|School board asks county attorney to look into termination policy|
|Tuesday, July 10, 2012|
Special to The Chronicle
Wilson County Board of Education members asked County Attorney Mike Jennings at Monday night’s regular meeting to review a policy that says the board and Director of Schools Mike Davis are not required to give teachers reasons for termination.The board took the action at the request of District 8 Wilson County Commissioner Frank Bush. His request was made via a written statement read by his wife, Carol, to the board at Monday’s meeting as Bush was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.
During the June 18 county commission meeting, Bush was critical of Davis and the board for not giving employees reasons why they were terminated. Bush said he had been approached by a handful of teachers and said none were given reasons for their termination.
Carol Bush, reading from her husband’s statement, said the practice gives them “great concern” and likened the practice of putting “do not rehire” notes in some personnel files as being black-listed.
“It appears that the district management does not feel that it is right or necessary to explain to an employee the reason or reasons for termination,” Bush said.
During the June commission meeting, Davis was adamant that he would not discuss personnel issues in a public forum. He said at that time, that all reasons for a termination are contained within the employee’s personnel file.
Bush said personnel files she and her husband have reviewed do not contain reasons for termination and also, that those terminations came as a surprise to the employee.
The practice is legal and Davis has said that top school attorneys in Tennessee have advised the board to not give reasons for terminations to avoid litigation. Bush said the fact that the practice is legal does not mean it is necessarily a good policy.
“There are many practices and activities in life that are legal but they are still bad and generally we try to avoid them,” Bush said. “Hiding behind the legality of a practice does not make it a best practice for any organization.”
Bush asked the board to review the policy and to consider new policies that would provide county school employees with reasons for their termination and what they can do to improve.
“We are professional teachers and we have failed to even try to teach our professional colleagues how to teach better,” Bush said.
Bush asked that the county schools consider putting a policy in place that would require an exit interview for all employees and that the reasons the employee was terminated be communicated to the employee at that time.
He also asked the board to review the practice of placing a “do not rehire” note in personnel files and if one is placed in a file, that reasons for the note be documented. Also, Bush asked the board to review all terminations in the past three years and reevaluate whether the “do not rehire” note is necessary.
The board asked Jennings to look at the policies and consult with other school board attorneys as well. Board Chairman Don Weathers said they would look to see what changes could be made that would fit within the board’s present personnel policies.
The school board also passed their yearly budget, which included 2.5 percent raises for all teachers and support employees. It also funded 28 math and reading coach positions which were originally funded under stimulus money.
Also during the meeting, the board presented 97-year-old World War II Veteran and Vietnam Veteran James R. Jewell with a diploma from Lebanon High School. Jewell served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, at Guadalcanal, the Philippines and more.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to do this,” Davis said.
Also, a draft of an agreement between Wilson County Schools and the Tennessee Board of Regents concerning the TBR’s use of the Vocational Center at the old LHS campus for a technical center was put on hold.
Jennings told The Wilson Post that each board member had a draft of the agreement, but said he was still receiving feedback from the board and the TBR. He said the TBR would review the agreement on Tuesday.