KC BOE Candidate Q & A - SPEAK

District 2 School Board candidate answers to questions from SPEAK: Students Parents and Educators Across Knox County

Jennifer Owen

Grant Standefer

1. What minimum qualifications do you think the KCS superintendent should have?

I believe a successful academic leader must have appropriate experiences and qualifications that exceed those of the people he/she manages. As the instructional leader for the community, the Director of Schools must be fully qualified to lead at all levels.

Based on these core beliefs, my experiences working under management that lacked those basic qualifications, and research into the qualifications expected by other strong school districts, I support the following minimum qualifications for the Knox County Director of Schools:

  • A record of engaging the education community as well as the community at large, to work TOGETHER to create attainable, realistic, & honest goals for the district
  • A record of assembling & maintaining effective collaborative teams
  • At least 5 yrs of full-time experience as a leader at the district level
  • Experience coaching and mentoring teachers
  • Demonstrated, in-depth, successful school leadership experience
  • At least 5 yrs of full-time, high-quality experience as a principal in a public K-12 school
  • At least 5 yrs of full-time, high-quality experience teaching in a public K-12 school
  • A Master’s degree in an education specialty (An earned PhD from a fully accredited university is preferred.)
  • A professional license which equals or exceeds the requirements of a professional TN teaching license
  • A record of clear and open communication at all levels
  • A record of successfully mentoring others
  • A record of open communication with district/community members
  • A record of creating, cultivating, & maintaining positive relationships
  • Experience working in an urban public school district
  • Strong analytical skills to make decisions that with correct analysis, fairness & sensitivity
  • Skills to enhance, rather than impede the flow of information
  • A demonstrated commitment to a child-centered philosophy
  • Ability to develop, administer, & transparently communicate a comprehensive budget which meets federal, state, & local guidelines.
  • Demonstrated success in obtaining & maintaining funds for projects to enhance instruction
  • Experience analyzing & integrating relevant technology into instructional plans & budgets
  • Success in improving & maintaining morale among a diverse staff
  • Experience recruiting, supporting, & retaining quality employees
  • Ability to correctly define the word, “rigor,” & explain why it is not an appropriate word to ever use regarding the education of children
The candidate should have at least and Ed.S degree. Since this person will be managing a $450 million budget, and 8,000 employees, along with 57,000 students, an MBA would be desirable as well. Classroom experience is certainly a plus.                    
2. What do you see as the role of the school board? Should the board establish the priorities and direction of the schools while the superintendent implements that direction, or should the superintendent establish the direction and priorities for the schools with the board defending and supporting his priorities?

School boards should be responsible for setting policy and the board-appointed Director of Schools should be in charge of the day-to-day administration of the schools, as laid out in TCA 49-2-301. The school board should govern the school system; the superintendent should administer it.

[note: TCA is Tennessee Code Annotated, which contains the laws that have been adopted in Tennessee.]

 The board is responsible for establishing policy and direction, but this must be done in cooperation with the resources and expertise that the administration offers to the Board of Education.    
3. Which do you consider a more effective utilization of education funds, providing and maintaining personal computers to students or reducing class sizes by hiring more teachers?

“Effective” depends on the end goal, as well as knowledge of how these things are already working together. I have seen closets full of computers that are just stacked up and never used, because there are either so many other things on the plates of the staff that they never have time to use them OR because they are not working properly and the staff hasn’t even had time to put in a request for help.

Are they effective when they aren’t usable? No.

Might they be, if staff were able to use them appropriately? Maybe.

Would they be as effective at educating children as lower class sizes? No.

This really shouldn’t have to be an either/or question. We should be able to do both, without breaking the bank, IF we were consistently making decisions based on fiduciary responsibility.(The recent contract buy out amount could have paid for over 1200 Chromebooks or salaries for several teachers.)

