Cumberland County schools serve about 6,600 students in grades pre-k through 12.

The school system is governed by the nine-member Cumberland County Board of Education, which is charged with developing an annual budget and making policy decisions for the school system.

Day-to-day operations of the school system is the responsibility of Director of Schools Ina Maxwell. The board hires and evaluates the director. It has said in the past that they have “one employee,” and that is Maxwell.

Much of the duties and responsibilities of the school system, the director and the school board are laid out in state law.

Tennessee law says the director is tasked with general supervision of all schools, assigning teachers and educational assistants, preparing attendance reports, keeping track of all receipts, preparing an annual budget, recommending teacher salaries and recommending teachers for tenure.

The director does not get a vote on questions before the board of education.

At one time, Tennessee allowed communities to elect their school superintendent. This law changed in 1992 as part of the Education Improvement Act. While there have been efforts to reinstate the elected position, none have been successful. 

The school board is made up of one representative from each of the county’s nine civil districts. They are elected to four-year terms. Their primary responsibility is to provide the best and most appropriate education for all children in the county. 

The board is tasked with developing policies for the school system, and the director is to carry out those policies. School board members have to complete annual training on areas of board policy, board-superintendent relations, vision, advocacy and school finance. New board members must attend a two-day orientation session.

The board sets salaries for school system employees, and they grant teachers tenure. While the director of schools can dismiss employees, the board can hear appeals. It also hears appeals of disciplinary decisions for students.

Funding for the school system comes from local taxes appropriated by the Cumberland County Commission, state Basic Education Program funding — a complex formula used to determine how much money the school system gets based on enrollment — and grants, federal funding and other taxes designated for schools, like a portion of the mixed-drink tax collected locally.

The state sets a minimum amount of funding the county must provide. The county uses a portion of the county property tax and half of all sales tax collections to fund the schools.

Cumberland County also has a half-cent local option sales tax that is designated for school building projects.

The school budget includes allocations for regular instruction, special education, career and technical education, school support, transportation, maintenance and administration.

The board of education meets the fourth Thursday of each month at Cumberland County Central Services, 368 Fourth St. Meetings begin at 6 p.m. They do change the meeting date to avoid meeting during spring break in March, and they combine the November and December meetings each year.

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Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Email her at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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.

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