By SUSAN SHARP

JACKSBORO, TN. (WLAF)- The Campbell County Board of Education appears to be divided on its decision when it comes to the director of schools contract extension.

“All of the board members are not in favor of this,” said Fourth District Board of Education Member, Ronnie Lasley.

At the crux of the debate is whether it is time to discuss the extension with an election looming.

Some BOE members believe the new board, which will assume office in September, should make the extension decision.

The extension issue was raised at last month’s BOE meeting.

Director of Schools Jennifer Fields has a year left on her contract with it set to expire next spring.

“I feel it is delayed,” Fields said of the extension discussion. Noting she doesn’t want to be “left in limbo” in March 2025, Fields said she has no “ulterior motivate” in asking the board for the extension now.

Fields’ annual evaluation needs to be conducted before any conversation can be had, Lasley said. This evaluation should be conducted in March, according to board policy.

Scheduling the evaluation has yet to be brought before the board.

That duty belongs to the chair of the board, Fifth District BOE Member Steve Morgan.

“It’s the chairman of the board’s fault,” the annual evaluation hasn’t been conducted, according to Second District BOE Member Sharon Ridenour. Morgan has not raised the issue with the board, she said.

Fields contends the evaluation isn’t necessary to extend her contract.

Last year’s evaluation was completed by only six of 10 members.

“It’s our duty to evaluate her,” Ridenour said.

Lasley admits he didn’t complete an evaluation last year, because he disagreed with the evaluation tool.

“It’s not a real evaluation,” he said.

On that evaluation Fields received a 2.21 out of a possible 3.

Ridenour agreed the tool should be revamped but added the board’s attorney had advised it was not a requirement to extend Fields’ contract.

While BOE Policy 5.803 outlines the evaluation process, the policy does not state that it is a requirement for a contract extension. 

However, Lasley disagrees. In fact, he believes Morgan bypassed board policy by placing the item on April’s agenda.

It was a “dictatorial” move, Lasley said.

Morgan opted to follow state law TCA 49-2-203 instead of board policy, Lasley said.

The state law Morgan is using says “No school board, however, may either terminate, without cause, or enter into a contract with any director of schools during a period extending from forty-five (45) days prior to the general school board election until thirty (30) days following the election,” according to Lasley.

With one year left on her contract, Fields would like to receive a two-year extension.

“I do plan to retire” after that, she said.

Her contract terms are already outside the norm of other systems in the area, Lasley said. Her peers in the area have received three-year contracts with one-year extensions, he said.

TCA 49-2-203 says school directors cannot receive a contract longer than four years.

Fields has received two four-year contracts.

A two-year extension is appropriate, according to Ridenour.

“She has done an excellent job,” Ridenour said. “Why can’t we (the current board) be the ones who extend her contract? We are the ones who hired her.”

The extension discussion should be a meeting onto itself, not an item on the full board meeting agenda, Lasley said.

“We need time to reflect and think about it. We need time to talk to our constituents,” he said. Taking that a step further, Lasley believes there should be time for community input at a meeting.

There is no provision in board policy for public input regarding a contract or an extension.

That would be a move that’s “never been done before,” Fields said.

The controversy surrounding her requested extension came as a surprise to Fields last week.

“No board member has contacted me or voiced any concerns,” she said.

The April BOE meeting is Thursday (April 4) at 6pm at the Campbell County Courthouse.

(WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED 4/1/2024- 6AM)

One Reply to “BOE poised to vote on Fields’ contract extension”

  1. Remember this…Ron Lasley voted for and helped unanimously approved the evaluation form that the board used. Yet didn’t turn his form in. Lol. That should tell you all you need to know about Mr Lasley. He does NOT represent 99% of the voters in Jacksboro, that’s for sure. Keep moving us forward Jennifer, and don’t listen to the minority. You do a great job

Comments are closed.