Questions on Release Time Policy III - Draft Policy for Dec 4

The following is the draft “Released Time” policy, with questions interspersed. The policy language is in black text and the questions are in blue text. I will post answers in green text as soon as they are given.

* A new version of this policy was sent to Board members on Tuesday, December 10th – the day before the scheduled vote. We are told that this version will replace the version that was attached to the agenda and discussed in last week’s meeting. (That language has been added here, in red.) I don’t recall that any Board member requested this addition during the meeting. However, the addition that was specifically requested, and to which I heard no opposition, was a definition of “core curriculum subject courses.”

When there are more questions than answers, is it responsible to move forward?

* It should be noted that none of these answers has come directly from requests for information from the administration, with the exception of the pilot program agreement, which required two requests and was sent to Board members. A few of these answers came from a phone call with Deputy Law Director Gary Dupler and the rest were the result of questions asked during the December 4th Board of Education meeting.

 

“Released time” or “released time course” is “a period of time during which a student is excused from school to attend a course in religious moral instruction taught by an independent entity off school property.” ¹

The Knox County Board of Education authorizes a student to be excused from school to attend a released time course in religious instruction, provided that each of the following applies:

  1. The student’s parent or guardian gives written consent prior to course participation;
  • How do students find out about available programs?

  • How are consent forms distributed/collected?
    • Is this an additional task for classroom teachers?
      • Depending on the size of the school, it could fall to a teacher, an administrator, or it could be handled by the sponsoring entity.
    • Is this an additional task for school office staff?
      • It is possible that this will be additional work for the school office staff.
    • Who tracks whether the information is provided to all students?

  • Who handles questions/complaints regarding consent forms and/or participation?
    • Principals are likely to be on the front line, regarding complaints. How they would be handled after that is unknown.
  • How much time has been spent at Sterchi Elementary, responding to questions/concerns about release time, since the beginning of the pilot?
    • If this was not tracked as part of the pilot, why was it not tracked?
  1. The sponsoring entity maintains attendance records and makes them available to the individual school the student attends;
  • How are these made available?
    • Will the same format be required at all schools?
    • Will all entities be required to use the same format?
      • It is possible that each sponsoring entity would report in their own format.
  • Who is responsible for tracking/accounting for these?
    • A procedure will have to be developed.

  • When will these be made available?
    • If a student leaves class to attend but does not board the bus, how soon will the school be informed?
    • How much additional school staff time could this consume?
      • This is unknown, as data from the pilot has not been collected and/or analyzed.

 

  1. The course occurs off school property and transportation to and from the place of instruction, including transportation for students with disabilities, is the complete responsibility of the sponsoring entity, parent, guardian, or student;
  • If students with disabilities require a teacher or assistant to accompany them to class, what provisions are made to have the same available during release time?
    • It is assumed that the sponsoring entity will have to provide appropriate assistance. How this will be done is unknown. 
  • If students have toileting accommodations or medical needs that require the presence of a school nurse, what provisions are required of the release time entity?
    • It is possible that the sponsoring entity could compensate a school nurse to travel with the student, but would also depend on the nurse’s other responsibilities.
  • What safety protocols are required of the sponsoring entity?
    •  None. This is entirely up to the sponsoring entity. 
      • What are the requirements for safety inspections for student transportation?
        • None
      • What are the requirements for insurance?
        • None.
      • What are the requirements for drivers?
        • None.
      • What are the requirements for safety drills for the sponsoring entity?  
        • None.
      • Will their response to an emergency mirror the responses students have practiced in their usual classrooms?
        • We have no idea. That is up to the sponsoring entity.

      • What are the reporting/response requirements for the sponsoring entity if a student makes a threat against a school, a student, or him/herself?
        • We don’t know that there are any requirements, as the students would not be participating in a school-sanctioned event.

 

  1. The sponsoring entity makes provisions for and assumes liability for any and all students while under the control of the sponsoring entity;
  • What checks ensure the sponsoring entity is appropriately insured for such liability?
    • None.
      This is completely up to the sponsoring entity.
      There are no requirements that they be insured at all.

Continue reading Questions on Release Time Policy III – Draft Policy for Dec 4

Questions on a Released Time Policy II - Teacher Perspective

There have been many questions regarding a potential policy for KCS to allow “released time for religious moral instruction.” This is part II in a series of posts to consider those questions. 

 

What are teachers saying about the possibility of the Knox County Board of Education adopting a “released time” policy?

 

The fact that an educator, any educator, has to fight their school board for the opportunity to educate, is a very discouraging one. Right now, I am fighting to teach. Spending my time imploring my school board to not pass this new program is not something I really want to spend my time doing–it is taking away from my planning and personal time. Frankly, I feel let down that this school board is even considering the measure. But it is very high stakes to me and so many other specialists, it is worth writing. As our school board, I would like to think that you have our students’ LEARNING experience in mind at all times. Pulling out, for any reason, is not providing a good, solid, learning or teaching experience.   

 ~ KCS Art Educator

To interrupt class time for an outside group on a regular basis is a disservice to those of us who teach, but more importantly, a very great disservice to our students.


The data for one child per school year (approximations, as each school has a different schedule):

45 minute class x 30 class times = 1350 minutes of time for each special during the school year. 

Broken down into hours, 1350 minutes/60 = 22.5 hours during the school year. 

22.5 hours or 3.75 six-hour days total to teach and help our students grow across the year. That is not much at all, but amazing things happen in those few short hours. To interrupt class time for an outside group on a regular basis (that could as easily take place AFTER school) is a disservice to those of us who teach, but more importantly, a very great disservice to our students.   

 ~ KCS Art Educator

Visual arts, music and physical education are non-tested subjects, but they are indispensable. Students need these skills to hold any job.

Visual arts, music and physical education are non-tested subjects, but they are indispensable.  I teach visual arts and I teach our students to solve problems in creative ways and find new solutions to problems using a variety of processes.  We learn how to give critical feedback to peers using interpersonal skills.  Through art history, we gain understanding of our world, our culture, and our relationships with other people.  Students need these skills to hold any job.

Students with a strong background in visual art and music are better positioned for tomorrow’s changing world.  They learn to adapt, to never give up, and to be strong.

Knox County students have many paths to access religious studies, but finite time and access to arts classes.

Please vote “no” on the Bible Release Program. Religious education has it’s place, but it is not during public school hours.

 ~ KCS Art Educator

Bible study and Christian education is a private decision. It is not the domain of public education, and it should not infringe on the practices of public education.

