PHOTO: WCS interim Superintendent Jason Golden speaks with Dee Sinard (left) and Judy Solan after Tuesday’s “let’s meet” session at the district office. // Photo by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
At one point during the most recent “let’s meet” session between Williamson County Schools interim Superintendent Jason Golden and the community, Board of Education member Nancy Garrett seemed to stress that Golden’s days as a lawyer are behind him.
Golden is the Board’s choice to be the next superintendent for the district after Mike Looney left last month to take the same position with Fulton County Schools in Atlanta. As Golden began the negotiation process, one of the pushbacks he has faced is that he doesn’t have a degree in education or any experience as a principal or a teacher. His background is in law, a fact that almost seems a blemish in some eyes.
“I think people think Jason is an attorney, but the reality is, he has been the deputy superintendent for nine years,” Garrett, 12th District, said during Tuesday’s informal meeting between Golden and close to 25 parents and others from the community.
That may be true, Golden said, but his being an attorney sharpens his qualifications for taking over as permanent superintendent.
“I do have a law license, and I tell you that law license has really helped me in the thinking process,” Golden said during the hour-and-a-half meeting at the district office. “That’s been the biggest advantage in having that background.”
This was the second and last of the in-person public meetings scheduled for Golden, though he does have a Facebook Live event Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“Parents need to be heard and everything is important, everyone is important,” Golden said after the meeting had ended. “What we’re doing with students is important, and it ought to be because we’re talking about children, which I think are the best asset this community has. One of my goals is to be responsive to the parents, and if there’s something we can do to better to serve their children, we’re going to do it.”
Golden fielded a variety of questions Tuesday, most of which had to do with issues that have been addressed for some time — topics such as transportation, testing, teacher pay and safety.
On bus transportation, for instance, Golden said it’s not an ideal situation considering there is still a shortage of bus drivers, but the district has come a long way.
“We’re doing better, and one of the reasons we’re doing better is … our board was good enough to significantly build up our drivers pay. We were truly in a crisis about two years ago.”
Golden also took up the topic of cultural competency, an initiative started about a year ago by Looney and a few parents to instill more sensitivity toward minorities and others from different countries and backgrounds. It became a controversial issue.
“There has been a lot of discussion this past year about cultural competency,” Golden said. “One thing that we have struggled with is being cognizant of all the varied backgrounds of our students and where they come from. One things I’m trying to emphasize this year is that we want each of our teachers to have empathy for their students.”
A couple of the meeting attendees asked Golden about the district’s strategic plan that was developed a year or so ago.
“I’m emotionally committed to the strategic plan because of the way we put it together,” he said. “I participated. We brought in a lot of stakeholders. We invited parents to participate, we had a lot of business leaders who participated. We spent a lot of meetings talking with our school board. County commissioners came in and participated. …
“It’s a seven-year strategic plan, and I think it’s a mistake to just lock in and do nothing but look at seven years’ worth of a strategic plan. So one of the things I’ve talked to our assistant superintendents about is, in the summertime we’re going to meet and talk about this year’s elements of the strategic plan. We’re going to look at where we were from the start of it a little over a year ago and look at how we need to tweak it, how we need to tweak our action steps to achieve those goals.”