The Wilson County Board of Education has a tough decision in front of them later this week regarding the future of Director of Schools Dr. Tim Setterlund.
A firestorm has brewed over the last six days ever since Setterlund admitted during last Thursday night’s Wilson County Commission Budget Committee to having drank a beer and then driving his BOE-issued Ford Expedition home.
The Wilson Post broke the story on its website, www.wilsonpost.com, late that night, and since then, other media outlets from within the county, as well as Nashville, have picked it up and followed it’s progression.
However, in reviewing material for this timeline of events, The Wilson Post realized the issues that seem to concern several county commissioners, as well as some principals, teachers, parents and students with Setterlund, go much further back in time than last Thursday.
So, today, without editorial comment, The Post has composed a timeline of events from Dec. 3, 2012, when former Director of Schools Mike Davis gave the BOE his letter of resignation, effective June 30, 2013.
- 3 – BOE Chair Don Weathers said that the search process for a new director would begin in January. “We will bring in candidates and interview them,” he said, adding that while they hope to locate the perfect candidate early in the process – they will wait “until June 30 to get the right one” if need be.
- Search for new director of schools begins with Wayne Qualls of Teams Inc. collecting resumes.
- 5 – At the regular BOE meeting, Chairman Don Weathers said that former Wayne Qualls of Teams Inc. was collecting the resumes and would narrow the job candidates down to four finalists by April 12. The first round of interviews will take place on April 20, narrowing it down to two finalists for the second round of interviews on April 27.
- 20-21 - Weathers said the candidates were narrowed down to four finalists who were interviewed during the weekend of April 20-21. Qualls, who served as Commissioner of Education under former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist, collected 39 original resumes from March 5-22, during a nationwide search. During the interviews, Qualls asked each candidate a series of 20 questions. Candidates had five minutes to answer the question in front of the board.
- Interviewed were Dennis Albright, current Braxton County director of Schools in Sutton, W.Va.; David Huff, current Obion County director of Schools; Dr. Tim Sutterlund, assistant director of schools for Memphis City and Shelby County Consolidated Schools; and Dr. Donna Wright, assistant superintendent of Knox County Schools.
- 27 – Final round of interviews with Setterlund and Wright were held.
- 7 - BOE by a vote of 4-1 agrees to enter into contract negotiations with Setterlund. Zone 2 Board member Bill Robinson was the lone vote against entering into negotiations. However, the vote to select Setterlund was unanimous, pending contract approval.
- 9 – BOE approves Setterlund’s contract with an annual salary of $165,000, an increase of $33,708 over his previous position in Shelby County and roughly $42,000 more than that of Davis.
- 1 – Setterlund’s first day on the job as director of schools
- 1 – Wilson County schools opened for the 2013-2014 school year. Changes were made the in school start time this year at five Wilson County Schools, including Lebanon High School, Tuckers Crossroads, Carroll Oakland, Watertown Elementary and Watertown High Schools. LHS, WHS and Watertown Elementary will begin at 7:20 a.m. TXR and Carroll Oakland will begin at 7:45 a.m. These changes were part of the overall new traffic plan for LHS, to help alleviate traffic concerns on South Hartmann Drive on weekday mornings.
- A change of schedule was also been announced for West Elementary in Mt. Juliet for Thursday, Aug. 1 and Friday, Aug. 2 due to ongoing construction. Setterlund said that all students, except for those in kindergarten, will have an abbreviated day from 7:15 to 9:15 a.m. Kindergarten students will not attend school until Monday, Aug. 5, and will be personally contacted by their teachers prior to Aug. 1.
- 16 – Setterlund told The Wilson Post that officials are debating whether the current block schedule (which breaks the school day into four, 90-minutes periods, or block) or moving to seven 50-minute periods would be more beneficial to students and the system. “Block schedule requires additional teachers and our budget is tight,” he said, before adding that major cuts in teacher employment would not be expected. “We would do our best not to cut people, but let normal attrition those teachers who move or retire handle that.” While Setterlund said nothing is final at this point, he expects a decision to be made sooner rather than later. “We have to make that decision pretty quickly because we will start to build our course catalog.” This decisions raises questions from District 14 County Commissioner Jeff Joines at the Aug. 19 County Commission meeting.