I approach this problem as a Knox. County citizen, an avid voter, an educator, and a Christian. I have worked for the Boy Scouts of America, public education as an English teacher, and as an English Instructor at a private Christian university. I believe you and other school board members, should vote NO on the Bible Release Program. I do not believe it is the place for public education to limit classroom education in any way in favor of Bible study and education. I firmly believe that voting yes for the Bible Release Program is short-sighted, unfair, and against the ethics of education within Tennessee and the United States…

Firstly, taking students out of any class is a severe miscalculation. Teachers and students are always on a timeline that is uncompromising. Students are trying to learn and retain new information in their English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and History classes because of the ever-looming end of course tests coming their ways. Moreover, teachers are always hard-pressed to meet goals for student learning objectives that are difficult to meet even if there are no snow days, holidays, or other breaks added in. Deciding to do this during other classes, like Music, Art, Physical Education, Library Time, or Computer Sciences is, again, short-sighted. These classes are sometimes the only opportunity that students will receive to explore these areas. Students might only learn about harmonization in Music from the classes provided by public education. Art students might only be able to practice creativity with crafts and paint in the classes available through the school system. Taking any day out of this opportunity, even once a month, is insulting to a diverse and beneficial curriculum. The notion that ELA or Special Area classes are acceptable losses for Bible study is not correct and tells educators that you believe their subject and efforts are lesser than those of their fellows. They are not.

Further, Bible study and Christian education is a private decision. It is not the domain of public education, and it should not infringe on the practices of public education. … As a Christian educator, I do believe that there is a separation between church and state. I am completely fine with the current efforts made to allow students a moment of reflection on their religion. Those efforts are fine because they do not affect the school schedule. FCA and other organizations either take time before classes begin or at the end of the day. If those are offered, that is more than acceptable. However, it is unfair and, arguably, prejudiced to offer a reprieve from classes for only the Christian students. I do not believe there has been anything mentioned or offered for students that practice a different religion. Would students be allowed to study the Quran or Torah? I understand this is a heartfelt motion to many to allow children to further explore their religious text, but the entire plan seems exclusive and antithetical to the goals of education in our country. 

If I seem harsh in my language, I am truly sorry, but all of this stems from a passion about providing quality education. The current program only seems to offer one demographic an option and considers valuable opportunities in the classroom as worthwhile sacrifices. That is not the type of education I can support. Please vote NO. 

~ KCS Music Educator

Tested or not, how many ways can we show disdain for these “untested” classes?

Tested or not, how many ways can we show disdain for “untested” classes?
This is impacting the arts, phys ed, English, special ed, speech, and English language learners.

~ KCS Art Educator

 

I value my students, instruction time, lessons, and curriculum as much as any other teacher.
I believe it is MORE essential to becoming a productive member of society.
I teach EVERY child, and they are ALL successful and grow when learning in my classroom.
Every child will not master mathematics or reading. But every child can create. This makes us human.

~ KCS Art Educator

The law demands that I not “adjust” my curriculum to a religion of a few children. I do what I can.
But I shouldn’t be forced to adjust my instruction for religious instruction during the school day.
The Elgin foundation’s goal is that this is a weekly event. …  I see my students maybe 32 times a year, 45-min classes. A year of missed classes would be devastating.

~ KCS Art Educator

Creativity requires higher-order thinking at the highest levels, yet most core academic classes do not have time to accommodate creative exercises because of the tremendous pressure to “test well.”

Art and other creative classes are the most important to me as a parent. Creativity requires higher-order thinking at the highest levels, yet most core academic classes do not have time to accommodate creative exercises because of the tremendous pressure to “test well.”

If my daughter’s art class was affected in this manner, I would be infuriated. In fact, I plan to apply for transfers, if necessary, to ensure she will have the best opportunities for art education in middle and high school. (Luckily we are currently zoned for great schools with healthy art programs.) If my child attended this elementary school, I would be incredibly dissatisfied. I am very upset on those students’ and teachers’ behalf. Art is how we learn how to be human.

What’s more, I practice a minority religion, and I am very doubtful that any comparable programs/treats would be offered to my child. This is all unfair on a number of levels.

—–

Mass absences cause the other students to suffer instructionally

Based on the firsthand experience of teachers at the school, a large portion of the class being gone does, in fact, affect the remaining students. Also, as a former full-time teacher, I know from my own career that mass absences cause the other students to suffer instructionally. To negatively impact the other students’ learning through this religious program seems rather contrary to the idea of teaching a moral code. 

I am skeptical that any such religious program in our town would offer options other than Christianity– I suspect there would be a public outcry if children were taken to mosques or synagogues.

Vouchers started with a pilot program.

It’s once a month NOW. Pilot programs can disguise long-term agendas. This opens the door to groups who want religion in public schools. They will begin lobbying to get more days each month/week. Vouchers started with a pilot program.

~ Former Teacher, Current KCS Parent

For sure the most concerning aspect of this to me is what it opens the door to allow for the future. That’s an awful lot of power to hand over to one individual [school principal or designee] for a program like this.

~ KCS Parent, Private School Teacher

I’m writing in regard to the Bible Release Time that is being considered by KCS.  Please know that I am very opposed to this and how the time away from class can negatively impact students educationally and perhaps socially for years to come in their non-tested subjects.  …  It would really send the message that it is okay to miss related arts classes for other things when we are already competing for time to teach state-mandated standards.  Most importantly, the dynamic this policy could create when students are “getting out” of class for religious purposes when others are not, provides yet one more way to divide students religiously and could even promote bullying or separation in a significantly negative way.   I can’t begin to express the level of concern I have for students who could feel isolated or different for religious purposes.  This should not be a part of their school day. I have no doubt that there will be students negatively impacted by this needless policy, if enacted. 

I ask that you do all that you can, on behalf of our rising artists, to object to this pilot program.  It will most definitely adversely affect the related arts. For planning purposes, imagine,  as a teacher, planning state-standard based lessons (YES, THE ARTS HAVE STATE STANDARDS WE HAVE TO TEACH!) and several students are consistently missing lessons that others are not. The confusion, extra concern, and work-load this gives a teacher is unnecessary.  Yet another dynamic to create division and differences in learning experiences. 

~ KCS Art Educator

We are extremely concerned and disheartened by the fact that the Knox County Board of Education has seen fit to implement a pilot release-time program for religious instruction at Sterchi Elementary this fall.  In our opinion this program may have been well-intended, but if implemented as a county-wide policy, it will in fact result in unintended negative consequences that will far outweigh the benefits. 

  • … If a  number of groups implement release-time programs, there could be an inordinate amount of work involved for teachers and staff to coordinate these activities. 
  • The sponsoring entity of the release-time program will be responsible for the safety of children during the entire period of time away from school, and for providing insurance that might be needed in case of a mishap.  However, many parents will not realize that the normally accepted safeguards such as background checks on certified personnel and transportation on vehicles vetted by KCS will not be in place.  Because of the fact that the students are being transported from school during the school day, parents may assume there are safeguards that will in fact be missing.
  • There is ample research attesting to the value of arts programs and the necessity of physical education, especially on the elementary level, for all our students. The release-time programs will steal instructional time from these encore classes, somehow deemed to be “less than” other programs because they are not tested on the state level, and thus are fair game for preemption. These programs often resonate with children who are struggling in other academic or social areas and should not be abridged.
  • All students need a school atmosphere that is inclusive, not divisive.  Much effort goes into developing a school identity through a school slogan, class shirts, etc.  Students who don’t participate could easily feel set apart from their classmates who do, and bullying may result. Children will only see that they are not getting to do a field trip some other kids in their class are doing. There is no consideration for how overburdened teachers will have to deal with these incidents, or even the logistics of getting kids from the classroom to the transport area. This can only be disruptive.
  • Religious instruction could be offered without provoking public controversy by any group who felt called to do so outside the school day – after-school childcare is expensive and sometimes hard to find, and these groups could help fill this great need. 

