Published: March 18, 2012
Rutherford County officials say they are willing to listen to County Commissioner Jeff Jordan’s (Dist. 13) ideas on education reform, though the School Board is less than optimistic.
After giving a five-page letter to members of the Health and Education Committee and Mayor Ernest Burgess last week, Jordan said he hopes to get some discussion going about how to save tax dollars and educate better.
Jordan’s concept revolves around the fact that Rutherford County is growing faster than it can build new schools, which cost taxpayers millions of dollars only to be closed more often than being open for educating.
He argued Rutherford County’s schools are mostly closed after 3 p.m., and between breaks, holidays, in-service and half-days, taxpayers are funding empty buildings.
“It takes us 300 days to educate for the state required 180 days,” Jordan said of his idea, which would only affect local high schools.
The concept is to offer a three-semester academic year allowing students and parents some choice in deciding when they go to school. Students would only be required to attend two out of three semesters with the option to attend all three in order to graduate early.
Jordan said he believes this kind of flexibility would alleviate overcrowding issues, all while saving tax dollars in the long run by making more efficient use of the buildings.
He also argued for allowing students to attend school at night and proposed exploring the option of online classes.
Any consideration of Jordan’s ideas would have to be prompted by Burgess, who said he sees some merit.
“I read over it several times,” Burgess said. “There are any number of ideas in there worthy of serious thoughtful consideration.”
Burgess also discussed the timing of Jordan’s suggestion to form a committee for the purpose of exploring more efficient uses of high schools, as the county is in the process of selecting a new director of Rutherford County Schools.
Jordan said he is well aware of his timing on this issue, noting he waited until construction of Stewart’s Creek High School was underway.
“This is a very unique situation in our timing,” Jordan said. “This could not come out before Stewart’s Creek because we desperately need a new high school.”
He also said he was ready to present his ideas six months ago but was battling illness and chose to wait. During that time, Director Harry Gill resigned and No Child Left Behind was changed, he said.
With that in mind, Jordan said believes now is the right time to take a breath and see if there is a way to make positive changes to the way the county educates.
School Board Chairman Mark Byrnes said he is open to exploring ideas but does not think Jordan’s concept will work.
“These are ideas we’ve looked at in the past, and we didn’t find them feasible in the past, but we’d be willing to discuss it again certainly,” Byrnes said. “When it gets right down to it though, parents are going to have to adjust to these schedules, and it’s really a logistical thing that would have to be worked out.”
Despite the School Board’s skepticism, Jordan is merely hoping for a discussion.
“Jeff Jordan has been a big supporter of education and we would be willing to listen to his ideas,” Byrnes said.
Jordan may succeed in getting the discussion he’s looking for as county officials are open to new ideas, but it may be a little further down the road after a new director of schools is chosen, he added.
The Rutherford Education Association could not be reached for comment by press time.