By mtjulietintern

The Wilson County Board of Education approved a major pay increase for Wilson County teachers during Monday’s meeting.

The group approved a 12.5-percent salary increase for teachers, but the Wilson County Commission will have the final nod on the increases.

“When you look at where teacher average pay is, we’re nearly [$4,000], almost $5,000 below the state average. To get us at or above the state average, I would like to make a recommendation to increase teacher pay by 12.5 percent,” board member Tom Sottek said. “To clarify, I know that sounds like a lot, but the reality is that our per-pupil expenditure for our county, when you take our total budget and divide it by 18,000 students, is $8,380. We would only be increasing our per-pupil expenditure by $500 per student.”

Sottek said the increase would still place the district about $1,200 behind the state’s per-pupil average expenditure, as well as average expenditures in Sumner, Robertson and Williamson counties.

“We’re not asking for the moon here. We’re asking for $500 per student,” Sottek said.

The increase will be the district’s top priority on its needs assessment list it plans to present to the Wilson County Commission. Sottek said he hopes the commission will research and give options on how to fund the increase. The Wilson County Board of Education does not have the ability to implement or raise taxes.

“I think [teachers] deserve a 12.5-percent increase, but we got to do it in some fashion,” said board member Wayne McNeese. “To me, this right here, for a lack of a better term, doing it today, is…political grandstanding, because it’s nothing that our commissioners are going to vote on until September.”

Sottek said he has spoken with teachers for the last six months about a potential pay increase.

All 25 county commission seats are included in the Aug. 2 Wilson County general election.

“I want to do what’s right for the teachers. Put it before the county commission. If we do it today – and I’ll vote for it – we’re putting the county commissioners in a spot where I don’t know how they get around it. It’s political suicide not to vote for it, because it’s for the teachers,” McNeese said.

Board OKs state testing resolutions

The Wilson County Board of Education approved a pair of resolutions aimed at state testing Monday after issues plagued the assessment this year.

Problems with online portions of the Tennessee Ready state assessment happened last month, which caused Wilson County Schools to suspend online testing throughout the week.

The board approved a resolution that would allow teachers to elect to use the 2016-2017 Tennessee Ready data for their performance level.

“For the 2019-2020 school year, teachers can elect to use the 2016-2017 data, or if the 2017-2018 data come in higher, they may elect to use that,” said Wilson Director of Schools Donna Wright.

Wright said teachers without 2016-2017 Tennessee Ready data could elect to use their observation scores.

The district will also seek legal counsel in efforts to pursue a private act to be exempt from Tennessee Ready assessments in the future.

“We will propose another assessment, such as the ACT Aspire or another comparable assessment, that will provide reliable diagnostic data for grades 3-11, and will be reasonable in testing time and the number of testing areas,” said Wright, who said the district would aim to submit the private act before the 2019 legislative session.

Wright said the district could face a financial penalty of $3 million if it simply opted out of state testing, but an alternative assessment could allow quicker returns on results and be more reliable.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com