By Xavier Smith
The Wilson County school board honored community leaders, students and received its own recognition during Monday’s monthly meeting.
The board honored longtime Wilson County juvenile court Judge Barry Tatum as a Friend of Education for his work within the school system.
Wilson County Schools director Donna Wright said she often hears students make remarks about the important role Tatum played in their lives even after graduation.
“I’ve had students tell me, ‘I’ve got to make sure I go back and tell Judge Tatum that I finished,’” she said.
Wright said many students who appear in Tatum’s courtroom do not have an adult advocate, which makes Tatum’s role more important that it appears on the surface.
“He’s fair, works to improve the circumstances of those that come before him and Wilson County is truly blessed to have a judge like Barry Tatum who not only has our students and community’s best interest at art, but the idea that young children are our future,” she said.
Wright said although Tatum often lectures in courtroom, he also offers students hope that their current situation doesn’t have to determine their future. Wright said Tatum has played the role of guide, mentor and advocate for many students.
Board member Wayne McNeese said he first met Tatum in 2000 during the district’s search for a director. He said he has the upmost respect for Tatum’s work with children in Wilson County.
Board chairman Larry Tomlinson said he also respected Tatum for his work and has witnessed his work in person. Tomlinson said he recalled one instance where a young man’s mother was acting out, which caused Tatum to threaten her with contempt of court.
Tomlinson said what Tatum told the young man after that is what sticks with him.
“It was something to the effect of, “Son, I can’t overlook what you’ve been charged with here, but I can see by the way you mother is acting why you probably are the way you are,’” Tomlinson said.
“It was such a true statement because in society today, some of these problems are placed on young people because they’re not getting a lot of direction at home.”
The board also honored the Patriot Pen and Voice of Democracy winners in Wilson County.
Established in 1947, the Voice of Democracy audio-essay program provides high school students with the unique opportunity to express themselves in regards to a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay, according to the Veterans of Foreign Wars website. Patriot’s Pen is the contest for students in 6-8 grades.
Winners of the Patriot’s Pen include: Mary O’Riordan of West Wilson Middle, first place; Raeann Green of Watertown Middle, second place; and Kailee Scott of Tuckers Crossroads, third place. Winners of the Voice of Democracy include: Navaneeth Shibu of Wilson Central, second place; and Kimberlynn Miller of Mt. Juliet High, third place.
Ken Kackley, VFW Post 5051 senior vice commander, and Post Commander John Marshall honored the school board for their work with the essay contest after it voiced displeasure last year with the lack of attention given to the contest throughout the district.