The Wilson County Board of Education has basically three options under consideration regarding the recent events surrounding Director of Schools Dr. Tim Setterlund, according to the board chairman.
Chair Don Weathers of Zone 4, who spoke to The Wilson Post Monday night, said the options are: one, do nothing “because it doesn’t rise to the height of disciplinary action;” two, issue a written reprimand according to the school board’s policy; and three, dismissal or termination of Setterlund.
“Those are our three basic options,” Weathers told The Post.
The board policy Weathers referenced is Policy 5.600 titled “Staff Rights & Responsibilities.” According to the policy, there is a “four-step progressive disciplinary procedure” that “will normally be followed in cases of alleged violation of policies by employees.”
It continues to read: “The severity of some of actions may result in disciplinary action starting at Step 2, Step 3 or Step 4.” The four steps are:
“Step 1: Verbal consultation with the employee by the immediate supervisor, with written summary signed by the employee and supervisor, to be placed in the employee personnel file;
“Step 2: Written reprimand of the employee, signed by the employee and supervisor, with a copy to remain in the personnel file;
“Step 3: Suspension without pay in which the suspended employee shall relinquish all duties, responsibilities, privileges and compensation (insurance coverage to be retained); documentation, in writing, signed by the employee and supervisor, to be placed in the personnel file;
“Step 4: Dismissal.”
While the board does have the option of taking Step 3, which is to suspend Setterlund, Weathers said, “I just don't think that a suspension is an option that the board would want to consider. It would probably undermine his ability to be an effective leader once the suspension was over.”
The Post asked if Weathers, as chair, had considered adding an amendment to Setterlund’s contract specifying how he could or could not use his vehicle, if they chose to keep him as director.
“Personally, I have thought about it,” Weathers said. “Have we discussed it as a board as part of any kind of reprimand, corrective action? We have not discussed that yet. But it’s certainly something as chairman I’ve tried to contemplate.”
But before any type of action can be taken, the board must determine whether Setterlund violated any board policies or state law including, 1.084 titled Drug Free Workplace, which Weathers told reporters Sunday afternoon was one of the policies being looked at by the board.
He said once the board makes its decision, then they “will talk about what type of things we would do.
“If we chose to keep him, what we would want to do from a reprimand standpoint going forward and anything like that that we’d want to do for him to comply with.”
Weathers said he did think that adding such a clause to any future contracts “is a good thing. That way there’s no doubt about what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable.”
While he offered no excuses or explanations for Setterlund’s actions, Weathers did say that those in education “have to be mindful in everything that we do.
“I think we have to be responsible enough to put our personal wants and desires aside, especially when we’re in the public light. Sometimes that means, “I don’t want to do that, because it makes me look like I don’t have any discipline as a leader,’ so therefore, it might make that message be sent to the kids that it’s OK to do certain things.
“It’s a high expectation,” Weathers continued. “The business that we're in is different than a lot of other businesses where we have to think about those things on an ongoing basis. Nobody's perfect, but we have to try to be as close to perfect as we can possibly be.”
Weathers said he spoke with Setterlund Sunday night “just to give him a kind of general update as to where the board was and that we had met, and the basic three options I told you that the board was considering.“
The board chair was not the only one to speak with Setterlund by phone, who is out of town on a vacation scheduled far in advance of the recent events. WSMV-TV in Nashville spoke with the director as well Friday night.
According to their report, Setterlund told them the incident in question regarding him drinking alcohol and driving his school board-issued vehicle happened on a snow day.
Quoting from WSMV-TV’s account on their website, “He said after he left work he stopped by a bar, had a beer, checked his emails and then drove home. He went on to say, ‘I think in retrospect, it was a stupid thing for me to do because it is a county vehicle and it does have government plates on it. Even though it's provided for my own personal use as if it were my own vehicle.’
“Setterlund went on to say, ‘I should have done better. I feel bad that I brought criticism to the school system.’”
As to when the public meeting to deliberate Setterlund’s future will be held, Weathers said he anticipates it to be either Thursday night or Saturday.
“I've asked all the board members to give me their thoughts by tomorrow (Tuesday, Jan. 21) evening,” Weathers said, adding that Jennings is doing some research they need as well.
“Once we get all of that, my preference would be to wrap this up this week so we can get on with our business. I don't want this to drag on and linger on. I'm trying to get this to a point as to what the board's decision will be by the end of the week.”
He said Friday was not an option due many board members having a lot of conflicts, so it was not a good day to meet, but “We'll certainly let you know as far in advance as we possibly can.”
Correspondent Amelia Morrison Hipps may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.