HomeNewsJMCSS’ King responds to expense list from County finance manager

JMCSS’ King responds to expense list from County finance manager

A list of alleged expenses incurred by Jackson-Madison County Schools is making its rounds on social media, causing an array of reactions from the public.

But JMCSS Superintendent Marlon King said the list is an unfair example of communication between County Commission Chairman Gary Deaton and Karen Bell, the finance director for the County.

“Gary Deaton asked for this list from Karen Bell, and this list is what Karen sent to him,” King said.

The list notes a significant number of charges the district paid. Since the list doesn’t give dates of the charges, there’s not an obvious timeline for the expenses.

“These are all over three years since I got here,” King said, referring to when he was hired as Superintendent by the JMCSS Board in the spring of 2020.

Among the charges on the list are expenses like a number of restaurant orders ranging in price from $80 to $17,000, nine lunches at various restaurants in Jackson for King and an array of charges on trips out of town by members of the school board in New Orleans, San Diego, Nashville, Murfreesboro and a few places in Jackson for gifts.

The total sum of all the charges is $89,613.05.

A text message sent to Deaton Friday morning regarding the situation has not received a response yet.

While King said he’s not afraid to put his full budget in the open for the public to inspect, he said he does take exception to the list and the conversation between Deaton and Bell.

“This list looks like it was cherry-picked,” King said. “And neither of them told me this conversation was happening between them.

“The only way I knew about it is someone who was aware of the conversation let me know about it. So I let it leak out because they didn’t want it to get out, but I was OK with it because I’ve got nothing to hide.”

When asked about the reason behind some of the expenses, King’s overall response centered on his way of managing the school district is different from all of his predecessors.

“The way I see it, I’m the CEO of Jackson-Madison County Schools, and I’m going to run the district like it’s a business,” King said. “And you can see the results of that.

“When I got here, we had a fund balance of $13 million. That fund balance is up to $26 million now. And I think there are some on the County Commission who aren’t used to someone running the district like it’s a business and they’re not used to that, so they automatically question it. Which is fine, but come ask me your questions and concerns. Don’t go to someone else and have them pick out a few things they think will make me look bad.”

When addressing a few of the specific items on the list, here’s what King had to say about them:

All of the restaurant charges: “I bring our leadership teams together once a week for team building, professional development and further training. I’m going to supply lunch for them too so that we can keep working through lunch without having to take orders or everybody leave and come back or something else like that so we can make the most use of our time together.”

$1,403.25 with Magnificent Hands for massages for principals: “We were doing leadership training, and one of the things we discussed that day is how self-care is one of the most underrated parts of leadership. If you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you take care of your school and your team? So I showed them what that looked like when I surprised them in that training with a neck massage. And you know what? We’re going to keep doing it, but next year it will be teachers getting them instead of principals because we’re not just taking care of a select group of employees. We’re taking care of everybody.”

$435 limo rental for board members at Gaylord Opryland: “It wasn’t a limousine. It was a shuttle bus. We paid for that instead of paying out a per diem to each board member for their own transportation. This is cheaper on the district because we take that per diem money multiplied by nine or however many board members were on the trip and pay one rental fee and one restaurant price with it.”

$1,050 to Hub City Travel for a board trip to a conference in Hardin County: “That was before the district got its fleet of vans, some of which were donated by Toyota in 2021. I decided to rent a vehicle for us to travel together to save on the mileage the district would’ve paid for potentially nine or 10 trips down there and back.”

About the overall philosophy of all the travel board members take out of town to conferences and other events: “It’s professional development for the board. And if you watch our board meetings and work sessions and committee meetings now, you’ll see that our current board members know how to work together or discuss disagreements with each other. I know in the past that board members didn’t travel as much, but how can you really do professional development if only one or two members are going to an event?”

King said that the professional development as well as the added perks for district employees is a method he uses to change the overall culture in the district.

“Staff recruitment and retention has been a significant concern for this district for years, and we need to make our schools and facilities a place where people want to come and work,” King said. “And I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been able to raise teacher salaries from being ranked in the bottom 25 districts in the state to No. 60, and that helps.

“But if you’re getting paid more, it still helps if you enjoy coming to work every day. And if we can add small bonuses like this to our culture and we can pay for it, I don’t see what the problem is. Just because it’s never been done before doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done now.”

This story will be updated.



  1. The superintendent has cost the taxpayers enough money. The school system has never had deputy superintendents before; why now? Ask people from Haywood County and Fayette County about this individual, and you will probably hear the same thing you read in this article. Some schools have gone without air conditioning and heating because of the lack of funds at the supply houses where they purchase the needed supplies to repair these units. Oh, but they did not want you to say that they were out of money, which was the truth; then what were you supposed to say? The administration is scared of the truth!!

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