Departing Board members proud of accomplishments during past eight years

August 30, 2012

By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools

MURFREESBORO — Three men who have been instrumental in the success of Rutherford County Schools during the past eight years will soon leave their leadership roles. 

School Board members Mark Byrnes, Donald Jernigan and Grant Kelly will complete two terms on August 31, 2012.  

The creation of Central Magnet School was a particular accomplishment that pleased Byrnes, who served four of his eight years as School Board chairman.

“I’m pretty proud of Central Magnet School and what went along with that was giving every middle school child in the county a true middle school experience,” Byrnes said. “We have all sorts of programs in place for the students with challenges through special ed and various federal programs, and I think, by and large, we do a really good job with the average student. But the group that seemed to be maybe not getting all the attention they needed were the higher achievers. It’s about giving parents and students choices and this is another choice.”

Jernigan also considers the addition of several new middle schools as one of the greatest actions during his tenure. In the past eight years, the district has opened LaVergne Middle School, Stewarts Creek Middle School, Rockvale Middle School, Oakland Middle School and Whitworth-Buchanan Middle School. 

“Of course, I’m very proud that every student now has an opportunity for a middle school,” said Jernigan, former principal of Smyrna Middle School who served as an educator for 32 years. “I enjoy talking to people about education. Education has been such an important part of my life.”

Kelly prides himself with increasing communication with the County Commission and among stakeholders, he said. Specifically, School Board meetings are televised now, and it helps people keep track of School Board decisions so there are no surprises, he said. 

“The people are able to see it, and it eliminated a lot of excuses about not knowing. A lot of times, (some people would think) things would happen without written notice but the fact that it’s on TV has been a big thing,” Kelly said. “We continue to fund the physical needs of the county, and the growth has been a big factor.”

During the past eight years, the School Board has successfully opened seven new schools and completed additions or renovations at 12 existing schools. The Board also secured funding for Stewarts Creek High School, which will open in August 2013. It will be the first high school to open since Siegel High School in 2003. 

The board established Central Magnet School in August 2010 as the newest magnet school and the only one that covers grades 9-12. In addition, a successful International Baccalaureate program was launched at Oakland High School. 

School enrollment has swelled by nearly 9,000 students during the past eight years but the district was able to maintain some of the highest performance measures in the state despite the rapid rate of growth. 

Three new School Board members — Helen Blankenship, David Nipper and Coy Young — were elected in August and will be sworn-in during the first week of September.