 Appropriate class size based upon research is critical. One to one technology, properly utilized, is critical to the future of our students in the world in which we live. Both are important.                
4. Research shows that small class size has a strong positive relationship to student performance. The Haslam administration has proposed increasing class sizes in public schools while class sizes in Knox County schools are getting larger. What is your position on class sizes for students in Knox County?
Class size should be as low as possible and based on actual classroom teacher to student ratios, rather than figuring in other staff who have little contact with students, or who pull out students individually. Those who have the responsibility to coach teachers should not be used to give the appearance of lower teacher/student ratios. It is much more important to decrease class size than to add to the already top-heavy administration or to pay for studies that only duplicate what others are already studying.  Referring to my answer to the previous question, our decisions should follow the best research on class size, but cost effectiveness must also be considered. Since Knox County schools are underfunded, financial realities come into play.    
5. During the past five years, experienced teachers have been leaving the district at a rapid rate. At last count, 62% of teachers had 10 or fewer years experience. Only 8% have been teaching 20 or more years. What ideas do you have to keep qualified and experienced teachers in Knox County Schools?

It is very disheartening to see your colleagues treated badly, day after day. It is worse to see them treated badly for trying to use valid and appropriate methods in their classrooms, while the administration belittles them and lowers their evaluation scores when they question practices that very obviously harm children. We have far too many people who are more worried about pleasing the next level supervisor than they are worried about ensuring they do the right things for our students. Great, experienced educators know that there are other school districts where this is not the case. They know that there are many districts, very close to Knox County, were experience is valued and where speaking up for students is a quality that is respected by the administration.

Giving teachers a cookie on an appreciation day is an empty gesture that does nothing to truly value them. Words of appreciation are also empty, when not backed up with actions that prove our teachers are truly valued. (I once had a principal who told me that she really valued music education, while she cut one of the music positions from the school.) Words and gestures need to match. “Listening sessions” could be chances to actually hear from people, rather than empty PR plans. Our school board meetings could be opportunities to listen and respond to concerns, rather than opportunities to tear people down. A list could really be endless.

Of course, competitive pay is a way to attract teachers to the area and to keep some from leaving for higher paying districts. However, whenever you speak with teachers, this is not at the top of their list. Items at the top of their lists overwhelmingly have more to do with unrealistic work loads, unprofessional treatment from upper administration, and/or the inability to be able to serve students in ways that they know they should.

These problems can’t be solved through policy, but will require a great deal of work over the coming years, to change the damaging culture that has grown in Knox County Schools.

 Teachers need to be heard, and the Teacher Advisory Committee should continue to function. Members of the BOE should visit schools regularly and listen to teachers and principals. Teachers also need to receive pay raises.
6. What role do you believe charter schools, vouchers, and education management companies should play in public education? Are these types of management arrangements cost effective?
Those entities play a role in private education. The voucher experiment has gone on for over 10 years in various places in the US and students have been repeatedly shown to do no better than those remaining in their public schools. Draining money from public schools makes no sense, if one wants to make those schools better. The current bills in the House and Senate have no real accountability measures built in, no transportation plans, and have nothing in place to care for the students who remain in those struggling schools.  Knox County has a charter school and Knox County students attend that school. I want the Emerald Academy to succeed. We do not have education management companies in Knox County and I will not be recruiting them. I understand that vouchers take money away from our schools. I also understand some of the concerns of those who are pro-voucher. That decision, however, is neither mine nor the Knox County BOE’s decision to make. That decision will be made at the state level. If state legislators should decide in favor of vouchers, the role of the Knox County BOE will be to manage the financial impact of that decision to the best of our ability.
7. Recent research shows that more than 33% of US elementary and secondary students experience some test anxiety, up from 10-25% in past decades. How much time do you consider reasonable to be spent on standardized testing, including test prep, each school year? Do you believe that using standardized tests to evaluate teachers is a reliable measure of teacher effectiveness?
Test prep should be minimal and should certainly not impact student instruction beyond a few days prior to the test. If a test requires that students learn how to take it, the test is measuring whether they learned THAT skill – not the skills the test claims to measure. A one-time, high-stakes test has no place in measuring effectiveness – especially when teachers are teaching content that isn’t tested. Value added measures were designed to measure cattle and corn. Only those who equate students to commodities would measure their teachers this way.  The amount of testing that is done should be examined closely. We, of course, have state mandated testing over which we have no say. How much testing is done beyond that must be considered in light of the welfare of students and their academic progress. The use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations can only be reliable if it is one of several components utilized. It should only be one factor in the overall evaluation process.  
8. Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) require schools to include students with disabilities in general education, provide needed supports and make accommodations to the curriculum when they are in inclusive classes. Charter schools and voucher programs do not protect the legal rights of children with disabilities guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) What is your positions on inclusion, accommodations and necessary supports for special education students in a) our public schools and b) private and charter schools?
There should be no difference in the requirements to provide necessary supports and accommodations, based on whether it is a public or private school. Laws requiring those supports were put in place to guarantee appropriate educational opportunities are provided to all public school students. Using public dollars to support ANY system that ignores or circumvents those requirements is unacceptable.  My wife and I have been heavily involved in disability ministry for over a decade and are committed to students affected by disability and their families. Appropriate accommodations and inclusion are critically important for all children affected by disability.

