I find the recent decision to end the contract of Dr. Ray Butrum as director of schools is discouraging. Introduction of new leadership can always be challenging, but it appears to me that Dr. Butrum came with an eager commitment to provide each child in Bedford County the highest educational opportunity possible.
I began my teaching career here in 1974. I was mentored and fortunate to work with some of the most talented teachers I've ever known. Many are still working diligently to give each student an exceptional education.
One of the most effective administrators to instruct me was Terry Saylor. He was my principal when I was at Harris Middle School. Bedford County was fortunate when he and his wife Ginny moved to Shelbyville. Both of these talented educators touched the lives of many students during their time of service.
We are also very blessed by the new teachers beginning their careers. They are talented and very dedicated with much to share. I left in 1995 due to the illness of my father and to pursue my second educational master's degree. This one was in school counseling. I am in my 38th year as an educator and currently employed as an elementary school counselor.
The superintendent is here to be in schools working with teachers and students, not engaging in political agendas.
I think Dr. Butrum strived hard to maintain this standard. I respect many of our citizens that give endless hours of service on the Board of Education and County Commission to improve education and manage financial programs. To most I say thank you. I must say that in the last year, I have been appalled by the behaviors and positions of a few.
Renowned for his ability to instruct administrators and teachers on how to effectively use research-based data, Dr. Butrum's influence substantially assisted our teachers and administrators to implement this information.
Using a teach approach, students' strength and weaknesses are identified. Teachers then utilize this information to differentiate their instruction thus meeting the needs of each student. His influence was reflected in the recent release of the Tennessee Department of Education Report Card. There were increases in many areas compared to the prior year.
One of the most significant increases was in the graduation rate. When Dr. Butrum arrived it was 81 percent. He personally challenged each senior that if they graduated in 2012 he would attend their graduation. He stressed the importance education is to their success in the future.
Inspired by this challenge along with hard work by the students, their teachers and parents, the rate increased to 91 percent in one year! This is a substantial increase.
As a result of his vision for these young people they have a brighter future and more opportunity to make a significant contribution to our county and country. Dr. Butrum attended each of their graduations. If an increase of 10 percent in the graduation rate could occur in one year of Dr. Butrum's tenure, what other areas of growth could have occurred if he remained?
On page two of the Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012 edition of the Times-Gazette is an article from a recent meeting of the school board. I find the contents very interesting. I suggest you read it.
I was confused by the content of the finance segment. I didn't understand how the board had gotten away from working in different areas like policy, finance and budget. Why had this developed? I did think the formation of a finance committee to develop a comprehensive budget a positive decision.
Included in the article was the addition of a specialist to develop a comprehensive development plan based on collection of data. This is then used as an academic intervention to provide early systematic assistance to students who are having difficulty learning.
Additionally, two bus driver positions were approved to transport an increase in the system's student population. Dr. Butrum had predicted the population growth in August and recommended the data specialist before leaving.
The addition of the bus drivers sounds necessary, and requires an amendment to the budget. Mr. Bone and Mr. Daniel see this as a high priority due to the importance and value of student safety. I couldn't agree more.
In August, Dr. Butrum requested adding three to five new teaching positions to prepare for an increase in enrollment. This was denied.
I too think lowering the teacher-pupil ratio positively correlates with significant academic growth per student.
Have additional teaching positions been added to support this population increase or has the pupil-teacher ratio increased?
It gravely concerns me that Bedford County continues to pay one of the lowest per pupil expenditures in the state. It appeared to me that Dr. Butrum worked diligently to make improvements in many areas.
There are many issues during this past year that concerned me, but a very personal one is the mindset that to be an effective educator one must come from Bedford County. There have been numerous teachers, principals, and counselors in Bedford County recognized on the state and national level. Some grew up here, and amazingly, some did not.
I have lived here for 40 years. I taught over 20 years in Bedford County. I am still amazed when I am asked by some citizens in this community the following question: "Where are you from?"
I wonder if some of our commissioners could be presented with that same question, because, like me, they too were born somewhere else.
-- Marylyn M. Caperton is an educator from Shelbyville.