The disadvantages far outweigh the advantages if Knox County Schools adopt this policy. It doesn’t need to happen. As stakeholders in Knox County Schools, we urge you strongly not to implement this policy.

~ Former Music Educator

 

Please stand up for our educators, our students,
and cherish the value that our classrooms hold

To allow a KCS policy would be a slap in the face to our art department, which has grown so much, with a goal to be the best art department in the nation. If our own district doesn’t value the time we spend with our students, and the growth they achieve in our classrooms, we will not even be the best in this local area.

Please stand up for our educators, our students, and cherish the value that our classrooms hold, and vote no on any release time program. 

Students and parents will always have the evenings/weekends for any religious instruction. I personally teach a middle-school youth group on Wednesdays, and an occasional youth group class on Sundays. I value my deeply held beliefs and my time to explore and grow in my personal beliefs.  Please hold our instructional public school time as sacred as you would your personal religious time. 

The Elgin Foundation and the church at Sterchi Hills has a bus on which they can provide transportation to children any other time of the day. Don’t open the door to using our public school instruction time in such a divisive way. 

~ KCS Art Educator

You would be doing our students a disservice to pull them out of the already small amount of arts education that they receive. In addition to this, Music and Art have been identified as core subjects by ESEA. [Elementary & Secondary Edcuation Act]

I am a passionate music educator. I spent five years earning two degrees from the University of Tennessee, and have spent countless hours attending professional developments, seminars, and classes to continue to grow as a music educator and be the best that I can be for my students.

I am reaching out to urge you to vote NO on the Bible Release program. This program would pull students out of my class, as well as art, physical education, guidance, technology, and library classes. 

I am a woman of faith and completely understand the value of having time to worship and study the Bible. However, the school day is not the time for this. First of all, separation of church and state exists for a reason. We have a diverse population of students in Knox County, many of whom have different cultures and beliefs. We want to be inclusive of all of our students, not just ones of a faith that is in the majority. I fear that this program could make some of our students feel alienated and left out of a big part of the school’s culture. Perhaps the Elgin Foundation could consider piloting an after-school program.

Children in the US have the right to a free public education. Music, art, PE, library, guidance, and other special area classes are part of that education. I only see each class that I teach for 45 minutes twice every seven school days. If a student misses a class due to illness or other circumstances, they are already behind, especially when we are preparing for one of our many programs that we put on each year. 

There have been countless studies done on the importance of arts education. You would be doing our students a disservice to pull them out of the already small amount of arts education that they receive. In addition to this, Music and Art have been identified as core subjects by ESEA. They are a critical part of a student’s education.

I have also heard that some board members are in support of this program because they believe that is teaches character education. Please know that every child in Knox County receives guidance classes, has access to a school counselor, and is part of a PBIS (positive behavior) system. Social emotional learning is integrated into every subject, including mine. This is something that all students can learn and grow from, regardless of religious beliefs.

~ KCS Music Educator

Student time in these subject-areas is already limited, so I feel strongly that this program will negatively impact student learning… I ask that you think of the effect that this program could have on our kids’ whole-brain education when you vote on this issue. 

As an elementary art teacher, I only see my students once a week. I value this instructional time as much as any other teacher, and I know that kids benefit a lot from their time in my class. Since the arts and ELL are not tested subjects, it is my understanding that the students who attend this program will be missing our classes in order to participate. This would not only be detrimental to those who are absent, but also disruptive to those who are left in class. Performance-based subjects (such as music, dance, and theater) require regular student attendance for practices and performance. Visual arts and ELL have curriculums that are very difficult for students to “make up” outside of class. 

Even though we are not tested core subjects, an education in the arts has been proven again and again to be extremely beneficial. Research shows that the arts improve students’ critical thinking, creative problem-solving, school attendance, self-confidence, and communication skills, etc. If you have time, please check out this article from the Brookings Institute.
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2019/02/12/new-evidence-of-the-benefits-of-arts-education/

Student time in these subject-areas is already limited, so I feel strongly that this program will negatively impact student learning in the arts and ELL. I ask that you think of the effect that this program could have on our kids’ whole-brain education when you vote on this issue. 

~KCS Art Educator

 

Having this as an option removes children from any classes that are deemed “non-core,” which is looking at these classes as they aren’t as important as other core classes. That these are lesser classes, even though the teachers who teach these classes pour their heart into teaching them to children and ensuring they are given a good and quality education. The “non-core” course are absolutely as important as other courses as they form well rounded individuals. A child could find their passion through one of these courses, but being removed from any of these is depriving them of an opportunity. 

Outside of school hours, their parents, family members, friends, and community are able to give any religious teachings they wish to these children. But as a lifelong citizen of Knox County and having friends and family who give their life to Knox County education, I urge you to VOTE NO on this. 

~ KCS Music Educator

A school system has the honor and charge to produce well-rounded individuals
and should never select [one] religion over another.

If this program is allowed to take full effect in KCS, the district must ensure all religious groups are fully expressed and part of this program. A school system has the honor and charge to produce well-rounded individuals and should never select [one] religion over another.  To prohibit discrimination, keep religion and matters of the state apart, in this case educating minds.  As a person of faith myself, I see no harm in keeping these two items apart. If a parent wishes a child to have an education rooted in faith and academics, then enroll them in private or religious schools. Public education is intended for all students with no selected form of religion valued or allowed over another.

Could this program happen after school? Maybe this option could help reduce childcare costs for parents/guardians.

…This pilot program concerns me due to the times in which students may leave campus for religious study. The law as written does not allow students to be pulled from areas/courses/subjects that have standardized tests. …  Allowing students to be pulled out of special areas first, devalues and sends a strong message to special educators that you do not and are not important. Pulling students during special area classes secondly, prohibits a smooth, well delivered, and thorough curriculum. Yes, a student is pulled out by parent permission but, think of devaluing 250 plus educators in our district

Think of trying to put together a musical, concert, or even art show when half to a third of your class misses at least once a month. Art shows, concerts, and musicals etc, are the equivalent of a classroom educator’s standardized test. Think of trying to plan, reorganize, reteach, and deliver quality instruction once a week when so many students are missing.

…Our entire district works tirelessly to ensure thousands of students are safe each day. During the time they are on our campuses, students are our responsibility. If we allow students to enter and exit multiple times in a week or even monthly, that is one more time students are out of our safety. I do hope that every precaution and vetting process is conducted before this would ever become a curriculum mandated or option.

   ~ KCS Music Educator

Too many people misunderstand what we do & the importance of what we teach.
The Arts are the one place where every child is equal.

