St. Paul couple donates land for CTE facility

Charles and Janelle Riddle, (middle) who donated property to the Huntsville School District to build a Career and Technical Education Center for the St. Paul Campus, were recognized at Monday’s regularly scheduled school board meeting by President of the Board Danny Thomas (left) and Interim Superintendent Audra Kimball (right).

Janelle and Charles Riddle of St. Paul Monday announced a donation of land to the Huntsville School District that will be used for a Career Technical Education building for the St. Paul Campus, saving the district approximately $200,000 in building expenditures.

In May 2019, Madison County voters approved an increased millage in order to build CTE facilities for Huntsville High and the St. Paul schools, install new heating and air conditioning units at the Charles Berry Gymnasium in Huntsville and the St. Paul gymnasium and build a new activity center in Huntsville.

The CTE facility at St. Paul was to be built on the upper elementary playground. However, at Monday night’s regularly scheduled board meeting, the Riddles announced that they were donating land located next to the old gymnasium on the St. Paul Campus for the CTE facility.

“I hated to see the upper elementary playground go away, so Charles and I have decided to donate those lots to build the CTE building,” Janelle Riddle told the board.  

“This is not only a huge thing for you guys to do for your community and for your school district and the county of Madison, you are also saving us lots of money just by the relocation of that spot,” President of the School Board Danny Thomas said to the Riddles.

Thomas said that because of the donated land’s location, the district will not have to spend as much money on construction costs, thereby saving the district approximately $200,000. The cost of the lots are being appraised.

The money saved from the project will be used on general expenditures for the district.

“We made it to help the school and to help the students and to save the upper elementary playground,” Janelle said. She said she and her husband had been discussing the donation for a long time.

The Riddles approached the school district about the donation. Janelle currently teaches at St. Paul and has taught at the school for 35 years.

Charles taught electronics for a coop program, VEGA, working in St. Paul, Elkins, Greenland and West Fork. Through the program, students were taught nursing, graphics, auto mechanics and electronics. Before retiring, Charles taught at Ramey Junior High in Fayetteville and Washington Junior High in Bentonville.

Janelle and Charles Riddle graduated from St. Paul High School in 1970.

Janelle’s mother, Geraldine Petree, who taught school for 50 years in Madison County beginning at age 16, taught her last 35 years at St. Paul. Janelle’s father, Jessie “Jay Boy” Petree and Charles’ father, Ebb Riddle, were members of the St. Paul School Board.

“We have a long history of connections to this school and really love this area,” Janelle said.

“It’s easy to move forward with something like this as it is truly a donation,” board member Duane Glenn told the Riddles.

The board also addressed the issue of locating the Huntsville CTE building in the former Walmart Building on Lee Street. Jonathan Formanek has approached the school board asking it to purchase a portion of the former Walmart building as the location for the Huntsville facility.  

Formanek has entered into an agreement with Walmart for a foundation that is set up to procure the building. He has stated that the foundation will only be able to procure the Walmart building if the district agrees to buy a portion of it.

The district needs 20,000 square feet for the facility. The Walmart building is 37,000 square feet. Formanek has set up the See for Yourself Foundation and would like the Madison County Library to move into some of the remaining 37,000 square feet.

Although the board has not officially voted on the locations or the plans for the CTE facilities, it has said it is not interested in locating the Huntsville CTE facility in the former Walmart building.

“We are not pursuing the Walmart building,” Thomas said. “We are following the direction that we are going with the new CTE buildings in the places that we are going to build them.”

Thomas said the district did not want to share a building.

“It’s not in our control as much as we would like for it to be,” he said. “Hopefully somebody can do something with it, maybe the city, maybe the county, somebody can step in and utilize that building and make it something good for the community.”

After the meeting Thomas said although he had not spoken directly to Formanek to tell him no, “I’m publicly telling him no. The answer is no,” Thomas said.

During the board meeting, he said the board was moving forward with new buildings. “We are to the point of going out with bids. ... It’s about a three-week process on the bids and we are to that point on getting those started,” he said.

“It’s taken longer than anticipated, but getting the approval from the state took longer than expected,” Thomas said.  

“We just want it to be done right. We’ve waited 30 years and if it takes another couple three months, then it takes another three couple months to do it right.”

The district also recognized Bailey Cotton, director of technology for the district, for applying for federal funding for cabling of the CTE building.

Huntsville School District Interim Superintendent Audra Kimball said that the initial cost of cabling for the building was $155,000, but Cotton pursued funding through E-rate, a program through the Federal Communications Commission, and the school district received approximately $100,000 for the cabling, leaving the remaining cost for the cabling at approximately $55,000.  

“No one asked Bailey to do this,” Kimball said. “He did this on his own.”

The school also approved plans proposed by Eric Blocker for a National Interscholastic Association (NICA) bike course near the former school administration building on the Huntsville Intermediate School campus. Blocker said it would not cost the school any money and would be built and maintained by students participating in the NICA program.

NICA participants are required to volunteer 10 hours each year and will volunteer their time to build and maintain the course. “We’re very capable of maintaining  and taking care of it,” Blocker told the board.

The board granted permission to Blocker but without a vote.

“It would be in the center of our town and could connect our schools and possibly connect our town,” Blocker said.

Huntsville High School baseball team members gave a brief presentation of the fund-raising efforts used to finance the team’s annual spring break trip to Florida, in which they participate in a baseball tournament in preparation for conference games.

The board also approved the resignation of Dan Childress, who was defensive coordinator for the Huntsville High School football team, and the hiring of Elizabeth Morris and Jaime Duran for custodian positions.

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