LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — Moore County High School is looking for its second head football coach in the last three years following the release of head coach Jeremy Austin on Monday night.
At its January meeting, the Moore County Board of Education did not grant tenure to Austin, who is both a P.E. teacher and the head football coach. Moore County Director of Schools Chad Moorehead recommended Austin for tenure at the board’s December meeting, but no decision was made after the item was tabled.
Because of state law, Austin is not eligible to be rehired, thus ending his two-year stint as the Raiders’ head coach and his six-year stay at Moore County High School.
According to the Tennessee Department of Education website, Public Chapter No. 70 (PC 70) states that “once a teacher is eligible for tenure, ‘the teacher shall be either recommended by the director of schools for tenure or nonrenewed … however, that the teacher cannot be continued in employment if tenure is not granted by the board of education.’”
It continues to read, “PC 70 is no different from the prior law in that once a teacher meets the eligibility criteria for tenure, a decision to grant tenure or nonrenew the teacher’s contract must be made.”
In short, because tenure was not granted, Austin’s current contract, which runs through the end of the school year, cannot be renewed.
During Monday’s meeting, a motion was made to vote on Austin’s tenure status. Each of the five board members — Richard Riddle, Ronnie Smith, Jammie Cashion, Lorrie McKenzie and Ed Cashion — voted ‘no.’
“Granting of tenure is the sole discretion of the school board,” said Moorehead. “While I am a spokesman for the board, I can’t say why each individual voted the way they did. I will say that teacher’s tenue is a big investment for the school system to make and it should not be taken lightly.
“I have a problem personally when the state law overreaches, saying that when you don’t grant tenue you have to let them go. Tenure is a whole different story than ‘things were a little rough this year, we’re gonna give you one more chance.’ It’s a flawed system that needs to be overhauled.”
That’s of little consolation for Austin, who during his sixth year as a teacher at MCHS earned the required state minimum score of 4 for the second consecutive year to become tenure eligible.
That score is comprised of three components — teacher (classroom) observation model (50 percent); student test results (35 percent); and benchmark data of the teacher’s choice (15 percent). Because Austin’s class subject is not a tested subject, he was allowed to choose another device, which was graduation rate.
“All of that added together put him at a level of 4,” added Moorehead. “He’s not in a subject that students are tested in. If he were teaching Biology, 35 percent would come from student’s performance.”
Despite hitting the required overall benchmark, the board didn’t feel comfortable granting his tenure according to Moorehead.
When Austin was named Moore County’s head coach two years ago following the departure of Scott Smith, school officials used words like leadership, loyalty, dedicated and discipline to describe Austin. Former principal Buddy Smith said he thought Austin could “bring continuity to the program … he’s dedicated to this school and this community.”
A 1997 graduate of Moore County, Austin had every reason to be both loyal and dedicated to his alma mater. Though school officials would not say how much the results on the field effected their decision — if at all — they certainly didn’t help.
Austin finished with a 10-11 record in two seasons. His 2014 team was 4-6 with a handful of ugly losses, including a 3-0 defeat in the season finale against Eagleville that likely kept the team out of the playoffs. This season, MCHS was 6-5 and made the Class A playoffs, but the Raiders stumbled down the stretch, losing back-to-back games when they were shut out at both Huntland and Fayetteville.
Those losses forced the Raiders to go on the road in the opening round of the postseason, where they lost 19-7 at Whitwell.
Austin replaced Smith at the school after spending four seasons as his defensive coordinator. Scott Smith was at Moore County for four seasons compiling a 30-16 record, including a 6-6 record in 2013. Smith’s Raiders went 10-0 in the 2012 regular season, bringing a district title back to Lynchburg in the midst of four straight playoff appearances.
Prior to that, the head coaching position here was a revolving door, with Thomas McDaniel bolting for the head coaching position at Oakland after just one season and Steve Matthews parting ways to take an assistant coaching job at Siegel after two seasons.
Both McDaniel and Matthews have since won state championships as head coaches since leaving Moore County.
Moorehead said that Class A schools like Moore County are often stepping stones for coaches as they move up the ranks. But that doesn’t change the year-to-year expectations of the strong — and sometimes fervent — fan base in the tightknit community.
“Mac McCurry set the bar high for football years ago,” said Moorehead. “Can someone come in and build it back up to that? I think so, but it’s going to take a while.”
The coaching opening has already been posted.
“We posted it Tuesday, and (applications) have been coming in pretty regular. We have 12 so far as of Friday afternoon.”
He said none of those 12 have come from within the Moore County school system.
—By ROBERT HOLMAN, Publisher (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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