The Wilson County Schools Board of Education continued to wrangle with high school scheduling during Monday’s meeting, eventually deciding to continue with the recommended seven-period option while holding the final decision on block scheduling until budgeting later this year.
Several board members, led by Jamie Farough and Kimberly McGee, have expressed an interest in returning to block scheduling, where high school students take four courses each semester with each class lasting 90 minutes.
“Block scheduling is what’s best for the students and as board members, and we’re supposed to do what’s best for the students,” Farough said. “If that is block scheduling, then we need to go ahead and plan on block scheduling and when it comes down to the budget, I feel like we need to go line item by line item and figure out how to make that happen.”
However, WCS Director Donna Wright argued that the district cannot consider block scheduling now because it will cost the district more money and it has not been determined if that money will be available. Block scheduling requires more teachers because each teacher teaches fewer classes. Last spring, the board dropped block scheduling in order to avoid having to hire 41 more teachers, a move that saved $2.6 million.
“We cannot obligate funds we do not have,” Wright said. “And you do not build the budget that way.”
Wright did say that it would be easy to transition to a block schedule as the budget is being finalized in May, as long as funding is available for the extra teachers.
Ultimately the board approved Wright’s plan to begin planning for next year with a seven-period schedule in place, with Farough and McGee voted against.
In other business, the board decided to search for Wright’s replacement on its own, without outside help. Wright is retiring in June. Board members Bill Robinson and Jon White presented three options to the board, including hiring an outside consultant, hiring the Tennessee Schools Boards Association, conducting the search internally. They estimated that hiring as private search firm could cost as much as $50,000 and that the least expensive TSBA option would cost $6,500.
Board member Linda Armistead moved to hire the TSBA, but board Chairman Larry Tomlinson said he felt the district’s human resources department and board could conduct an effective search. Armistead’s motion failed 5-2, with Armistead and board member Pfeiffer voting for hiring the TSBA.
A subsequent motion to conduct the search without outside help passed 6-1, with Pfeiffer voting against.
Wright also announced that she has hired a new chief financial officer to replace Deputy Director Mickey Hall, who retired at the end of December. Michael Smith is currently the finance director for Murfreesboro City Schools.