School Board reviews Director’s contract, hires nurse

Dewain E. Peek/OCN screen shot

School Board member Mitchell Stonecipher, far left, asks a question in discussion of the Director of Schools contract during the Tuesday, Oct. 6 meeting. Listening to Stonecipher’s question, from left, are School Board member Larry Looper, Director of Schools Mark Winningham, School Board member Dolphus Dial, School Board Chairman Jarman Hicks, and School Board member Mike Hayes.

By Dewain E. Peek,

OCN Editor

Overton County Board of Education held the regular monthly meeting Tuesday, October 6, with School Board member Diane Sadler absent due to hospitalization. Sadler passed away from the illness on Friday, Oct. 9.

After the usual housekeeping items, the first order of business was a review of the contract of the Director of Schools. School Board Chairman Jarman Hicks presented it as giving information to the two new members of the School Board, Mitchell Stonecipher and Wayne Taylor.

“Our new Board members, this information was sent to them, so it’s in your packet and we’ll review and go over so everybody understands,” Chairman Hicks said.

Compensation for the Director is $87,257 plus insurance and benefits for a 260-day contract.

Performance evaluations are mentioned in the contract.

“These are not a must do,” Chairman Hicks said. “These are just markers to gauge performance on our annual director evaluations, which we do in April.”

The COVID-19 pandemic kept the evaluations from being completed this year.

Another item Chairman Hicks noted was the Director’s requirement to take necessary steps to keep schools at Level 3 or above.

“Right now, we’re not maintaining that,” Chairman Hicks said.

After two consecutive years there will be a one-year probationary period, Chairman Hicks said, and failure to raise those scores may result in unilateral termination of the contract.

Chairman Hicks said this school year would be the probationary period.

Over the course of going through more items in the contract, Chairman Hicks explained that a clause that allowed for a unilateral removal by the Board through a super-majority vote has been deemed illegal and therefore unenforceable.

After Chairman Hicks went over the rest of the contract, Stonecipher asked about the provision requiring maintaining a Level 3.

Chairman Hicks said he has not seen a number for the school system, and that is why he was looking at individual school numbers.

“I, personally, haven’t seen a number for the system,” Chairman Hicks said. “I’ve seen individual schools, which that’s what this is based off of. So, that’s the reason I look at it that way.

“Right now, there are probably, I will say, four or maybe five that are, have been at a Level 2 for two consecutive years.”

The failing schools were not named.

“But in regards to looking at that number,” Stonecipher asked, “in evaluating the Director of Schools, is it an aggregate across the board for those schools?”

“In the performance evaluation,” Chairman Hicks answered, “I don’t have one handy to see how it’s written in there, but by the contract, it’s per school, not as a whole.”

School Board member William Abston pointed out that the state changed the testing in recent years.

“Scores, they said, would fluctuate some,” Abston said, “and because of the rigor that they were trying to introduce into that, some of those may go down.”

As the discussion continued, Stonecipher asked, “So, all schools would have to have that 3 or above?”

Director of Schools Mark Winningham interjected that it is the school district that would have to be a Level 3 or above.

“The district was to have a Level 3, I believe, and look at the individual schools, and if the individual schools didn’t improve, we didn’t take some steps to make those improve, then we look at the individual schools, I believe is the way to do that,” Director Winningham said.

He asked for Abston to correct him if he was wrong, and Abston said, “Yes, because if all the schools are Level 3 and above, then the district will be Level 3 and above, and if one school falls low, then we would make changes, it would be the director’s ability to make changes to that school to improve it and make it go back where it needed to be.”

After a discussion of what is required of newly tenured teachers, Chairman Hicks turned to the rest of the night’s agenda, beginning with approval of Quarterly Reports.

Addressing a pressing need, School Health Supervisor Jenny Smith asked for an additional nurse.

“We have four nurses, and we have seven schools, and over the course of time, we are having more students that have medical needs that require the assistance of a trained medical professional, and they are in more locations now than we have staff,” Smith said. “And oftentimes, these services need to be given about the same time, often in relation with a meal.

“So we simply have more students in more places than we have staff.”

She then gave information on how the schools are staffed.

“We have one nurse that is full-time at the high school,” Smith said. “That is our largest population, and that is where the head RN is stationed.

“Depending upon the needs of the schools, meaning what students are enrolled and what the needs are at that school is how we divide the nurses, their duties, per year. What they had last year may change next year, which schools that they are assigned to, because we’re looking at logistics. When these services need to be given, can we make it where, if they go to this school then they can make it to the next one in time to meet all the needs?”

A.H. Roberts Elementary and Allons Elementary are grouped together, Hilham Elementary and Livingston Middle School are grouped together, and Rickman Elementary and Wilson Elementary are grouped together. Smith said that if a nurse has a situation that she cannot leave, then another nurse would have to try to cover the necessary duties of that nurse along with her own.

“So, we are getting at the point where we are really struggling to be able to cover,” Smith said.

Taylor made a motion to hire one more nurse, and Hayes seconded.

In discussion, Abston asked if money was available to pay for an additional nurse.

Director Winningham said money should be there for this year to pay for the position.

Stonecipher asked what the nurses will do if the schools are closed for COVID-19 and the students are remote learning.

Smith said the nurses helped hand out meals when the schools closed for the coronavirus in the spring, and also were available to answer parents’ questions about the pandemic.

She also said that quarantines took away two nurses at the beginning of this year, leaving two to try to cover everything.

On the vote, School Board members Hayes, Dolphus Dial, Taylor, Abston, Larry Looper, Stonecipher, Ricky Dodson, Mike Gilpatrick, attending via Teams, and Chairman Hicks all voted to hire one LPN.

Approval was given to take bids on heating the baseball field house, with installation to be performed by the school system’s maintenance department.

Jeffery Fryman’s letter of resignation, effective September 8, 2020, was accepted.

Kristi Garrett’s letter of resignation was accepted.

Paula Smith’s letter of resignation was accepted.

The following budget revisions were approved: 2020-2021 Consolidated Admin Revision #1; 2020-2021 Title IA Revision #1; 2020-2021 Title IIA Revision #1; 2020-2021 Title V Revision #1; 2019-2020 IDEA Part B Revision #1; 2020-2021 IDEA Preschool Revision #1; and 2020-2021 Federal Projects Budget Amendment #1.

Certificate of Compliance with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 49-310(1)(A) was approved, as was the 2020 Local Education Agency Compliance Report.

Minutes of the September 8, 2020 meeting were approved.

OCEA representative Jennifer Eilender was given the floor, and she said, “I just have to report that the teachers are working really hard. The biggest frustration I have had reported to me is the loss of our duty-free lunch. That’s been really, really hard on everybody.

‘I know that it’s one of those things that couldn’t be avoided, but we want you to remember us when we can fix that because that’s been really, really hard on the kids and the teachers.

“Other than that, our thoughts and concerns are with Dr. Sadler and her illness.”

The meeting adjourned, and the School Board went into a work session.

Director Winningham informed the Board that the structural engineer has looked at the current football stadium.

“What he told me on Friday was that the home side is a little more structurally sound than the visitors side,” Director Winningham said. “The visitors side needs some work, and it needs to be done as soon as possible. That’s on the existing stadium.

“He explained all that, why it’s that way. On the visitors side there’s just one row of blocks, apparently, supporting those; on the home side there’s two rows of blocks, well actually three rows of blocks supporting that on the home side.”

Mike Hayes mentioned that October 13 at 5:20 p.m. will be the Overton County Commission’s Budget Committee meeting in which he will present the School Board’s proposal for a new sports facility.