My name is Mark Tomlinson, and I am running for re-election for the Lebanon Special School District (LSSD) Board of Education. I have been a member of the board for 10 years and have enjoyed every minute. I am proud of the way the board has worked together to help bring significant advancements to the students and employees of the LSSD. The following are just a few examples in academics, safety and growth and expansion:
- In looking at the academic growth of all students, for three years in a row the LSSD has been a level five. This means that when scored on a continuum of one to five with five being the highest possible academic growth by district, the LSSD has proven its ability to guide students in reaching their greatest potential.
- Our district teachers are well above the state average for teachers growing students a full year or more: state = 66 percent and LSSD = 85 percent. This means that 85 percent of our teachers receive an effectiveness rating of three or above on a one-to-five scale as compared with the state average in which only 66 percent of the teachers receive a score of three or above.
- When overall effectiveness of teachers includes observation scores, LSSD teachers are above the state average: state = 82 percent and LSSD = 93 percent (three or higher).
- Based on the universal screener (a state-mandated normed test that determines where students are academically in math/reading which is administered at least twice a year) in reading for grades three through eight, every grade level rose in percentile ranking. In math, all grade levels increased from eight to 42 percentile points from the beginning of the year until the end.
- We have adopted a Focus on Literacy. The district has an ongoing commitment to all students that each will be reading on grade level by third grade. Currently, LSSD is ranked 15th out of 145 districts in literacy growth. Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visited the district and then publicized the district's accomplishments in her tweets and posts.
- Each elementary school has a reading specialist on staff. In August of 2015, these specialists had a total of 67 second-graders that were reading below grade level in their classes. By the spring of 2016, 51 of those students were reading on grade level. These same teachers had 50 third-graders in August reading below grade level, and 30 of those were reading at grade level by the end of the year.
- We currently have a higher percentage of students reading on grade level than ever before. The data for the state of Tennessee shows less than 50 percent of student reading on grade level, and our LSSD screener data shows we had upwards of 70 percent reading on grade level at the end of the last school year. We will continue this focus until we reach 100 percent.
Growth and Expansion of Services
- As you know, Wilson County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state. To accommodate this growth in the district, we built Winfree Bryant Middle School in 2011.
- To proactively address current and future student growth over the course of the next several years, we have purchased over 50 acres at the corner of Hartmann and Coles Ferry Pike to expand school structures as needed.
- In June 2016, a new central office building was acquired. This purchase will allow spaces in the schools which have been used for district programs, such as School Age Child Care (SACC) and the Family Resource Center, to move to another location and open that space for instructional purposes. This move will also allow the central office to have more meeting spaces and offices.
- During the 2015-16 school year, we began the Universal Breakfast in the Classroom Program. To combat hunger and help students focus on academics, this initiative provided breakfast for all students.
- This summer, LSSD began a free summer feeding program to feed all children 18 and under in our community. Children are being fed at four different locations in the community through this program. LSSD is committed to providing physical nourishment, as well as peer social interactions for participating children.
- During the 2013-14 school year, we began our 1to1 Technology Initiative. We are currently 1to1 in grades four through eight and are beginning third grade 1to1 this fall and adding additional devices to our grades K through two. You may have seen our students on Bill Haslam's technology infomercial.
- Well over 125 educators have visited our district to learn about the LSSD technology initiative.
- By partnering with Johnson Controls on our Energy Efficiency Initiative, we are ensuring our facilities are energy efficient which is resulting in a significant cost savings to the district.
- We have a history of strong fiscal management. LSSD has a healthy fund balance and offers highly competitive wages for employees. The current LSSD beginning teacher pay ranks 12th in the state out of 145 districts.
- In our ongoing commitment to the community, our Family Resource Center continues to promote partnerships with schools, families and the community to take care of the whole child. Examples include: providing basic needs (food and clothing), community resource information, Weekend Backpack Feeding Program, Parenting Support/Classes, the Parents as Teachers Program, healthcare information and assistance and Christmas for All information, as well as being a member of the Community Anti-Drug Task Force.
- Safety is one of the top priorities at LSSD. We have made a strong commitment to the maintenance, upkeep and ongoing renovations of all facilities. We are continually looking for ways to keep our buildings and grounds safe, attractive and up-to-date.
- We have enhanced the safety and security of students/staff by having a School Resource Officer (SRO) located at each school, adding entrance security vestibules and additional cameras, as well as purchasing a computer program (RAPTOR) for visitor identification and recognition.
I have been a lifelong resident of Wilson County. I graduate from Lebanon High School, Cumberland University (AA degree) and Middle Tennessee State University (BS). This is where my wife, Lorie, and I work and have raised our four children: Abbie, Morgan, Blaike and Trice. Lorie is a case manager for Wilson County Youth Links and helps struggling students, while I remodel and build custom homes as the owner of Majestic Construction. I care about our community and am very involved in community service. I am a member of the Bridge Fellowship Church, assisted with Christmas for Kids, volunteered with PTOs, built play sets for elementary and high schools and worked concessions at schools and fairs.
In the beginning, I ran for a seat on the school board because three of my own children were attending schools in the LSSD. I have continued my quest to be on the board because I enjoy helping children and seeing them succeed. Children and teachers are the future of our country. I believe that all students deserve to be provided a quality education regardless of their background or any other demographic classification.
I believe the LSSD school system is one of the best systems in the state. We keep our eyes on the future and try to be proactive and not reactive. Our school system family works well together, and we respect each other. We, as a board, do not try to micro-manage the schools. Our job is to hire and communicate with the superintendent, while allowing him to do the job that he was hired to do.
Thank you for allowing me to serve 10 great years as a LSSD board member. I would appreciate your vote of confidence for six more years. Early voting dates are July 15 through 30, and Election Day is August 4. Again, I thank you for your vote and support.