WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A retired superintendent is sounding an alarm about the possible crumbling of public education unless there’s a major overhaul.

Dr. Donna Wright estimates it will be just five years before the system falls.

“I say this with such alarm and with such urgency, because I care.”

Dr. Wright recently retired from Wilson County Schools where she spent 40 years in the profession, most recently as a superintendent. She warns that people better start paying attention.

“Five years from now, if we are not producing the graduates that provide the pipeline staff to our schools, we’re in trouble,” she said.

She believes a lack of desire to teach and an exodus of exhausted educators put the system so many children depend on in a precarious situation.

“We’ve got federal mandates. We’ve got state requirements. We’ve got local initiatives, too. So roll all that into pieces, and what’s happened out there, we’ve taken the joy out of teaching,” Dr. Wright said.

The shift happened long before COVID, she said. But, the stress of the pandemic only amplified the situation.

“There was an ugliness that emerged with adults. And it became a point that I had to spend a lot of time becoming that barrier between the parent and the teacher,” she recalled.

“Parents that are sitting in the parking lot, checking to see if the test score has been posted yet, and berating because the test was given that morning, and these are true stories. And I’m looking here, it’s two o’clock, and they haven’t posted grades yet. Really, really?!”

Dr. Wright addressed the slamming by some people on social media, along with accusations she said are false for the majority of teachers.

“You’ve seen the posts that some teachers made, ‘I’m having to catalog my entire collection.’ That has never happened, never happened. And so there’s that loud minority that’s pushing the accusations, implying that we are indoctrinating our students, and that we have these secret hidden agendas. I can tell you, they don’t have time to do that,” said Dr. Wright.

Dr. Wright struggles to share a solution that isn’t a complete overhaul.

“The other argument that’s this sort of counterpoint. Well, that’s why we’re forgiving Parent’s Choice. We’re looking at whether it’s charter schools, offering vouchers where they can go to a private institution. And that’s not to lambast it in a way. But they’re not there. We don’t even have enough in that segment of the model that could even look at the number of children that depend on public education, which is the foundation of this country, no matter how it might be misconstrued.”