BOE workshops will stay, but with new look

Elizabeth Trexler-News-Herald

Loudon County Board of Education gave its blessing for Director of Schools Jason Vance to change the format of monthly workshops.

Vance said some school board members felt the workshops were redundant.

"I don't necessarily believe we should altogether do away with workshops," Vance said. He voiced support for called workshops as needed, such as to discuss school report cards.

Vance said he polled several surrounding school districts and none schedule monthly workshops after school.

"I think the workshops are probably as important as these meetings are," Van Shaver, board member, said Thursday evening. "We dealt with a lot of things at the workshop.

"It's due diligence on our part," Shaver added, pointing out that he uses the time between workshops to familiarize himself with items he will vote on.

"I'm in favor of changing the format of the workshop," Gary Ubben, board member, said, pointing out that some items on the agenda needed little comment at the workshop but others needed further discussion.

Ubben voiced his support for having workshops be more "educational," focusing on things such as technology in the classroom. Further discussion is needed because the board will need to alter its budget to pay for such items, he said.

"Workshops are not statutory," Shaver said. "We have our scheduled planned workshop. Any board member that doesn't want to come, they have that option of not coming."

But he continued by saying if workshops were eliminated, board members who wanted extra discussion would not have it.

Shaver addressed the county school staff members at the meeting and said he had no problem if they stopped coming. Key school staff members currently attend both workshops and regular monthly BOE meetings.

Chairman Scott Newman said he wanted to use the board's time more wisely.

The item created much discussion during the public comment portion of the meeting, as some members of the community accused the board of trying to do away with monthly workshops altogether.

"This is the worst agenda item I've ever seen," Richard Truitt, community member, said. He said he saw it as an attempt to take items straight to the meeting with little public input.

Newman pointed out there are two times during the regular monthly meeting for public comment - at the beginning and at the end. He said there was no other board in the county that allowed comment twice in the meeting.

"There's nobody trying to hide anything," Newman said.

Pat Hunter, another community member, brought up that if the board did away with workshops it would have to change policy, which states items at the meeting must be discussed at workshops.

"When did this item go before the policy committee?" Hunter asked. She also questioned if board members were making decisions and having discussions through emails.

"I don't recall anybody taking the position of doing away with the workshops," Bill Marcus, board member, said.

Marcus also said if someone had evidence of board members making decisions "out there in cyberspace," they should take that evidence to Newman and the ethics committee.

"I've been on the board for a year, and I've received very few correspondences from the director and they almost all fall into one of three categories," Ric Best, board member, said. Those three categories were: Vance's personal schedule, reminders of the board's schedules and when there's a special problem, such as gas leaks at Greenback School.

Ubben suggested changing the format of the workshops for the next couple of months to see how things go.

In other matters, the board approved:
The school compliance report, emphasizing that county schools were in compliance. The county turns a report into the state every year, including things such as handicapped accessibility and number of students in each class.

Budget amendments, including transferring $20,425 from teacher regular instruction to cover a worker's compensation audit.

To hire Mike Hicks as the ball field maintenance worker.

Resolutions concerning the Tennessee General Assembly's attempt to institute a change in the school calendar, establish a school voucher system and to return to elected school superintendents. The board voiced disapproval with all three proposed changes.