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Johnson County School Board decision faces backlash

By Tamas Mondovics

Editor

The Johnson County Board of Education’s 3-2 vote last month to downsize Shady Valley Elementary School from a pre-K-6 school to a K-5 for the 2019-2020 school year is making headlines this week, raising several questions on the part of parents, the Johnson County School Board and local media.

Ashley Worlock said her youngest daughter the only 6th grader at the school was ready to begin the season at Shady Valley Elementary, the smallest elementary school in Johnson County. “I did not find this out officially from Mischelle Simcox or any of the school board members,” Worlock said. “I heard about it from someone in the community.”

The Board’s discussion of the topic came up under an agenda item titled ‘Student Enrollment’ in June, and the motion was passed in a 3-2 vote. Board member Gary Matheson, who represents Shady Valley, and Vice Chairman Kevin Long, reportedly voted against the motion.

Worlock said that after she contacted Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox, she was told that her daughter would begin her 6th-grade year at Mountain City Elementary instead.

The problem, which now involves a broader circle, has to do with the Board’s seemingly hasty decision, and the lack of communication or public notice, all of which has now found its way to be discussed at a public meeting scheduled for this evening (July 25) at Shady Valley Elementary School, organized by Worlock.

“I wasn’t aware of this coming up on the student population that night until we got into the roundtable,” Matheson said, in an interview with News Channel 11, adding, “I voted against it, number one because the people had not been notified of what was taking place.”

Simcox explanation of how the Board came to its decision involves the age-old problem of money and the question of filling a vacant teacher position since the numbers are so low. She reportedly said that the county spends about $4,000 per student at Mountain City, and more than twice as much for students at Shady Valley Elementary.

However, to Worlock whose child was reassigned to another school, the lack of notice and the subsequent explanation is unacceptable especially since parents who had registered their children for pre-K classes were not notified at all and have missed out on the opportunity to enroll their children at other nearby schools. The only option left for them is Mountain City Elementary.

Tennessee state law dictates that governing bodies must provide adequate notice ahead of meetings and special-called meetings.

Aside from placing the meeting agenda at the county courthouse and central office, Simcox reportedly said that her office sends meeting announcements to the local paper, but they don’t always get printed.  The fact, however, is that while it is true that not all free notices and announcements, that include notices from the community get printed in The Tomahawk, no notification, or statement other than the monthly agenda items that referred to the topic of annual enrolment, was received from the school board.

Important, free public announcements sent directly to this publication are treated with the highest respect as long as space permits and are submitted in time for print. Legal announcements are paid and included in our classified pages to ensure their publication.

That today’s meeting at Shady Valley Elementary School 23 TN-133, Shady Valley, TN scheduled for 6:30 p.m., which anticipates the presence of several local and possibly state officials and put the Johnson County School Board on notice, there is little doubt. “The bottom line is that I wasn’t notified or given the opportunity to consider other options for my daughter,” Worlock said. “What the School Board and Dr. Simcox did was unprofessional and borderline unethical. This affects everybody, and that is what I intend to discuss.”

Please read The Tomahawk for more updates in the coming days.