Since I only see my students once a week, even missing one class puts that student tremendously behind. Music and Art have been deemed Core Subjects by the ESEA. There have been numerous studies showing the benefits of studying the arts.

Here’s a link to the National Association for Music Education and a brief summary of current research https://nafme.org/20-important-benefits-of-music-in-our-schools/

Too many people misunderstand what we do and the importance of what we teach. The Arts are the one place where every child is equal. It doesn’t matter if you’re in SpEd, or and ELL student. Everyone can sing. Everyone can draw. 

If they aren’t being pulled out the Arts, when are they getting pulled? PE? That time is state mandated. Recess? That time is state mandated? ELA? Math? Social Studies? Science? LUNCH? 

Our days are jam packed! We don’t have time for students to miss. We all just attended a mandatory session about chronic absenteeism. Missing more time does not seem to fit in with what we were just told. This definitely gives mixed signals. 

Education Law states that every child is entitled to a full day of secular education without evangelism or proselytizing. I also know that this type of thing Constitutionally opens up the door for other types of religions to also have this type of pull-out program. … When does it end?

Why can’t the Elgin foundation pick kids up after school and educate them. Honestly, this would be more a service to our parents – daycare and religious study.

What if the children who fall behind in class are made fun of by others? 

What if the children who stay behind are bullied for being the “wrong” religion?

As a parent of a former KCS student, I can say that our kids have enough on their plates. They don’t need this additional worry.

To me, and I hope to you, it just doesn’t make sense to open this door. I hope you will stand by our Educators and the quality of Education our students receive. 

~ KCS Music Educator

Questions on Released Time Policy

There have been many questions regarding a potential policy for KCS to allow “released time for religious moral instruction.” Some of those questions will be covered in this and subsequent posts. If you have other questions, please post them in the comments or email your Knox County Board of Education members.

 
Q.      Will a “released time for religious moral instruction” policy impact classroom instruction? What courses could students miss?
 
A.    Only “non-tested subjects.”
 
Q.       What could that include?
 
A:
all Kindergarten classrooms
all 1st grade classrooms
all 2nd grade classrooms
art
art history
graphic design
animation/simulation and motion graphics
broadcasting
audio production
instrumental music (marching band, concert band, wind ensemble, orchestra)
choral music (concert choir, madrigal singers, show choir, honors ensembles)
general music (elementary chorus, elementary instrumental groups)
music theory and harmony
music history
dance
theater arts, drama
computer science
computer programming
computer keyboarding
library
driver’s education
RTI
ELL
history (world history, American history)
social studies
geography
world languages (French, German, Spanish, Latin, Japanese, Chinese, ASL, etc.)
agriculture,
welding auto body,
construction trades (plumbing, masonry, CAD)
forensic science
culinary arts
cosmetology (barbering, design principals, chemistry of cosmetology)
nursing
behavioral and community health
dental science
special education
personal finance
financial planning
accounting I & II
business management
business principles
health and safety
spelling
speech
gifted
Jr. ROTC
….. and more.

Knox County BOE Considers Release Time

There is some confusion regarding the Knox County Board of Education’s consideration of a “Released Time” policy.

This is a policy discussion – NOT a discussion regarding the merits of a program. Once the policy is in place, ANY program can take time from instruction at ANY Knox County school. The Board of Education cannot vote on the PROGRAM. By law, the only thing we can vote to do is to implement a “release time” POLICY, to allow ANY AND ALL groups to take children from our schools for whatever their group may consider “moral instruction.”

 

Cuts to our students’ time in arts classes has already negatively impacted a whole generation and continuing to cut time from instruction should be considered educational malpractice.

 

There are multiple considerations for our school board, including the fact that students who are not in the programs will be significantly negatively impacted because their instructional time is being impacted. Cuts to our students’ time in arts classes has already negatively impacted a whole generation and continuing to cut time from instruction should be considered educational malpractice.

I encourage you to take a close look at the “released time” law and see what it allows and what it does not allow. (I will paste it below.) Please notice that once a policy is in place, the school district will have absolutely no oversight of the people a child leaves school with for this time.

This is not a field trip. There are no KCS background checks, employee interviews, or anything else. The school board will not be vetting ANY of the organizations that come to pick up children and the district will not be verifying that the organization’s staff are who they say they are or whether they are teaching what they claim to teach. Parents will be giving up ALL school supervision of children during that hour. The children will be fully “released” into the care of whoever is on that bus, van, car, or whatever. By law, the district will have absolutely no oversight. I hope you will step back from any religious consideration and look and the very real potential this has to bring significant harm to children. I find this terrifying.

WHAT DOES TENNESSEE CODE SAY?

TCA 49-2-130

Policy excusing student to attend released time course in religious moral instruction authorized — Requirements — Liability — Credit.

(a) As used in this section,”released time course” means a period of time during which a student is excused from school to attend a course in religious moral instruction taught by an independent entity off school property.

(b) A local board of education may adopt a policy that excuses a student from school to attend a released time course in religious moral instruction for no more than one (1) class period per school day; provided, that:

(1) The student’s parent or legal guardian signs a written consent form prior to the student’s participation in the released time course;

(2) The released time course shall be conducted off public school property;

(3) The independent entity maintains attendance records and makes the records available to the LEA and the local board of education;

(4) Any transportation to and from the place of instruction, including transportation for students with disabilities, is the responsibility of the independent entity, parent, legal guardian, or student;

(5) The independent entity assumes liability for the student attending the released time course from the time that the student leaves the school until the student returns to the school;

(6) No public funds are expended and no public school personnel are involved in providing the instruction for released time courses;

(7) The student assumes responsibility for any missed schoolwork;

(8) The principal of the school, or the principal’s designee, shall determine the classes from which the student may be excused to participate in the released time course; provided, that the student may not be excused to participate in a released time course during any class in which subject matter is taught for which the state requires an examination for state or federal accountability purposes; and

(9) The released time courses shall coincide with school class schedules.

 

(c) The LEA, the local board of education, the local governing authority, and the state shall not be liable for the student who participates in the released time course.

(d) The written consent form under subdivision (b)(1) shall provide a disclaimer that:

(1) Eliminates any actual or perceived affirmative school sponsorship or attribution to the LEA of an endorsement of a religious instruction; and

(2) Waives any right of the student’s parent or legal guardian to hold the school, the LEA, the employees of the school or LEA, or the state liable for the student participating in a released time course. (e) Instructors of released time courses are not required to be licensed or certificated pursuant to chapter 5 of this title. Instructors and other employees of the released time courses shall be hired by the independent entity.

 

(f) A student who attends a released time course shall be credited with time spent as if the student attended school, and the time shall be calculated as part of the actual school day.

 

(g)

(1) A local board of education may adopt a policy to award students credit for work completed in a released time course that is substantiated by a transcript from the entity that provided the released time course. If a board adopts a policy in accordance with this subsection (g), then a student may be awarded one-half (1/2) unit of elective credit for the completion of each released time course.