KCS BOE Candidate Q & A from the Knoxville Mercury

The Knoxville Mercury sent questionnaires to all the candidates in the March 1 primary. These are the full responses submitted by candidates for Board of Education in District 2.

JENNIFER OWEN

Age: 48 Family: Husband, Robert Owen How long in Knox County? 20 years Job: Former teacher, Knox County Schools Ed: B.S. in Education, University of TN (1991) Political experience: No response  

GRANT STANDEFER

Age: 59 Family: Wife, Rhoni, and three adult children How long in Knox County? 24 years this March Job: Executive director, Compassion Coalition Ed: B.A. in Bible, Lubbock Christian Univ, 1978; M.A. in Biblical & related studies, Abilene Christian Univ, 1981; doctor of ministry in missional & spiritual formation, Lipscomb Univ, 2015 Political experience: None

What stoked your interest in running for this political office?

The Knox County School system has the potential to be an education leader in our state and region. However, the district has become mired in a culture of distrust and finger-pointing that hampers its ability to make real progress. I want to help our school district rebuild trust with students, parents, staff, and the community to enable us to begin to be the great district we can be.

 I have had a concern for, and a commitment to, public education for many years. The nonprofit I lead has always placed an emphasis on public-schools engagement as a great place to have a positive impact in our community. Education is critical to the future of our children and our community, and the Knox County Board of Education is responsible for establishing good policy for our public schools. Serving on the board, therefore, is a logical place to have a positive impact on the future of Knox County.

What are the two most important issues for you, and how will you address them if elected?

1) Put the focus on students and let our teachers teach: Students are much more than data, and board members must demand that they are treated as such. As a board member I will continue advocating for students by speaking with county commissioners, legislators, the community, and our business partners to help them understand the complex needs of students and public schools. I will insist that petty squabbles or any discussion that takes away from issues of importance to our students is not conducted in board meetings. 

Our board must ensure that every child receives an appropriate education which meets his or her needs, while supporting policies and programs that promote the development and well-being of all children. The board must work to attract and keep great teachers by allowing them the freedom to use their specialized skills to make instructional decisions which are in the best interests of the students in their classrooms. They need both genuine support and instructional autonomy to make the pedagogical decisions that allow them to be great educators.

2) Repair community relationships by being representative, accountable, and transparent: Government systems must be representative, accountable, and transparent at every level. A board that functions with any kind of voting bloc is none of those. We must end us-against-them games and work together. As an involved voter, I know you expect elected officials to act with integrity and fiduciary responsibility. To do that, the board must also be open and transparent in all actions.

1) The state of Tennessee has made good strides in academic growth and achievement in recent years. Knoxville has set the standard for other communities in Tennessee. The most important issue for me is continued growth in student success. We have made progress, but we still have much work to do.

 

2) There has been a great deal of conflict surrounding public education in Knoxville. My work in the community has been to bring those from broadly divergent perspectives together to address and engage some of the most pressing issues of our community. My desire is to be a consensus builder in this context, too. My goal is to be someone that helps bridge some of the divides so we can take positive steps forward. This is about the well-being of our children and the future of Knoxville. We have to keep our eyes on the most important thing, the children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you thumbs up or thumbs down on Superintendent Jim McIntyre’s departure?

