In 1984, I entered the public-school system here in Sumner County. We had just moved to Tennessee from Alabama, and I was ready to start first grade. My journey began at Beech Elementary, went on to Hunter Middle, and ultimately finished at Beech Senior High School. My three younger siblings share the same journey, and we are all proud products of the Sumner County School System. I will invest in Sumner County Schools as they did in us.
Investing in our schools is investing in our future. SCS remain strong today with a graduation rate of 95.5%, the highest in county history. The 2017 senior class accepted more than $40 million in scholarships, and ACT scores have risen from an average of 20.2 to 21.4. $75 million has been invested in school renovations leading to the elimination of 55 portables and the creation of 89 new classrooms. K-8 parents no longer pay class fees, and an additional $15 million for safety and security improvements has been approved by the county commission since 2014. These statistics show the value of investing in our students and schools.
Employee pay has increased every year for the last six years, and recently the school board presented a budget including significant pay raises for teacher assistants, bookkeepers, secretarial staff, and band directors as well as 14 new classroom positions, four new nurses, four social workers, two new custodians, two ELL teachers, a special education teacher, and a communications coordinator. These are huge steps in the right direction, but we have more work to do to continue the fight for strong schools.
Among 95 Tennessee counties, Sumner ranks 4thin median household income and 4thin unemployment, but we rank 54thfor teacher pay and 37thfor principal compensation. That simply doesn’t add up! My friends over at Strong Schools said it best, “How can we value education if we don’t value our educators?”
And while the pay increases and additional positions added by the school board, (ultimately approved by the county commission), are great, janitors and cafeteria workers were left out, and we still have a school bus driver shortage to address.
Moving forward, communication will be key, and from conversations I’ve had, it has been less than stellar. As your District 2 Sumner County Commissioner, I will be a voice to bridge the communication gap with Sumner County Schools and will continue the fight for fair compensation for our teachers and staff.