Welch Campaign Announces Endorsements in Williamson County School Board Race

This story about the Williamson County School Board race first appeared on NewsBreak:

Eric Welch today announced a slew of endorsements in his campaign for re-election to the District 10 School Board seat in Williamson County.

Welch is the incumbent representative for the 10th District seat on the Williamson County Schools Board of Education. He was first elected in 2010 and has served three previous terms on the school board, including an appointment by the County Commission in 2017 followed by another successful general election campaign in 2018. Eric’s children attended FSSD and graduated from WCS high schools, where he was active in the PTOs and Booster clubs including multiple leadership roles in these parent organizations.

In announcing the endorsements, Welch noted his appreciation for the support of individuals from across the educational spectrum in Williamson County.

“I’m extremely proud and humbled to have the support of so many individuals that have been a part of making Williamson County synonymous with the best schools in Tennessee, and among the very best nationally,” said Welch. “I look forward to continuing to represent and advocate for our kids and families for another term on the Board of Education as the 10th District WCS School Board Representative,” said Welch.

A group of 13 former Williamson County School Board members said in a statement they believe Welch is the right choice to continue serving District 10 on the Board of Education.

“We believe in the high value of great public schools.  As members of the Williamson County School Board, we had the distinct honor and privilege to serve our great community with Eric Welch during our individual tenures.  Eric is an effective communicator, a careful listener, and an informed, thoughtful decision-makers who interacts with others with the greatest care, respect, and professionalism.  He models the highest standards of personal integrity and performance, always.  Eric’s previous School Board experience, outstanding character, and tireless commitment to Williamson County Schools and the community at large make him the best choice to continue the tradition of excellence for Williamson County Schools.  We are proud to support Eric for the District 10 Williamson County School Board seat.”

Former Board members backing Welch include:

Pat Anderson, District 8 & WCS BOE Chairwoman (2002-14)

D’Wayne Greer, District 1 (2004-12)

Ken Peterson, District 1 (2012-15)

Janice Mills, District 2 (2002-14)

Janine Moore, District 3 (2007-2012)

Anne McGraw, District 4 (2015-18)

Brad Fiscus, District 4 (2018-21)

Terry Leve, J.D., District 6 (2006-12)

Cherie Hammond, District 6 (2012-14)

Dr. Bobby Hullett, District 7 (2012-2018)

Susan Graham, District 7 (2008-12)

Barry Watkins, District 9 (2005-2011)

Vicki Vogt, District 12 (2010-14)

Welch also announced the backing of a number of former PTO leaders, including:

Pat Anderson, PTO President Franklin High School

Michelle Behan, WCS PTO Leadership Council & PTO President Chapmans’ Retreat Elementary, Allendale Elementary, Summit High School


Susan Graham, PTO President Scales Elementary, Brentwood Middle, Brentwood High School


Cherie Hammond, WCS PTO Leadership Council & PTO President Ravenwood High School

Sabrina Kronk, PTO President Franklin High School

Janine Moore, PTO Trinity Elementary, Page Middle, Page High School

Stacy Parish, WCS PTO Leadership Council & PTO President Allendale Elementary & Bethesda Middle

Ken Peterson, PTO President Westwood Elementary School

Debbie Roth, WCS PTO Leadership Council & PTO President Woodland Middle & Ravenwood High School


Shelly Sassen, PTO President Centennial High School

These leaders issued a statement saying:

“We enthusiastically endorse Eric Welch for Re-Election to the Williamson County Schools Board of Education.  Eric has a servant’s heart and has been a faithful volunteer in the WCS and Franklin Special School District for nearly two decades.  We have witnessed his dedication to and advocacy for Williamson County Schools and all its stakeholders: students, staff, and supporters.  He leads by example and that leadership is needed back on our Board of Education.”

Finally, the campaign announced the support of former school system leaders and education organization leaders including:

Dr. Michael Looney, Past WCS Superintendent of Schools and 2016 Tennessee Superintendent of the Year


Dr. Donna Wright, Past WCS Assistant Superintendent for Middle & High School Education and 2020 Tennessee Superintendent of the Year

Denise Goodwin, Past WCS Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education

Tim Gaddis, Past Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

Leslie Holman Judd, Past Assistant Superintendent of Finance/CFO

Kevin Fortney, Past Director of Facilities and Construction

Dr. Alicia Spencer Barker

Robin Newman

Tim Stillings

Kevin Townsel, J.D

Matt Magallanes

Dr. Richard Ianelli

Eric Welch

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Toward a More Inclusive Williamson County

Even as one local group born of Astroturf seeks to ban books and implement a “cancel culture” mentality in the school districts, parents affiliated with local, grassroots group OneWillCo in Williamson County took to the School Board meeting last night to speak in favor of diversity and inclusion.

