Jeff Luttrell was named the next director of Wilson County Schools by a 6-1 vote of the WCS Board of Education at a nine-minute special-called meeting in Lebanon on Wednesday night.
He will replace Dr. Donna Wright, who is retiring in June.
Board members Kimberly McGee, Bill Robinson, Jon White, Larry Tomlinson, Linda Armistead and Jamie Farough voted for Luttrell. Board member Carrie Pfeiffer voted for the other candidate, Dr. Aimee Wyatt. A candidate was required to receive five votes to be selected. The board used paper ballots rather than their usual electronic voting procedure. WCS Human Resources Director Rebecca Owens counted the votes.
WCS released a statement Thursday morning from Luttrell. It said: “I am honored to be selected as Director of Wilson County Schools. I look forward to working with all stakeholders as we continue to educate the students of Wilson County.
"I want to say thank you to the school board for their support and I’m eager to work with them as we continue to strive for excellence everyday within our district. I appreciate all that Dr. Wright has done for our district and wish her very well in her upcoming retirement. Until then, I will do all that I can to gain transitional knowledge from her and so many others to make sure we are always doing what’s best for our students, teachers and staffs."
During a community meeting last week, Luttrell, who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting, said, “I’m very thankful for this opportunity. I’ve had a great educational career. Education has been great to me and my community.”
He did not respond to texts or calls for comment after the decision was announced.
The next step for the board is to look at the contract it has with Wright and view salaries from around the region. The board will then negotiate a contract and salary with Luttrell.
Chairman Tomlinson told the board, “this has been a long procedure. I appreciate the diligence of the board in staying with the course to get to where we are tonight. I’d also like to say a work of thanks to Dr. Wyatt for making final two. I want to thank everybody who applied for the job and appreciate their interest in wanting to be a part of the WCS district.”
Luttrell has worked as a teacher, coach and principal. He has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, a master’s degree in instructional leadership and is currently pursuing an educational doctorate degree in leadership from Liberty University.
Under Luttrell as principal, Watertown High School was recognized as a Tennessee Reward School multiple times and the school was recognized by US News and World Report. Luttrell led WHS to post a graduation rate of 95%, helped increase the school’s ACT average score by 12.3% and was named the Middle Tennessee Principal of the Year.
Luttrell is currently the WCS Human Resources Supervisor of Classified Personnel in the WCS Central Office.
During the community meeting, Luttrell said that his No. 1 priority will be to rebuild the two tornado-damaged schools in Mt. Juliet. They were damaged on March 3, 2020 and have not been rebuilt because of long-time negotiations between WCS and the insurance company, Travelers Insurance.
At its regular meeting last Monday night, the board accepted a $53 million settlement to begin repairing and rebuilding the two schools.
“We have students and families who have been displaced at those schools for over a year now,” Luttrell said. “We have got to get those buildings out of the ground.
“My No. 2 priority right there with that is to plan for growth. We are going to reach the 20,000-student mark in the next two years, so we need to make relationships now to get ready for it.”
During a previous interview with the board, Luttrell said the first thing “I will look at are ways of giving merit pay, accountability ways of doing it step pan, every year get money, crucial.”
Teacher pay is important to Luttrell, he said, and is important in retaining teachers throughout the district.
During interviews with the WCS board, Luttrell said, “I want teacher input. If they are a level four or five throughout their career, they can make more money than a lot of places. Some of the raises over the past school year were tremendous raises. There are some great teachers who may not be getting a bonus, based on achievement and success.”
Luttrell said recently he’d like to listen to all stake holders.
“That’s crucial,” he said. “As far as our message we give all stakeholders, it has to be consistent and clear. Principals are a large part of that. We are a large district. We’re going to see 20,000 students shortly. How clear I am on communication with determine my success. I’m big on communicating with schools, parents and stakeholders. It all connects with the principal. The principal needs to get the message.”
He said that everyone needs to get the same message and “I always want the principals to know what is coming down the pipe. I want to make sure the person at the bottom (of the organizational chart) gets the same message as those at the top. That will be a challenge, but I can lead in that direction. I have to make sure our message places value and aligns with our brand.”
He added that he would like to expand the district’s Career and Technical Education programs. He believes in the block schedule because to go to a six- or seven-period day, would mean the “bare minimum educational system and I’m not for that.”
He noted that now is the time to hire teachers and he wants “to hire the best teachers. The main thing is our teachers, students, learning, (and the key) is to make sure we keep our employees.”
He added that academics, athletics and the arts go hand in hand and students have their own niche. By participating in both academics and an extracurricular activity, students can be successful.
Luttrell has said that he doesn’t like labels for students.
“A lot of what we’re doing with testing and accountability (can label students),” he said. “We’re labeling students when they take that first test. When you can’t tell the special education teacher versus the inclusion teacher, that’s a wonderful thing. Just because a student (has special needs) doesn’t mean that student is not part of the school.”