(2) In order to determine whether elective credit may be awarded for the student’s completion of a released time course, the local board of education shall evaluate the course in a neutral manner that does not involve any test for religious content or denominational affiliation. For purposes of this subsection (g), the secular criteria used to evaluate a released time course may include:

(A) The amount of classroom instruction time;

(B) The course syllabus, which reflects the course requirements and any materials used in the course;

(C) Methods of assessment used in the course; and

(D) Whether the course was taught by an instructor licensed pursuant to chapter 5 of this title.

TVA Tower Doesn't Meet District Needs

There are a lot of high-powered people working very hard to convince the public that moving the Knox County Schools Administrative Offices and the Board of Education into the TVA East Tower is a great deal. It seems that they believe convincing the public will, in turn, pressure the Board of Education to accept this highly questionable deal. If it were a great deal and if it were in the best interests of our students and staff, we would be overjoyed.

It is not a great deal and it is not in the best interests of our students and staff.

It should be concerning to all citizens, that Knox County officials are ignoring the clearly expressed needs of the school administration.

Some of the needs that have been expressed, to best serve our staff and students:

  • A campus-style location
  • Adequate space to bring in services currently scattered throughout the county
  • A location that is easily accessible to parents and community members, as well as staff
  • Adequate space to hold public meetings
  • Free and easily accessible parking for staff and visitors

The TVA East Tower does not meet these needs. 

 

What Do Other Districts Do?

The chart below shows how other districts in Tennessee meet the needs listed above. Of all other district offices I looked at, 100% met these needs. Knox County is a notable exception.

This chart is not meant to show all information possible, but only a comparison between districts.

District Campus Style? Former School? Board Mtgs Here?        Other Offices at This Location Outside Offices Parking
Current KCS No  No  No Great Schools Partnership Maintenance

Textbooks

Warehouse

Assistive Technology

Paid Garage (Two paid garages for BOE members)
Proposed KCS No No No  TBA Paid Garage (Two paid garages for BOE members)
 Bradley County Yes  No Yes Adjacent to Bradley-Central HS Free Lot
 Cleveland City  Yes  ?  Yes Adjacent to Elem & Primary Schools

Bus Garage

(CTE is located at 350 Central Avenue, Cleveland, TN 37311)

Free Lot
Hamilton County (Chattanooga) Yes Yes Yes Transportation Free Lot
Metro Nashville Yes ? Yes Free Lot
Oak Ridge Yes Yes Yes Family Resource Center

(Transportation is at another former school at 100 Woodbury Lane.)

Free Lot
 Sevier County  Yes  Yes?  Yes Adjacent to White’s Adult HS

Transportation

Free Lot
Sumner County Yes Yes Yes Teacher Center
Community Use Stadium
Maintenance
Materials Center
Career & Technical Ed
Free Lot
 Warren County  Yes ?  Yes Free Lot

 

Sumner County

695 East Main Street • Gallatin, TN
Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 11.49.54 AM

Bradley County

800 South Lee Highway, Cleveland, TN
Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 12.21.56 PM

Cleveland City – 2 locations

Administrative Office Building (AOB)
4300 Mouse Creek Road, Cleveland, TN
Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 12.36.50 PM
F. I. Denning Center
350 Central Avenue, Cleveland, TN
Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 12.38.47 PM

Hamilton County (Chattanooga)

3074 Hickory Valley Road, Chattanooga, TN
Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 2.19.13 PM

Metro Nashville

2601 Bransford Avenue, Nashville, TN
Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 2.28.40 PM

Oak Ridge

304 New York Ave, Oak Ridge, TN
Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 1.51.51 PM

Sevier County

226 Cedar Street, Sevierville, TN
Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 1.37.06 PM

Warren County

2548 Morrison Street, McMinnville, TN

Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 12.31.56 PM

 

 

TVA Tower and REAL ID

Putting Knox County Schools in the TVA Towers will limit public access.

*REAL ID is only one of many concerns regarding placing our public schools’ administrative offices in a federal building. Please see my other posts on the TVA Tower to get a sense of the magnitude of problems with this deal.

 

WHAT IS A “REAL ID?”

“The REAL ID Act of 2005 establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. Beginning October 1, 2020, all persons must have a REAL ID license for accessing certain Federal buildings, entering nuclear facilities, and boarding commercial flights within the United States.”

“Non-compliant driver licenses and identification credentials issued beginning July 1, 2019, will display the phrase, “NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION” on the front of the credential.”

https://www.tn.gov/tnrealid/what-is-real-id.html

The REAL ID Act of 2005

establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. 

 

 

 

 

 

UNVERIFIED CLAIMS REGARDING 1ST FLOOR ACCESS

After many questions and constantly changing answers, I turned to the entity that is ultimately responsible for enforcing the requirements of the REAL ID Act: Homeland Security.

 

I CONTACTED HOMELAND SECURITY WITH THE FOLLOWING QUESTION:

Our local school district is considering locating our offices in part of TVA’s East Tower in Knoxville, TN. As we consider this move, there are many questions regarding REAL ID, but one stands out: 

We have been told that REAL ID will not be required for access to the first floor of the East Tower (even after October of 2020) and that any person will be able to enter. Since this is still part of a federal building, and is fully connected to the other TVA Tower, that information seems to run contrary to the REAL ID Act.

Can you please tell me whether an individual federal agency (specifically, TVA) has the authority to allow full public access to a large part of a federal building? Any guidance you can give on this issue is greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

THE HOMELAND SECURITY RESPONSE WAS CLEAR:

Thank you for contacting the Department of Homeland Security/REAL ID Program Office.

 If the facility does not currently require a driver’s license for entrance it will not be affected by REAL ID.

Thank you,
REAL ID Program Office
Department of Homeland Security

 

The TVA Tower DOES currently require a driver’s license, for ANY access (and a scan/search of all bags, pass through a metal detector, and a background check!).
It seems very clear to me, that this means that ALL parts of the tower will require a REAL ID for access. 

 

OTHER CONCERNS REGARDING “REAL ID”

Moving any part of our local government into a Federal building will negatively impact marginalized people by keeping them out of public offices everyone should have a right to access.

Real ID was part of a Homeland Security initiative after 9/11, but state compliance was minimal. Had it been rolling out over all this time, it wouldn’t be such a problem.

VERY FEW TENNESSEANS HAVE OBTAINED A “REAL ID”

Based on the story below, from WBIR, only about 4% of Tennesseans will be able to access the offices of our “public” schools administrative offices, if they are moved to the TVA Tower .

Have you called your Board of Education members and your County Commissioners to let them know how you feel? Have you asked why they are willing to take access away from parents, by housing KCS offices in a federal building? Have you asked who really gains from this deal? (Not students)

WBIR:

Only about 4% of Tennesseans have a REAL ID

 

50% of States Spend $2,600 More Per Student than TN

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 9.56.56 PM

TN(not)Ready - part 1

A Timeline and Explanation of Governor Haslam’s Protested “Listening” Tour

On Tuesday, August 21st at noon, the Tennessee School Boards Association forwarded to school board members, a press release from Governor Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a multi-phase plan, highlighted by a statewide listening tour, to improve delivery of the state’s elementary and secondary assessments known as TNReady. The goals of the engagement plan and tour are to:

  1. Engage in an open conversation about assessment and ways to improve administration;
  2. Gather feedback that can inform a smooth delivery of state assessments this school year and beyond, including feedback on the selection of the state’s next assessment partner to be chosen later this school year;  
  3. Discuss how to better provide schools, educators, parents and students with meaningful and timely results from assessments; and
  4. Distinguish assessment content from delivery in an effort to focus on the value assessments can provide.