Here’s a press release highlighting comments made by members/supporters of the group:

Alanna Truss, a clinical psychologist and parent of a Woodland Middle School and Kenrose Elementary School student, spoke in favor of moving forward ‘Fostering Healthy Solutions’. “For students who may be facing these challenges [discrimination and mental health], knowing that the board sees them as important increases the likelihood they will reach out for support. Our students also need to feel that their schools are prioritizing these issues, that school staff are a safe outlet, and that appropriate action will be taken. We need to equip our school personnel as well as our students to know what to look for and what their role is in responding. ‘See something, say something’ is a great slogan but it only works if individuals know what those ‘somethings’ are and they have confidence that something will be done.

Kate Keese, mother of a high school student in the WCS school system started by thanking the board members and Superintendent Golden for making efforts toward a safe and accountable school experience for all students and encouraged them to implement suggestions made by ‘Fostering Healthy Solutions’. “It seems to me that the work of Fostering Healthy Solutions is like preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. We want to be sure that we have considered everyone because we want everyone to feel welcome and know they have a place. I have taken several courses through my church over the last year and a half, exploring our country’s history and the legacies of that history.  It has been a challenging and illuminating journey. There was much I didn’t know, and much I have yet to learn. At times it has been uncomfortable. We have come to believe we should avoid discomfort, but discomfort is how we grow. And now that I know better, I can do better…Learning our history is a worthwhile journey as it prepares me to set a more inclusive table. Taking the steps outlined in the plan from Fostering Healthy Solutions may be uncomfortable and, we will learn; where to add another chair and how to make a new dish, to welcome another person at the table. Because there is enough. And we always better when more of us are gathered and welcome and know we have a place.”

Lisa Rooney, a WCS parent also spoke in favor of the district’s continuing equity efforts, “Research is clear that students do not reach their full potential when they have concerns about their belonging, which is fundamental to well-being and academic success. Prioritizing belonging benefits all students by leveraging the science of learning. Creating environments where students of all races and backgrounds feel that they belong requires knowledge, skill, and commitment from adults. It takes courage to acknowledge our blind spots and to implement curriculum and policies that reflect and value the lived experiences of diverse students. It takes willingness, ongoing learning opportunities and partnership. It won’t just happen because we are well-intentioned, but it will make our schools better for ALL students. I am here to ask the board to, as a starting point, adopt a universal definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion alongside a strategic plan with clear goals and measurable outcomes so that we can fulfill our mission and ensure all students thrive.”

boy running in the hallway
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An Inside Look at Moms for Liberty

One brave and new political blogger takes a closer look at Moms for Liberty in Williamson County.

Here’s more from “Tennessee Politics Guy.”

Moms for Liberty is a (likely astroturfed) group of moms advocating for “parental rights” and “liberty”. Obviously, this is translated to ignoring a public health emergency and pretending racism is not and never was a problem in America. On a *completely* unrelated note, the noted Bircher Paul Skousen (whose father was also a key Bircher ideologue and whose cousin regularly appears on InfoWars) is the first person to appear on the “What Material do We Use” portion of their website.

What I found is something beyond a mere “parents’ interest” group. Unsurprisingly, the first thing the group is, before caring about parents’ rights, quality realistic education or childrens’ safety, is a vector for dangerous misinformation.

READ MORE to see the inner workings of Moms for Liberty

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Lawsuits Stacking Up as Lee’s COVID (Non)Response Makes Matters Worse

Lawsuits from parents in Williamson and Knox counties are challenging Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order allowing opting out of a school district’s mask policy. The suits are similar to a suit from Shelby County parents. In the Shelby County suit, a judge today granted an injunction preventing Lee’s opt-out plan from going forward.

