In 1940, Kentucky law deemed Rudolph Turner qualified for a seat on the Owsley County school board. He had turned 24. He ran, and won.
Fifty-two years later, his standing appointment on the second Tuesday of every month is about to end. State law, it turns out, has now declared him obsolete.
Mr. Turner’s 8th-grade education was sufficient for a number of jobs he held while farming burley tobacco for most of his life, but it falls short of the high-school diploma now required for school-board membership.
Described as a leader whose reserved manner hides a strong will, Mr. Turner says he has yet to tell many of his eastern Kentucky constituents that his half-century on the Owsley County school board is nearing an end. He still has his own mixed emotions about the situation.
“It wouldn’t bother me too bad to run again--I’ve got nothing better to do,’' he says. “But it wouldn’t hurt me to quit.’'
Mr. Turner says it was at the urging of friends that he first decided to run for the county school board. In the 12 elections since, he can only remember a couple of times when he faced opposition.
In that time, the county, which includes about 1,000 students, has moved from a network of one-room schoolhouses to a central elementary and high school in Booneville, the county seat and Mr. Turner’s hometown.
While the consolidation battle was the most emotional issue he can recall, Mr. Turner says he still regrets the school board’s decision to remove prints of the Ten Commandments from school walls and is frustrated by the state’s ban on paddling.
In fact, Mr. Turner says, he has yet to see the rationale of the school reforms passed by the state legislature two years ago, the law that will claim his position.
“I don’t see any sense in it,’' he says. “But I guess I’m just old-fashioned.’'
His school-board colleagues declare the 75-year-old board chairman is far from a relic, however.
“He’s been a hard worker all the time he’s been on the board,’' says Donald Isaacs, himself an old-timer on the board, despite joining it 20 years after Mr. Turner. “Anything that would improve the schools, he’s been out front on.’'
“He’s smarter than I am,’' Ellis E. Rasner, the Owsley County superintendent, adds.
Local officials say they still are hopeful they will find a wrinkle in the state law that will allow Mr. Turner to continue on the board. But a recent opinion from the state attorney general’s office said the law leaves few options for the seven Kentucky board members who have not completed high school.
“We’re going to try our best to find a way,’' Mr. Isaacs pledges, “because we need him.’'
A version of this article appeared in the April 29, 1992 edition of Education Week as After 52 Years, ‘Hard Worker’ Is Ousted From Office