A search for a new director of schools for the Monroe County School System will begin soon.

On Thursday night, the Monroe County Board of Education voted to give a letter of written notice to Tim Blankenship, allowing his contract to expire on June 30 without an extension. Blankenship has served as the director of schools for the last five and a half years, being appointed as director after the late Mike Lowry’s unexpected death in December 2013.

With the director of school’s contract being the first item on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting, 2nd District’s Janie Harrill kicked off the discussion by rescinding her motion from the tabled topic from the board’s January meeting, which was to vote on a one-year contract extension at the March meeting.

“Is there any motion tonight for the director of schools contract?” then asked School Board Chairwoman Sonya Lynn.

Lynn was met with silence.

After what seemed like a couple minutes, 2nd District’s Marsha Standridge spoke up.

“I say we allow Mr. Blankenship’s contract to expire on its own,” she said. “If we don’t get a motion, his contract will automatically expire on June 30.”

School Board Attorney Doris Matthews, however, told the board that she preferred that a vote took place.

“I have to give him written notice as to whether or not the board will renew his contract,” said Matthews.

With that, 1st District’s John Ridgell made a new motion to extend Blankenship’s contract by one year. The motion was seconded by 1st District’s Dewitt Upton.

In a roll call vote, however, the motion failed with a 5-4 vote as all three 2nd District board members—Standridge, Harrill, and Jason Miller, along with 1st District’s Faye Green and 3rd District’s Sharin Freeman voted against the motion. Ridgell, Upton, Lynn and 3rd District’s Jo Cagle voted in favor of extending Blankenship’s contract.

With the board clearly not coming to an agreement on a contract extension, Harrill then made a motion to give a letter of written notice to Blankenship, letting him know that his contract would expire at the end of his term on June 30. The motion was seconded by Standridge.

School Board members then began discussing the process for starting the search for a new director of schools, but Ridgell spoke up to halt the board members.

“We need to vote on the motion on the table first,” he said. “Until we officially vote to end his contract, we’re talking about something that we don’t need to be talking about. We’re discussing it like it’s already happened.”

In a roll call vote, all School Board members but Ridgell and Upton voted to give a letter of notice to Blankenship about his contract expiring. The vote passed 7-2.

Following the vote, Matthews made the School Board members aware that Blankenship did not give up his tenure with the school system when he became director of schools.

“I personally would like to say that I wish Mr. Blankenship well…,” started 1st District’s Green.

But she was cut off by Chairwoman Lynn, who called a court of order and said the agenda needed to be approved first.

At the end of his director of schools report later in the meeting, Blankenship took a moment to address the crowd.

“I would like to take this time to sincerely thank the community, the School Board, the administrators and all the outstanding faculty and staff members of the Monroe County School System for the last five and a half years,” said Blankenship. “I truly appreciate your hard work, your dedication and your support. Thank you.”

Blankenship’s statement was met with a round of applause and a standing ovation from the packed boardroom, including all members of the Board of Education.

The board set a called meeting for Wednesday, March 20 at 5 p.m. in the boardroom at Central Office to begin planning the new director search. The board also plans to look into how much it will cost to have the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) aid in the search.

“We need to get started as soon as possible,” said Standridge.

See more from the School Board meeting in an upcoming edition of The Advocate & Democrat.

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