Director of Schools Guest Speaker at Rotary Club
by Bob Augustin Jr.
Dr. Bill Heath, Director of Lawrence County Schools, was the guest speaker a the March 28, 2008 meeting of the Lawernceburg Rotary Club. Dr. Heath is a native of Fayetteville, Tennessee and came to Lawrence County from Gulfport, Mississippi where he served as the principal of St. John Junior/Senior High School.
Dr. Heath's presentation was titled "How a School Board Is Like a Business/ How a School Board Is Not Like a Business." Dr. Heath said running a School Board is like a running business because it operates from a budget. The Lawrence County School Board current annual budget is $48 million dollars and is comprised of Federal and State funds, Basic Education Programs, and matching local funds.
A School Board is like a business because it has employees. Lawrence County School system currently employs 1,100 people, 950 of whom are full time employees. Just for information Dr.Heath shared some School statistics. There are approximately 7,000 students attending school in Lawrence County. The cafeterias serve 8,000 meals a day in Lawrence County. The School System operates 86 bus routes transporting students over 450,000 miles last year and maintains 80 buildings.
Dr.Heath continued that a School Board is like a business because it also has policies and procedures. Some are Federal policies or laws, some are state policies or laws, some are local policies and laws, but they are all lengthy.
A School Board is not like a business because, even though it operates from a budget, it doesn't set its own buget as a business would. The School Board presents a budget to the County Commissioners who in turn set the School Boards budget. It is also not like a business because, if business receives raw materials that are sub-standard, it can send them back. For a school board, its raw materials are the students and, no matter what special needs the students may have, it is the School Board's duty to give them an education.
Next, Dr.Heath outlined his goals for Lawrence County Schools. The state-mandated Tennessee Diploma Project is the county's number one priority. The Diploma project requires schools to 1) teach the knowledge and skills in high school that the students will need in the business/work world; 2) require students to take challenging courses that will actually prepare them for life after high school; and 3) hold schools accountable for graduating students who are college and/or work force ready and hold postsecondary schools accountable for student's success once enrolled.
Dr. Heath stated that the building program is also a major priority for the county, particlulary the excessive use and poor condition of portable classrooms throughout the county and the over-crowding of schools in the northern end of the county. Other goals for School System are attracting and retaining new teachers and creating an environment which values education.
Pictured above are Rotary Vice-President Jack Grinnell, Director of Schools Dr. Bill Heath, and Rotarian Jim Bush.