Every school district wants a fresh start at the beginning of the school year, but Wilson is a bit of an extreme case.
Wilson Public Schools started the school year with 14 new faculty members, making about 40 percent of its staff new. Former Lone Grove Primary School Principal Tonya Finnerty, who now serves as the new superintendent, said she sees it as a positive.
“The atmosphere here in Wilson, the community spirit and the support of the school district really enticed me to apply for the job,” Finnerty said. “They’ve opened their arms wide for me and it has been unbelievable, the positive changes that have taken place.”
The school also created a new position, a Dean of Students, who will help elementary, middle and high school principals with discipline and evaluations. The school also hired a new athletic director, Kenny Ridley.
“A lot of new things are going on at Wilson,”  Finnerty said.
Other area school districts have seen high turnover as well. This summer, Ardmore hired 45 new teachers and Dickson hired 15. Finnerty said, at Wilson, a few factors were at play. In some cases, family members who worked together at the school left the district at the same time. In others, the reasons were more simple.
“Some decided to get out of education and some went to Texas to teach,” Finnerty said. “Even with the positives, we’re still so far behind, especially compared to [nearby] states. We’re not where we need to be, especially being so close to the Texas border.”
The district received a special education grant for the elementary level, which they’ll use to hold Great Expectations professional development days. The Great Expectations program focuses on conduct and keeping staff’s expectations of students consistent, whether they’re in class, at lunch, on the bus or anywhere in between.
“We’re going to start using that, implement it into the school and start building some character and some common language as far as discipline and what our expectations are,” Finnerty said. “It basically lets kids know what to expect.”
The school also adopted a new math curriculum, along with most schools in the state, and purchased new textbooks.
Finnerty said the school’s enrollment at the middle and high school levels has increased significantly this year, while elementary stayed consistent. Students at Zaneis Public School, which teaches kindergarten through eighth grade, can choose whether to attend Wilson or another district for high school. Finnerty said that seventh and ninth grade enrollment increased as well.