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Is Bartlett staying on? It's up to school board

March 20, 2001

Is Bartlett staying on? It's up to school board



An official of the consulting firm hired to find a Tennessee school system a new superintendent this week said that Herman Bartlett Jr. was withdrawing from the competition there, because he feels he still has a lot to do in Washington County.

Under Bartlett, the system has done a great deal already, but further progress will require building a new and better relationship with the school board. That's because Edwin Hayes, one of Bartlett's biggest backers, was defeated in the last election. And two of the newcomers, Roxanne Ober and Bernadette Wagner, got into the race after falling out with Bartlett over the gifted-and-talented program.

A third new board member, Edward Forrest, said during the campaign that Bartlett hasn't done a good job of communicating with staff or the public.

On the other hand, there are some solid accomplishments, some of which Bartlett predicted in a 1997 question-and-answer column in The Herald-Mail. He said the curriculum audit, which had been quite critical of the system, would need to be followed up by a strategic plan that would give the county commissioners a better long-range picture of schools' financial needs.

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Teacher pay needed improvement, Bartlett said, along with student test scores and schools' accountability for those results. All of that has happened, though not without some bumps along the way.

What hasn't been worked out, as departing assistant superintendent Theresa Flak noted, is an understanding between the school board and the superintendent over who will handle what. Without that and some sort of agreement to trust the information that the staff brings to the board, progress from this point will be slow.

Can Bartlett make those things happen? If so, his first step must be to meet with the board and tell them he wants to stay beyond the expiration of his present contract in June 2002. Then both he and the board must decide how far each is willing to bend to make that happen.

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