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Under cover of darkness, WCS Board votes to approve five-year plan

Donna O'Neil
Jason Golden, Williamson County Schools COO and General Counsel, records a vote for a five-year plan as
school board member Eric Welch watches. The meeting took place outside at hte County Administrative Offices after
a fire alarm forced the evacuation of the building.

Members of the Williamson County Schools Board of Education took a rather unconventional route and vote to pass the district’s five-year plan at last night’s special called meeting.

During what could be termed a rather tame discussion about Brentwood Middle and High Schools’ and Centennial High School’s proposed performing arts centers, the room became alarmed – by the sound of a fire bell. This is not the first time Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney has utilized his military take-charge training and relocated from the Carolyn Campbell Room to an alternate location. During his initial interview for the position of Superintendent, the County Administrative Offices lost power. Looney led the-then board members and a group of others into a hallway lit by emergency lights to continue his interview.

Last night after school board members, administrators and others at the meeting were safely outside, Looney reconvened the meeting at picnic tables under the trees while the Franklin Fire Department checked the building for the cause of the alarm.

Explaining that with quite a bit of backwards planning and a fast-tracked design and construction schedule, Looney’s desire is to open the performing arts centers at CHS and BHS/BMS – which would share a facility – in the winter of 2014.

Looney said, the Brentwood Middle and High schools campus presented a challenge because of “small acreage” and that the addition of a stand-alone performing art center and additional classrooms needed to be considered in a “thoughtful and deliberate manner.” For those reasons he advocated a master plan for the campus. He cited, “traffic flow, placement of the buildings on the site and the buildings’ usage for athletics and academics,” as reasons for the master plan.

Bleachers at the Campbell Center are inoperable and although replacement seating is expected to be installed in the next several weeks, the space is not adequate for the activities of the schools. Looney called the current set up a “stop-gap,” also calling it “functional, not optimal.”

In addition to the performance center challenges, Looney said seven teachers at BMS do not have classrooms, but push their teaching materials around the school on carts in search of vacant classrooms to conduct their lessons. At BHS there are four teachers on carts. He stated that when BMS reaches capacity that a sprinkler system, costing more than $1 million will be required and that the HVAC system in the middle school is more than 30 years old. Additionally there are asbestos-based tiles in the middle school that need to be removed. He said it is expected that the master plan would encompass all of those issues.

His vision is to build a stand-alone theatre with classrooms that could be utilized by either BMS or BHS with improvements to the Carolyn Campbell Center, returning the auxiliary gym to be primarily used as an athletic facility.

Despite the all clear by Franklin Firefighters who arrived on the scene to discover that dust stirred up by a cleaning crew may have caused the alarm activation, board members continued the meeting outside.

Under the cover or darkness, while WCS Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel Jason Golden recorded the vote on his district-issued iPad, members of the school board voted unanimously 12 to 0, to approve a five-year plan that includes an estimated $31.2 million in capital projects to begin in the 2012-13 academic year.

Additional details will be available in the print edition of the Williamson Herald, Thursday, Sept. 27.



Posted on: 9/25/2012


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