HomeOpinionOPINION: County Commission should make decisions for JMCSS

OPINION: County Commission should make decisions for JMCSS

By Bill Baxter

Guest columnist

It seems that Madison County taxpayers have witnessed another “Pink Pony” moment.  No pun intended, but yes, our illustrious School Board (SB) chaired by Mr. Pete Johnson has proved again they know nothing about properly vetting their one and only employee by granting Dr. King a two-year extension with a raise. 

It did not matter that our SB missed the fact that King failed in both Haywood and Fayette Counties and to significantly increase reading and math proficiency levels in his first term as CEO of Madison County’s School System.  My math suggests that would be at least 10 – 11 years this man has failed the most vulnerable students of color in all three counties and our SB has managed to reward him with another two years without any justification to Madison County taxpayers! 

This man has no documented written plan to increase reading and math proficiency levels and the SB displays no concept of the importance of this endeavor or simply does not care either! 

How can we possibly matriculate over 90% of our students each year with only 19% proficiency in reading and math in K through 3rd grade?  How can we advertise Level 5 schools as if they are something of great achievement when most, if not all, are failed schools?  We apparently do this regularly!  Be honest Dr. King, Level 5 schools are nothing to brag about! 

No private sector CEO with this dismal record of failure would be granted a two-year extension with an increase in salary & benefits.  Termination is more likely.  Currently Dr. King is paid roughly $201,000 without his raise and his executive secretary brings down another $144,000 and neither of them exhibits the competence to deserve this level of income which is considerably higher than comparable City and County positions. 

Educating children in a public school system used to be easy when God, Country and conservative values were a major part of classroom routine.  Let’s be honest though and understand the blame does not rest solely with a failed Superintendent and sycophantic SB, excluding Harvey Walden.

Madison County has approximately 40,000 registered voters and in our most recent contest for Mayor turned out less than 10,000 voters, twice! Recent SB elections turned out less than that.  We apparently compound that by not demanding SB applicants are qualified and possess a spine.  

Until we can turn this school system around, I suggest we break protocol and turn the SB decision making over to our County Commissioners for the next 4 years.    This would save taxpayers approximately $54,000 in salaries and another $60,000 in legal fees each year and place decision making in the hands of a much more seasoned and responsible group of elected officials.

As the primary funding body, the County Commission should hire all future Superintendents and they should avoid any help from our State School Board Association.  Commissioners should develop a template of questions, ask each applicant to address in writing prior to interview as well as how they want to be compensated, (merit based or salary).  Those that don’t make it past the resume must stand and defend their answers in a public forum.   

Dr. King, Pete Johnson and all those displaying only apathy for our JMCSS have perpetrated a deception on Madison County taxpayers.  Dr. King and others have hidden behind “poor home conditions” among our most vulnerable students as their primary excuse for this failure.  The next excuse is COVID followed by “we can’t find qualified teachers,” “we need more funding,” and “we should look at everything in context.”

All Tennessee school districts are faced with some or all of these situations, but JMCSS never produces a written plan to address them.  Our Superintendent and SB are equipped with the tools to address any obstacles facing our system through strong leadership, and the power and responsibility of “writing school policy” but have failed to deliver.

It should be very easy for the SB to factually back up their decision to extend Dr. King’s contract with a raise for another 2 years.  Pete Johnson, Chairman of the School Board must explain how the SB came to this conclusion supported with hard evidence.  If he cannot or will not give us the SB’s commonsense reasoning for continuing with this failed Superintendent, it will validate everything in this argument.

I believe we will discover that the decision to extend was easier than the work required to look for Dr. King’s replacement, which is a true sign of ineptitude.

Bill Baxter is a former member of the Jackson-Madison County School Board. The Jackson Post’s opinion/editorial page is meant to help launch public discussion of local issues or allow local people to discuss national or statewide issues. Publication of a column is not an endorsement of that column by The Post, its owners or any of its advertisers or employees. To join the discussion, send a guest column or letter to the editor to brandon@jacksonpost.news. Submissions for a specific week’s print edition need to be sent by Monday night. Sending does not guarantee publication that week as that is based on space availability.



  1. (1) “No pun intended” is an example of word patronage, that is, “the tendency to take out one’s words and look at them, to apologize for expressions that either need no apology or should be quietly refrained from” It is less than clear what it refers to in this piece.
    (2) When was this period “when God, Country and conservative values were a major part of classroom routine”?
    When the constitutional rights of citizens were violated by forcing prayer? When African-American students were denied education under the same standards applicable to white students?
    Mr. Baxter cannot take us to this magic time because it has never existed!
    He doesn’t have an argument! He simply wants to complain without offering any solutions other than “my guys should run the show.”

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