Franklin County Schools: Nissan, Fine Arts, Fees

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the June 10 meeting the Franklin County School Board recognized Nissan for its contributions to the Franklin County Schools and heard an appeal from Jonanne Hammer, 2023-2024 music teacher at Clark Memorial Elementary, representing Arts Ed Matter FC, a Franklin County arts-education advocacy organization. The board approved the School Fees schedule for Franklin County and Huntland high schools and authorized Huntland to move forward with plans for a regulation size soccer field on city property. Board member Sarah Marhevsky’s legislative update drew a comparison between Governor Lee’s proposed Education Freedom Scholarship Act and a controversial Indiana voucher program.

Accepting the Community Partners Spotlight award on behalf of the Decherd Nissan powertrain plant, Jimmy Stovall pointed to the “symbiotic relationship with the education system” evidenced by the Nissan Centers of Excellence program. “Franklin County and three other area schools are serving as a pilot,” Stovall said. “The program puts a Nissan employee in the schools to help develop and deliver curriculum.” Nissan also donated two Pathfinders to be used for CTE instruction in the Automotive Class at Franklin County High School. “We appreciate Nissan that’s for sure,” said Board Chair Cleijo Walker.

Hammer requested permission to address the board during the five-minute comment period. She stressed the importance of art and music education. Citing the goals of the Arts Ed Matters, Hammer said, “It’s our mission to provide support to music and arts teachers and principals ... We’ll actively recruit for open art and music positions and advocate for every school to have a certified music and art teacher.”

Since the May 28 workshop on art and music instruction in the Franklin County Schools, the district has hired a dually certified Fine Arts teacher to teach both music and art at Broadview Elementary. Human Resources Supervisor Roger Alsup acknowledged the certified art teacher hired for the Fine Arts position at Sewanee Elementary would be expected to teach both music and art. The Fine Arts positions at North Lake Elementary and Cowan Elementary remain open. Walker curtailed discussion on the unpopular decision to have a single Fine Arts instructor to teach both music and art at four elementary schools. “In all fairness, this is not on the agenda … We can put it back on the agenda at some other time.”

In the discussion about school fees, Alsup confirmed all teachers received $200 for supplies. “That does not seem like enough for PE supplies and things like art and music,” said Marhevsky. For classes such as art and band where students must pay a fee, the fee amount goes to the teacher for supplies, Alsup said. Students who cannot afford the fee receive “a waiver.” In cases where the fee is waived, the teacher receives no additional funding for the students who do not pay a fee. Marhevsky suggested the board revisit the school fees and teacher funding topic.

Taking up Huntland School’s need for a soccer field, Principal Lisa Crabtree said the school could not host tournaments because the school’s field was not regulation size. The Huntland City Council has agreed to let the school use a field behind Citizen’s Bank for a soccer field free of charge. The property would accommodate a regulation size field. The city only used the property occasionally for music events and parking, according to Crabtree. Deputy Director of Finances Jenny Phillips said the school district would have no legal liability in conjunction with student athletes the using the property for a soccer field because the city owned the property. Crabtree will pursue arranging for an MOU with the city so the project can move forward.

Although the Tennessee Legislature tabled the voucher-style Freedom Scholarship Act proposal until the next legislative session, Marhevsky called the board’s attention to an illustrative article in the publication Chalkbeat about a similar program in Indiana. Students can use state funding in the form of vouchers to attend private schools rather than public school. “Last year, the program cost the state $311 million” Marhevsky said. “This year, it cost roughly $439 million.” Not only was the program costly, but most students who took advantage of the program had never attended public school, indicating the voucher funding was assisting parents who could already afford to send their children to private school.

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