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Business Monthly - School system sets records
Bobby Cox.jpg

Bobby Cox, director of schools for Warren County, will retire in late May at the end of the current academic year.  

This article will document the highlights of the past year and overall condition of WC schools. Several records or all-time best levels of accomplishments will be attained in the current year, such as:

1.   WCHS graduation rate improved to 95.9% from 94.8% last year.

2. 25 grants were earned, including Tennessee College of Applied Technology GIVE Grant for $1 million, that totaled $6.1 million. 

3. Ready graduate numbers (ACT score of 21 or three classes in post-secondary classes completed) improved from 32% to 37% of WCHS seniors.

4. New TCAT Machine Tool Technology program launches in August with $1 million in new equipment. This will be a dual enrollment program with TCAT and takes the last available space in the TN state-best Career Technical Education wing. Fifty percent of WCHS students now are taking one class or more in CTE.

5. Energy savings from LED & HVAC control systems is averaging monthly electric bill savings of $13,000 to $15,000, right on target for a 10-year payback on the original capital outlay.

6. The last two years WCHS seniors have 100% applied for TN Promise. That includes filling out the FAFSA forms online which is tedious.  

7. All 11 schools in WC have an SRO stationed there along with magnetic entry systems. Each site will have updated fencing and security camera systems.  

8. Chronic absenteeism was reduced by 2.4%. This absenteeism equates to 10% or more of missed school time.  

These achievements are a compliment to Bobby, the central office staff, the School Board, and all involved employees. In the grants area, here is a breakdown of what was gained and where it went:

• TNDOE grant of $56,856 for fresh fruit, vegetables, and dairy breakfast at various schools including Bobby Ray, West, Morrison, and WCHS

• Perkins & SPARC grants of $247,892 to add Snap-On Tool Cart, and other CTE projects at WCHS.

• McKinney-Vento $30,000 grant for teacher tutors, materials stipends, etc.

• Curriculum and instruction grants of $894,341.

• IDEA grants for special education of $2.9 million.

• School health grants of $421,000 that covered fitness center upgrade, outdoor challenge course, and a water refill station at WCMS.

• TDEC grant of $95,525 for two new school buses.

• Safety grant of $297,928.

• Scarlett Foundation grant of $60,634 for minority liaison.

• Music grant of $90,673 for music equipment.

• Family Resources Center grant of $31,112.

• STEM (Beech) grant of $3,500

• TCAT earned $1 million GIVE Grant that will be spent at WCHS.

Academic goals for the next school year are to improve the average ACT score of 18.8 to 21, achieve a K-3 reading and literacy level by the third grade, and improve English language arts scores.  

The construction project at Bobby Ray Elementary is now complete with a new entrance, all buildings connected, new computer lab, new administration area, and new auxiliary classrooms.  

Construction at West Elementary is nearing completion with an early August ending date expected. Construction includes a new cafeteria, new front entrance with elevator, new classrooms, a new library, and media room. Projects for the future will be under the submission of the new director of schools.  

There are four finalists under consideration for the next director of schools. The first priority for the new director will be to develop and finalize the WC Schools budget for the 2020-21 school year.  That has to be approved by June. 

Three School Board members are up for re-election – Tanya Bess, Bill Zechman, and Teddy Jones. Bobby reports that all three are expected to run. Teddy and Tanya are expected to have at least one competitor. 

School population of students has dropped by 30 students each of the last two years after increasing by 100 the previous two years. System space is currently deemed as adequate.  The Motlow College “Middle College” is drawing 12-15 students a year to go full time Motlow (12 hours or more) while going full time at WCHS.  

Bobby retires at age 52. Bobby has wife Latisha, a homemaker, and daughters Lindsey (age 21) and Savannah (age 18). 

Lindsey graduates from MTSU this May and intends to go to pharmacy school at David Lipscomb. Savannah will graduate from WCHS in May and plans to enroll at Motlow in August. After two years at Motlow, Savannah expects to go to MTSU for a bachelor’s degree in education. Bobby’s hobbies are fishing (has a boat), golf, hiking, and family.  Bobby intends to remain active through consulting work, teaching university classes (Tennessee Tech), supervise student-teachers, etc.  

I began working closely with Bobby in 2005 when a task force including the two of us investigated the local scholarship program in Sevier County with trips there and here.  That investigation ultimately lead to our own Citizens for Progress Scholarship Fund in 2007 which has been a huge success.  

I have worked alongside Bobby on several projects since, including the formation of Mechatronics and Robotics in WC. Bobby is a gentleman, highly dependable, extremely pleasant, very professional, caring, and accountable. 

I believe all of us will miss his leadership as director of schools. We certainly wish Bobby Cox the very best with his retirement plans. I am sure he will be productive and valued at whatever he does.