COLUMBIA, Tenn. - When Dr. Chris Marczak was brought in just a few weeks after the Fall semester began in 2015, he was looked at as an outsider. However, over the last 21 months the middle Tennessee native has made Maury County his home.
"I don't know, I kind of still feel like an outsider but I also feel like a Maury Countyian now," Marczak laughed.
The 2016 school year, however, began with problems. It started with payroll issues for teachers and staff. "It takes time. When a person feels they've been betrayed or their trust has been betrayed, it takes time to build that back up," said Marczak.
Vaco, a financial consulting company was brought in to fix it. "They're still continuing to work, still continuing to fix, still continuing to clean up. Things are better now than I think they've been in a long time in Maury County Public Schools," Marczak said.
Most recent headlines, however, tell the tale of a Maury County teacher who ran off with a 15-year-old student.
"I can say we followed every single step that we needed to follow. I can say that without hesitation. We did what we needed to do, and I'll leave it at that," he said.
From that incident, a district task force was formed. "We now have a greater aspect on how do we start to inform our students and our teachers and principals about how to look for things that just aren't right," Marczak explained. “What are some warning signs, what are some things that jump up that you then need to bring to somebody and say this is an issue.”
Despite the set backs, Marczak and the district have made great strides. For example, the DIPLOMA initiative aims to put lap tops in every students' hands. By August Marczak says 20 percent of the district's class rooms will be saturated.
“While those negative things have occurred, and while they do cast that light on Maury County Public Schools, we remain motivated in spite of our circumstances not because of them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Marczak said getting students ready for college and/or a career remains the district's top priority. "I will not leave until this system is great, but then when it's great, goodbye," said Marczak with a smile.