It boiled down to a question of fairness, members of the Cumberland County Board of Education said as they voted 5-4 to keep a requirement the next Career and Technical Education and secondary supervisor have five years of classroom teaching experience.

“We posted a job,” Tony Brock, 5th District representative, said during a special-called meeting of the board Tuesday. “Then all of the sudden we want to come up with a change. I don’t think that’s fair to any of the well-qualified candidates.”

Brock said he had fully intended the job qualifications to be revised only to remove a requirement for a certification no longer offered by the Tennessee Department of Education. 

He moved to approve qualifications to include five years of teaching experience in a Career and Technical Education classroom and a master’s degree in education. The motion was supported by Jim Inman, 1st District representative.

Josh Stone, 4th District representative, said, “To me, the administrative experience is still more important, and that’s why I’ll be voting against this job description.”

The position is currently open and the school system has been taking applications for the role. However, the job description, which was changed several years ago to include high school curriculum and instruction supervision, included redundant information and outdated qualifications. The job description encompasses what had once been two separate positions. Inman said he doesn’t like having the positions combined.

“To be a CTE director, it ought to be somebody with CTE certification,” Inman said. 

Stace Karge, 9th District representative, said, “I believe a best-practice fail has occurred.”

She said the job description should have been reviewed prior to posting the job opening.

“Just so this type of situation would not occur,” she said.

Karge said changing the job description now would cause the perception of “something that wasn’t quite above board.”

“The unfortunate problem we have is that, with this occurrence, a highly qualified candidate would not be eligible for the position. And that’s a shame. But my position remains the same,” Karge said. “I believe it would be unfair to change it in the middle of the process.”

During the May 30 meeting, Karge had asked if there had been qualified applicants. At that time, Director of Schools Janet Graham said there had been several good applicants. At the June 4 meeting, Graham said keeping the five years of Career and Technical Education teaching experience would disqualify all but one applicant.

Inman said individuals not meeting the stated standards should not have applied.

Rob Safdie, 2nd District representative, began speaking, but Brock cautioned him from “naming names.”

“If we are writing standards to support individuals, then we’re doing the wrong thing,” Brock said. 

Safdie said he appreciated that the program had been operating well, with increased participation in early post-secondary opportunities at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology.

However, he said individuals charged with supervising teachers need teaching experience.

Tom Netherton, 6th District representative, said he prefers a more inclusive list of qualifications, pointing to state standards. Under those rules, individuals with supervisory roles in Career and Technical Education must have a bachelor’s degree in career and technical education, three years of teaching experience and two years of appropriate employment experience; a bachelor’s degree and career and technical education endorsement, three years teaching experience and two years appropriate work experience; or endorsement as a preK-12 administrator or secondary supervisor or principal. 

“If a person meets this criteria, they definitely meet the state criteria. We’re not excluding anyone. I would rather go the other direction and include more, not less, for a pool of people to pick the best person,” Netherton said. 

The motion passed with Safdie, Karge, Inman and Brock voting yes. Voting no were Stone, Netherton, 8th District Representative Teresa Boston and 7th District Representative Rebecca Hamby. Shirley Parris, 3rd District representative, initially voted no but changed her vote to yes.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.