- 16 – Setterlund announces that the 2014 graduation ceremonies for Lebanon, Wilson Central and Mt. Juliet high schools would all be held at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville at varied times on May 31 due to the increasing number of graduates and guests. He said the auditorium was only place large enough to accommodate everyone indoors, especially in light of the difficulties at Lebanon High’s graduation earlier. He also noted by holding all three graduations on one day and dividing the $15,000 cost, “it becomes more affordable.” He noted that were going to survey parents to see if they would be interested in using the Music City Star if a special schedule could be arranged.
- 23 – In an interview with The Wilson Post on the BOE’s budget, Setterlund said he would have to be “honest with the good news and the bad news,” as well as assure the commission that the money is spent where school system leaders say it will be spent. Setterlund said part of his job is to help the commission understand that the growth money the BOE would get just because of growth and the pennies allocated toward education that cannot be changed or reduced isn't enough to keep pace with the demands on the district, especially when it’s growing. “When we’re growing this year by 630 students, that should equate to about 30 teachers,” he said. “We budgeted for 10 additional teachers this year.”
- 30 – Setterlund answers questions about an anonymous letter sent to The Wilson Post as well as several county commissioners after District 5 Commissioner Jerry McFarland raised the issue at the Aug. 26 commissioner’s meeting.
The questions concerned the following issues:
o A board retreat held Aug. 2-3 that was not publicized prior to being held;
o Raises given to some central office supervisors due to re-classifying of positions;
o A question about the insurance premium teachers would have to pay;
o Cost of new furniture for central office, which Setterlund said was purchased for two employees whose work location was moved;
o Setterlund’s negotiated salary of $165,000, to which he said he had been promised a salary of $180,000 had he stayed with the Shelby County system. At the time he was hired and his salary was made known, Weathers compared Setterlund’s $165,000 salary to counties such as Sumner and Williamson, which are approximately $180,000 and $175,000, respectively. Former director Davis’ salary as the new Director of Robertson County Schools is $150,000.
o A raise for then Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall from $91,617 to $99,957 and a change from tying his salary to the director’s salary to tying it “back to base teacher pay like all other administrative positions.”
o Teachers leaving the school system
- 12 – Setterlund dismisses Jill Micco, a 23-year veteran of the school system and supervisor of special education, saying the position has been eliminated.
- 13 – Setterlund dismisses Bill Moss, a 31-year veteran and supervisor of Career Technical Education, saying the position has been eliminated.
- 20 – In an interview with The Post, Setterlund said, “it should not come as a surprise to anyone that he may make some changes in the Central Office staff. "Not everyone may share my vision," he said. "I'm examining the whole Central Office structure to ensure that it is efficient, cost effective and will achieve the goals of the district."
- 7 – Setterlund informed the BOE that the liquor-by-the-drink taxes passed almost 50 years ago had not been paid to the schools as the law required. The law states that tax revenues from the sale of liquor-by-the-drink were to be split 50/50 with the school systems. Setterlund told Coleman Walker on radio station WANT 98-9 FM on Oct. 8 that the school system could receive as much as $900,000, with a portion of the funds going to LSSD.
o At the same board meeting, Setterlund recommended amending the system’s punishment policy to remove corporal punishment to any student. However, the amendment failed by a vote of 2-3.
- 21 – Joines questions Setterlund at the county commission meeting about the future of the CTE program.
- 22 – Attorney Michael Clemons of Clemmons & Clemons PLLC in Nashville files suit on behalf of Bill Moss in Chancery Court for Wilson County against Setterlund and the BOE alleging wrongful termination.
- 4 – The BOE votes to officially abolish the position of supervisor of special education. Micco, who was a 23-year veteran of the school system, had held the position until Setterlund told her Sept. 12 that it had been eliminated.
o The BOE approved a plan to begin a conversation with county officials regarding funding for a four-phase effort for school construction, including a possible new middle school in the Lebanon area.
o Also, the first of a series of public forums called “2020s” was scheduled for Nov. 12 in the theatre at Mt. Juliet High School where Lauren Breeze introduced the system’s new Engagement Committee and Setterlund talked about recent district changes, the shift rom K-8 to a middle school format and the five-year strategic plan.
o Setterlund introduced a five-year, four-phase building plan for the system
- 21 – Micco becomes the second individual to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against Setterlund and the BOE. Clemons, the attorney who is also representing Moss, filed the case in Chancery Court for Wilson County.
- 27 – Announcement was made that Lebanon High School’s 2014 graduation will be held outdoors at the football field after parents addressed the BOE about the importance of tradition.
