Today is Monday, July 28, 2014

Schools director address questions

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On Wednesday, The Postcontacted Setterlund and asked him about the contents of the letter.


The first question concerned the failure to notify the public about a day-and-a-half retreat attended by the Board of Education and Setterlund at the Hampton Inn in Mt. Juliet on Aug. 2-3.


Yes, the board did have a retreat, Setterlund said. However, Mike Jennings, our general counsel, opined to the board chair, Don Weathers, that it did not need to be sunshined because we were discussing long-range plans.


When asked why he gave the opinion that the retreat did not have to be publicized, Jennings said, I received a text message on July 31 from the board secretary asking whether a public notice about the retreat needed to be published in the local media.


"At that time, I told her yes in a reply message," Jennings said. "However, later that day I received additional information and reversed my decision. In hindsight, though, I wish I had gotten even more information. Had I gotten that information, I would not have reversed my decision."


Setterlund said the discussions during the retreat centered on his vision for the school system and his short-term and long-range plans. While the state requires only a one-year plan, Setterlund said he has committed to the board that he will develop a five-year plan.


The cost of the renting a conference room at the hotel was around $200, which was paid for by the school system, the new director of schools said. He was not sure about the cost of any meals and said in a written statement sent to The Post that none of the participants rented hotel rooms.


Questions about raises


The second and third allegations stated that raises were given to some central office supervisors in addition to the 1.5 percent raise which all employees will get, and all but 3 secretaries, bookkeepers, etc., in the finance and personnel departments got raises. I think they called it re-classifying. I heard one got $10,000.


Setterlund said that four Central Office positions were re-classified on June 27 and that they went from hourly positions to salaried positions.


In the written response, the four changes were listed as:Payroll Clerk at $42,744 to Compliance Officer at $45,033Payroll Clerk at $37,128 to Compliance Officer at $37,112Secretary at $41,184 to Project Facilitator at $42,622Bookkeeper Support at $29,432 to Project Facilitator at $35,385


The next allegation stated, The raise for a beginning teacher will be about $1,200. With the $750 they have to pay for insurance, thats $450 for the year. Not quite $10,000, is it?


Setterlund, who has been on the job only since July 1, said he was not sure what the individual was referring to regarding the $10,000 remark. Regarding the beginning teacher salary, the written response states that in 2012, Wilson County ranked 80th of 131 in beginning teacher salary. $33,512 versus state average of $34,122.


In addition, Setterlunds written response states the 1.5 percent raise equates to a little over $500 for base teacher pay of $33,512. The 10 percent share for employees toward insurance was approximately $750.


The $750 is the annual portion teachers will have to pay for individual coverage and marks the first year that they have had to pay any portion of their premium. In the past, the school system paid 100 percent of the premiums. This fiscal year, which began July 1, they will pay 10 percent, while the system pays 90 percent.


For family coverage, employees have always had to pay 100 percent of the premium, which will be roughly $7,665, when the $750 increase for this fiscal year is included.


The letter writer then asked is there a $28,000 + raise in the budget for the finance director?


Setterlund said that the salary for Mickey Hall, who as the deputy superintendent has the responsibilities of a finance director, was previously tied to the directors salary. However, the board cut that tie in June, before he arrived.


The written response states that Halls salary is tied back to base teacher pay like all other administrative positions. The salary was raised from $91,617 to $99,957.


Question about new furniture and position


The letter then states, new furniture is being bought for the central office. Setterlund said new furniture was purchased for two employees whose work location was moved from the Central Office on Stumpy Lane to the Transportation Department.


Were in the process of converting all of our school records to digital files, and we moved these two individuals so they would have more work space, Setterlund said.


In reference to the last question of is there still a new high paid position at the Central Office in the budget, Setterlund said he wasnt sure what high paid position the writer was referring to.


While the written response to The Post did not include an answer to the following statement in the anonymous letter our teachers salaries are among the lowest in the state I bet our new superintendents isnt at the bottom, the newspaper asked him about it.


Setterlund negotiated a salary of $165,000 with the board of education, which was roughly $42,000 more than the previous director, Mike Davis. Setterlunds salary as Innovation Chief with the Shelby County School system, his previous position, was recently listed as $131,292.


When asked about it, Setterlund said he had been promised a salary of around $180,000, had he stayed with the Shelby County system.


At the time he was hired and his salary was made known, Weathers compared Setterlunds $165,000 salary to counties such as Sumner and Williamson.


The Sumner Director of Schools is approaching $180,000 and the Williamson Director is $175,000, Weathers said. Mr. Davis will approach $150,000 for his new job as Robertson County Director of Schools but they are nowhere as big as the Wilson County School System.


Teachers leaving the system questioned


The anonymous letter writer also asked how many teachers left the school system this year what percent and why are they leaving.


The answers to those questions were provided to The Post through the three charts. (See at right, below, at left)


The first chart shows the turnover rate for the school system for the past five years. For the current 2013-14 school year, 13 positions were abolished, while nine were dismissed or not renewed. Fifty-eight individuals resigned and 25 retired, for a total of 105 or a turnover rate of 9 percent, ranking it the third worst year behind the 2010-2011 and 2009-2010 school years.


The year with the highest turnover rate was the 2012-13 school year, which saw a total of 140 positions lost, or a turnover rate of 12 percent. That year saw 76 teachers resign and 46 retire, while 11 positions were abolished and seven were dismissed or not renewed.


The second chart gives the number of teachers who responded to the exit survey for each of the past five years, the top reason as to why individuals left, the years of experience that sustained the greatest loss, whether they were taking another teaching position and out of that percentage whether the new position was located in Tennessee.


As to why individuals left, the number one reason for the current school year was home/family needs, according to the 22 teachers who responded to the exit survey. Teachers with between four and nine years of experience had the most leave. Forty-five percent of those who responded said they were taking another teaching position, with 55 percent of those saying those positions were in Tennessee.


The last chart shows how many teachers left Wilson County and accepted new positions and where in the last six years. Rutherford County gained the majority of former Wilson County teachers with 28, while Metro Nashville/Davidson County came in second at 16. Lebanon Special School District picked up 14 former Wilson County educators and Williamson County hired six.


Setterlund said concerned individuals do not have to resort to anonymous letters to get answers about the school system.


My door is always open to discuss any concerns an individual or group may have about the school system, he said.


Correspondent Amelia Morrison Hipps may be contacted at amhipps@downhomepolitics.com.

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