PHOTO: WCS Director of Communications Carol Birdsong presents a few questions to interim Superintendent Jason Golden Thursday evening. // Photo by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
The first question from a parent was a bit of a hardball.
Jason Golden, the Williamson County Schools interim superintendent who was at Centennial High School Thursday night as part of the negotiations phase of possibly becoming the district’s superintendent, had at first taken a few “home team” questions from Director of Communications Carol Birdsong.
There were fewer than 10 parents at the first of the in-person “let’s meet” sessions Golden is participating in as the Board of Education’s choice to replace Mike Looney, who has left for the job of superintendent for Fulton County Schools in Atlanta. Board members and district staff far outnumbered parents in the audience, so Birdsong got things started with general questions.
Chris Tasik, the parent of a rising sixth grader at Woodland Middle School and of a student at Ravenwood High, changed the tone somewhat with a pointed question about STEM in WCS.
“What is the school system’s STEM vision?” Tasik asked. “Elementary has none, middle has none, Ravenwood basically has none. Yet Brentwood [High and Middle] just got a multimillion dollar STEM center [that opened in April] and it seems we bought the house on the wrong side of town… For a kid who wants to be an engineer, the only robotics at Ravenwood is out of generosity. There’s no dedicated space. We went to states this year and we felt like the Bad News Bears.”
In his response, Golden pointed out that the board made sure to include more of a focus on STEM opportunities in the strategic plan created last year. He also mentioned the strength of the College, Career and Technical Education program and how students are recruited for particular schools where they can attend out of zone.
“Now the reality is, we have a lot of work to do,” Golden added. “And that is why our board recognizes that in our strategic plan. That is going to be one of those areas of focus.”
A couple more parents asked questions, but much of the information on Golden’s background and his particular plans came from the interaction with Birdsong. The two had also been part of a Facebook Live session Wednesday, and will do another one on June 6 at 11:30 a.m.
One of the biggest concerns about Golden has been the fact that he didn’t get a degree in education and has never been a teacher or a principal, and Birdsong asked him about that.
“I was from a family of educators,” Golden explained. “My dad taught high school for a number of years and also taught college. My grandfather was a principal. My sister is a middle school librarian. So just with that little bit of a family, I have the whole gamut of K-12… I went a different path academically, but I’ve always loved education.”
Golden, who grew up in Atlanta, majored in history and math at Vanderbilt and went on to get a law degree. He came to WCS in April 2006 as the district’s attorney, and was promoted in January 2010 to chief operating officer. Golden had served as deputy superintendent and general counsel since July 2012.
Golden will be attending graduation ceremonies this weekend for Fairview, Brentwood, Franklin and Nolensville high schools. On June 4 at 10 a.m. at the WCS office at 1320 West Main St. in Franklin, Golden will have his final in-person “let’s meet” session.