A Wonderful Pounding

editorial-logo3There are days and weeks that I believe that nothing can surprise me and then, wham, something comes up that leaves me shaking my head. With the first round of elections under our belt and the next round not coming for several months, I suppose that I thought things would slow down. You couldn’t have surprised me more when emails started pouring in early last week about a”pounding”. Now for those of us who were born after 1850, the word pounding may elicit a very different picture than what it actually was in days gone by. Way back when, in the days when there wasn’t a grocery store on every corner, when a new pastor would move into the community the ladies would host a pounding to stock the pastor’s pantry. Imagine the surprise of some teachers when they discovered that the Jefferson County Schools Central Office was planning a modern pounding for newly hired Director of Schools Dr. Johnston to give them a “wonderful welcome”.

Apparently a salary of $125,000 per year and a moving stipend isn’t enough of a welcome to the community. I know that the price of groceries has gone up over the years but surely anyone with a six figure income can afford salt and sugar. Of course, I say that tongue in cheek because it wasn’t groceries that were requested from teachers and staff at every school in the county. Nope, it was personal baskets for the children from Talbott, New Market, Piedmont and Maury Middle School teachers and staff. County Wide and District staff were to supply a basket of goodies for Mrs. Johnston and it was suggested that Jefferson Middle School and Mount Horeb fill the Director’s personal basket with gas and food gift cards, as well as other necessities. And then, of course, the new home must get some attention so White Pine School was to take care of the Kitchen, Rush Strong School to provide for the bathroom and Jefferson Elementary and Jefferson Academy the Garage. Dandridge Elementary School was to address the outdoor and lawn, while JCHS and the Patriot Academy teachers and staff were to provide tickets to area attractions, the movies and other places to entertain the family.

Because of the short notice from the Central Office to the teachers and staff, the baskets were to be picked up before the end of school to be presented at this week’s School Board meeting on Thursday evening. To say that many teachers were offended at the Central Office “assuming that everyone will want to participate” would be a gross understatement. Most teachers spend from several hundred to several thousand dollars every year from their own pocket on supplies and the needs of students. You know, not every child comes to school equipped for the day with pencils, paper and ice cream money. But even if you put aside the amount of money that teachers pump into their classrooms, The Director of Schools has an annual salary of $125,000 per year. That number is around three times the salary of a long tenured teacher in Jefferson County and almost four time a new teacher. You know the reason that teachers and staff members sometimes have tickets to area attractions? It is because they work there at their second job and the tickets are their bonus. One expressed that she hadn’t bought new towels for her own bathroom in more than ten years and another was offended at paying for gas gift cards when she was counting change just that morning to pay for her own gas.

Interestingly, despite the intent of the Central Office to make another big impression on their new leader, they canceled the pounding. Apparently someone thought that it might be outside what is appropriate for employees to provide for their employer. Ya think? Is the need to impress so great that propriety just flies out the window? You would think that Central Office staff would know that there is a policy that prohibits actions like the planned Super Pounding. Am I the only one concerned that the Central Office considered it to be appropriate.

Yes. There is a new Director of Schools in town and we are paying top dollar for a quality director. It is in poor taste for the Central Office to pressure, either intentionally or unintentionally, teachers and staff to participate in their effort schmooze the head guy. And, even though Director Johnston is educated in the Ministry, he is not the new pastor in town. He is the new Director of Schools, which is a government job. He isn’t paid by passing the hat, he makes $125,000 per year plus benefits. He doesn’t need a pounding of any sort and if he is any quality of leader he will see the problem with the bigger picture here and nip it in the bud.

To all the teachers and staff at all of the schools who worry about their students even when school is out and fight the good fight everyday, thank you! Here is to a safe and happy summer. Maybe when we return in August those that make decisions will bring some much needed perspective to the table instead of gift cards.

Source: K. Depew, News Director

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