Wilson County Board of Education will meet Saturday to determine the future of Director of Schools Dr. Tim Setterlund, who took over the reins of the school system less than seven months ago.
BOE Secretary Rose Ratagick sent a meeting notice to the media Wednesday at approximately 7:30 p.m. According to the email, County Attorney Mike Jennings, who wrote the notice, attached this message: “Please remind the press that all of the meeting announcement needs to be included. They should not edit it in any way. It should contain the information required by the statute.”
It reads as follows: “NOTICE The Wilson County Board of Education will meet in special called session on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. at the Central Office located at 351 Stumpy Lane, Lebanon, TN. to consider, and, if necessary, take action on, termination of the contract of Wilson County Director of Schools, Dr. Timothy R. Setterlund for professional misconduct, or removal from office and any and all necessary action related thereto. This item of business shall be the first item on the agenda.”
Jennings said the reason the wording must be exact is because “If that is not listed as the basis, anything else requires 15 calendar days' [notice.]”
When the board meets Saturday morning, it has three basic options to consider, according to BOE Chair Don Weathers.
Those 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.
Although BOE Policy 5.600 titled “Staff Rights & Responsibilities” allows for suspension without pay, 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.”
According to an article in The Lebanon Democrat, Setterlund has hired an attorney and is not commenting on his current circumstances.
“I would like to respond to the situation locally, but my attorney has advised me not to make any comments at this point,” Setterlund told the Lebanon daily newspaper.
He also told the paper that the comments he made to WSMV-TV last week were made before his attorney advised him not to comment.
The Wilson Post reported earlier this week that according to WSMV’s report, which was originally posted on their website Saturday afternoon, they spoke to Setterlund by phone, and he 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’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.’”
Weathers told The Post Thursday afternoon that he hasn’t talked to Setterlund since giving him an update on Sunday afternoon’s 2-1/2-hour meeting that night.
He said he was aware that Setterlund has hired an attorney, but added he did not know that Sunday night and that it was not discussed.
“I have not had any conversations with him this week at all,” Weathers said. “He sent me a text message asking if we knew when the meeting was going to be scheduled. That was yesterday. At the time, we hadn't finalized the time, and then the announcement went out last night.”
Regarding feedback from the community, Weathers said he has gotten a mixed bag of feedback.
“I've had a lot of people call and voice their displeasure with Dr. Setterlund,” he said. “But I've had almost an equal amount of people who've called and said please keep him and don't terminate him because he is a visionary.”
Weathers’ feedback appears to parallel that of The Post’s online survey that was originally posted on Tuesday.
Out of 660 votes cast as of press time on Thursday, 260 people, or 39.4 percent, said the BOE should do nothing, while 71 people, or 10.8 percent, cast their vote for the BOE to “issue a written reprimand according to the school board’s policy.”
There were 329 people, or 49.8 percent, who cast votes for the “dismissal or termination of Setterlund.”
“I've had to weigh all of that information in and long with all of the other information we've been given this week,” Weathers said.
Correspondent Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.