The Bradley County Board of Education on Thursday struck down a motion to fire attorney Charles Cagle of the Lewis, Thomason, King, and Krieg law firm, in favor of new legal representation.
Attorney Cagle spoke to the board in his own defense, outlining his and his firm’s expertise in education law. Mr. Cagle addressed some questions that the board had about the cost of his legal services and concerns about conflict of interest. Mr. Cagle that he does not charge a retainer fee to school boards and never has and that he only bills Bradley County Schools for work that has actually been done on their behalf.
In regard to his work with various educational lobbyist groups, which include Tennessee SCORE and AIMS, Mr. Cagle informed the board that his main function with those groups is in the reviewing of contracts and documents in order to ensure the legality of actions being taken by his clients.
“The conflict of interest that has been talked about, there is a primary target here and that is Pearson, AIMS, and TOSS. I don’t represent individual municipal school systems through AIMS, I represent AIMS the organization. Similarly I don’t represent superintendents through TOSS,” said attorney Cagle in during his refutation of any conflict of interest.
He said that even though his firm represents a large swath of educational groups, that they have never been caught in a conflict of interest. Board Member Chris Turner, who introduced the motion, took exception to this statement. Mr. Turner said while no conflicts may exist at the moment, that they are going to come. “The bigger that you get, the more fingers you have in the pie, the more complicated it is to manage the potential for conflicts of interest,” said Mr. Turner.
Board member Charlie Rose also expressed concerns about the amount of corporate money that now influences public education. “When you get all those big conglomerates together and all that money behind them, I get a little leery, because I’m concerned about the amount of funds supporting them and the lack of funds supporting us, makes it very difficult at our level to make decisions to address the needs of our children in our schools,” said Mr. Rose.
Board member Troy Weathers, in support of keeping Mr. Cagle on, said, “Our folks are looking for the answer and looking for the right answer, not maybes. They’re looking for a person that can give good answers that they can act on and feel safe and feel like they’re going to tie the next six months, or year or two of their life up in litigation. If we choose to go away from Mr. Cagle and their representation, we’re making a huge mistake. That critical information that they give us instantly makes a huge difference in where we go."
The Board ultimately struck down the motion by a vote of 4 to 2, with Nicholas Lillios and Chris Turner casting the only yes votes. Board Member Rodney Dillard was absent.
The Board also heard an update from Angie Lyons on the Lake Forrest Middle School auditorium project. She said that Traveler’s Insurance has approved the current schematic for the renovation, with the changes that they requested so that the insurance funds can be used for the project. Ms. Lyons also stated that it is time for the project to move into the construction document phase, in order to keep the project on a timeline that would insure that the funds are used before their expiration date.
The Board also presented Director Johnny McDaniel’s annual performance evaluation. Mr. McDaniel received an overall score of 3.58. This score is the average of seven categories that the board used to measure the directors performance. Mr. McDaniel was scored using a 1 to 5 point scale with 1 representing significantly below expectations and five representing significantly above expectations. Troy Weathers commended Mr. McDaniel’s performance stating, “We have a 94 percent at Bradley and a 95 percent graduation rate at Walker Valley High school. It’s unheardof to have that kind of success and we’ve had that under this director of schools.”
Mr. Weathers also stated hat he feels that Mr. McDaniel should have gotten a higher score, adding that the if the Board is looking at results, then the results have been outstanding. This statement received a huge applause from the audience.
In other business, the Board voted 4 to 2 to pass a change to the rules concerning appeals and appearances before the Board, with Board members Christy Critchfield and Troy Weather casting the two dissenting votes.