The Macon County School Board meeting on June 28 began with board member Wayne Marsh questioning if some fellow board members violated a Sunshine Law earlier in the month when they met privately after a special-called board meeting to discuss the Macon County High School principal position.
Marsh expressed concern that other board members had “steered (Macon County Director of Schools Tony Boles) away from what he had (intended) …”
Marsh continued that he felt some rules and policies may have been violated as the meeting was a special-called meeting, and the board spoke about an issue unrelated to the scheduled topic of the yearly budget.
“This was brought up on that and eventually… four of you and Mr. Boles (went into an office and) shut the door behind you,” Marsh said. “That’s probably a Sunshine-Law problem.”
The Tennessee Open Meetings Act requires that meetings of government bodies be open to the public and defines meeting as, “The convening of a governing body of a public body for which a quorum is required in order to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter.” Board member Tim Case said that he did not believe a Sunshine Law had been broken, “Because we did not discuss any motions or make a law or policy. None of that stuff was done.”
Marsh also told the board that many people had expressed to him a concern regarding Case’s involvement, saying that some had questioned “if it was the Tim Case show.”
Boles said that his recent decision to hire Daniel Cook as the Macon County High School Principal was not influenced by his speaking with board members.
“I did some more interviews and questioning of candidates, and that is how I chose … the person I named Macon County High School principal,” Boles said.
Marsh said that Boles had the authority to hire someone for the position without waiting 10 days, as had been requested by Case and other board members.
“Rumor is that you had promised someone else that job, and, well, there are still some morals in my life,” Marsh said.
Marsh voted no on the meeting’s consent agenda.
The board also discussed contacting a new architect firm to design the new elementary school. Case requested to contact Upland Design Group. He told the board that some members of the Putnam County Board of Education had recommended the company and that Wilson County had also used the group for a new school in Lebanon.
In addition to the recommendations, Case said that the group, “Won’t charge us extra fees for coming up here and giving a presentation to us, to try to sell us something.” Case said that the company had a set fee.
Marsh said that he believed he had been left out of a discussion regarding the comparison of prices of architecture companies.
“The standard architecture fee for most firms is about 7%,” Case said. “The fees that we paid Cope came to about 11%.”
Marsh and Boles both stated that the company had been bid at 6%.
Board member Lionel Borders added that the company “charged (the board) every time they came (to present).” Case referred to them as gotcha fees.
Marsh questioned why he had not seen the information mentioned, especially prior to the previous meeting where the board voted to part ways with Cope Architecture.
“I did not receive any of that information whatsoever,” Marsh said.
Case explained that he had requested the information and compiled the research and figures himself.
“If you don’t know (how much the Board paid), then that’s your fault … that’s public knowledge,” Case said.
Marsh questioned how Case determined that the board would get a better deal from a different company. Case said that a different company said they would not charge extra fees when they were asked.
The board also further discussed design specifics for the elementary school. The school is planned to be a pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade and hold approximately 1,600 students.
Boles said the board needed to determine if it wanted to pursue the pod concept, which would have different schools all housed in one facility or if they were interested in pursuing a two-story school, which would potentially have pre-K through second grade on the bottom level and third through fifth grade on the top. He also asked about a standard, one-story school.
Case advocated for the pod concept.
Marsh expressed concern about not being able to pay for the building to fit that many students.
“One gym and one cafeteria … it’s not going to work,” Marsh said.
Borders and Case each commented that the architects would build both facilities as big as necessary to accommodate the number of students.
The board also decided not to change the district’s sixth through 12th-grade dress policy on the recommendation of three principals — Cook, Don Jones of Red Boiling Springs High School and Junior High and High School, and Jamie Kelley of Macon County Junior High. Each of them told the board that they felt that changing the dress code so late in the summer would negatively impact students and families who may have already bought clothes for the upcoming school year.
Additionally, the board approved a $1,000 donation to both the Macon County High School and Red Boiling Springs High School softball teams to assist with debts incurred due to games missed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and, more recently, rained-out games.
The board also approved the replacement of the Macon County High School gymnasium roof.
Boles also recognized Randy Robinson, the Macon County Supervisor of Maintenance, for his attendance at the Tennessee School Plant Management Association Conference. Robinson received the plant manager of the year award for 2020.
The board also approved to create two new positions, an agriculture teacher for Macon County High School and a full-time substitute nurse.
The board also discussed several policy revisions to be voted on at the next meeting, including a policy allowing students and employees to reasonably request private accommodations, such as restrooms, the requirement that students play sports on the team with the same gender assigned to them at birth, and that teachers may reasonably request that disruptive students be removed from the classroom. Boles told faculty and administrators present at the meeting that to meet the private facility requirement, they could simply hold other students or faculty and staff from entering the restroom or facility while the individual is in the facility.
He also told the Board that disruptive students are already removed from classrooms in the district, as needed.
“I feel like our principals do a good job,” Boles said. “If a student is being disruptive, you’re going to remove them from the classroom and get them settled down and calmed down.”
Boles added that permanent removal from a teacher’s classroom would be decided by the principals.