UC school board member lauds teachers earning tenure this year
“I want to thank you teachers for staying with us,” said Union City School Board member Curtis McLendon at Monday night’s board meeting. “You are now officially part of the best school system on earth,” he added with a grin.
Curtis and several other board members were congratulating the 10 newly-tenured teachers who had received their certificates from board chairman Janice Faulk earlier in the evening.
“I am so impressed with our faculty,” said board member Cathy Waggoner. “You teachers are part of an excellent staff and you came highly recommended.”
These teachers included Trudi Collins (receiving tenure for the second time after having earlier taken a break in her teaching career at Union City), Carrie Cooper, Kristy Dowden, Brittany Kendall, Laura Kingrey, Melissa Lawrence, Megan Miller, Cindy Porras, Cynthia Thralls and Beth Vise.
Teachers who have completed three years of service with the system must submit a request for tenure. These teachers are assessed by their building principals, who report their findings to Director of Schools Gary Houston. He forwards their recommendations, together with any supporting materials provided by the teachers, to the board, who review the material and decide whether or not to grant tenure.
The board received the recommendations some weeks ago, made their decision and notified teachers who would be granted tenure. This status was officially proclaimed at the board meeting.
“Gaining tenure in the Union City School System is quite significant,” added Houston.
(Editor’s note: A photo of the teachers and information about them will be included on an upcoming Education Page in The Messenger.)
The board also passed some revisions to the dress code put in place at the beginning of the 2007-08 school year. These revisions have been available for viewing on the school Web site and continue to be posted.
The board acted on recommendations from teachers and principals who have been dealing with implementation of the code during this school year.
Discussion of the changes was heard at the board’s monthly orientation session, which was held May 6. (Orientation sessions are scheduled on the Tuesday night prior to the board’s regular business meeting date, which normally falls on the second Monday night of each month. The purpose of the orientation meeting is to review items that will come up for official action at the business session. No official action can be taken at an orientation session — which is always open to the public and is advertised through the media each month — but board members use these sessions to discuss issues, determine what additional information may be needed before a matter is submitted for a vote and hear from those with an interest in an item that may be coming before the board.)
One parent, Teena Lairy, attended the orientation session and also asked to be placed on the regular meeting agenda to address the board. Ms. Lairy expressed some concerns and asked questions about reasons for specific items under consideration at the orientation session but did not appear at the regular business meeting. Another citizen who had asked to be placed on the Monday night agenda declined to appear, as well.
As is the custom, Mrs. Faulk asked if there were citizens in the room wishing to address any issue on Monday night’s agenda. No one stepped forward to indicate such a desire.
The chairman then moved on to another item of business – the granting of tenure — and then called for the next subject on the printed agenda: comments from those who had asked to be placed on that agenda. When no one stepped forward to speak, the board proceeded with a review of the proposed changes in the dress code.
During the time the board was verbally reviewing the proposed changes, two unidentified citizens entered the room. One indicated a desire to speak to the issue, but Mrs. Faulk explained the procedure for addressing items in an approved and timely manner and declined to allow comment because to do so would have set a precedent for disruptive interaction in future board meetings. The citizens vacated the room as soon as the meeting was over and did not attempt to speak to any board member.
Changes accepted by the board include the following:
• Shirts (for students of every age) should be designed to be buttoned to the neck. Only the top button may remain unfastened. Turtle-neck or mock turtle-neck shirts cannot be worn alone but may be worn as an undergarment. (This change was deemed necessary because some students wore such shirts that were too tight.)
• Pants (for students of every age and in every grade level) should have no embroidery, sequins, beads, appliqués, patches or other decorations. (This change was deemed necessary because determining what decoration was a distraction had become too time-consuming and subjective an issue.)
• Belts must be worn with pants in grades 3-5. Belts do not have to be a solid color. (This change means second-graders no longer will be required to wear belts, as was the case with the original policy.)
• Belts must be worn on pants with belt loops in grades 6-12.
• UC “Spirit Wear” sweatshirts, without hoods, are allowed. They are not required to be tucked in, but must be no longer than hip level. A solid-colored collared shirt or solid-colored turtle-neck must be worn under the sweatshirt.
• Fleece is not considered sweater material (and so cannot be worn in the classroom.)
• Coats, jackets, hooded clothing, shawls, ponchos and raincoats cannot be worn inside the school building. (Students who are habitually uncomfortably cool in their classrooms are advised to layer their clothing with appropriate underwear and/or turtle-necks under buttoned shirts or sweaters that conform to the code. In the event of a failure in the heating system in cold weather, building administrators will make decisions about allowing students to get their coats from their lockers and wear them.)
The following changes were made under the compliance guidelines in the policy:
• First violation — If the student has standard clothing, the school should request that the parent bring the clothing to school. If the parent cannot be reached or cannot provide standard clothing, the student will be placed in in-school suspension for the remainder of the day.
Second violation — The student shall receive detention/in-school suspension, depending upon the severity of the infraction.
Third violation — The student shall receive in-school suspension. (This “extra” step was added by the board.)
Fourth violation — The student shall receive out-of-school suspension. The parent must meet with the principal before the student will be given permission to re-enter.
This listing reflects only changes to the current policy and does not represent the new policy in its entirety.
Both the 2007-08 dress code, which will be in effect for the remainder of this school year, and the revised 2008-09 dress code are available on the school system Web site and the new rules will be included in student handbooks available at each school at the beginning of the school year. Copies of the dress code are also available at the school board office in the Union City Municipal Building.
Parents are advised to secure copies of the complete dress code before shopping for school clothing for the 2008-09 school year, a board spokesman said.
