Following a two-plus hour, closed meeting of the Wilson County Board of Education and its attorney Sunday afternoon regarding recent information about Director of Schools Dr. Tim Setterlund, the next step is for the five school board members to digest the information they received and possibly hold a special meeting later this week.
The meeting concerned Setterlund’s admission Thursday night at a Wilson County Commission Budget Committee meeting that he had consumed alcohol at a local establishment and then drove his county-assigned vehicle.
The meeting that begin shortly after 1 p.m. ended with the board returning to the board room at the central office on Stumpy Lane and BOE Chair Don Weathers of Zone 3 asking BOE attorney Mike Jennings to summarize what took place in the private meeting.
“We've discussed the facts underlying this, options. We took no action, because we're allowed under the Smith County and Warren County case to discuss these matters, but cannot take any action,” Jennings said. “No action or votes were requested and none were taken.” (See The Post’s related article “What Tennessee law says about open meetings.”)
He then advised Weathers that he could “talk about where we go from here.”
“”We've heard the options our counsel has provided to us today. We've heard a first-hand account of what transpired in the meeting,” Weathers said. “We have a lot to think about for the next few days, and Mr. Jennings if you would, what would you suggest to this committee.”
“We’ve hit you with a lot of information today. Take a little time to digest that information. Follow-up on any of it if you need to and possibly look at scheduling a special meeting for later in the week, one that will have to be properly advertised and notice [given] to the press,” Jennings said. (See The Post’s related article “BOE meeting moved to Sunday, Jan. 19.”)
Post meeting press conference
The meeting then adjourned, but Jennings and Weathers stayed and answered questions from the press. They did not issue a formal statement of any kind. (Click here to watch a video excerpt from the press conference.)
Jennings told the media that they talked about the “facts that came out Thursday night at the Budget Committee meeting,” as well as school board policies, state law and “different options that may or may not be on the table.
“No action was discussed about which option to take, if any, and none will be except in an open meeting.”
When pressed more than once about how many beers did Setterlund allegedly consume, Jennings replied, “I don’t know that we really need to address the specific facts of that right now. That would come at a later date,” and referenced them to what happened at Thursday night’s meeting. (See The Post’s article, “BOE director admits to driving county vehicle after drinking” about Thursday night’s meeting.)
Weathers did clarify that the vehicle Setterlund drives is a Ford Expedition and is a “school board vehicle.”
A Nashville television reporter asked, “What kind of message does this send to kids? Is this the kind of example you want set for the students?”
“We're going to weigh that in our decision-making process. Each board member has a lot of facts to determine,” Weathers said. “We have school board policies. There's state law that we have to consider also, and we will consider all of that as we determine what the school board is going to do.”
When asked if Setterlund broke any rules or laws, Jennings started to explain there are school board policies “that address things like that in general,” referring to alcohol usage by school employees. However, as he was working from memory, he stopped, at which time Weathers told the media, “It’s on our website if you want to go research that.”
“The message that I think you should take from today is that we have talked about the facts as we know them, school board policies, state law, all of the things that come into play,” Jennings said.
“We're going to take a thorough look at all of this, and not rush to judgment, but move fairly expeditiously and determine what action, if any, needs to be taken.”
When pressed, Jennings reiterated that he was not “going there today. We're looking at everything and a determination will be made as to where they go will be made soon. Everybody wants to move quickly. We didn't advertise that meeting for that purpose, and we couldn't do that today.”
Asked if Setterlund was asked to attend the meeting or to stay away, Weathers said that he is on vacation, and that the “meeting was a fact-finding mission for us.”
He also noted that Setterlund is going to take a few more days off due to bad weather where he was vacationing and is expected to return later in the week.
Other than the five school board members, BOE secretary Rose Ratagick, Jennings and members of the media, the only other persons to attend were District 8 County Commissioner Frank Bush and Mickey Hutson, the recently hired deputy director of Schools of Student Services over all non-academic student activities.
No one was allowed to observe the meeting. Hutson left before the board members returned to the board room after the closed meeting.