“Tennessee’s unprecedented improvement in education is the result of high academic standards and an assessment that measures knowledge of those standards,” Haslam said. “Without aligned assessments, we don’t know where our students stand and where we need to improve. We finally have a test that is aligned to Tennessee’s strong academic standards, and I don’t want recent assessment delivery issues to cause us to lose sight of why we have these tests in the first place. Delivering the test without disruption is essential and we must get it right. I am confident this listening tour and process will inform the critical work ahead of us.”            

The listening tour will consist of six stops throughout the state and provide an opportunity for educators, school technology and assessment coordinators, and school district administrators to share information about recent challenges related to the online delivery of state assessments. Each meeting will encourage feedback on how the state can continue to improve its assessment; a discussion of steps made to-date to improve test administration in 2018-19; and a conversation on ways to improve test delivery through the oversight and selection of the state’s next assessment partner, which will occur later this school year. Haslam and Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen will attend each leg of the tour. 

Haslam has tapped former long-time educator, and former executive director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, Wayne Miller to facilitate the listening tour meetings and outcomes.  

“As someone who has spent his entire career in public education, I know when difficult issues arise it often takes more listening than talking to resolve them and move forward in partnership and collaboration,” Miller said. “I am excited about the process the governor has put forward and honored to facilitate conversations with educators throughout the state. We are all in this together.” 

To assist with the listening tour, Haslam has convened an educator advisory team to guide the feedback sessions with Miller. Advisory team members will participate in each meeting, gather information and feedback and develop a set of principles and recommendations for consideration by the governor as well as the next administration. The three-member advisory team includes:

  • Cicely Woodard, the 2018 Tennessee Teacher of the Year and a math teacher at Freedom Middle School in Franklin Special School District;
  • Derek Voiles, the 2017 Teacher of the Year and an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Lincoln Heights Middle School in Hamblen County School District; and
  • Dr. Mike Winstead, the current Tennessee Superintendent of the Year and Maryville City Director of Schools.

“Tennessee educators are committed to improving educational outcomes for our students, and assessments are an important and necessary component for us to meet that commitment,” Woodard said. “I am appreciative of the governor’s recognition of the need to continue to get feedback, and I look forward to working with the governor and educators to improve assessment delivery.”

The listening tour will begin Friday, Aug. 24, in Knoxville and be followed by stops planned for Hamilton County, Shelby County, Williamson County, Greene County and Gibson County. Specific locations and times are being finalized.

Following the listening tour, the next phases of the process will include implementing feedback from the listening tour, refining the requirements of the state’s next assessment partner, providing on-the-ground oversight of the fall test administration, and developing opportunities for feedback from educators and stakeholders.

 

Later, in response to questions from Knox County Schools, Governor Haslam’s press secretary sent this information, which later proved to be false:

The meetings are open and we will send out a media advisory on Thursday morning.

The invitations are being extended to teachers, principals, test administrators, etc. to sit around the table and be part of the discussion. The goal of the listening tour is to hear from the people on the ground, directly involved with the testing, to get their direct feedback on how to make this process better. That is why it is being limited to educators. But your school board members are welcome to attend.

Thank you,
Jennifer

Jennifer Donnals | Press Secretary
State Capitol, Ground Floor
600 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37243

Of particular concern, is that the Governor’s office never requested to use the facilities or followed ANY or our KCS policies regarding use of our facilities. Select sections of the policy are here:

Policy E-130: Community Use of School Facilities

GENERAL REGULATIONS The use of school buildings and property may be permitted in accordance with these regulations at any time when the principal states that the premises are not required for school purposes.

….
School property may be used for school-related activities on weekdays without application and without charge if permission is granted by the principal of the school. However, this use must still be scheduled by the school to avoid the creation of conflicting facilities reservations.


It shall not be necessary for any application to be made to use the school facilities for any school related activity. However, school-related activities shall be properly scheduled and tracked to ensure that conflicts in scheduling do not arise. School-related activities include:

a) parent-teacher activities;
b) activities of school-related civic clubs, groups or School Support Organizations ;
c) school club meetings, properly supervised by a teacher in the school;
d) classroom groups properly supervised, and
e) educational meetings called by the principal or authorized member of the school administrative staff.

All such meetings are to be arranged through the principal of the school involved.

While state law requires that school boards across the state implement and enforce policies for their school districts, that becomes impossible when some believe they are above following those policies.

From the beginning, the process was laid out just like the unethical “Delphi Method” we have repeatedly experienced in Knox County. A most basic summary of this method is that it uses very practiced facilitators to guide discussion ONLY where the facilitators want it to go, while manipulating discourse to come to PRE-DETERMINED conclusions.

The media, while reporting as much as possible, with limited background knowledge, fails to notice seemingly insignificant contradictions and participants are arranged so that they are unable to see the whole group and CANNOT see these manipulations. This is why it is NECESSARY, with regard to transparency, that meetings be FULLY OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, and also why those planning the meetings work to ensure that the full meeting cannot be seen. This can be achieved either by manipulating the size of the group and the space to be so small that it is visually impossible to see the full meeting or by opening the meeting like a public meeting, but then dividing into small groups in multiple rooms. Ensuring that NO person can hear all of the discussion allows them to later publish whatever “results” they like.

 

An example of Delphi style manipulation can be found in the questions asked of math teachers who participated:

The facilitator asked how many math teachers were in the room and because I had chosen my own seat, rather than the seat provided for me, I was at a corner of the square arrangement and could easily see 7 hands go up. However, those in the group or those close to the group could not turn their heads quickly enough to see all hands, before he asked the next question. The facilitator asked how many of those teachers preferred a paper test and counted to five out loud. He then asked how many preferred computer-based tests and counted to three, trailing off and acting suddenly confused. He then quickly asked the first question again, quickly counted five, quickly asked the second question again, counting to FIVE, and said, “So, it is about half and half, right?”

The back and forth had confuses people who might have seen these were not the same or who may have noticed that there were NOT ten math teachers in the group. However, since those at the front, the facilitators, and others are already nodding in agreement, they feel pressure to also agree.

Based on the pre-printed nameplates, which ensure nobody participates without being specifically selected, there were very few identified as “math” teachers. This makes it even more difficult for anyone to determine WHO even answered the question. Those identified by only their grade level may have self-identified as math teachers, but there is no opportunity to determine that or whether some of those representing the Department of Education also answered.