Several board members commented on the dress code, stressing the fact that it is that policy-making body which has formulated the code and accepted the changes with a desire to address safety issues, address issues of appropriate and respectful dress, minimize disruption to the school day occasioned by clothing and simplify the task of teachers and principals who must make decisions — sometimes several times a day — about the appropriateness of a student’s clothing.
Board members stressed their commitment to supporting school personnel who are on the front line in deciding when a student’s dress violates the code and hinted that they have little sympathy with students who take up valuable education time by “pushing the limits” on such issues.
The revisions to the dress code were unanimously accepted on a motion by board member Shea Riley, seconded by board member McLendon.
Input received through e-mails before the board’s orientation session was almost uniformly in favor of the dress code, with teachers commenting on the improved appearance, behavior and self-esteem they had observed in their students and parents noting that the code had simplified decisions and limited arguments about what their children could wear to school. Some parents even asked for more stringent guidelines or a move to an official school uniform.
One parent noted, in a conversation reported by a board member, that she had solved the problem of forgetting the required belt for pants by purchasing two “extras” and placing one in her child’s backpack and instructing him to leave another in his locker at school.
In other matters before the board, Houston noted personnel changes that included the retirement of Union City High School cafeteria employee Sandra Cross; Union City Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Patsy Dickerson and librarian Patricia Segraves; and Union City Middle School cafeteria employee Judy Gray and special education teacher Tricia Wilson.
UCHS teacher and coach Michael Hart has resigned to accept a head coaching job at Gibson County High School, nearer his home, and UCMS educational assistant Mitzi Hopkins has requested a leave of absence, which will be filled by Natalie Grossner.
Preston Martin has been hired at UCHS and Angela Davis will be coming on board at UCES for the 2008-09 school year.
In the Director’s Report, Houston called board members’ attention to the printed reports from each school and specifically mentioned the upcoming UCES Block Party Friday night. This PTO event was rescheduled because of inclement weather and will be capped off when UCES principal Michael Paul Miller climbs to the top of the building to spend the night. He will be delivering on a promise he made to students earlier this year when he challenged them to read 100,000 books this school year. The students have actually read more than 107,000.
The event will also include a lip sync contest, a silent auction on art work created by students in the after-school enrichment classes, displays of enrichment activities, inflatable jumping stations, a pie-throwing station and concessions. The community is invited to attend.
Board member Ellarine Moses expressed appreciation to Miller “for all the things you have done at the elementary school. The kids are crazy about you and I can see why,” she said.
Houston commented on the success of the annual UCES spring musical featuring fourth- and fifth-graders and noted the recent UCHS Top Ten banquet for academic standouts from each class. He praised speaker and former Top Ten UCHS alumnus Dr. Jason Woods and thanked sponsors of the event for their support. These included CBK Limited, Commercial Bank, First Citizens Bank, First State Bank, Reelfoot Bank, Russell and Donna Caldwell, Mrs. Mike Dickerson, Mrs. John W. Drerup, Janice Sloan Faulk, Bob and Beverly Hunt, JJ’s Photography, David and Teresa Johnson, Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation, Bill and Carol Latimer, Reynolds Brothers Oil Co., Terry Petty Chevrolet, Union City Insurance Co. Inc., Virgin’s Nursery, Warner Law Firm PLC and White-Ranson Funeral Home.
He noted that students at UCHS are completing AP exams and said evaluations of the program will be made when the results of these exams — which may mean students have gained free college credit — are known.
He praised UCHS students who took part in the TMTA Math Contest at the University of Tennessee at Martin recently and said Allison Bruff claimed third place in geometry, Dylan Chapman took second in that category and Nicole Hardin was eighth in Algebra II.
At UCMS, sixth-grader Jason Stone placed fourth out of 129 contestants in the UTM math contest. Woodson Miles, a seventh-grader, was third out of 111. Seventh-grader Luke Searcy was fourth in the same contest and John Kirkland, an eighth-grader, was third out of 128 competitors.
Houston expressed appreciation to those who have recently renovated a teacher work space to be used as a conference room at UCMS and said the work was done with a private donation and support from Lowe’s. The room has been dedicated to UCMS principal and Pride of Obion County winner Dan Boykin.
The director of schools noted that teachers had expressed appreciation for the special meals and treats provided by the board to mark Teacher Appreciation Week.
He asked board members to note upcoming important events:
• Tennessee Scholars recognition at Union City Civic Auditorium at 7 p.m. Thursday;
• the final day of classes for students — May 23;
• graduation at War Memorial Stadium at 8 p.m. May 25;
• retirement brunch for personnel in the UCHS commons area May 28 at 10 a.m.
Expressions of sympathy were extended to UCMS guidance counselor Martha Townes at the death of her mother.
Tuesday marked the final night of service for the 2007-08 school year for student board member Doreal Strayhorn. “Thank you for the decisions you have made,” Miss Strayhorn said in addressing the board. “I’m so proud of you and I’m looking forward to coming back.” Miss Strayhorn has been selected by her classmates to begin another term as a non-voting student board representative for the 2008-09 school year.
Mrs. Faulk concluded the meeting by reviewing the seven items the board had listed in Houston’s 2007-08 performance contract and said it was the board’s determination — in a called session following the orientation session a week ago — that he had met all objectives “extremely well” and had earned the $2,000 bonus the board had proposed.
She noted that in June the board would be discussing items for the 2008-09 performance contract and the proposed salary. That document will be signed in June, after the system’s attorney has reviewed the proposal.
Published in The Messenger 5.14.08