'Lame Ducks' to Choose New Director of Education

Chase matheson - may 13, 2022
RUTHERFORD COUNTY, TN -- On May 3, 2022 the Rutherford County GOP Primary resulted in several huge incumbent-upsets for the County School Board. Incumbent Chairwoman Tiffany Johnson lost by nearly 20% of the vote to challenger Katie Darby; while incumbent Tim Holden, who was appointed by the Rutherford County Commission late last year, lost by ~5% to Caleb Tidwell in Zone 3. You also had Frances Rosales secure an unopposed victory in Zone 7. Tidwell and Rosales both still have to win the General Election in August to secure their positions on the board. There is one thing for certain, and that is that at least 3 new Board Members will be seated after the August election. Tammy Sharp was the only incumbent on the Board who ran for re-election and made it through the Primary. 

You may also remember that in the the last week of March, Rutherford County Schools began searching for a new Director of Education. For just reasons, stipulations in the law prevent the board from seating a new permanent director within 45 days before a General Election. This leaves the board until mid-June to replace outgoing Director Spurlock, although we will be paying his salary of $165,000+ for the next year.

If the Rutherford County School Board needed additional time, or if they needed to expand the search in order to find the perfect candidate, they could choose an interim Director and allow the new board to resume the search once they are seated.  With nearly half the board departing after August, many Rutherford County citizens are upset that the board is opting to push full-steam-ahead, and have raised concerns that the 'Lame Ducks' have power to choose the new director. before their departure.

Just before the election the board also voted to hire the Tennessee School Board Association to help vet candidates for the newly-available Director's position. The cost of this service is $6,500, and the main benefit sold to the board by the School Board Attorney Jeff Reed was the TSBA's access to a pool of qualified candidates from all across the nation. This candidate pool could be tailor-fit to include only candidates who met specific requirements set forth by the board, including years of experience in comparable districts, education level, and much more.

This paid-search did yield several candidates from other districts, but ultimately the three finalists chosen by the TSBA for the position all come from within the Rutherford County School system, and all have education backgrounds at MTSU. Dr. Anthony, Dr. Sullivan, and Dr.  Ash all work under the guidance of Director Spurlock presently, and none have experience as an official "Director of Education" in a comparably sized district. 

An inside source, who has asked to remain anonymous, indicated that at least one of the candidates has a similar history of bullying allegations as Director Spurlock. The source made clear that multiple teachers are planning on leaving the school system if this candidate takes the Director position. It's also necessary to note that all three finalists are white. This has also been true for every other Director of Education in the district's history--hardly representative of the diverse Rutherford County demographics.

In summary, we gave $6,500 of taxpayer money to the TSBA so the 'Lame Ducks' on the board could have their pick of the best possible candidates from all across the nation, with just about any level of experience, on any timeline. Yet the three finalists all could have been hired off an internal job listing for the rock-bottom price of FREE. This doesn't mean these candidates aren't qualified, it just seems quite inefficient. Let's look further.

It's important to note this isn't the first time Rutherford County Schools have gone through this process. The last two Directors of Education have been people who were already employed in the Rutherford County School system and both were white MTSU graduates. This is also at least the third time, according to Attorney Jeff Reed, that Rutherford County School Board has engaged the TSBA in the search for a new Director, a service taxpayers have paid for each time.
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We know the vetting provided by the TSBA either goes ignored, or is useless from the start. Outgoing Director Spurlock was widely alleged to have a history of bullying, his education history on an employment application had been somehow misrepresented resulting in his teaching license being suspended in Georgia, and his ACT standardized test score was less than stellar--yet still he was named Rutherford County Schools' Director of Education. This troubling history was either never discovered during the TSBA's vetting process, or was discovered and overlooked by the previous board in order to put Bill in his position. Either way, it's safe to say the board shouldn't make the same mistakes twice.

Rest assured, they will. They've already wasted your $6,500 with the Tennessee School Board Association and the nationwide search has already been narrowed to three internal candidates. With three board members being 'Lame Ducks', you can rest assured they aren't worried about accountability to the voters who just ousted them. This isn't a Directors search, this is a charade. It's all a Dog and Pony Show, and the $6,500 was just part of the act. Just think, these people have a budget of nearly Half a Billion dollars of your money.

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