|County commissioner faults Wilson County Schools' firing policy|
|Tuesday, June 19, 2012|
Special to The Chronicle
Wilson County Director of Schools Mike Davis faced some scrutiny Monday night from members of the County Commission about the system’s policy of not giving cause for termination, which Davis said was in line with state law.
District 8 Commissioner Frank Bush said the county school system had fired 12 employees at the end of the school year, including four special education assistants, three teachers, three bus drivers and two other employees.
Bush said none of those employees were told why they were terminated and noted at least one teacher shared her most recent evaluation with Bush and he said that evaluation showed no cause for termination.
“The fact that they are not told is shameful,” Bush said. “That policy needs to change.”
Davis said he would not discuss personnel issues in a public setting, but noted all information about terminations is contained within each employee’s personnel file. He added those personnel files are open to the public and invited Bush to look at those files.
The number of individuals fired after the last school year was “about the normal amount,” according to Davis. He noted that if an employee is fired, in most cases that employee knows why they were terminated based on their evaluations and job performance.
However, Bush and other squires were surprised that Davis does not sit down with the employees and give reasons why they were terminated.
“That is not required under state law or statutes,” Davis said. “If they are terminated, I just send a letter informing them.”
Bush said although the law does not require the system give cause for termination, he noted a lot of best practices are not required by law. Davis said school attorneys across the state advise systems to not give cause for termination “because it leads to litigation.”
District 15 Commissioner Mike Justice asked County Attorney Mike Jennings, who also represents the county school system, if he felt the practice was the right thing to do.
“It is not required under state law,” Jennings replied.
Justice also prodded County Mayor Randall Hutto about the county’s policy for giving cause for termination and Hutto said he felt it was a good idea to talk to employees about why they were being fired.
“I don’t know if we’ve fired any people since I’ve been here, but I do believe that practice is good to talk to them,” Hutto said.
According to Davis, the system has a specific process it must follow in order to terminate a tenured teacher, but pointed out non-tenured teachers operate on a year-to-year basis.
Davis also said an employee who is terminated due to budget cuts can be rehired within the Wilson County system. Davis said Nashville attorney Charles Cagle of Lewis, King, Krieg & Waldrop, P.C., which represents more than 70 boards of education, has always advised systems not to give cause.
“He has consistently said you do not give reason or cause,” Davis said.
However, Bush said the practice of not telling employees why they were being fired was “unconscionable.” He added the laws in Tennessee and nationally favors businesses if a termination leads to litigation.
“What are you afraid of as an employer?” Bush said.