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WCS school board extends superintendent’s contract

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Golden signing (copy)

WCS Superintendent Jason Golden first signed his four-year contract in June of 2019.

After mixed comments from a large crowd of public speakers, the Williamson County Schools Board of Education voted to extend Superintendent Jason Golden’s contract by one year during Monday night’s board meeting.

Golden thanked the board for the extension and the public for the discussion, which featured 40 speakers, seven of whom spoke in support of Golden and the district’s diversity and inclusion work. Some of these were members of One WillCo and Be the Bridge Nolensville, which along with The Public, Franklin Justice and Equity Coalition, Williamson Social Justice Alliance and Together Nolensville released a joint statement last week in support of Golden.

Most of the rest of the crowd was with the Williamson County chapter of Moms for Liberty, which has been vocal against Golden and the school’s elementary English language arts curriculum, Wit & Wisdom.

“This public comment discussion this evening has re-emphasized what you all have known for a long time, that this is hard work,” Golden said to the board. “The work you do is hard work. The work we do is hard work, and the scope of thought in our community is very broad, and we have a mandate to serve all our students even knowing that.”

The board’s vote was 8-2-1. Members Dan Cash and Jay Galbreath voted against Golden’s extension, while Candy Emerson abstained from the vote and Brad Fiscus was absent from the meeting. Angela Durham, Eliot Mitchell, Jen Aprea, Sheila Cleveland, Rick Wimberly, Eric Welch, K.C. Haugh and Nancy Garrett voted for the extension.

While Golden's contract was previously approved through June 17 of 2024, the boards vote on Monday extended it to June of 2025.

Wimberly was the first to speak about Golden following public comment, sharing he believes Golden “did what the board directed him to do” and that his leadership led to students being in the classroom for much of the year, student performance tracking “just slightly behind,” no “increase in mental health cases” and an in-person graduation.

“These things did not happen by accident,” he said, noting that the board’s evaluation of Golden reflected that his performance was slightly above expectations.

Cleveland, Haugh and Mitchell recognized the difficulty of making decisions this past year, noting that WCS fared well compared to other districts. While they didn’t agree with every decision Golden made, they appreciated his leadership.

“COVID was a moving target for us. My only issue has always been the quarantine process. Quarantining students took an incredible and emotional toll on the teachers and parents and students, and in my opinion, there was too much conflicting information about the quarantine,” Cleveland said. “That being said, I don’t believe the entire quarantine issue should land entirely on the shoulders of Mr. Golden.”

Haugh shared that he understood the frustration of so many, also noting the fact that some students were quarantined multiple times was “a shame” and “was very difficult for those families.”

“If I think I’m in the superintendent’s shoes last March, last August, it would be hard to sleep at night if I was concerned about the safety and the life of staff members,” he said. “I feel that Mr. Golden erred on the side of caution appropriately. It has been a very difficult year. It’s hard for anybody to get an A+ in the grade, but I feel that he’s done a good job.”

Galbreath also agreed that it has been a difficult year, but he didn’t believe Golden, to use his mantra, put students first.

“I did not agree with a lot of the measures that were taken, and I do think that it was to the detriment of our kids this year,” he said. “I completely support Jason as the leader of our school system. He’s our superintendent. Just, given the year we’ve had, I can’t support extending his contract at this time, but I don’t mean to undermine his authority in any way. I don’t mean to say that I’m out to fire him.”

Cash shared that his decision not to vote for Golden’s contract extension was “not all about COVID.” He said he wants to start “building a better relationship” with Golden, but he “can’t agree” with certain decisions, particularly noting his concerns with the age-appropriateness of Wit & Wisdom.

“What I heard the other night in the few bullet points on what we’re going to do to improve on [the curriculum] isn’t much,” he said.

Emerson shared that she was “wrestling” and that she didn’t have enough time to decide, thus abstaining from the vote.

The board will meet again for a nonvoting work session at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, at the WCS Professional Development Center. The school board does not meet in July.

(3) comments

davidmh

I really wish Tori Keafer would try to be unbiased and just report the news. Tori's articles about WCS read like propaganda that was written by Jason Golden. She didn't mention any of the research aboout Wit and Wisdom that was presented at the meeting - none - zero. We need a newspaper that actually reports the news fairly. If the Herald won't be fair, then we need another newspaper for Williamson County. The Tennessean and Home Page do a better job of covering schools, even though they are well-know liberal papers.

This sentence is typical > "Golden thanked the board for the extension and the public for the discussion, which featured 40 speakers, seven of whom spoke in support of Golden and the district’s diversity and inclusion work." 7 spoke in support but 33 were critical or opposed, but Tori spins the facts to fit a narrative.

Not discussing the dozens of specific criticisms of the Wit and Wisdom Curriculum is unbelievable and an insult to the thousands of parents who are concerned - Tori totally ignores that in her article - it is a textbook example or terrible, biased reporting.

Over 10,000 Williamson County residents are involved. That is enough to give a good start to another newspaper.

I emailed Tori concerns on June 13, which she has ignored.

Tori Keafer Staff
Tori Keafer

Hi @ilovewilliamson, thank you for your feedback. I am sorry you feel this way about the article, and I would be happy to discuss some of my personal reporting rules and ethics with you if you would like. In the article above, I did note that the other 33 of the 40 speakers spoke against Golden and Wit & Wisdom, but you're right that I didn't include specific quotes from these speakers. I would like to direct you to my recent article on Wit & Wisdom, as it may have some of what you are looking for.

http://www.williamsonherald.com/features/wcs-school-board-hears-presentation-on-wit-wisdom-curriculum/article_cc91b764-d09a-11eb-9d9d-2bc57e2a3ebc.html

The reason for me not including W&W quotes in this article is, a) the story is focused on Golden's contract, and b) many of the comments were very similar to what was presented at the recent Moms For Liberty meeting, which I pull from in the Wit & Wisdom article.

I'm always seeking to provide information to inform a controversy, not further stoke the flames with an article filled with opinions, though sharing the opinions of the community and of local leaders certainly has its place. I try my best to strike a balance with quotations and information, and I understand that everyone's balance is going to be a little different.

Bob Marsh

If there is opposition to the current leadership and board, the opposing party needs to just run a slate of like minded citizens with a stated platform. If they can make a case to the public they may be elected en mass and will be able to run the board as they see fit.

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