School Board Meeting – No reinstatement for former football athlete

The Polk County School Board met Monday night for their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Board members elected a new Chairman and Vice-Chair, discussed the new free lunch policy for students, and heard from disgruntled parents about their son’s inability to play football.

Third District School Board Member L.W. Smith will be the Chairman for the upcoming school year. Jayson Lamb will serve as Vice-Chair. The vote was unanimous.

Director of Schools Dr. James Jones talked to the board and audience about the new Community Eligibility Program. The school system has been approved for the program, which will allow all students to eat free. Previously a free/reduced lunch program was available for lower-income students. The new program will feed all students.

A yellow form has been sent home with students for parents to fill out and return to the school. Jones said filling out the form, which includes basic information about income levels and numbers of students, will be used to help receive federal funding. No personal information will be shared with anyone; the use of basic numbers of students and average household incomes will only be used to help the system qualify for federal grants.

Dr. Jones also shared information about the number of students enrolled so far this year in various schools. Benton Elementary enrollment dropped by about 17 students, Copper Basin Elementary School is up by two, South Polk is down by two. Chilhowee middle enrollment has gone up by about 60 students. Both high schools saw increases, as well. Copper Basin High School has about 30 more students than last year and Polk County High School has about 40 more. Jones reminded everyone that state funding is based on enrollment.

At the end of the meeting Tammy Swann spoke to the board about trying to get her son back on the football team. She said he was on the team his freshman and sophomore years, but was taken off due to an injury. Swann said her son learned his locker was given away, then later learned his number was given to someone else.

According to Swann, her son was told the issue was his grades, but worked to pull them up. She said there was a meeting with Coach Derrick Davis and Dr. Jones, but that it seemed obvious the coach had made up his mind as was not going to change it.

Dr. Jones said it was his understanding Coach Davis had a list of things for the student to achieve and he did not complete everything on the list. Jones said the boy did not finish his credit recovery before school was out. Jones said the board was not in the business of over-riding a coach; the coach is hired to do his job. He said if they started overturning decisions, it would open a Pandora’s box of requests.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]“We pay him to make these decision,” Jones said. “A governing body cannot override that or there would be bedlam.”[/cryout-pullquote]

Chairman Mark Williams said he had spoken with the coach and others involved to verify the situation and he felt like the student was treated fairly. Swann said he was not treated fairly. Williams asked if TSSAA rules were broken; Jones said he did not think so, unless the credit recovery issue broke the rules. Jones said it was his understanding the boy had skipped reps and practice, skipped weightlifting sessions, and had admitted during the meeting held with the coach that he had acted like an idiot but wanted another chance to prove himself.

Swann said she thought the problem was a comment her son made on Facebook saying his football career was over now because of Coach Davis. She said they had paid $413 for a team jacket. Pictures were shown of bruising from a paddling the boy received in the 7th grade. Jones said that issue was dealt with at the time and had no relevance to this situation. The student is now a junior.

Jones said he did not recommend the board take on the responsibility of overriding the coach. Williams said the board sets policies that are given to the schools, adding, “From what I’ve seen, I can’t see where he was treated unfairly.”