- 2 – The BOE at its regular meeting approves the addition of the following Central Office positions and job descriptions: Deputy Director of Academics, Deputy Director of Student Services and Deputy Director of Talent Management. Mickey Hall, whose title had been deputy director of schools, had a title change to deputy director of finance and business operations.
o Weathers said at the time, “I fully support it,” meaning the changes. Salaries for the new positions would be paid within the current staff budget by not filling vacant positions or reassignments.
o Setterlund said at the time the school system was “no longer a small school district” with 16,900 students and that it needed to be “more coordinated and more strategic” in order to be more efficient as budgets are tightened.
o The board also approved revisions to the 2014-2015 school calendar.
- 13 – The principal and bookkeeper at Elzie D. Patton Elmentary School in Mt. Juliet both resigned amidst an investigation into alleged financial irregularities. Setterlund said Lori Hassell, principal, turned her notice on Dec. 13, but did not name or give the date of resignation for the bookkeeper. Setterlund appointed Stan Moss as interim principal for the remainder of the year and said a search for a permanent replacement would begin the spring.
- 1 – Announcement is made that three new administrative positions have been filled, two of whom come from Shelby County where Setterlund worked before coming to Wilson County. Leisa Justus, formerly principal of Houston High School in Shelby County since 2008, was named deputy director of academics. Mary Ann Sparks was promoted from within the school system as the new deputy director of talent management. Mickey Hutson, a former classroom teacher at Collierville High School where Setterlund was a principal, was named deputy director of student services. The new hires began their jobs Jan. 6.
- 6 – Bill Moss, whose position as CTE supervisor was eliminated in September 2013, was reinstated. However, his alleged wrongful termination lawsuit remains pending. Clemons, Moss’ attorney, said it was unclear what his duties in the reinstatement would be as Jennifer Cothron and Monty Wilson, both supervisors of secondary education, had been assigned to take over Moss’ duties. However, Wilson has since left the system to accept a job with the Tennessee Department of Education.
- 8 – The Post files a story about Moss being reinstated, as well as the BOE’s insurance company’s attorney’s answer to the lawsuit in Chancery Court. Two key replies in the answer indicate that Setterlund may have violated BOE policy when he eliminated both positions without obtaining BOE approval first.
o In two separate sections of the answer, the answer admitted allegations that the minutes of the BOE “do not reflect that it took action or made any decision regarding Moss’ position,” and “that Setterlund chose to abolish the position prior to formally notifying the Board.”
o Board Policy 5.105 states: “The authorization of all school system positions rest with the Board,” while Policy 5.116 reads: “All staff positions shall be approved through the budget process in accordance with an organizational plan submitted by the Director of Schools. … The Director of Schools may revise the organizational plan as long as budgetary amounts are not exceeded and Board policy is not violated. In the event of reorganization, the Director of Schools will adhere to all applicable reduction in force guidelines and will inform, in a timely manner, each member of the Board of the change and include the change in the Director of School’s report at the next board meeting.”
- 16 – District 15 County Commissioner Mike Justice and Budget Committee chair asks Setterlund if he “had been to a local establishment during school hours in a county vehicle and drank alcohol.” Setterlund answered, “Yes.” He told The Post following the meeting: “I didn’t think it would be a problem,” Setterlund said. “My contract reads that that vehicle is provided for my personal use, so I use that vehicle like I would my personal vehicle.”
o Hall asks the county commission Education Committee to approve a budget amendment to make a line item transfer in order to pay the newly created deputy director positions. He explained no new monies were needed and that funds were simply being moved from one part of the budget to another. The amendment failed to pass the committee.
o According to BOE Policy 2.201: “All line item transfers shall be made upon the recommendation of the director of schools and approval by the Board and County Commission.” County Attorney Mike Jennings told the committee that failure to do so could result in an audit finding for the county.
- 18 – BOE schedules a private meeting to discuss their options in light of the events at Thursday night’s Budget Committee meeting. The Post learns of this, challenges the fact that adequate public notice was not given and the board changes the meeting to Sunday, Jan. 19 at 1 p.m.
- 19 – The board meets with attorney Jennings for almost two-and-a-half hours to learn what their options are concerning Setterlund. No action was taken. Both Jennings and Weathers say they hope to hold a public meeting later this week where the options in front of them will be deliberated and a decision made.
- 22 – BOE sends notice of public meeting to be held Saturday, Jan. 25, at 9 a.m. at the Central Office
Information for this timeline was pulled from the archives of The Wilson Post and other sources on the Internet, including the BOE website.
Correspondent Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.