By mtjulietintern

Wilson County Board of Education  approves $60 increase for teachers with children

The Wilson County Board of Education voted to increase Learning Center rates at a special-called meeting last Wednesday night.

The board reached an impasse on the issue earlier this month after the district recommended to increase the Learning Center rates $60 per week per child starting July 1. At Wednesday night’s meeting, they approved the $60 increase after much discussion.

The new weekly rates for children up to 36 months will be $195, and $185 for children 37-60 months. The sibling discount will be $20.

Board member Wayne McNeese suggested using money from the general fund to fund the program for the 2018-2019 school year, although board attorney Mike Jennings, who was called to address the issue, said he couldn’t confirm the legality of the proposal.

McNeese argued because the program operated during school hours, not before or after, they should be able to legally fund it with money from the general fund.

“I can’t answer that question,” said Jennings. “If someone had brought this question to me a week ago, I could have researched it. But I don’t know the answer.”

Board member Bill Robinson agreed with McNeese’s proposal, and the two got as far as a motion and a second before the proposal was voted down 2-4. Robinson and McNeese were the only two to vote for the idea, with board member Gwynne Queener absent.

“To me, this whole issue, you know you look at our whole budget, you base it off revenue and expenditure,” said Robinson. “Ever since we started talking about this program, we’re saying this is a loss. You know, we’re losing this amount of money. To me, it all depends on your priorities. I’m in this business for our employees. I’m in this building for our children. It all comes down to priorities.”

When McNeese’s proposal was voted down, one teacher in the audience yelled at the board to stop making excuses, and a security officer escorted the teacher out of the building.

Director of Schools Donna Wright made her recommendation to the board based on a survey passed around to teachers. Wright’s recommendation was to raise the rate to $60 a week and keep all Learning Center sites open. The alternative option was to raise rates to $30 a week, but shut down four of the Learning Centers, including Carroll Oakland School and W.A. Wright, Mt. Juliet and Lakeview elementary schools.

McNeese said despite his insistence, he would not vote for a rate increase. If the alternative were to shut the program down, he would vote yes.

“I don’t have to like it, but I have to vote for it,” said McNeese.

Board member Johnie Payton said the issue was one of the hardest with which she ever had to deal.

“I visited at least eight schools the past two days, and this is the only thing that since I have been on the board in two years that has kept me awake and woke me up,” said Payton. “I’m 68-years-old, and I don’t like to wake up in my bed in the middle of the night. I talked to teachers who are out there, and I would hate to see people lose their jobs. I am willing to pay at least for two, and principals let me know if there’s someone who cannot pay, and I will pay, because I cannot get to sleep, and I’m 68 years old.”

The proposal to raise the rate passed by a 5-1 vote. Robinson was the only board member to vote against it.

By Jac0b Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com