July 24, 2014 - 08:18
Contract renewed for Director of Schools
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He did not ask for a pay increase. Second District Board member Shawn Pritchett voted against the renewal, all others in attendance voted yes.

Director of School Dr. James Jones has had his contract renewed for another four years. Jones gave a short presentation to school board members last Thursday outlining things he had accomplished and would like to continue working on. He did not ask for a pay increase. Second District Board member Shawn Pritchett voted against the renewal, all others in attendance voted yes. LW Smith and April Trantham were absent.

Jones told the board programs that had been initiated during his tenure included in-school suspension, which he felt cut down on the use of corporal punishment for students. He said each alternative school had special needs teachers if a student with special needs was given in-school suspension. Jones said a graduation coach program had also been started and had already begun to bring the graduation rate up.

According to Jones, Awareness Committees had been formed enabling teachers to have a direct line of communication with him so they would be able to speak freely.

Jones said some of the programs put into place were new, and he wanted to see how much progress was made in the next five years. He said a new club had been formed at PCHS called Club 21, geared toward helping raise ACT scores. He said a good GPA was not the only thing needed to get into college. Mark Williams said if ACT scores rose, there would be an increase in academic scholarships.

Jones also told the board about two grants that were recently awarded to Polk County. He said Benton Elementary would receive $400,000 over the next four years to make 10-14 individuals certified as reading specialists. He said Benton had trouble with language arts scores. Jones said UTK would be working with them in order that they achieve a Master’s Degree as a reading specialist.

Another grant recently awarded, Jones said, was part of a pilot program and written by Dr. Jared Bigham at CBHS. He said the grant would enable them to reward teachers with pay for performance. He said there would be no freeze on pay, but that if a teacher was to do very well and student scores were to be raised, the teacher could be rewarded. He said there would be a committee to review everything, evaluations would be involved, and it would take around 5 years to get everything implemented and fine-tuned.

Another new grant received this year will provide breakfast for every student in Polk County. Jones said they had tried for three years to get this grant.

Jones said end of course tests were showing improvements and that he had shown he was able to work with county commissioners, adding he was thankful they agreed to help with buses.

According to Jones, there is a lot to be done and a lot of work was needed on schools, including roof work as well as additional buses in the future.

Steve Norwood asked board chairman Jayson Lamb if it was necessary to make the decision immediately. Lamb said it was up to the pleasure of the board. Pritchett said he was new to the board and asked if there had been any evaluations of Jones. He said he had not seen any evaluations and suggested a meeting be held to include all stakeholders – board members, the county commission, parents, etc – before deciding.

Gary Silvers said evaluations were done yearly on Jones and the board had done one as well as reviewing it with Jones. Jones said he had been director for seven years and was open with the public and anyone was welcome to come by and see him. Tracy Bishop said she had met with Jones earlier in the day and brought up the evaluations and felt Jones had been very open and available to her. Williams said at any given time a contract could be up for renewal when someone new was one the board. Silvers said they were elected to the board to do the right thing.

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