The temporary committee consisted of county commissioners Gary Keith of District 17, Mike Justice of District 15, Annette Stafford of District 20, Eugene Murray of District 21 and Bernie Ash of District 23.
Keith was the only member who voted against the recommendation to enlarge the board. Ash said he was voting for it, but reserved the right to change his vote when it comes before the full county commission.
Keith, who had been elected chair at an earlier organizational meeting, and told the committee that he had talked to Zone 3 BOE member Don Weathers about the issue.
I asked him if at any time, in the past or present, had any school board member come to him and say, Im covered up. He said no, Keith told the committee. I dont think were that far out of line. Its really what this community wants to do.
Murray said he had spoken with Zone 2 board member Bill Robinson, who told him that he really doesnt see a need, but if it is changed, it should be with an at-large member.
Justice said the issue of adequate representation came up in the fall of 2012 during the controversial proposal to convert the old Lebanon High School into a middle school that would draw students from Southside, Tuckers Crossroads and Carroll-Oakland elementary/middle schools.
It seemed like what was good in Mt. Juliet was going to be good in Tuckers Crossroads, Justice said. I find that a huge problem. What works in Mt. Juliet doesnt necessarily work in Tuckers Crossroads.
It felt like the people who were calling me, especially some folks in the Southside area, were telling me, My representative on the school board is from Mt. Juliet. To me, that was ludicrous that the district was so big that it encompassed rural eastern and the incorporated area in Mt. Juliet. That was what sparked part of this, he added.
The chair of the Budget Committee also noted that the county has 25 commissioners representing the county and five school board members managing 71 percent of our budget.
Justice said he would like to add two members and he doesnt have a problem with at-large members.
Stafford, who is also the chair of the Education Committee, said she would like to see the districts divided up.
What I hear the majority of time is, Annette, we dont feel like we have our say, she said. If that three-man vote wants to carry it, thats what happens.
Justice and Stafford both said they get numerous phone calls from constituents about the school board.
I can tell you that an extremely high percentage of the people in my district that want to see more school board members, Justice said. I think that we need to look at redistricting. We need to keep it an odd number.
Keith said that regarding the major issue of the middle school, especially in Justices district, the board members stepped up and did what the people asked them to do regarding the middle school issue.
I dont see anything broke here. Its just going to be more cost to county to fund more members, Keith said. If theres something broke, somebody tell me, other than they are too large.
I can tell you a personal reason for me. If we had given them the money, wed have a middle school at Lebanon High School, Justice said. I was told that in the parking lot that night by a school board member who changed his mind.
I think the only reason why they didnt do that is because the people showed up. There would have been a middle school if the people hadnt been aware and hadnt showed up, Stafford said.
By law, the school system gets two-thirds of the tax dollars. Its by law. And whether you have five members or nine members, I dont think its going to change a thing on whats happening, Keith said. I think theyre doing a good job and will continue to do a good job.
Stafford said its not an issue of the school board getting the job done, but that it bothers her that Wilson County has 116,000 people with only five members, while other counties, such as Washington County that has a population of 114,000, has nine school board members.You talk about the cost to the county, well what is the cost of representation? she asked.
Justice said he just feels like the districts are too big, especially when you get into rural Wilson County versus the incorporated areas, I think the mentality is not the same. I moved from Davidson County to rural Wilson County for a reason.
Keith asked if the number of school board members are increased would that mean the number of road commissioners and constables would have to be increased as well?
I think the road commission is doing a good job. Why would we want to add more road commissioners at the cost of $5,000 a year per commissioner? Keith said.
Its the cost of growth, Stafford said. Were growing by leaps and bounds.
Correspondent Amelia Morrison Hipps may be contacted at email@example.com.