By Ben Lawson
As director of schools for the Sevier County school system, Dr. Jack Parton can expect to deal with issues ranging from budget cuts to new teaching regulations passed down from the state, in addition to daily unforeseeable events. But with 24 years as an administrator under his belt, he’s become accustomed to it.
“I envisioned being an educator everyday,” he said. “But most of the time that’s furthest from what I am.”
A typical day at the central office starts early, usually by 7 a.m., and even earlier if there’s a threat of inclement weather. Dealing with 146 school buses transporting 10,000 students twice a day requires a good sense of timing.
“A great day for me is to know my faculties and students are in a safe place and learning,” Parton said.
In the past year, a lot of Parton’s time has been overshadowed by larger concerns involving budget deficits. As the largest employer in the county, the school system spends between 80 and 90 percent of the budget on personnel, which doesn’t leave much breathing room when trimming costs by more than $3 million.
“Our number one priority is to protect the integrity of the classroom,” Parton said. “That means teachers, who are interacting most with students.”
The school board has worked closely with the county mayor’s office and the commission to help work out the budget while tapping as little as possible into their two primary revenue sources, property and sales taxes. Parton praised the help from the “very practical” county commission.
“They don’t always give us what we want, but they make sure we have what we need,” he said.
Parton has had to assuage school faculties not only on budget concerns, but about how the board will handle new teaching regulations from the state.
One of the major concerns is over the teacher evaluation system, which requires all teachers to undergo four evaluations during the year, to be conducted by school principals, which will consume multiple hours of class time. The changes haven’t gone over well with everyone.
“The frustration level is very high,” Parton said. “We’ve been meeting with faculties to work through this and assure them that it’s not us against them.”
He stressed that the issue is not with evaluations, which are very important, but with the complexity of the state’s new requirements. He indicated that the state is already in the process of revising the unpopular regulations.
“Overall, we have very good teachers,” he said. “Our test scores will indicate that.”
Integrity a Must for Parton
By Ben Lawson