After spending weeks as the interim superintendent for Williamson County Schools, Jason Golden sported his fully fledged superintendent title for the first time on June 18 and hit the ground running, sending out emails reminding staff of WCS’s goal to serve students.
The Williamson County Board of Education voted the night prior to approve Golden’s contract, officially signing him into the role following former Superintendent Mike Looney’s departure to Fulton County Schools in Georgia. The contract allows a four-year term at a $270,504 annual salary.
Golden emphasized his commitment to students and parents as his driving force, explaining that he intends to keep in touch through parent-teacher organization meetings and even meetings with individual parents.
“We have a lot of communication with our parents,” he said. “The reality is, what the parents want is good teaching in their class, and they want their children to do well. And we want the same thing.”
Though Golden does not explicitly have a teaching background, he shared his immersion in the world of education: his father was a high school and college teacher; his grandfather was an elementary school teacher and principal; his sister was a middle school librarian.
“When I finished college, I went a different route. I went to law school,” Golden said. “My first … summertime job for a law student was actually with a lawyer who had been a school counselor and had gone back to law school, so it seemed like I kept on spending time in education.”
Golden started at WCS as the district attorney in 2006 and gradually took on more and more responsibility until he found himself in the superintendent’s seat. He said his experience with schools while he pursued a law career has greatly helped him in his work with WCS.
WCS Communications Director Carol Birdsong emphasized how naturally Golden fit into the role. She said it made sense logistically, according to the schools’ succession plan listed in their seven-year strategic plan, for Golden to step in as superintendent, since he had been deputy superintendent prior to this role. She also noted how well he brings the team together.
“I think Jason is very good at ‘team,’” Birdsong said. “He, again, sets high expectations, and I think that people enjoy working with him and want to work for him.
“We have great people who work here. … Everyone works together really well, and he’s good at making that happen. Some people are team builders, and some people are silo makers. He’s good at ‘team.’”
Birdsong said his character also makes him a natural leader.
“He’s not showy. He’s not flashy — even though he’s 6-foot-9 or 6-foot-10,” she said. “That’s just not his style, which I love because I like truth and honesty and all (those things), and he’s very truthful and very honest. And I can just tell him anything, and I get an honest reaction or answer.”
WCS School Board Vice Chairman Nancy Garrett also said Golden is held in high regards by those who work with him.
“The thing that I really notice is that he has the respect of the team and of the teachers and of the community members,” Garrett said. “I’ve had so many people contact me and say, ‘We really respect him, and we hope that he would get the job.’”
And, of course, he did.
Golden said he brings a broad scope of experience to the role, particularly pertaining to Williamson County, which will help him and the team tackle some of the county’s challenges, one of which is the continual growth of the region.
“I know where our needs are. I know how to address them,” he said.
One such need is an increase in pay for teachers. Golden said, though about 2/3 of the county’s budget goes towards schools, WCS has kept their costs comparatively lower than surrounding areas. He said this is largely due to efficient use of money but is helped by teachers’ low wages — a factor he hopes to eliminate.
“As the demands of the community rise, so do our expectations for our teachers,” he said. “It’s hard work and so supporting the teachers in their role is No. 1.”
The Williamson County Commission will convene July 8 to vote on the WCS fiscal year budget, which allows for a $3,000 increase in teachers’ base pay.
Golden explained that the schools are one of Williamson County’s greatest assets, making it worth the investment. He said he’s heard President and CEO of Williamson, Inc. Matt Largen describe schools as a big attraction and “economic driver” for the county.
“Every city has something, every community has something that brings a business to it,” Golden said. “Savannah, Georgia, in [Largen’s] example, had the port — the international port for large shipping to come in. Memphis has the airport. FedEx is an example of a user of the airport. Williamson County has the schools.”
Golden said he is consistently impressed with his team and school staff and will continue to dedicate his time towards student success as he enters this new role.
“I’ve been reminded over and over again about what a great team we have, so I would like to emphasize that,” he said. “This is really about the students — students first — and our teachers know it.
“Our professional teachers get into the profession out of love — out of love for their subject matter, out of love for students, for helping students grow — and part of our job here is to make sure we put the right tools in place and the right support so that they can do the best they can with that.”