Whether the teachers were actually split, 50/50, is impossible to determine by anyone in the room. However, the final conclusion he came to may not have even really been noticed to match NONE of that. The final, announced, conclusion was, “So you all feel that a combination of paper and online would be best.”

No, no, NO!
Nobody in that room said that, with the exception of the facilitator.
NOBODY.
Yet, that is the conclusion that is recorded as coming from this group.

Will the next governor use this unethical method? It depends on whether YOU and I ALLOW this to continue. And THAT depends on whether YOU an I continue to vote for the legislators who are CURRENTLY IN OFFICE,  who KEEP VOTING TO KEEP TNREADY, and who REFUSE TO HOLD ACCOUNTABLE, the testing company, QUESTAR, or the COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION.

While some of our legislators, in this ELECTION SEASON, are suddenly declaring that they disagree with all of this, we know that they have not stopped it, after EIGHT YEARS.  And if they haven’t stopped this after EIGHT YEARS, they sure as hell aren’t going to stop it just because there is a new governor in town.

As long as we keep these legislators, Tennessee students will continue to suffer, while parents, teachers, and the public are lied to, regarding trumped up visions of “successes” used to make the governor look like he has actually done something while in office.

­­­

KCS Harassment Policy

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation spread regarding the Knox County Schools employee and student harassment policies. I want share factual information, rather than trying to address every false claim that is being spread.

The Knox County Board of Education reviews every policy, every year. It is actually required by state law, that we review policies at least every other year, and that we have a schedule and a review timeline. The Tennessee School Boards Association recommends a one-year cycle, like the one we use in Knox County.

During policy review, many suggestions were sent in from community members. Some of them were in conflict with other policies and in conflict with state law. While discussing suggestions, it was realized that the current policy fails to even meet basic federal language, which is a problem. Because “sex” is the word that was left out, it becomes a HUGE problem when looking at actual protections regarding gender identity and sexual orientation.

Right now, we have gender and sexual orientation listed in a way that is not recognized federally AND without the ONE word that has stood the test of time, and has repeatedly been used in handing down decisions regarding discrimination and harassment cases. Most people do not understand that case law is a part of law because it shows exactly how laws have been interpreted and it sets a standard for other cases to follow. EVERYTHING in court decisions that protects our students regarding gender identity and sexual orientation and regarding discrimination and harassment has fallen under that umbrella.

To discard EVERY positive step that has been made, in exchange for language that gives people a false sense of safety, would be a travesty – and it is DEEPLY concerning that this was ever allowed to happen to our policies.

What we DO have in our current policy is language that is more inclusive than any other language we have been sent as a “template” for improvement. I have not seen other policies that make it clear that NO harassment will be tolerated. Though the Metro Nashville policy has been repeatedly referenced, it is important to look at what it actually says:

The school system prohibits any form of harassment based upon age, religion, marital status, creed, disability, color, race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or appearance, or sex, including sexual harassment.

It DOES NOT say that the district prohibits any form of harassment, period. It qualifies “any form” with language that clearly does not include all possible harassment.

The Knox County Schools’ policy goes further, by including other forms of harassment that are not listed:

Knox County Schools does not discriminate in its programs or employment practices nor does it tolerate harassment for any reason including, but not limited to, …

The policy continues with

Harassment by any employee will not be tolerated.

This not only covers every kind of harassment of every employee, but it ensures that we are not creating an unintended consequence by being so specific that we create a category in which people cannot be protected.

The student policy also goes beyond other suggested templates, by removing the limitations others, like Metro Nashville impose:

Knox County Schools does not discriminate in its programs nor does it tolerate harassment for any reason including, but not limited to,…

Also included, is language similar to the employee policy:

Harassment of any student will not be tolerated.

I have repeatedly asked people to please give me ANY example of a case that has been found in favor of the person being harassed or discriminated against, which did NOT fall under the protective umbrella of “sex.” I still have nothing that shows that students or staff will have any kind of security with language dangling out there by itself, with no federally protected category to back it up. No one has shown me anything that gives that language any ACTUAL strength.

What I have been able to find, is a wide range of feeling about language that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. This includes Board members’ explanations of how they intend the policy to be carried out – and that is important.

After discussion with many community members, I have submitted a possible amendment to the policy, which maintains all federally necessary language, maintains the KCS language which ensures broad coverage of everyone, and adds a definition to show that the Board understands “sex” in the context of the EEOC definition:

”Sex” includes anything related to sex, gender, sexual orientation, or perception of such, as interpreted by the EEOC: “As the federal law enforcement agency charged with interpreting and enforcing Title VII, EEOC has concluded that harassment and other discrimination because of sexual orientation is prohibited sex discrimination.”

This amended language has been sent to Board members, for inclusion in this week’s agenda. Since an amendment is voted on before voting on the main motion, this amendment will only be included if two things happen: The Board votes with at least 5 in favor of the amendment AND the Board votes with at least 5 IN FAVOR of the main motion, which is attached to this weeks agenda:

Knox County Schools does not discriminate in its programs nor does it tolerate harassment for any reason including, but not limited to, harassment on the basis of actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, sex, national origin, disability, religion, race, color, creed or any other Federally identified protected area.

Supporting the amendment does NOT mean that you also support removing the red-lined language. However, that definition will ONLY be added if the redlined changes are adopted.

I hope that this clears up some of the misinformation that is out there and that you will let others know that there is no attempt to reverse policy, but to correct language that gives a false sense of security, while maintaining language that has real support at all levels.

 

Overhauling Antiquated Discipline Practices Should Not Wait

The Knox County Schools Board of Education recognized a need to make changes to discipline practices several years ago. After nearly three years of work, a clear and comprehensive plan has been created and presented for the Board to approve, but suddenly, there is a huge political push to put the brakes on all of our work.

At the June work session, I realized that policy language that had been agreed to in the review committee had not been fully transcribed to the policy document that was to be voted on during the next regular session. Though the staff scrambled to correct the error, I felt it was too late to post the corrected language in a timeframe that could be reasonably considered transparent communication with the public. I made the motion to put off the vote until the July meeting, so the public would know exactly what language was up for vote.

The Board seemed to have consensus regarding the policies and even discussed waiving two readings. We had certainly agreed to this language in the review sessions.

Within weeks, political forces began working overtime to convince the public that three years of work and multiple opportunities for public input never happened. Many are now fighting AGAINST improving our discipline guidelines. I would like to be amazed, but I am more disheartened, that people would have either so much tainted political dependence or such evil in their souls that it would cause them to work against helping children.

The idea that changes to discipline policies in Knox County Schools have popped up suddenly, and without ample time and opportunity for community input is being pushed by those with a solid agenda to maintain the status quo and the school to prison pipeline. It is being sold by those who want to ensure that principals in Knox County Schools have NO autonomy to make the decisions necessary for equitable and appropriate treatment of the students in their schools. These people want to ensure that students are given “equal” consequences – whether children are 8 or 18 years old. Most of these individuals have never worked in any classroom – and have neither the experience nor the basic understanding of student behavior to begin to comprehend the potential consequences of their misguided proposals.

