By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Dr. Ronnie Dotson told the Carter County School board the district had a “great first day of school,” during his final regular meeting with the board before stepping down in September. He went on to discuss attendance, including the approximately 100 students who missed the first day of classes because of known quarantines, before addressing his impending departure.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed almost everything about my time in Carter County,” Dotson said. “And almost everyone I’ve met,” he added teasingly, to laughter from the staff and board.
Dotson noted that when he came on as superintendent, Carter County was a low performing school. Students from Carter County, he said, often had to take remedial classes at the college level before they could begin their university education.
Now, he said, “this district is among the top in the state.”
He said they were one of only two districts in the state where all schools within the district had at least a four-star rating – something he was very proud of helping the district achieve.
As board chair Lisa Ramey-Easterling noted later, under Dotson’s tenure the district also earned Blue Ribbon recognition for two of their elementary schools, Star and Carter City, while East Carter High School went from being under state assistance to serving as a model for improving performance at the high school level. In addition, she noted, graduation rates had continued to increase under Dotson.
Board member Rachel Fankell began to tear up as she remembered the support of Dotson and his family, and the entire district, after the loss of her son.
Kirk Wilburn, meanwhile, said he would remember Dotson for the way he would quietly handle issues brought before him, always looking out for the best interests of the staff and the students.
“There’s nothing I’ve asked for that wasn’t taken care of,” Wilburn said. “It’s all the little things that no one sees… and it’s all taken care of.”
Dotson said he was confident the district would continue to succeed and that he would, “look forward to hearing great things about Carter County.”
In other action the board held a hearing on their property tax rate. Though the board didn’t plan to suggest an increase of their tax rate – instead leaving it at the current rate of 48.1 cents on both real and personal property – they expect their existing tax rate to increase the district’s income by up to $100,000 or more in the new school year. By law, if an existing tax rate will increase a district’s income, they must hold a public hearing, district treasurer Andy Lyons explained.
There was no public comment concerning the estimated increase.
The board also heard from students, community members, and instructional and technology updates before moving to keep their motor vehicle tax rate at 47.1 cents, and to keep real property and personal property tax rates at 48.1 cents.
The board also moved to approve a motion to amend the school calendar for the 2021-2022 school year.
The district removed five days of instruction, taking the school year from their original plan of 175 days of instruction to 170. To meet this number the district also moved to move the last day of school back two days. Instead of school ending on May 17, it will now end on May 19.
With Dotson stepping down, the board also moved to appoint Pam Kouns interim secretary for school board meetings, a role filled by the superintendent in the past. A secretary is required to attend and keep notes for all public meetings.
The board also moved to move their regular October monthly meeting from October 18 to October 12 and declare the new meeting a special meeting.
The board already scheduled a special session on October 11, and the move of the regular monthly meeting to October 12 will allow them to take action immediately on any items discussed at the October 11 meeting if necessary.
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