By Meg Dickens
The Director of Schools position has been a little uncertain in recent years. When the contract ran out last year, the Johnson County School Board extended the current director’s contract by one year, while working through COVID-19 complications. Now the Board has decided to rework the contract and continue Dr. Mischelle Simcox’s reign as Director of Schools for three more years starting July 2021 and ending in June 2024.
“I just want to say thank you very much,” Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox replied after the vote passed four to one. “I appreciate your confidence, and I’ll continue to serve you proudly.”
The new contract will take away outdated language about possible director pay increases. School Board Chairman Howard Carlton explained that the director’s pay comes directly from the state’s BEP(Basic Education Program) fund, which is based on the number of students enrolled in the particular school district and is not determined by the School Board. Prospective raises such as the two percent raise proposed by Governor Bill Lee would not affect the director’s salary.
Carlton brought up a section on accountability related to contract termination to quell concerns from a member of the public who spoke on the subject before the discussion took place. The language spells out that termination based on “significant proof of improper conduct, inefficient service, or neglect of duty” results in termination with no benefits.
The main reason that the Board chose a three-year contract specifically has to do with election cycles. In the work session a week prior, members explained that they wanted any newly elected Board members to have plenty of time to get to know the director and weed out any preconceived notions before this kind of vote happened again. The three-year contract will give any new members at least a year with the director beforehand.
“It provides stability to our system,” Carlton reiterated when Board member Gary Matheson asked again. “We did the one year contract only because we started late in the year. Coronavirus shut our schools down, so we decided last year that we would just go one year to get over that and then discuss this further.”
Despite no opposition happening in the work session, there was a brief bit of conflict during the discussion at the Board meeting. While discussing the contract extension, Matheson suggested opening interviews to new candidates. When no one seconded the motion and proceedings continued, he retorted, “so we’ll let the taxpayers see what happened here.”
The Johnson County School Board meets the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at Central Office. To watch live or view archives after the fact, visit the Johnson County Schools TN Youtube channel.