WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) One of the largest school systems in the region has a new leader starting Monday, April 5.
Jerry Boyd takes the helm as director of schools for Washington County, Tennessee as the previous director, Dr. Bill Flanary, announced he would retire after serving 39 years with the school district.
Boyd is getting an early start to his new position in effort to play a role in budgeting and allocation of federal funds for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year. He will be tasked with deciding how the schools district moves forward as challenges related to the pandemic are still present.
Dr. Flanary told News Channel 11 that one of the most important next steps will be addressing skill gaps after students were forced into virtual learning last year. Boyd says he will prioritize learning loss, saftey and keeping students in the classroom.
“Whether it is a face-to-face, in-person learning environment or even improving the quality of virtual learning opportunities for kids as a flexible means for families, students. Another conversation I hope we have is to eventually get rid of the conversation between in-person learning and virtual learning and we just focus on good, solid learning,” said Boyd.
Also in relation to the pandemic, mental health is a huge priority for Boyd as students deal with the ongoing impacts of all the change they experienced first-hand. He says for Washington County schools, mental health resources for kids are critical but it goes beyond just supporting students.
“Families have gone through a traumatic year as well and then our educators. Whether a classroom teacher, principal, or all those who support classroom teachers and principals in the school system. I anticipate mental health is going to need to be a focus not just for our children but our adults,” said Boyd.
The new director of schools joins Tennessee Governor Bill Lee in prioritizing the need for literacy improvement statewide. Governor Lee told state lawmakers in a special legislative session on education in January that data shows Tennessee third graders are facing an estimated 50% drop in reading proficiency. For Washington County Schools, Boyd wants to put a heavy emphasis on developing literacy skills k-12.
“Literacy being a combination, literacy is not just reading. Even though reading is the most important foundation, all students reading on grade level. But literacy means they read, write, interpret thoughts, and share their thoughts effectively,” said Boyd.
Another area where he hopes to see higher numbers is sending students into higher education. But he said as director, he wants students to know all of their options for what the strongest pathway to their career is. He says for many students that is not always in going to a four-year university, and he wants to present them with every opportunity for a successful future.
As director of schools, Boyd admits students are his biggest priority and greatest passion; but, he says supporting educators is equally as important.
“When you do talk about students, in the classroom or even in a virtual environment, you cannot separate the conversation about the need to support teachers and to have the best qualified teachers working with each student,” said Boyd.
A career educator himself, Boyd previously served as director of schools in Putnam County, Tennessee which is in the Cookeville area. In his first few weeks on the job he plans to start building relationships in the community and identify any unique challenges within the school system.
His contract as director of schools runs through June 30, 2024.