The Wilson County School Board received a lot of good news as the 2014-15 school year draws to a close.
At Monday night's board meeting, high-achieving seniors, seventh graders and Teachers of the Year were honored; Johnson Controls reported $977,000 in savings to the school system for utility costs; and Carroll-Oakland Elementary Principal Carol Ferrell reported that the school addition is on schedule to be opened in August.
Some changes in the district's online education program and renewal of its cleaning services contract also came up for debate, resulting in the board deferring approval of the online changes and voting 4-1 to renew a shorter contract than was requested for cleaning.
A 'virtual success'
Kim Clemmons and Audrey Harrington presented information about TVOLS, the Tennessee Virtual Online School, to the board. This is a program currently only offered in Wilson County to allow students who have difficulty attending regular classroom programs to continue their education, although TVOLS assists other school districts on a case-by-case basis if students there are determined to need the program's services.
Any student may apply, but must be currently maintaining a 2.5 grade average and be no more than two credits short of grade level to be accepted.
Also, students with special needs for the program are given priority. Special needs can include anything from being on the road due to a performing career such as singing or competing in barrel-race rodeos to physical issues such as injury or serious illness, according to Clemmons.
The program plans to offer a graduation ceremony for any of its students who have been enrolled for at least three semesters and complete all requirements to graduate, Harrington said.
It will be held together with the graduation at the Adult High School.
Changes requested, deferred
School Board Chair and Zone 5 Board Member Larry Tomlinson pointed out that this program, unlike some other virtual online school programs that have come under fire recently, "is well done, with rigorous expectations and the same requirements as regular classroom instruction."
Harrington agreed, saying that sometimes the requirements at TVOLS are actually tougher. "We have to make up for the time students are not spending time in class," she said.
TVOLS also requested to be allowed to increase its tuition from $25 to $200 per semester for in-district students and $400 for out-of-district students, and to make some other changes in its policies.
But after Zone 4 Board Member Linda Armistead moved to accept the changes, the board deferred a decision until its June meeting at the request of District 2 Board Member Bill Robinson, with Armistead withdrawing her motion.
Robinson said he wants to know more about possible legal issues created by the changes.
He also requested that Board Attorney Mike Jennings look over the changes.
Split vote on cleaning contract
The board also voted to renew its contract with GCA Services to provide cleaning services for the county schools; however, the contract was only renewed for two years instead of the requested five years.
District 3 Board Member Don Weathers asked who currently owns the company, saying he had heard that it has recently been sold.
But Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said as far as he knows, that isn't the case, and while the company "has released about 40 of its administrators, they assured me that the schools would receive as good or better service from the streamlined company."
Robinson expressed concern that the schools are not receiving acceptable cleaning services, but several principals present at the meeting all agreed that they have no complaints.
In the end, the board voted 4-1 to renew a two-year contract with the company, with Robinson casting the single "no" vote.
Nearly $1 million saved
Johnson Controls, represented locally by Joe Bond, also reported to the school board that its programs have saved the school system $977,374 this school year by such measures as controls that turn off lights when rooms are empty. These controls also turn down heat and air-conditioning when rooms or buildings are unoccupied.
Johnson Controls entered into a contract four years ago which will expire next year to provide the controls and work with the school system to create savings to pay for the controls.
The company has also made numerous recommendations for saving electric, natural gas and water in the system.
Wilson County Schools was also named the first "Storm Ready" school system in the state by Brittany Whitehead, program director for the National Weather Service. Locally, Stephen Spencer is the director for the schools' emergency management program.
He coordinates warnings, alerts and drills in the schools, as well as special training programs such as the storm spotter class for school personnel earlier this spring.
Kudos to great students
The four seniors, one from each high school, who received $750 Coca-Cola scholarships are Kaclyn Parisher from Watertown High, Sebastian Arradondo from Lebanon High, Caleb Wharton from Wilson Central High and Mary Wilson from Mt. Juliet High. The scholarships were presented at the board meeting by Director of Schools Dr. Donna Wright.
The Duke talent search to honor students who score in the 95th percentile on a statewide test found many Wilson County seventh graders in that group. These students also were presented with certificates at Monday night's board meeting, as were the Teacher of the Year honorees from each school in the district.
A week of graduations coming
High school graduation dates were also announced. Mt. Juliet seniors will graduate on May 26 at 7 p.m. The ceremony will be held at the Murphy Center at Middle Tennessee State University.
Also to be held at the Murphy Center will be the Wilson Central graduation on May 29, also at 7 p.m.
Watertown High will have its graduation ceremony on May 28 at 6 p.m. at the new Watertown High School.
Lebanon High School is holding its graduation ceremony at their own school as well. It will take place on May 30 at 7 p.m.
Writer Connie Esh can be contacted at email@example.com.
Wilson County school and emergency officials receive recognition as the first "Storm Ready" school system in Tennessee from Brittany Whitehead, program director for the National Weather Service, center left. Holding the recognition plaque is Stephen Spencer, center right, who directs the schools' emergency management program, flanked by Wilson County Director of Schools Dr. Donna Wright at right. Photo by John Butwell
Wilson County School Board Chair Larry Tomlinson congratulates the four seniors, one from each high school, who received $750 Coca Cola scholarships at Monday night's Wilson County School Board meeting. From left are Sebastian Arradondo from Lebanon High, Kaclyn Parisher from Watertown High, Mary Wilson from Mt. Juliet High, and Caleb Wharton from Wilson Central High. Photo by John Butwell
Honored at Monday night's Wilson County School Board meeting were those seventh graders who attended the meeting - as well as several who were unable to attend - who were selected by the Duke talent search to honor students who score in the 95th percentile on a statewide test. Dr. Donna Wright, director schools, presented them with their certificates. Photo by John Butwell