The Wilson County Board of Education on Monday approved a budget amendment to use $95,000 in school funds to pay for four of eight new school resource officers approved recently by the Wilson County Commission.
"As of today, all our schools have a least one SRO, thanks to the county commission," Director Mike Davis said to the applause of the audience. "We are one of only two or three districts in the state to make this transition. They were deployed today."
Later in the meeting, the board voted unanimously, and without comment, to contribute the $95,000 to meet the commission halfway in the commitment to make sure an armed deputy was in every county school.
Another item to stir discussion was the decision by Davis not to close the county schools the day after an EF2 tornado struck Mt. Juliet early Wednesday morning.
Board member Bill Robinson said he was concerned some of these decisions about whether to cancel school when weather was iffy could be putting students at risk.
"Err on the side of caution," Robinson told Davis.
"I take the safety of everyone seriously," Davis responded. "Our guiding principal is the safety of our students."
Board member Greg Lasater said as a member of the Wilson County Sheriff's Department, he felt the decision to only close three schools in Mt. Juliet after the tornado was a mistake.
"You and I have had a lot of conservations since you became the director of schools," Lasater said to Davis. "Wednesday morning, I was upset over the decisions you made. I was out in that mess, and when [Mt. Juliet City Manager] Kenny Martin says there's a propane tank in the middle of Highway 70 and a school bus coming toward it, something's wrong."
"In hindsight, we should have delayed school," Davis said. "I was out in it, too, and I was on the line with a lot of different folks. I made the best decision I could at the time."
He said the only communication he had with Martin was a text message that arrived long after the decision was made.
"To this day I haven't spoke to Kenny Martin," Davis said.
Lasater reiterated that Davis should take the advice of professionals on the scene - police officers, emergency management officials and the like.
"If a patrol car cannot get to a certain spot, a bus can't get there either," he said, adding that conditions vary greatly throughout the county during bad weather and what is true in Lebanon isn't necessarily true in Watertown.
The board also approved a contract with Johnson Control for energy management of the schools in an effort to control energy costs system wide. Davis recommended the agreement to the board noting the system would receive $67,000 in seed money from the state and could save a projected $128,000 per year.
The board acknowledged February as Black History Month and recognized Esther Hockett for her 50 years of service to the students of Wilson County in her capacity as librarian at Mt. Juliet High School. With a wide smile, Hockett brought up a large group of her family and friends as Chairman Don Weathers read the proclamation honoring her and her service into the record.
"Thank God for all of you," she said as the audience applauded and gave her a standing ovation.
The Wilson County School Board will meet March 4 at 6 p.m. at the board's headquarters on Stumpy Lane in Lebanon.