Quarantine Exemption Guidelines

A letter sent to the Board of Education members this morning may help community members understand why our local legislators’ push-back against face masks and our governor’s “opt out” order have created more than just chaos. They have created a situation that is causing students and teachers to become ill, isolate, and miss class time far more than would be necessary if mask requirements and other protocols were in place for students in Knox County

It is almost as if our legislature and governor are setting schools up to fail. Would they really go to these lengths and endanger students all over Tennessee, just to give themselves something to “fix” prior to their elections this summer.

My Grandaddy used to say,
“If it looks like a duck… QUACK!!!”

Dr. Cayce’s letter is here:

Dear Mr. Superintendent and Board

I was reviewing quarantining guidelines on the Knox County website and found the following document:

Releasing Cases & Contacts from Isolation & Quarantine

It includes a recent update on 08/13/21 that includes a quarantine exception for K – 12 classrooms. Indicating the update occurred after your last board meeting.  I included the exception from the document below:

In the K-12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3-6 feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) where:

• Both students were engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting face masks; and

• Other K-12 school prevention strategies (such as universal and correct mask use, physical distancing, increased ventilation) were in place in the K-12 school setting.

Current policies on “parental choice” exclude KCS students from meeting this exception. This argument is purely partisan politics.

The exemption from quarantine conditions aligns with published research and real-life experiments on children imposed by different Education Boards. The North Carolina sponsored study shows universal masking is the key intervention.

ABC’s Final Report June 2021

You can achieve compliance with the quarantine exception by implementing universal masking and other preventative measures (some currently implemented and some not). I understand the governor’s EO; however, I dare him to do something about it. I am convinced a universal masking policy will stand up in the court of law and represents the key to keeping students in class, safely, where they can learn.

I believe the board should call an emergency meeting to discuss this updated guidance from the State Board of Health and provided by the Knox County Board of Health.  KCS currently ignores the guidance.

Masking only works if it is applied UNIVERSALLY.

Jonathan Cayce, Ph.D.

KCS Administration Refuses to Follow Board Vote

When a Superintendent presents an opening plan to a school board for a vote of adoption, one would expect the Superintendent and his administrative staff to also support that plan. This has not been the case in Knox County Schools. Not only has the plan been changed (without a Board vote) multiple times, but members of the KCS administration have responded to parent concerns with information that is completely contrary to the standing vote – even after the law department has publicly clarified that this vote is still valid.

This is very, very concerning.

As the person whose responsibility it is to ensure that my community has access to accurate and transparent information, I will not hide these failures.

The public has a right to know that the Knox County Schools’ administration is clearly refusing to follow the Board’s intent – and I have pointed this out on multiple occasions, beginning in May.

In Tennessee, a board of education only speaks through its votes. No individual board member can tell a superintendent what to do. It would be unethical for a board member to push a superintendent to do something contrary to a vote of the board and likewise, unethical for a superintendent to follow any direction from an individual school board member. The ONLY direction that can be given is through a passing vote of the board.

In Knox County, a vote requires at least 5 votes to pass – and the Board is to uphold that vote.

On April 14th, the Knox County Board of Education voted as follows:

Ms. Kristy made a motion to approve the Superintendent’s recommended protocols for the 2021-2022 school year. Ms. Babb seconded the motion.

Ms. Babb made a substitute motion to approve the Superintendent’s plan with the identification of young children as pre-K and kindergarten students and clarifying language on the fourth bullet point on page 2 regarding a negative COVID test on day 6 or 7 allowing an end to any quarantine on day 8. Ms. Satterfield seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ms. Satterfield – Yes
Ms. Owen – Yes
Mr. Watson – Yes
Ms. Babb – Yes
Ms. Horn – No
Ms. Henderson – No
Ms. Bounds – No
Mr. McMillan – No
Ms. Kristy – Yes

Vote:  5-4 Passed


The PDF of the plan that was presented to the Board in that April 14th meeting is below. (Note: The version presented on April 9 and the version presented on April 14 have different language, but are essentially the same regarding following guidelines, as the TN Department of Health has consistently stated that CDC recommendations should be followed.)



There have been other discussions and other motions regarding COVID protocols since this vote. However, none of those have any bearing on the APRIL 14th vote.

There has been no vote that would change anything from the April 14th vote to adopt the plan that included following State Department of Health recommendations (aka: CDC recommendations).


In other words, according to the April 14th vote of the Knox County Board of Education, all staff and students in Knox County Schools, should be following the recommendations of the Tennessee Department of Health, which are the recommendations of the CDC.

Anything less should be seriously scrutinized, as it would be in direct conflict with the directive of the Board.

If anyone in Knox County Schools tells you that the Board of Education voted against following COVID-19 safety protocols, please forward that message to me immediately. This kind of serious misinformation is not acceptable and I will address these complaints swiftly.


Minutes from the April 14th meeting can be found here:

APRIL 14, 2021 Minutes of the Knox County Board of Education


Contact information for members of the Board of Education can be found below. Please keep in mind that we are elected in a representative election, but that we are each required to serve ALL students in Knox County Schools.

Knox County Board of Education Members


Contact information for the Knox County Schools Executive Team is here:

Knox County Schools Administration



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.

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?
all Kindergarten classrooms
all 1st grade classrooms
all 2nd grade classrooms
art history
graphic design
animation/simulation and motion graphics
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
theater arts, drama
computer science
computer programming
computer keyboarding
driver’s education
history (world history, American history)
social studies
world languages (French, German, Spanish, Latin, Japanese, Chinese, ASL, etc.)
welding auto body,
construction trades (plumbing, masonry, CAD)
forensic science
culinary arts
cosmetology (barbering, design principals, chemistry of cosmetology)
behavioral and community health
dental science
special education
personal finance
financial planning
accounting I & II
business management
business principles
health and safety
….. 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.


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.



(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



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


Free Lot
Sumner County Yes Yes Yes Teacher Center
Community Use Stadium
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.



“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.”


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. 







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.



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!


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. 



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.


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)


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 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.
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.