Union City Director of Schools Gary Houston
The contract securing the services of Union City Director of Schools Gary Houston was renewed Monday evening by the Union City School Board, meeting in a regular monthly session.
Board members Dr. John Clendenin and the Rev. Curtis McLendon were out of town because of family commitments and were absent from the session.
Houston’s contract will be in effect beginning July 1, 2011, and extending through June 30, 2015.
Board chairman Glenda Caudle noted that Houston’s annual review had taken place earlier and he had received high marks for the extent to which the performance goals established last year were accomplished. The board requested at that evaluation session that Houston formulate his own goals for the 2011-12 contract year and has received and approved those, requesting only that Houston provide specific written follow-up coming not only from his own observations but from students and instructors involved in two of the nine goals.
These specific goals relate to integrating iPads into the classroom as portable and interactive learning devices and instituting a “looping” system at Union City Middle School that would keep students together in groups for two or more years with the same teacher. That system will begin with Advanced English/Language Arts classes for seventh- and eighth-graders in the 2011-12 school year and the director and others with an eye on the project will evaluate if the plan contributes to determining a student’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses, if it helps develop long-term and beneficial student/teacher learning relationships and if it improves academic performance.
Other goals proposed by Houston and approved by the board relate to exploring the purchase of E-books (digital/electronic books) instead of conventional hardback texts, investigating additional career-technical programs, expanding the Distance Learning Lab to include mobile units for use in individual classrooms, conducting a Leadership Academy (as needed) to help meet future administrative needs, overseeing the expansion of the role of principals as building-level instructional leaders, expanding the use of formative assessments to help teachers analyze student skills and deliver effective differentiated instruction and continuing to improve the aesthetics of each school.
The board gave unanimous support to a motion by Karl Ullrich and a second by Dr. Wright Jernigan not only to renew the contract but to increase the director’s salary by $2,000 and to change the directives related to “automobile entitlement” to reflect the board’s decision to provide an allotment of $600 per month to cover the lease or purchase of a vehicle by the director, rather than the board’s providing the vehicle. The new automobile provision also covers the handling of expenses incidental to the use of the vehicle, plus insurance coverage and reimbursement for travel expenses outside the city, in language recommended by Tennessee School Boards Association.
The consent agenda, which was also approved unanimously, included a bid awarded to low bidder Lanzer Printing and Office Supply in Union City for cases of Hammermill paper in the amount of $9,975; a bid awarded to low bidder Carrier of Memphis, in the amount of $86,810, for a cooling tower for UCMS; and a bid awarded to low bidder Taylor Music Inc. of Aberdeen S.D., in the amount of $18,396 (with trade-in) for six new sousaphones for the Union City High School band. The consent agenda also included the purchase of library furniture and equipment for UCHS at a cost of $106,428.08; approval of free and reduced-price meal application; and approval of bills.
Norm Boucher, the grandparent of a student at UCHS, was present to address the board with a request related to his grandson’s participation in the high school athletic program.
Mrs. Caudle invited him to provide the board with information relevant to his concern and preceded his presentation with a statement defining the ways in which the board deals with all such situations, stressing that the statement was a general one and was not addressed to Boucher specifically.
The statement included the following information: “... for reference in the future by anyone with a question or problem they feel deserves board attention, (this is) how such needs are met.
“The board believes all issues between a student and school personnel, a parent and school personnel or a citizen and school personnel should be addressed, first, between the parties involved. If the situation is not resolved there, according to board policy, the next step is an appeal to the supervisor of the school personnel in question — usually the principal of the school. Lacking satisfaction there, the interested parties are encouraged to discuss the situation with the director of schools.
“Finally, all involved have the right to bring their concerns before the board when all other avenues toward reconciliation have been exhausted. However, this final step is a very public one and the board feels strongly that it is in everyone’s interest to make this appeal a simple statement of facts without comment on the personality, traits or any other such characteristics of the school personnel in question. The board will make every effort to put an immediate halt to any effort to verbally attack or malign either a student or an employee of the system, but we feel certain those who come before the board with problems are able to state their concerns without engaging in personal attacks or unflattering or derogatory comments.
