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Textbook debate heats up, commission approves teachers' salaries

Williamson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney told the County Commission May 13 that a formal review of a high school human geography book, “The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, 10th Edition” by James M. Rubenstein published by Prentice Hall – was recently filed.

After weeks of critics voicing public concern about the content in the textbook, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, president of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, a self-described pro-Israel group, filed the formal complaint due what she described as the textbook’s Anti-Semitic slant. During public comments portion of the WCS board meeting in April, Cardoza-Moore addressed the board.

“Remove the ‘Cultural Landscape’ textbook from the curriculum because it promotes Anti-Semitism with blatant Anti-Semitic propaganda against Jews and Israel,” she said.

She also stated that the text possesses inaccurate information and promotes terrorists attacks.

In Cardoza-Moore’s formal “Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Materials” submitted to the district, she wrote, “The content legitimizes through implications that Palestinians have a legitimate right to murder innocent Israelis because they are fighting for a political cause through suicide bombers.”

Looney said next steps are dictated by WCS policies.

“A committee has been charged to begin the review process,” Looney said, which entails reading the entire text. The committee most likely will not be able to report any findings until June he told commissioners.

Teacher Pay, Special-Needs Students, Cameras on Busses
Newly hired teachers and the Williamson County Schools district breathed a sigh of relief Monday night after the commission voted to transfer money between categories to pay teachers’ salaries ending the 2012-13 school year.

Had the body voted against the resolution, the district would have risked a breach of contract – and noncompliance with state law – for the absence of funding [in correct categories] for the new teachers including salaries, FICA, retirement, and medical insurance.

“The teachers are under contract, and the district is committed to pay,” Commissioner Tommy Little, District 5, said. Little voted in favor and proposed an amendment of $412,090.87. 

The commission also approved a $240,000 resolution for outside contract services to aid students with special needs with serious issues beyond the service capabilities of the district such as suicide ideation and extreme violent behavior.

Also, a resolution equaling $242,000 for surveillance cameras for the district’s 70 school buses was approved by the commission. The cameras were suggested made by the Safe Havens audit earlier this year when the international school safety organization assessed the safety in all schools in WCS and FSSD.

Commissioner Kathy Danner, District 4, said that she could not support the resolution.
“I would rather see the money used in classrooms rather than on buses,” she said.

Sheriff’s Office Funding
Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long requested the transfer of $200,000 between categories to fund the medical expenses of inmates’ serious medical conditions such as cancer and neurological disorders. Several inmates have been treated for such medical conditions as cancer, surgery, and serious self-inflicted wounds.

The amount reflects the amount left over for the funding of elementary School Resource Officers in WCS and FSSD. The transfer will not affect SRO funding for 2013-14 the sheriff said.

“This has been one of the worst years in medical expenses since I have been sheriff,” Long said at the last County Commission Budget Committee meeting May 6.

Long also said that the state pays the sheriff’s office $36 a day per state prisoner, while it costs $70 a day to hold each state prisoner.

“I would like to see the state pay the full cost,” said Ernie Williams, chairman of the Budget Committee previously reported to the Herald. “It’s inequitable for the county to be paying that amount, which is costing Williamson County taxpayers money.”

Possible road improvements of Old Natchez Trace Road
The County Commission Highway Department proposed improvements to Old Natchez Trace Road. During the public comments segment of the meeting, Laura Turner, who lives near the trace, called the area the “crown jewel of Williamson County and Tennessee.” Turner asked the commission to respect the history of the area in any plans for construction of the road.

Commissioners Ernie Williams and Mary Brockman, District 9, appeared on the behalf of their constituents at the Williamson County Highway Commission meeting April 3 to voice their wish to conserve the natural beauty and history of the area. According to minutes from the meeting, Brockman said, “Citizens in the area wish to be reasonable but would like for the tree canopy, rock walls, and the road bed width be preserved.”

Posted on: 5/15/2013


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