Editorial: Old Lebanon High decision already made

It appears at this point in the middle school debate – especially where the old Lebanon High School building is concerned – the Wilson County Board of Education has been wise in the way it handled the tough decision it has ahead in all ways except for one.  
Jan 5, 2013

It appears at this point in the middle school debate – especially where the old Lebanon High School building is concerned – the Wilson County Board of Education has been wise in the way it handled the tough decision it has ahead in all ways except for one.  
There is little doubt the decision the board is about to make is the right one. Director of Schools Mike Davis said the board plans to vote Monday to table use of the old school indefinitely.
Originally, the board proposed using old Lebanon High School to house 634 sixth- through eighth-graders currently at Carroll Oakland, Southside and Tuckers Crossroads elementary schools – thus eliminating overcrowding at those schools – and creating a new Lebanon Middle School.
The measure failed to garner a motion in November and prompted two public meetings at the old Lebanon High School to further discuss the issue.
Through those work sessions, the board heard alternative plans from an architect, as well as public pleas both to not use the old school or break up the elementary school format currently in place.
These meetings were timely, important and necessary in the eye of the community. And, even though it wasn’t immediately apparent, these sessions worked to show the board the error of its ways in proposing use of the old school once declared unusable in efforts to garner needed funds to build the now award-winning new Lebanon High School off South Hartmann Drive.
If what Davis said remains true Monday, the board will make the right decision to table using the old Lebanon High School to house students. The people spoke, and it appears the board listened.
What remains, however, is an issue of complete and total decision making in the public’s eye.
Davis said school board chairman Don Weathers called him to say, in keeping with the feedback he was getting from the public and other board members, the board was “not going to act on this at Monday’s board meeting.”
During meetings, work sessions and tours made available to the public – many of which were well attended – very little feedback on the issue of using the old Lebanon High School, as well as other alternate plans gave insight as to how the board both individually and collectively felt about each.
And now, just days before possibly the toughest decision in recent years comes before the board, it appears the board – albeit the right one – has already made its collective decision with little discussion or debate.
It appears the board has taken input from the community, architects, experts, etc. and internalized it. It also appears Weathers has privately polled individual board members to see how the vote will come down before it’s even cast in the public eye.
If that’s the case, these so-called serial meetings do not break the law, rather they circumvent the spirit of the state’s Sunshine Law.
There remains, however, the opportunity for the board to speak up Monday and tell us all exactly what solution each supports to fix the overcrowding problems at the three elementary schools now that we know using the old Lebanon High School is off the table.
It will be the right decision, but the problem remains. We deserve to know right now how it’s going to be handled, because overcrowding is only going to get worse.

 

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