Meghan Mangrum has more on the Williamson County suit in the Tennessean:

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Nashville, names the governor, the Williamson County Board of Education and Franklin Special School District as defendants, alleging that the governor’s order “has failed to allow school districts to afford the reasonable accommodation of implementing a universal masking policy that does not contain a voluntary opt-out.”

In addition, the complaint alleges that the defendants’ actions “have pitted children against children, while placing the health and safety of medically vulnerable children with disabilities in danger” — a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The Shelby County suit also cites the ADA. The injunction granted today only applies to students in Shelby County.

Meanwhile, parents in Knox County have also filed suit along similar grounds.

WBIR has more:

The mothers of four disabled or medically compromised Knox County students and two Knox County teachers say it’s imperative that the county impose a mask mandate for children and that the governor’s order allowing parents to opt out of such a measure be halted.

The mothers are suing Gov. Bill Lee and the Knox County Board of Education in U.S. District Court. The case is being heard in Greeneville by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Greer.

woman holding sign
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COVID Closures

COVID-19 is once again closing schools in Tennessee. This time, districts are not able to shift entirely to remote learning – though Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn offered some limited guidance regarding shifting to remote learning on a school-by-school basis.

Fox 17 in Nashville has the story of Wilson County Schools closing all of next week and re-opening after Labor Day:

The Wilson County School District announced on Friday schools will be closed all of next week due to “the continued surge in recent positive COVID-19 cases and quarantines,” the district stated on Twitter.

The county plans to return on September 7. While closed, buildings and buses will be cleaned. The county noted there will not be remote learning and “therefore there will be no teaching and learning expectations during this time.”

The move comes just after Williamson County Schools asked the state to allow remote learning and also instituted a mask mandate across all district schools. Previously, the mandate only applied in elementary schools.

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Williamson Parents Speak Out for Diversity, Inclusion

A group known as One WillCo helped organize a parent response to a plan by Williamson County Schools to focus attention on diversity in the district and address issues of systemic racism.

Here’s more from a press release:

Before tonight’s school board meeting, over 100 community members joined outside the Williamson County Admin Complex to show support of the district’s hiring of “Fostering Healthy Solutions” and their efforts to support diversity and inclusion in the district. Fifteen community members spoke in gratitude during the period of public comment.  

Revida Rahman, mom to two children in Williamson County Schools reminded everyone that “Brown v. Board of Education was decided 67 years ago today. If your child hasn’t experienced racism at school, that’s good for you, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to other kids. Our students have the right to a safe environment. If you aren’t empathetic to children being harmed by racism, please stop trying to prevent action. We have to do something and the time to act is now.” 

Lee Cooke also spoke in support of diversity work. He has 3 children in WCS and recognized that people of color are grossly underrepresented in Williamson County, even on the Board and on the faculty and staff. He continued, “And I find it concerning and disappointing that there is no formal training for faculty around unconscious bias. I go through it twice a year with my corporate job, so I’m not sure why teachers don’t get the same training. We need a better system of reporting & tracking so students feel safe reporting incidents.”

Dustin Koctar lives in District 12 and has 3 kids in elementary school. “I want to thank you for hiring FHS (Fostering Healthy Solutions) for much-needed assistance and guidance to make schools safer and more welcoming for everyone. You put your reputations at risk and opened yourselves up to harassment and hate. I’m asking you to stay the course and continue the support.” He also addressed fellow white people in the crowd, “we can move past the discomfort you may feel about this. If left unattended, white guilt can become the best friend of white supremacy. Children should be able to see people who look like them. We support the children who feel powerless.”

Emily Miller, a mother with one child in WCS and one attending soon, and an admin of the “Together Nolensville” Facebook Group also spoke, “Thank you to the Board for hard work in all areas of education and for hiring FHS, a qualified third party to help us make difficult decisions. As a white mom of white kids, this still matters to me, as it should to everyone. We want schools to be a safe and comfortable place for incident reporting and accountability. Thank you, and keep up the good work you’re doing.”

Submitted Photo

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White the Power

Apparently, the all-white, mostly Republican Williamson County School Board is really a front for leftist political indoctrination. At least, that’s the impression you’d get if you read a recent email sent by the Williamson County Republican Party in order to recruit candidates to run for School Board in 2020.

