Burks and Curtiss donate ‘Blue Books’ to WCMS

By | October 31, 2006 12:00 am

Kim Swindell Wood
White County Middle School seventh grade social studies teachers now have an added teaching tool that was provided to them free-of-charge courtesy of State Senator Charlotte Burks and State Representative Charles Curtiss.
Burks and Curtiss made a trip to WCMS, on Thursday, to present copies of Tennessee’s Blue Book to the seventh grade educators who will be teaching the state’s history in government. Both legislators signed the inside covers of the books as a way of showing their dedication to the education of the generation they said would soon be the leaders of the future.
Vickie Austin, WCMS teacher, greeted the Burks and Curtiss with enthusiasm at the door to her classroom. Austin said her classes had just completed a project that taught them about the counties Burks represents by reviewing the district map.
Austin said students had also reviewed the maps prior to redistricting that showed the counties represented by Burks’ husband, Senator Tommy Burks.
Charlotte represents District 15, which covers White, Jackson, Overton, Putnam and Cumberland counties. When her husband was murdered Oct. 19, 1998, by his opponent in the November 1998 election, Byron Looper, Charlotte was immediately enlisted as the likely candidate to fill the shoes of her late husband and won as a write-in candidate. She has continued to hold that seat in each consecutive election. Prior to redistricting, White County was not included in the counties represented by Charlotte.
Curtiss has also followed the path of consecutive reelections to his position as 43rd district state representative, which covers all of White County and portions of Warren and Putnam counties.
After visiting with Austin, Charlotte and Curtiss, along with Paul Steele, WCMS principal, stepped next door to Rick Milton’s classroom where they met with students and told them about their responsibilities as legislators.
“These are the people that help make the laws of Tennessee,” said Steele, as he introduced the legislators to Milton’s students.
Curtiss commented his and Burks “replacements” in the legislature could possibly be sitting in the classroom as he encouraged the students about their future pursuits in life.
Steele continued with his comments by providing some background information on the two legislators to help students become more familiar with their visitors. Steele told students Burks lives in Monterey while Curtiss is a “hometown guy.”
“I live in downtown Cassville,” smiled Curtiss, as a few of the students grinned.
Burks replied, “My husband’s mother was from White County.”
“They have an important job,” Steele told the students, “and they take care of the laws and things that govern the state up on Capitol Hill.”
Steele then told students they could possibly be asked to attend a session of the legislature and serve as pages.
“These are students from schools like ours,” said Steele. We’ve had students invited down, and you get to go down and be like a secretary or messenger for them during the day. They let you come out on the legislative floor and help them through their day’s work. Keep up your grades, and keep up good behavior. And, who knows, you may be down there one of these days.
Curtiss suggested Milton and Austin could choose the three best students from each class to be pages for a day.
“On Monday nights, we meet at 5 o’clock,” said Burks, “so if your parents wanted to bring you down or your teacher might want to bring you down.”
Curtiss said if students attend the legislative session as pages, they would not be counted absent from school.
“It counts as a day in school,” said Curtiss. “We changed the law about 1997 or 1998, and that initiative came from a student just like you. They said, ‘It doesn’t seem reasonable I have to miss school to come to the legislature. Why don’t you change the law that it counts as though I’m in school?’ So, that’s what we did. The very next year, we changed the law.”
Steele said he was “certainly agreeable” to the students attending one of the legislative sessions. Steele said he had transported some of the students who had participated as pages in the past.
“We can take 10 or 15,” said Curtiss, “or we can take 20 at a time. We can work it out, because Charlotte – she can have some in the Senate, and I can have some in the House.”
Burks and Curtiss ended their visit by having a group photo made with the students.

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