I have not been able to find ANY of these individuals who have READ the proposed guidelines.

These changes have been a work in progress for many years, the largest and most public piece of work beginning in November 2014, with the creation of the Disparities in Educational Outcomes Task Force. The Task force was made up of community members who were business leaders, faith-based leaders, experienced community volunteers, and teachers, administrators, and parents of Knox County Schools students, as well as Knox County Schools students. Their goal was to consider reported outcomes in academic achievement and discipline in Knox County Schools and recommend ways to address disparities that seemed to be correlated with income, race, language, or disability. (Members of the original Disparities in Educational Outcomes Task Force are listed at the end.)

Those who claim that school administrators and other staff have not been involved and/or had input into changes in discipline are ignoring basic facts: Principals have been involved in these changes for at least two years. At the October 29, 2015 Principals’ Meeting, all K-12 principals were engaged in a discussion related to disparities in educational and discipline outcomes in the Knox County Schools. That meeting yielded NINETEEN pages of notes from principal input, which has been continuously available to the public, here:

https://www.knoxschools.org/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=34393&dataid=27534&FileName=Principals%20Forum%20Notes.docx

Principals have also been involved in many other meetings regarding discipline changes that are needed in Knox County Schools. They have met for discussions, have submitted ideas and concerns to their supervisors, and repeated that process many times. I have been told that all of their concerns were addressed and all of the changes they requested were integrated into the current guidelines. When I sat in on one of these meetings, it was very clear to me that principals in that meting were ready to embrace moving forward with these guidelines to better serve the students of Knox County Schools and grow toward meeting more of our students’ social and emotional needs.

One notable recommendation from principals:  “Whole community support”

We can only build community support by involving the community. In December 2015, the “Superintendent and the members of the DEO Task Force invited students, families, educators, and community members to participate in a community meeting to share options, triumphs, and challenges with regard to their observations and personal experiences with disparities in discipline and education.”

DEO Task Force – Community Forum Video – December, 2015:

https://www.knoxschools.org/Page/13651

 

The recommendations presented by the DEO Task Force at a community meeting in April 2016 were drafted using the input, suggestions, and opinions of those who attended that meeting, in addition to all of the other input that the Task Force had already solicited from all of us who are concerned with creating the best possible schools for all students.

DEO Task Force – Community Forum Video – April, 2016

https://www.knoxschools.org/Page/14017

 

To continue the work begun by the DEO Task Force, The Disparities in Educational Outcomes’ Steering Committee was created. It is made up of members of the original Task Force as well as other community, governmental and educational leaders. (Current Steering Committee members are listed at the end of this document.) Its charge is to:

  • Review progress, discuss issues and refine efforts
  • Identify and include additional stakeholder perspectives and expertise to include subcommittee working groups
  • Evaluate outcomes and ensure public accountability and transparency
  • Regularly solicit input from the community, follow up on concerns and communicate frequently with Knox County Schools leadership to address issues.

 

The community expressed great concern that the work of the Disparities in Educational Outcomes Task Force will be ignored by the Knox County Schools administration and the Knox County Board of Education. Based on our history with such recommendations, this is not an unwarranted concern. The difference between the 2007 task force recommendations and the 2017 recommendations, however, is that Knox County Schools has been moving forward with the recommendations this time around. Those whose livelihoods depend on suspending or incarcerating high numbers of youth, as well as those who depend on using those incarcerations to move their political agendas must be terrified that we will succeed in helping our students find better coping behaviors that help them stay in school, graduate on time, and move on to be excellent citizens.

 


 


 Other reading on the topic:

http://knoxfocus.com/2016/05/disparities-in-educational-outcomes-task-force-shares-draft-recommendations/

http://knoxfocus.com/2016/06/school-board-votes-to-approve-amended-disparities-resolution/


Members of the original Disparities in Educational Outcomes Task Force

  • Charme Allen, Knox Co. District Attorney General
  • Elizabeth Alves, KCS Exec. Dir. of Curriculum
  • Pastor Daryl Arnold, Overcoming Believers Church
  • Tomma Battle, parent
  • Susan Benner, University of Tennessee
  • Adolphus Brown, Coldwell Banker
  • Terry Brown, Knox County Juvenile Court
  • Dr. John Butler, Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church
  • Andre Canty, Highlander Research & Education Center
  • Michelle Casini, KCS Spanish Teacher
  • Ronni Chandler, Project GRAD
  • Maurice Chunn, KCS student
  • Tanya Coats, KCS Curriculum Specialist, Farragut IS
  • Clifford Davis, KCS Chief of Staff
  • Rabbi Alon Ferency, Heska Amuna Synagogue
  • Rita Geier, retired attorney
  • Coral Getino, parent
  • Chad Hensley, KCS, SDHS Master Teacher
  • Timothy Irwin, Knox Co. Juvenile Court
  • Sheriff J.J. Jones, Knox County Sheriff’s Office
  • Kamau Kenyatta, KCS Asst. Principal – Karns MS
  • Nathan Langlois, KCS Principal – Austin-East HS
  • Sam Lee, Knox Co. General District Attorney
  • Rosa Mar, Retired Community Volunteer 
  • Missy Massie, KCS Exec. Dir. Student Support Services
  • Alise Ndacayisaba, student 
  • Phyllis Nichols, Knoxville Area Urban League
  • Randy Nichols, Knox County Sheriff’s Office
  • Chief David Rausch, Knoxville Police Department
  • Mayor Madeline Rogero, City of Knoxville
  • Amber Rountree, Knox County Board of Education 
  • Mark Stephens, Knox County Public Defender’s Office
  • Thomas Strickland, City of Knoxville
  • Rosalyn Tillman, Pellissippi State Community College
  • Cindy White, KCS Principal – Vine Middle School
  • Kim Wilburn-Cullom, KCS Principal – Maynard Elem.

Current Steering Committee Members

  • Andre Canty– Co-chair, Highlander Research & Education Center
  • Jered Croom– Co-chair, Parent Representative
  • Bob Thomas, Superintendent, Knox County Schools
  • Charme Allen, Knox Co. District Attorney General
  • Chania Arnold, KCS Student
  • Tomma Battle, Parent
  • Christian Blair, KCS Student
  • Terry Brown, Knox County Juvenile Court
  • John Butler, Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church
  • Emma Cosigua, Parent
  • Coral Getino, Parent
  • Alex Lundy, KCS Student
  • Rosa Mar, CEO, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Phyllis Nichols, President, Knoxville Area Urban League
  • Randy Nichols, Knox County Sheriff Department
  • Angela Patrick, Teacher, Belle Morris Elementary
  • David Rausch, Chief, Knoxville Police Department
  • Bryson Rosser, Teacher, Central High School
  • Mark Stephens, Knox County Public Defender Office
  • Rosalyn Tillman, Dean, Pellissippi State Com. College
  • Juan Villegas, KCS Student
  • Cindy White, Principal, Vine Middle School
  • Missy Massie, KCS Dir., Student Support Services
  • Jeannie Dulaney, KCS Director of Community Relations