RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s the first day of school for families in Rutherford County, which is one of many districts in the state that has had to take measures to recruit more educators.
“We approved a pretty rigorous new staffing/salary last year as part of one of our three budget goals,” said Rutherford County Schools Director of Schools Dr. Jimmy Sullivan. “We’ve first been able to retain our hard working educators, been able to recruit as well, we’re in a much better shape than we have been in previous years. Part of that is our beginning salary, we’ve also really been able to focus on some of our veteran teachers and pay for extra years of experience and extra degrees.”
Rutherford County expects to have about 51,000 students this year, making it one of the largest school districts in Tennessee.
“We are one of the fastest-growing districts, not only in the state, but probably in the country and with that brings challenges,” said Dr. Sullivan. “It’s amazing because people want to be here. What’s unique about RCS is all of our schools are high quality, so no matter where a parent moves or a student attends, it’s going to be a high quality education which makes the growth a little different because it’s not just in one pocket.”
Dr. Sullivan said the district just purchased more land to build at least an elementary school and they’re now looking for land near Smyrna and La Vergne for an additional high school. In the meantime, some kids will have to learn in portables.
“Portables have been part of, unfortunately, Rutherford County Schools for at least three decades I’ve been involved. I was educated in and out of portables in this county as well. So, there are probably some of the portables I was educated in probably still in this county. It is not ideal.” said Dr. Sullivan. “We’ll be going through something as a district over the next school year to really define what do we want those spaces to be. So, if you’re in a portable classroom, is that where we want our core academic classes to be? Or is that maybe where we want some of our smaller groups, maybe some more exploratory classes?”
Rutherford County Schools now has the largest middle school in Tennessee — Blackman Middle School.
“We are expected to be almost at 1,700 this year so we have a lot of kiddos over there for three grades but by staff does a phenomenal job of balancing it and managing it,” said principal Dr. Jessica Jackson. “When you’re in our rooms and in our hallways, it doesn’t feel that big to our kids because we really do try to put them cohorts and make them feel like its a little smaller environment.”