Director's contract extended

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

By Karen Hall


School board members unanimously approved a one-year extension of Director Jackie Abernathy's contract when they met Monday night.

Abernathy's contract ran until June 30, 2014, and, strictly speaking, board members did not have to address the issue of an extension until November.

"It's your choice how you want to address it," said Chairman Mike Keny. "Miss Abernathy and I have talked a time or two and she is very content with the contract she has now. She asks only to reinstate the longevity pay that was somehow lost when she left and came back."

Board member Barbara Kennedy quickly moved to extend Abernathy's contract through June 30, 2015, and "give her whatever was lost in longevity," Randy Perryman seconded the motion, and the vote in favor was 9-0.

Several board members commented on the need for continuity in administration, especially in the light of the critical changes which are about to be take place, including reconfiguration of Lewisburg elementary schools, implementation of Common Core standards, and (possibly) supervision of the proposed building program.

"I support every comment," said Donnie Moses. "I see stability as being a good thing right now."

"I think she does a wonderful job," Perryman added.

At the April school board meeting, Kristen Gold and Susan Hunter presented the results of the director's evaluation. The results were all very good, with Abernathy scoring an average of 4.61 (on a scale of one to five). Only two board members gave her few marks of three; all the other marks were fours and fives.

"It's the highest score since I've been on the board," exclaimed Keny at the time.

After extending the director's contract, board members moved on to another enjoyable part of the meeting: honoring the valedictorians and salutatorians of all three high schools. There were also two girls who have achieved perfect attendance. Ashley Beard, Cornersville High School, and Megan Sanders, Marshall County High School. Abernathy noted Beard is the second child from the same family to achieve a perfect attendance record.

"That means she has spent 2,340 days, or 17,550 hours, in school," the director said.

Also honored were 7th graders recognized in the Duke University Talent Identification Program. Twelve achieved state recognition, while Laramie Plott, of Lewisburg Middle School qualified for both state and grand recognition. To qualify for grand recognition, a student must score at or better than 90 percent of recent high school graduates tested on at least one part of the ACT or SAT. Only about 3 percent of all participants in the talent search qualify. Plott will be invited to a special recognition ceremony at Duke University.

"Every time we have an awards ceremony, that fellow is here," said Abernathy about Plott, reminding board members these were seventh graders competing against high schoolers' scores.

The achievement of another student came in for some scrutiny by board members before they agreed to fund his trip to the national finals.

Kennedy expressed doubts about funding a Cornersville High School student's trip to the National Leadership Conference of Future Business Leaders of America, to be held in Anaheim, Calif. from June 26 to July 1.

"We've already exceeded our line item in the budget for this," Kennedy said. "We've spent over $5,000 already, when we budgeted $3,000, and this trip will cost $2,800 more. Maybe it's not a great idea."

"Is this student qualified?" asked Perryman.

"Yes," said Abernathy. "He is now. He placed fourth in the state and we just found out the third-place student couldn't go. This was in business math, where there were 40 students in competition, so it's a bigger deal than some of the classes where only a few competed."

Questions were also raised about who would chaperone the student. The policy states the board will pay for "student and sponsor" to attend a national event, but in this case, the sponsor is female and the student is male, so they couldn't really share a room. Instead, it was proposed that the student be accompanied by his mother, a teacher.

"We need to investigate the budget and look at the policy, too, " said Keny. "I think we ought to send him."

"We've got no choice but to do it this time; right now I move we go ahead and pay this," said Harvey Jones Jr. "We need to revisit it before next year and re-do the guidelines."

"We can't penalize the student because our procedures are so vague," agreed Perryman. "It's too late to change now."

"We're already in the hole," Kennedy argued. "The county commission has to ask, 'Why are you spending money you don't have?'"

Keny finally moved to approve the request for funding from the school board for the trip to California, pending approval by Cornersville High School administrators, and on this motion the vote was eight board members in favor, and Kennedy the lone dissenting voice.