Association (TSNA) has designated Cumberland County as one of 15 counties in our state to receive the Local Foods For Local Schools Award. As the name implies, Kathy has made it a point to use everything they can from local farmers. It's in her nature!

At the recent TSNA Convention in Gatlinburg, two of the 11 statewide scholarships presented were to students from Cumberland County. Clearly, that speaks well of our school system.

During year end, cafeteria health inspections, North and Martin Elementary Schools earned a 96; Stone Memorial High School, a 97; Homestead Elementary School, posted a 98; and Brown Elementary scored an unheard of 100! Congratulations are in order for each of the managers, their staff members and the students, faculty and staff at each of those schools.

Routine, end of the year, clean-up agenda items filled the remainder of the meeting and no produce was harmed in the process. Don't try this at home, however! She is a professional!

Like you, I'm hoping that during my lifetime, we'll see Cumberland County's school children receive the butter, icing, sandwich, hot dog and apple pie they deserve. Meanwhile, we'll keep on keeping on and do the best we can with what we have. Thanks so much for the opportunity you have given me to represent you!