BY DAVID FISHER
One of the top items discussed by Weakley County School Board members, during its March 2 meeting at Sharon School, involved the search process to fill the director of schools position, which will soon be vacated by director Randy Frazier, who is retiring.
So far, only one application has been received, but it is anticipated that three more may be turned in by the March 10 deadline.
Frazier noted the scarcity of applicants may be due, in part, to the fact that it takes almost 20 hours to complete the application.
School board member John Hatler stated the application process could be pared down by simply requiring applicants to submit their resumes, followed by in-person interviews.
Extending the deadline was also mentioned as a possibility to allow for more applications to be received.
Because of the changes in state law and Tennessee School Board Association requirements, Chairman Steve Vantrease suggested it might be advisable to hire an educational consultant to develop protocols, conduct the vetting process and make sure everything is done in a professional, transparent and legal manner.
Vantrease mentioned that he spoke with the TSBA, and they recommend Wayne Qualls, who comes highly qualified, having been an educator for over 50 years. He noted Qualls has served as a teacher, administrator, principal, and education commissioner and on the Tennessee Board of Regents.
According to Vantrease, Qualls’ fees would be $5,000 to $7,000, plus expenses, which is far less than the fees charged by other consulting firms ranging from $7,500 to $15,000.
Some of the board members questioned the necessity of hiring a consultant, while others mentioned extending the March 10 deadline to allow for more applications to be received.
School board member Gath Meeks stated he was not in favor of hiring an outside consultant and suggested waiting to see what applications are received by the March 10 deadline before making a decision.
After a lengthy discussion, the board agreed to meet with Qualls during an upcoming called School Board meeting.
Frazier stated in order to retain teachers and staff, their salaries must be increased. He remarked that larger and also some of the smaller schools systems are paying more than they could earn in Weakley County.
“We are losing folks because we’re not paying enough,” Frazier said.
The revision of a School Board policy stipulating the requirements and qualifications necessary for students to take advanced and college level courses was approved by unanimous vote.
The policy, as amended, allows students in grades seven through twelve to enroll in available advanced courses including, but not limited to, advanced English language arts, mathematics, science, or social studies courses.
The revised policy reads: “To enroll in these courses, students shall meet the following standards: TCAP scores that meet the expectations or above from the most recent available test, ‘A’ or ‘B’ average in the content areas of the advanced classes, and pre-requisite courses (where applicable).
“Students may self-nominate to be considered for enrollment in advanced courses provided they have TCAP scores at the Approaching level from the most recent available test and have an ‘A’ average in the content area of the advanced classes. In the event of self-nomination, a committee composed of administrators and teachers shall determine a student’s eligibility to be enrolled in the advanced classes.”
Additionally, the policy states: “The principal of each school shall have the authority to require additional criteria for the enrollment in advanced courses to fit the needs of the students within the school.”
The board approved the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund Addenda outlining the itemized expenditure of monies provided to the Weakley County School System.
These funds are provided to states and Local Educational Agencies to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s students.
The ESSER 3.0 Fund, under the American Rescue Plan of 2021, which was enacted March 11, 2021, provided more than $122 billion to schools across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These funds were fully distributed by December 2021, with the goal of helping schools return to full, in-person instruction.
LEAs are required to update the ESSER 3.0 public plan every six months through September 30, 2023. Each time, LEAs must seek public input on the plan and any revisions and must take such input into account.
The Weakley County School System has $1,264,427.13 remaining in its ESSER 2.0 Fund and $6,44,632.17 in the ESSER 3.0 Fund, for a total of $7,708,059.30.
These funds are intended to: increase academic achievement, improve student readiness, promote retention of educators, reduce class size (teacher/student ratio) for more individualized instruction, and improve foundations (technology, academic space facilities, auditing and reporting).
A General Purpose School Fund resolution budgeting $4,235,000 in additional funding for the current fiscal year, which involves no local monies, received unanimous board approval.
The resolution allocates $35,650 in additional funding through the State of Tennessee, to assist school systems provide for the needs of high-cost students with disabilities, based on special education expenditures.
The resolution also budgets $4,200,000 in additional state funding through an Innovative School Model Grant, to provide resources, support, and sustainability between schools, the workforce, and post-secondary opportunities.
Athletic Practice During School Day
School Board members approved athletic practice during the school day, which must be done annually to remain in effect.
In other board action:
• Emily Bolin was appointed volunteer softball coach for Gleason School.
• A request to allow a foreign exchange student from Brazil to attend Westview High School for the 2023-2024 school year was approved.
• Several sports and academic related field trips were authorized.