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Brown's contract not renewed

The Unicoi County Board of Education will now be on the search for a new director of schools.
During a regularly scheduled meeting of the board on Thursday, Jan. 8, the board voted not to renew the contract of current Director of Schools Denise Brown.
The six-member board voted 3-3 on Brown’s contract. Because four “yes” votes were needed to approve the contract, the 3-3 vote meant the board would not retain Brown as the leader of the local school system.
Voting not to renew the contract were Chairwoman Cathy Thomas and board members Lisa White and Steve Willis.
Voting to renew Brown’s contract were Tyler Engle, Garland “Bubba” Evely and newly-appointed member Ruth Gaines.
Gaines was appointed by the Unicoi County Commission to the school board on Jan. 5 to complete the unexpired term of the late Dwight Bennett.
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Following the vote, Brown described her tenure as the director as a “blessing.”
“I appreciate the opportunity I have had to work for the school system the past 12 years,” Brown said. “It has been a blessing to me. My husband is my biggest support and we have talked since this controversy started at the beginning of August that if it’s the Lord’s will for you to be here, you’ll be here. If it’s not the Lord’s will, other things open up. I’m a firm believer in that. …
“I really appreciate my family. … I appreciate all of you that support me. This school system will be fine. I expect great things. God is good.”
Before the meeting adjourned, Engle addressed the board and the large crowd gathered in the meeting room.
“Obviously, I don’t speak for the entire board,” Engle said. “I am speaking individually. I don’t know of another superintendent from Mountain City to Memphis who has delivered a county commission a balanced budget for 12 consecutive years.
“I don’t know one who has delivered test scores that increased over 12 years in a rural school system,” Engle continued. “I don’t know one who has positive independent reviews and I don’t know one who is held in such high regard, not only by her teaching peers, but by her superintendent peers as she was elected president of the Tennessee Association of School Superintendents and Tennessee Superintendent of the Year.”
Engle went on to say that the board would search for a new director, adding that it would be “hard pressed to find one who will deliver the same results” as Brown.
After the meeting adjourned, Brown told local media that she was prepared for “either way” the board’s vote could go.
“From the very beginning, we’ve had controversy, a lot of rumors since the election,” Brown said. “It started in August and in September it escalated. I am very much at peace. If it is the Lord’s will for me to be here I will and if it’s not, I won’t. He never closes one door without opening another. I have been very blessed.”
Brown also described the job of the director of schools as “very difficult.”
“There isn’t anything I have done I would change,” she added.
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Brown’s current contract is valid until June 30 of this year, unless the school board decides to buy out the contract. A buy-out clause is included in the contract.
Chairwoman Thomas told The Johnson City Press last week that the school board has not discussed buying out Brown’s contract.
“I think last night kind of came as a shock to everyone, so nothing like that has been discussed,” Thomas told Press Staff Writer Brad Hicks. “It’s not even been brought up. I’m not sure where the board would stand on something like that.”
Thomas also told Hicks that she did not feel buying out Brown’s contract is needed.
“I don’t see a need for that personally,” she said.
The board’s next work session is scheduled for Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. Its next regularly scheduled meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. Both meetings will be held at the central office in downtown Erwin.
Thomas also told Hicks that the board could discuss hiring a new director at the Feb. 12 meeting. She also said she hopes the next director will be chosen in the near future.
“I don’t know how long the process will take, but I want the board to have someone in there before Ms. Brown is gone, if that’s possible,” she said.