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Trust is key, says Setterlund

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I dont know that next year will be any better, Setterlund told The Wilson Post in an interview Tuesday. I guess that becomes my mission for the next 10 months to make sure that the public and the county commissioners are aware of our needs and why they are our needs.


Setterlund, who has been on the job only since July 1, recognizes that part of his mission includes making sure the commission and the public understands what the systems critical needs are and what the Gosh, that would be nice needs are, as well as gaining their trust.


He said the school system has to demonstrate how well weve used the resources that weve received in the past and how critical an increase in funding support is to us in the future.


To accomplish that, Setterlund said he will have to be honest with the good news and the bad news, as well as assure the commission that the money is spent where school system leaders say it will be spent.


Setterlund said part of his job is to help the commission understand that the growth money the BOE would get just because of growth and the pennies allocated toward education that cannot be changed or reduced isn't enough to keep pace with the demands on the district, especially when its growing.


When were growing this year by 630 students, that should equate to about 30 teachers, he said. We budgeted for 10 additional teachers this year.


In addition, the BOE took out the technology plan that we thought would be an awesome learning opportunity for our students because they saw the revenue was not going to be available.


So I think that demonstrating the willingness to work with the county commission to cut where we can, reduce where we can and invest where we absolutely have to, they have to trust me to do that, and that's going to take time to earn that, Setterlund said.


In addition, Setterlund said theres an extensive educational component involved in making sure everyone knows what the BOEs challenges are. To accomplish that, he said the district has to utilize every communication method we can.


The former assistant superintendent of Memphis City/Shelby County Schools said that process will include speaking to civic groups and giving parent support groups, such as PTOs, the tools to have conversations with their neighbors.


Its making sure that our principals all have the right message to share and all of the facts, he added. There's nobody in the community involved in education that parents trust more than the principal of the building. That's the leader that they know. It's not Tim Setterlund sitting here in the central office.


The educational process will also include increasing the BOEs presence on the Internet through Facebook, Twitter and the systems own web page, making each more interactive than informative about current events.


He also plans to hold public forum meetings open to the general public, where we can talk about here are our needs, heres why they are our needs and heres why we believe they are critical, and get feedback from community members.


Setterlund does not see any way that the need for a tax increase will not be put on the table for discussion next year.


I dont think theres enough revenue that they can shift, and I dont anticipate the growth in tax collections will meet that demand at all, he said.


My ideal would be that the county commission would be heroes when they raise taxes to fund education. Not sure we can quite get there, but I think the public can certainly understand why the need is there.


He noted that one major difference hes found between Wilson County and his former position is everybody wants whats best for children here.


They may not agree on how to get there, but that's what everybody wants. And there's politics here, and I've had my conversations here with county commissioners trying to pitch my budget, but I don't think any of the people involved in that don't want what's good for kids. I wasn't always sure in my last job trying to merge those two districts together that kids had anything to do with that at all.


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

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