It seems some in the local Republican Party leadership are a little too comfortable in their white privilege. Or, they just don’t like reality. Or, the Williamson County School Board really is run by a bunch of raging leftists disguised as upper middle class white folks living in the state’s wealthiest (and most Republican) county.

If you believe this email, you might also believe Jay Sekulow’s lies about the Muslim takeover of Social Studies in Tennessee. You might also think that Eric Welch is best friends with AOC. Or that Rick Wimberly hangs out with “the Squad.”

Calm down, Williamson County.

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Tempered Enthusiasm

Following last week’s release of TNReady results, Williamson County Director of Schools Mike Looney offered words of caution in interpreting the results.

The Williamson Herald has the story:

Looney said he was proud of how well WCS students, parents, teachers and staff responded to the testing in light of its documented flaws, and he was pleased with the fact that the district remained in the top five in every test and grade level.

“However,” he said in a statement released by WCS, “it would be disingenuous to fully celebrate without acknowledging the problems experienced by students, parents and teachers during last year’s testing process.”

While clearly frustrated with continued TNReady problems, Looney offered hope for a reliable assessment in the future:

“While I am so sorry that our students and teachers had to endure last year’s State testing experience, moving forward, we are optimistic that our students will be able to show what they know with a reliable and functional assessment. As a district, we will continue to be laser focused on success for all students.”

MORE on TNReady:

It’s all been a pack of lies

Beyond TNReady

Definitely something wrong

One glaring exception

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The Williamson County Game

Public education advocate Kim Henke writes about the tax game going on in Williamson County as the state’s wealthiest county “struggles” to fund schools.

Here’s some of what she has to say:

I’m embarrassed that last summer, WCS had to cut $6 million from the operational budget because the County Commission wouldn’t do the right thing and raise property taxes ahead of an election year. There is no reason that the 7th wealthiest county in the nation with the lowest property tax rate in Middle TN and the lowest in the state among communities with >100,000 residents should have to cut new teacher positions, counselors, and special ed staff. We shouldn’t have so many portables. We shouldn’t have kids in overcrowded schools eating lunch at 9:45 in the morning. We shouldn’t have roving teachers with carts teaching class in hallways and closets. We shouldn’t have principals mopping floors because the roof leaks. We shouldn’t have underpaid teachers and support staff who often work two jobs and can’t afford to live in Williamson County.
I’m embarrassed that WCS is in the bottom 10 of Tennessee’s 141 school districts in per pupil expenditures in a state that’s in the bottom 10 of PPE nationwide.
This is a fake funding crisis.
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More TNReady Fallout

As the state continues to experience challenges with TNReady implementation, districts are speaking out. In October, the Williamson County school board adopted resolutions asking for changes to how the state will assign letter grades to schools and asking that TNReady scores not be included in report cards for students in grades 3-5.

This week, Knox County adopted three resolutions relevant to the current testing troubles.

All three were sponsored by Board Member Amber Rountree.

One addresses the proposed letter grading of individual schools and asks:

The Knox County Board of Education hereby urges the Senate to amend legislation SB 535 in the upcoming session by assigning a school level designation that aligns with the district designation, rather than assigning a letter grade to each school; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The Knox County Board of Education hereby urges Governor Haslam, the State Board of Education, and the Tennessee General Assembly to consider a moratorium in using any school or district designation based on data obtained via the TNReady assessment which was administered in School Year 2016-17.

Another relates to the use of TNReady data for student grades and teacher evaluation:

The Knox County Board of Education opposes the use of TCAP data for any percentage of teacher evaluations and student grades for School Year 2017-2018 and urges the General Assembly and the State Board of Education to provide a one-year waiver, as was previously provided for School Year 2015-2016.

And then there’s one similar to Williamson’s request to exclude TNReady data from report cards for students in grades 3-5:

WHEREAS, the Knox County Board of Education submits student scores on the Tennessee comprehensive assessment program’s grades 3-5 achievement test scores should not comprise a percentage of the student’s final grade for the spring semester in the areas of mathematics, reading/language arts, science and social studies.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE KNOX COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION AS FOLLOWS: The Knox County Board of Education hereby urges the Tennessee General Assembly amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-1-617 to remove the requirement of using any portion of the Tennessee comprehensive assessment program scores as a percentage of the students in grades 3-5 spring semester grade

 

No word yet on a response to these two districts speaking out on the proper use of TNReady data.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport