​Representative Alexander Asks for School Board’s Advice; Board Needs Substitute Teachers

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Dec. 12 meeting of the Franklin County School Board at Cowan Elementary School, Tennessee State Representative David Alexander appealed to the board for advice and guidance regarding anticipated legislation mandating seatbelts in school buses.
“The recent Chattanooga incident has brought the seatbelt issue to mind again,” Alexander said referring to the Nov. 24 school bus accident killing six children and injuring dozens. Alexander serves on both the transportation and finance committees and will have a voice in deciding whether seatbelt legislation moves to the floor for a vote.
“I’m asking for your advice and experience,” Alexander said. “I need to know what the Franklin County School Board thinks about this issue.”
Board member Christine Hopkins proposed a survey in the local newspaper and stressed, “Safety must come first.”
“In theory the money is there to fund the initiative,” Alexander said.
“We had a bus fire in the Huntland area this year,” board member Lance Williams said. “Seventeen students got off the bus without incident. It was totally engulfed in flames in just four minutes. If there had been 70 or 80 kids wearing seatbelts, would it have been possible to offload the bus in that time frame?” Williams asked.
“Small children don’t have the motor skills to handle seatbelts,” board member Sara Liechty said. “If the decision is in favor of seatbelts, attendants will be needed on the buses.”
The board will continue the discussion at the Jan. 2 working session.
Turning to regular business, Director of Schools Amie Lonas advised the board some schools were having difficulty finding substitute teachers.
“We increased the pay last year,” Lonas said, “and hope to do so again this year.”
Reviewing the school systems proactive approach to the substitute teacher shortage, Assistant Superintendant Linda Foster said the school system began the year requiring a bachelor’s degree and recommendation from a school principal for a substitute teacher to be added to the approved list. In October, the school system relaxed the standard, requiring an associate degree and principal’s recommendation.
“We recently found an online substitute teacher training program offering a free trial,” Foster said. “Five prospective substitute teachers completed the training and those receiving certification were added to the substitute list.”
The school system has decided to broaden the criteria for substitute teachers to include individuals certified through the online training and recommended by a school principal.
“I spoke to a person who did the online class, and she said it was very thorough,” Williams said.
Foster advised prospective substitutes to contact her about taking the online class. “The prospective substitute would be responsible for the $35 course fee,” Foster said. Substitutes with a bachelor’s degree earn $65 per day. Those with lesser qualifications earn $60 per day.
The board approved eight of nine policy changes recommended by the Tennessee School Board Association. The board withheld a vote on the revised social networking policy to allow for further review.
Sewanee area school board representative Adam Tucker said, “The social networking policy is a sticky wicket legally.”
Tucker cited the clause prohibiting employees from making posts that might “disrupt classroom activities,” saying it limited what employees were allowed to do when not at work. Tucker also took issue with a lack of clear definition of “what constitutes disruption of classroom activity.”