“Since personnel are usually not in attendance and cannot offer an explanation of their actions, words or decisions or respond to questions raised by the parties involved, the board declines to arrive at a judgment on any issue raised during a regular business session during that session. Rather, the board will receive information and carefully consider the concerns expressed; research policy that is applicable to the matter; seek additional facts and guidance, if necessary, including precedent and/or legal advice; and, in a timely manner, will try to fairly address the concerns raised and provide all involved with a response that allows everyone involved to feel their concerns have been given a fair hearing.”
At the conclusion of Boucher’s address, Mrs. Caudle thanked him for his attendance and assured him the board would take his concerns under consideration and would respond to him in as timely a manner as possible.
Based on information provided by Dr. Deborah Palmer, the school system’s Federal Programs/Supervisor of Special Education, board members approved the Local Consolidated Application for Federal Funding for Title I, IIA, III and VI programs. Dr. Palmer told board members there was the possibility of a 1-3 percent reduction in funds for Title I programs but said the system was trying to budget to accommodate those allocations and would have final word on the funding by September.
Board members also voted to continue to operate under the 2011-12 budget until the new budget is presented to and acted on by the Union City city council. The school board will meet in called session at 7 a.m. Tuesday in the school board conference room to take action on the budget so it can be presented to the council.
Houston’s monthly personnel update included information on the retirement of Union City Elementary School teachers Joy Grace and Ann Kemp, both of whom have taught in the system for more than 30 years, and the retirement of Central Office staff Jean Harris from payroll and Annette Lafever from food service. The latter have both asked to return as 120-day contract employees and that arrangement has been approved.
UCES teacher Michele Huffstutter has been assigned a new role and will be that school’s vice principal for the 2011-12 school year and three new hires have been made: Elizabeth Mooney will be half-time English Language Learners teacher and half-time graduation coach at Union City High School, Kelsey Arnold will be welcomed to the teaching staff at UCES and Antawn Coby will assume an educational assistant position at the system’s alternative school.
Kim Moran, an educational assistant at UCES, has submitted her resignation.
In his director’s report, Houston congratulated UCHS valedictorian Matthew Keathley and salutatorian Brady Tidwell, as well as their fellow graduates in the Class of 2011, and noted that the class had been offered more than $2 million in scholarships.
He congratulated UCMS rising eighth-grader Jacob Hyde for his participation in the recent Football Tech Camps Future Stars all-star game in Jefferson City and noted the UCHS softball team had advanced to the first round of the recent regional tournament and the UCHS baseball team had won the region and advanced to the first round of sub-state competition.
In tennis, Anna Moore and Tara Elam were regional doubles champions and qualified for the Spring Fling in Murfreesboro and Jackie Hudson also earned a spot there in the shot put and discus contests. In addition, Chase Bowling claimed fourth place in the discus.
Houston congratulated athletes and coaches and then added additional praise for students, parents and “an exceptional professional staff” for another excellent school year.
He noted that the school system employees had been very appreciative of their end-of-the-year bonus and noted “Union City has a very dedicated group of individuals who are student-centered.”
Mrs. Caudle added words of praise for the conduct of students and their families and friends at the recent graduation ceremony and reminded the board that six members of the Class of 2012 at UCHS will be leaving for the 12-day, all-expense-paid educational trip to four European countries June 28.
Houston did have one item to note, in an otherwise very positive meeting, that represented cause for concern.
The school system’s new track was severely damaged at the recent Obion County Hometown Walk of Hope fund raiser when a vendor’s crew ripped the track covering while moving a stage and utilizing a trailer in the area. Houston said a representative of the company that laid the new track, which received such positive attention at this spring’s Rotary Relays, will be assessing the situation soon.
Published in The Messenger 6.15.11