Following this morning’s meeting of the Wilson County Board of Education, who unanimously voted to terminate the contract as Director of Schools Dr. Tim Setterlund, who had been on the job for only seven months, The Wilson Post attempted to contact all five of the board members to ask them the following question: “What take away lesson, if any, did you learn from the entire situation concerning Dr. Setterlund as you prepare to move forward in your search for a new director?”
The Post talked to all but Zone 4’s Ron Britt. A message was left on his voice mail but was not returned by the deadline for posting this article. If The Post does hear from him, we will add his comments.
Additionally, The Post talked to the chairs of the Wilson County Commission Budget and Education Committees for their reactions to today’s meeting, and with whose comments we begin our reporting of “In Their Own Words.”
Mike Justice of District 15 and chair of the Budget Committee
Justice is the county commissioner who asked former Director of Schools Dr. Tim Setterlund at the end of his committee’s meeting on Thursday, Jan. 16, if Setterlund had consumed alcohol and then driven his BOE-issued vehicle, to which he answered with a simple yes.
“I think what happened is probably best for the community in the long run. I think we have, and the word's been used before, a Cadillac school system, and it took some people to get us there. Even though it's not my choice who the director is, I didn't agree with a lot of the decisions he was making. I've had a lot of teachers, principals, parents express their opinion to me, because they're in my district, who were very, very unsatisfied. I just hope we can put it behind us and move forward.”
Annette Stafford of District 20 and chair of the Education Committee
“I think that the action that the school board made can get this county moving forward. I want the teachers to be able to feel relaxed and at ease. At this point, I'm very pleased with the board's decision. We can move forward … I think the school board acted in the best interest of the teachers and the students.”
Board of Education members listed in district order
The question: “What take away lesson, if any, did you learned from the entire situation concerning Dr. Setterlund as you prepare to move forward in your search for a new director?”
Wayne McNeese of Zone 1
“I don't know what it would be. How would I do it differently? Would I still hire Dr. Setterlund? Yeah, 'cause coming in I thought he was great, but obviously he made some bad judgment calls.
“I don't know that we done anything wrong. I thought we had a good director, and I don't know if I have anything to learn from this. It's easy to say we need more control of the director, but then he does the hiring and firing. That's where we got into trouble.
“People use this one beer thing as a tool now, but that wasn't the problem. It was him hiring and firing some people, particularly hiring some of his buddies from Memphis.
“The court of public opinion got him on the one drink thing, but in my opinion, that should have never, ever been brought up in the forum that it was.
“My problem is with one particular county commissioner. If he had handled it differently, if he had come to us, and said, 'Hey we got this problem,' it could have been done a lot simpler without Wilson County Schools being dragged through the mud, but it wouldn't have been politically beneficial to him.
“The ambush of Dr. Setterlund, the way it was done was politically motivated. I'm calling it like I see it. “Now other people may disagree with that, but they will not tell you that.”
Bill Robinson of Zone 2
“As a board member, I probably learn some lessons everyday. In resolving this situation, in light of everything and considering possible outcomes and things that have transpired in the past, I felt like by far this was the surest and most reasonable outcome ... a situation I felt comfortable with.
“I think today that I will stand on my voting on these different issues.” (Editor’s note: Robinson was the only board member to vote against hiring Setterlund and against the approval of his final contract.)
“I'm looking for nothing any different today than I was when we hired our previous director. I want somebody that's going to work each day to strive to keep the focus on our classrooms and not Stumpy Lane (location of Central Office.)
“Education is all about these kids, and my only thing is try to take every step, every day as long as I hold this position to try to see that the only concern we have is our children and our employees and doing right by the taxpayer. To me, that should have, and I hope it was, my standard seven months ago. That'll be my standard today.
“My coaching background tells me that even though that I've tried to do the right thing as a school board member playing my role as I should, that if I haven't got it where I wanted, then I've got to re-evaluate every step I make to try to get it where I think it should be.
“You don't do everything the same and have a different result. If I haven't helped us get to where we want to go, then I need to look at how I approach everything I do.”
Don Weathers of Zone 3
“That's there's many, many, many facets of hiring a new director of schools or any employee. Just trying to turn over every rock that we possibly can so that we know the people as well as we possibly can before we bring them in.”
Ron Britt of Zone 4
Larry Tomlinson of Zone 5
“I think the thing that I've taken away from this most is the fact that people are watching, and they do care about what goes on within our school system. We've always got to be conscious of the things that we say or do, because we do have a tremendous responsibility.
“I think as Mike Jennings said this morning, everybody's not going to be happy with the decision that we made. But I think from the comments that I've heard from folks, they're pleased that we did what we did. I have no reservations in my mind that we did do the right thing.
“This didn't start with the drinking incident. That was just maybe the straw that broke the camel's back.
“The simple takeaway you got to be careful about what you're doing. We've all got the ultimate responsibility to do the right things all the time.”
For the story about Saturday’s BOE meeting, go to http://bit.ly/1aTFVSn
To watch The Post’s video of today’s Board of Education meeting, go to http://bit.ly/1e5Bbui.
Correspondent Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.