The search for the next Wilson County Schools director of schools was a discussion topic at the board workshop Thursday evening, a meeting that was held virtually for COVID-19 precautions.

Board members Jon White and Bill Robinson provided some options for a search to the board to replace Dr. Donna Wright who will retire at the end of June.

“We’ve talked about researching the various options that school systems are using to fill director positions,” White told the board, adding there are three options to find the next director — utilizing the WCS human resources department, hiring the Tennessee School Board Association or hiring an outside organization to conduct the search.

Robinson said he didn’t want “any gotcha moments in the process. I just want the school system to move forward with no lag time.”

Board members Linda Armistead and Carrie Pfeiffer said they preferred hiring the TSBA to assist with the search.

“The time frame is important,” Armistead said, noting that similar TSBA searches have taken 25 weeks.

Board members Kimberly McGee and Jamie Farough said they preferred for the district to conduct its own search because of a “cost standpoint.”

“I have no doubt this board could make a great decision and work through process,” McGee said.

Murfreesboro City Schools paid TSBA $11,500 last summer to search for a new superintendent. That covered the costs of advertising for the job, accepting applications and holding community meetings for input.

Farough said that if the district conducted its own search, there’s a probability that more internal candidates could come forward.

“I’d like to try it ourselves before we spend money,” Farough said.

Robinson said that he believed that there are “people (within WCS) who are qualified to keep this system going. I have every confidence in that.”

Vaccine update

Wright said that she has held discussions with the health department about getting COVID-19 vaccines to teachers, administrators, staff and board members as soon as possible. She said that could include using schools as a vaccine site when the students there are on a remote learning plan, and having school nurses help to give the shots.

Farough said the district could use an incentive similar to what hospitals give its medical personnel to get the virus vaccine — any district employee who gets the vaccine does not have to wear a mask afterward.

Wright endorsed that suggestion.

Early retirement

One of Wright’s recommendations was an early retirement incentive, which Wright said is offered.

“We have had the retirement incentive for last several years,” WCS Human Resources Director Rebecca Owens said, noting she had the information from years 2017-2018 through 2019-2020.

In 2017-18, there were 24 employees that took advantage of the early retirement incentive 30 took advantage of the early retirement. In 2018-19, there were 19 employees who accepted the incentive.

In 2019-20, of more than 100 teachers who were eligible for early retirement, 30 employees retired early. In 2020-21, there are 76 persons who are eligible for the early retirement. That consists of 40 classified and 36 certified employees.

Eligible employees are those who will have 30 years of verified service with the Wilson County School System and State of Tennessee. They could also have reached 60 years of age and have a minimum of 20 years of service with the Wilson County School System on or before they plan to retire.

When they retire, personnel are paid $30 per day for unused vacation time, Owens said, noting that if every one of the 76 employees retired, it would cost the district $211,605.20.

Board comments policy

Attorney Lauren Bush, at the request of the board, has expanded the guidelines for citizen comments at board meetings to include procedures for when the board meets virtually, as it did Thursday.

The form to request time to speak at the board meeting would include allowing virtual comments.

Eagle Scout project

Christian Butorac plans to work on his Eagle Scout project at Lakeview Elementary School. He said he will “organize/manage a group of Boy Scouts and adults from Troop 911 to take out the current outdoor classroom (and) replace it with a newer, and more modern one.”

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