School board releases Setterlund as director (with video)

The search is on for a new director of schools in Wilson County, but the Wilson County Board of Education will have to agree on an interim director first.
Jan 25, 2014
(Jared Felkins • Lebanon Democrat) Wilson County school board attorney Mike Jennings speaks with television reporters Saturday following a special called meeting.

The search is on for a new director of schools in Wilson County, but the Wilson County Board of Education will have to agree on an interim director first.

Following about a 15-minute meeting behind closed doors Saturday morning, the board emerged and voted unanimously to release Director of Schools Tim Setterlund from his contract under a settlement agreement Saturday morning in a special called meeting at the Central Office.

Board of Education Chairman Don Weathers called it a request from Setterlund to retire Friday afternoon in a phone interview, but the agreement between Setterlund and the board was actually a contract release and settlement agreement.

Under the terms of the agreement, dated Friday, the board will pay Setterlund $78,000 or the remainder of his salary through the first year of his three-year contract. Board attorney Mike Jennings said Setterlund would receive monthly payments just as he would if he were getting a regular paycheck.

Jennings said the amount is about $4,500 more than what Setterlund would have received had he worked out his first year. Setterlund will also be allowed to keep his health insurance through June 30, 2015 or until he is hired by another group.

In exchange, Setterlund, who wasn’t at Saturday’s meeting, agreed to give up all rights to a lawsuit against the board. Setterlund’s last day was Thursday, according to the agreement. Weathers said he turned in his keys and the board-supplied Ford Expedition at the center of the controversy.

 

 

The Saturday morning special called meeting was originally set earlier in the week to discuss potential punishment, including possibly firing Setterlund, for admitting in a Jan. 16 Wilson County Budget Committee meeting he drank a beer at a local restaurant before driving his county vehicle when asked by Commissioner Mike Justice. The meeting’s agenda was changed Friday evening when the board sent notice it had reached a retirement agreement with Setterlund.

The next step for the board will be to appoint an interim director of schools, who will not be in the running to be the next schools director, according to board policy. The board was expected to discuss possible interim directors at its meeting Saturday morning, but board member Larry Tomlinson abruptly ended those discussions.

“I’m not comfortable taking that up at this time,” Tomlinson said. “Is it OK if we take one or two days to think about it?”

Jennings told the board, “A school system needs a leader.” He said the board was about nine days away from a regular meeting and could see the four deputy directors handling operations until that time.

“One thing that they might do is sit down as a body should a serious decision need to be made during that time,” Jennings said.

Tomlinson then asked Jennings whether an executive session could be called to discuss filling the interim position.

“I want to be able to discuss with my colleagues about what we want to do,” Tomlinson said.

Jennings didn’t give a definitive answer on whether the situation would warrant an executive session under state law.

Following the meeting, Tomlinson said he liked deliberations out in public.

Ultimately the board voted unanimously to defer filling the interim director position.

“I feel like we didn’t rush into this and did it the right way,” Jennings said of the settlement with Setterlund.

Setterlund was unavailable for comment by phone Saturday.

State law prohibits a director of schools to be appointed 45 days before or 30 days after an election. Under that scenario, the board would not be able to appoint a new director of schools between June 23 and Sept. 7 due to the Aug. 7 election.

After Sept. 7, about a two-week window opens until Sept. 20, which is 45 days before the Nov. 4 General Election. If the board cannot put a director of schools in place before June 23, or between Sept. 7-20, it would have to wait until after Dec. 4, according to state law.

Jennings said he was confident the board could appoint a new director of schools before June 23.

“We’ve got some time to do that if we stay on task and get the job done,” he said.

Nearly a week ago, the board met with Jennings behind closed doors for more than two hours to discuss Setterlund’s employment.

Jennings said the board discussed two policies during the closed-door meeting as they related to Setterlund. One was a policy on drug-free workplace and the other referenced staff rights and responsibilities.

Setterlund, who replaced Mike Davis as director, started July 1. Since that time, he’s been embroiled in controversy regarding decisions to eliminate and create new positions in the Central Office, go to a seven-period versus a block schedule, move forward with plans to divide three kindergarten through eighth-grade schools into middle schools, among other issues.

Board member Bill Robinson was the lone vote against hiring Setterlund at the time.

“I’m not looking for who is right or who is wrong,” Robinson said. “I just want us to move forward. I don’t want to start. I just want to win the game for our children.”

Comments

momofthree

So glad to see him go. Now let's do what's best for the students. I challenge all parents to stay on the school board members and to keep the 4 class block schedule. They need to realize this is best for the students. They also need to realize that we are the reason they have a job, and if they can't comply with our wishes, we can boot them too. Please parents, step up for your kids and make the board members listen!!

esm1966

So why do you think the four class block is best for students?

Samantha.j

As a student (senior) I'm glad I won't be on the 7 block schedule. The four block schedule gives more time for teachers to teach and gives less stress for the student (more homework on 1 one day). With the 4 block schedule students graduate with more credits (7 a year vs. 8).

dandeck

What a mess. Of course he's gonna fire people who don't share his vision. Hello? "Our hometown people" ?! Guy stops and has a beer...drives home in car assigned to him for bbc.co personal use...r u kidding me?! This is out school board? A lynch mob?

dandeck

Guess the next hire needs to be somebody's cousin...local...who plans no changes to our hometown system. I'd say potential candidates may have reservations...multi year contract...out in mire months?! We need to take a long hard look at out board members...and I have never met Sutterlund...no dog in the fight...

ww1941

Such a loss for Wilson County!

Dr. Setterlund will move on and be a valuable leader elsewhere.

The students and teachers have lost a strong, experienced, and capable director. He could have guided the system to mastery of national standards, stayed on budget, and developed a strong staff for the future.

My observations are based on working for/with Dr. Setterlund 12 years.

hobbs426

I can't see the school board or Wilson county giving retirement benefits to a person that they should have fired. All the lawsuits and his "directing by intimidation" should be grounds for his dismissal.

esm1966

Samantha, I appreciate your comments. First of all, in the four block schedule, students graduate with more classes not more credits. It is still 28 credits whether it is block schedule or seven classes daily for the entire school year. This means that it takes more classes to receive the same amount of credits in the block schedule. This means you are receiving less instruction overall under the previous structure.

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