Board Appreciation 2022

Checking In with School Board Members for School Board Appreciation Week
Posted on 01/21/2022
This is the image for the news article titled Checking In with School Board Members for School Board Appreciation WeekThe annual celebration of the elected/appointed officials who dedicate time throughout the year to help make decisions for the betterment of Weakley County Schools has arrived. January 23-29 is School Board Appreciation Week in Tennessee.

“Representative leadership is always important to help guide our schools,” said Director of Schools Randy Frazier. “I appreciate the commitment consistently shown by these board members and as we continue to plan for the years ahead.”

Leading the way is Steve Vantrease who joined the board in 2000 and is in his seventh year as board chair. One of the four members representing Martin, specifically District 6, he was initially appointed to fill a vacant position. As to why he continues, he noted, “I’ve been engaged in public education in one form or another for 60 years. I like to support public education in any way I can.”

He celebrates the maintenance of community-based schools with good academic programs and facilities and looks forward to expanding general education programs and Career and Technical Education options which will support the county business growth as well as increased opportunities for gifted and talented students.

In 2004, Gath Meeks, representing District 1A which includes Dresden and Palmersville, and Doug Sims for District 7 in Martin joined the board.

Meeks, like many of his colleagues, said he wanted to serve on the school board to make a difference. Looking back, he counts the ever-increasing technology as one of the greatest accomplishments thus far. As a farmer, he also readily admits his favorite subject is the growth of the Weakley County Schools Livestock Production Farm.

Sims considers the composition of the board as an accomplishment. “We are business leaders and educators who all get along,” he said. “We have different opinions, but we are not combative. And for the most part, with changes in the board make-up through the years, we continue to add those with similar goals.”

John Hatler joined the board in 2014, elected to represent District 8 in Martin. With many of the women in his life either current or retired teachers and two daughters in the school system, he says he wanted to do his part “to make their time the best it can be academically, socially, and athletically.” He also felt an obligation to “give back to the community that has given so much to me.”

Reflecting his belief that education is the most important component to economic stability and growth in our area, he counts the addition in 2019 of a Communications Director as one of the board’s accomplishments.

“People in our community need to know the quality of education that their children are receiving. Can we improve? Absolutely, but we need to tell our story. We need to drive the narrative,” he explained. “There are great things going on in our buildings, and we need to let the world know about the wonderful teacher, staff and students in Weakley County.”

Jeff Floyd was appointed to the board in 2016 to represent District 3, Greenfield. With children attending Greenfield School, he wanted to continue to ensure “that all of our students in Weakley County are provided the best possible education in the safest environment possible.”

Reflecting on his tenure thus far, he takes pride that the system is showing an increased focus on technical studies post high school and encouraging students to follow a path that best suits their personality and skills.

“I am also very proud that we have kept our schools open and provided a clean safe environment through the current epidemic when so many school systems across our country have remained closed,” he added.

Beau Atkins came to the board in 2017 to represent District 2, Gleason. That same year Joshua Moore was elected to represent District 9, Dresden.

Atkins points to the fact the school system remained open during the pandemic as a source of pride. “That’s a credit to our Superintendent, Administration, Faculty and Staff,” he said. “I truly believe we have the best people in the state.”

Now serving as Vice-Chairman of the School Board, Moore credits a family of educators for helping him develop education as a priority.

“One of the main ways to create opportunities in a person’s life is to build a good educational foundation,” he said. “My goal as a school board member is to help facilitate for our students in the Weakley County School system to have the ability to achieve their dreams through the education they get in our district.”

Among the accomplishments he is pleased to have helped bring about is work with the County Commission to ensure an SRO officer is in each school and, in 2019-2020, increasing teacher pay to become more competitive with surrounding school districts. He is also counts as a positive the efforts to keep schools open during the COVID pandemic in a safe and healthy way.

Martin Hamlin, District 4, Sharon, joined four years ago. He acknowledges his interest was to address areas of concern.
“I was seeing some changes that I didn’t understand and felt you can’t complain without being willing to get involved,” he said, adding of his experience thus far, “It takes some time, but you are able to implement changes, and we owe it to our kids to do that.”

He, too, relishes the fact that the district was able to “navigate through this unprecedented pandemic and keep the children in school. Obviously, we have deficiencies, but we are above other systems in the area.”

He also is proud of the lighting project that has ensured school facilities are more energy efficient because, as he says, “It saves taxpayers’ money, and we can then invest more into the kids.”

The newest member of the board is Wendell Cates, who was appointed in December 2021 to fill the vacancy created after former board member Kim Longacre moved from District 5 in Martin.

“I was humbled to be appointed,” he said when asked about his interest in serving. “I want to help promote communication between students, teachers and parents.”

Rounding out the current School Board, Patricia Adams has served as Board Secretary, assisting with administrative matters since 2010. She is also employed as the bookkeeper for Weakley County Schools.

When looking toward the future, board members have several goals to add to those already noted by Vantrease:

Meeks -- See the teacher pay scale equal to the surrounding counties; achieve 100% graduation rates.

Sims – See city and county leaders expand local opportunities so population increases overall and can then add to the student population; use the school system as an economic recruiting tool.

Hatler -- Embrace distance learning, by bolstering the availability of technology in the classroom, without sacrificing the importance of in-person instruction; ensure access to physics, art, music, upper level mathematics, science, etc., regardless of where students attend school; expand and strengthen the relationship with TCAT; keep providing opportunities like Weakley County Schools Livestock Production Farm; add automotive repair as career path as well as more honors and college level classes; continue to strengthen working relationship with UT Martin.

Floyd -- Continue to provide the best facilities, teachers, and programs for our students to be successful.

Atkins – Focus as much on the “trades” for high school students as college options.

Moore -- Complete the HVAC replacements in Westview High School and start/complete them at Dresden K-8; navigate through the remainder of this year with the desire to “have COVID truly in the rear view mirror by start of school in 2022-2023;” facilitate even higher test scores in the district; continue to add more opportunities for weighted/AP coursework throughout the district; grow CTE/vocational training and course offerings and opportunities; celebrate scholarship awards for graduating seniors on a cumulative per school/district basis and track that year to year; continue to find ways to bring more scholarship funding.

Hamlin – Get back to normal (referencing the pandemic); prepare students to be successful in whatever area they choose, noting specific examples such as the farm, work-based programs and other CTE opportunities; finish the energy efficiency projects.

Cates -- Continue to open the lines of communications between students, parents, teachers, and administrators.

When discussing the future, Hatler points to the reality that a small group is limited without community support. He replied with an aspiration shared by most school board members statewide regarding their own districts, “Most importantly, I would like for every citizen in Weakley County to be vested in our children’s education. If we can figure out how to do that, the desires mentioned above will be easy to accomplish.”

Group shot of board members
School Board Appreciation Week throughout Tennessee is January 23-29. Weakley County School Board members include (back row, left to right) Gath Meeks, Jeff Floyd, Beau Atkins, Wendell Cates, John Hatler, Doug Sims, Joshua Moore, Martin Hamlin; (front row) Board Secretary Patricia Adams, Board Chair Steve Vantrease.

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