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School board tests new public comment sign-up procedure at Monday meeting

New member Brown sits in on first school board meeting

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WCS school board

Josh Brown (top right on the screen) participated in his first meeting as a Williamson County Schools Board of Education member on Monday. 

The Williamson County Schools Board of Education implemented a new sign-up procedure Monday for those wishing to speak during the public comment segment at meetings. 

Effective Monday, those who want to speak at school board meetings now need to sign up online. 

“We have made a change to our public comment structure which allows for online sign up,” Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden said. “This month, we included the online sign up, plus the opportunity to sign up physically here. We’re going to do a review on how that went, and potentially tweak some things based on what we’ve heard from some community members about that process. Right now, our plan is to make it exclusively online sign up next time. We’ve been pretty pleased, just generally speaking, that the majority of the speakers tonight did sign up online.” 

Eight community members spoke during the meeting’s public comment segment. 

Some expressed discontent with the school board’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“A blanket answer mask mandate will never benefit all individual students that you have committed yourself to serving,” Williamson County resident Karen Rail said. “You are ignoring the needs of your students that have anxiety, that have depression, autism or the student that is just happier and more successful without a mask.”

Golden spoke to the importance placed on differentiated instruction in Williamson County Schools, noting the individualized care and attention each student can expect to receive.

“Our teachers are spending time talking to each other about individual student needs,” he said. “Of course, we have students with disabilities and IEPs, but we also work to differentiate instruction through what you all know as RTI, response to intervention. Every day, teachers are drilling down to meet student needs in the classroom.” 

Two representatives from local group One Willco also spoke during the public comment segment. 

Both urged the board to prioritize the everyday struggles facing students of color within Williamson County Schools. 

“I am asking for us to come together to acknowledge that clear data shows disparate treatment and outcomes for kids based on race in your county,” Tizgel High said. “I believe that us as a group can find solutions to help us meet these obligations we have to all of our students, not just some of our students, not just many of our students, but all of our students. Our educators and staff are asking us for resources.” 

Brown sits in on first meeting

The meeting was also recently appointed school board member Josh Brown’s first as an official member. 

Brown replaced former school board member Brad Fiscus, who recently moved out of state, leaving his position at the end of September. Brown was appointed by the Williamson County Commission last Monday to serve on the board until September 2022, which is the end of his term in District 4. 

Brown attended the meeting virtually. 

“I’m excited to be a part of the board and excited to be at my first meeting,” he said. 

Brown then addressed concerns raised by members of the community at the latest county commission meeting that his employment by Pfizer presented a conflict of interest on the school board. 

“I do work for Pfizer under government relations, and being around government at different levels most of my career means I’ve seen how politics and policy can become personal, but doesn’t have to,” he said. “So, hopefully my contributions to this board will reflect that and hopefully our discussions will reflect that.” 

With Brown in tow, the board voted unanimously on several budgetary items of new business, including moving $575,000 from the General Contingency Fund to build a 22-classroom addition at Summit High School. The construction bidding was complete in September, and the low bid came in at $8,356,497, which exceeded the overall project budget by $575,000.

Golden said the reason behind the high bids can be attributed to a number of market factors, including construction staffing issues, material upcharges and others. 

Those who wish to speak at any subsequent school board meetings during the public comment segment should email publiccomment@wcs.edu with their first and last name, complete address, topic of comment, organization they’re representing, if applicable, and a copy of their Tennessee state-issued photo ID. 

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