Thumbs down to the circumstances around Dr. McIntyre’s departure. There has been a great deal of discussion about what the “new board” will do in the future without anyone asking potential new board members whether any of the speculation is true. As a result, this very unfair and unfounded soothsaying has cost the taxpayers a great deal of money that could have been used much more responsibly.  The decision has been made. Dr. McIntyre will be leaving in July. It is, I believe, counterproductive to focus on the past. Dr. McIntyre did some very good things for Knox County Schools and for our community. That was not, however, without controversy. Referring to my answer to the previous questions, I will work in a spirit of cooperation with other board members and select the best possible superintendent and forge a positive path forward.

What are the three characteristics you believe are most important in the next superintendent?

The next direct of schools must: (1) have extensive experience in public schools;(2) be able to understand and relate to the community with skills to enhance, rather than impede, the flow of information; and(3) have a child-centered philosophy which puts the well-being of students above all else.  I am looking for a person committed to academic excellence for all of our children. Our new superintendent should be able to communicate clearly, cast vision, and work with others in a way that they consider themselves an important part of making that vision a reality. It is also critical that this person be someone that is able to listen, gather critical data, and make hard decisions regarding what is best for our children.

For superintendent, do you prefer a local or a new set of eyes (or no preference)?

I prefer a person who has deep experience and real qualifications, from an accredited university, and a track record of working for the best interests of students.  We need to find the best person for this demanding job regardless of where we find them. We certainly should not neglect quality candidates that are close to home, but we shouldn’t limit ourselves to local individuals either.

Testing and relationships between teachers and the administration have been a source of local controversy over the last few years. What, if anything, would you change about the district’s approach on either of these topics?

The source of controversy has been less about the existence of these problems and more about the district’s refusal to acknowledge problems in any meaningful way. There is a deep culture of mistrust, which will be difficult to overcome. As a board member, my first responsibility would be to work to create actual transparency. Transparency is a great buzz word, but when parents call the central office regarding a test and they are told that it is mandated by the state, and they call the state’s Department of Education about the same test and are told that it is mandated by the district, and then they call the school and are told it’s a federal mandate, it is completely meaningless. I expect to be given real and accurate information and for that information to be shared openly and honestly with the public. Nothing less is acceptable. 

The district’s administration expended great time and resources to have “listening tours” all over Knox County. However, when people attending those sessions saw the reports they were often shocked that the final reports looked nothing like the discussions they had. This was reported by multiple participants at multiple locations.

 Much of the testing done in our schools is federal- and state-mandated. With the new ESSA legislation at the federal level there should be more control at the state and local levels, although there is considerable uncertainty about what that looks like at this time.  The new superintendent and the Knox County BOE must look closely at the amount of testing that is being done beyond what is required at the federal and state levels and determine if there is too much testing and, therefore, too much teaching to the test. There still needs to be, however, good ways to measure the progress and effectiveness in our classrooms. A balance must be achieved.              
 

 

KCS BOE Candidate Q & A from the LWV

Knox County Board of Education – District 2

Each answer was limited to 1,000 characters.

Jennifer Owen

2217 Fair Drive
Knoxville, TN 37918

Phone: (865) 919-1998

http://www.Owen4Schools.com

Email: Jennifer@Owen4Schools.com

Grant Standefer

5547 Beverly Square Way
Knoxville, TN 37918

Phone: (865) 599-9661

http://standeferforschools.weebly.com

Email: grant.standefer@gmail.com

   

Q: 1. Is the current funding for Knox County Schools adequate? If not, how would you work to correct the problem?

Current funding is not adequate for Knox County Schools or any other public schools in Tennessee. The legislature, which is responsible for funding state schools, has to understand their responsibility as well as the needs of our students. It is important for our local Board members to be able to explain our needs to our legislators and to hold them accountable for fully funding the programs and policies they mandate. For years, I have been following bills that impact our schools and looking at the fiscal note on each. When the fiscal note has been significant, I have worked to contact representatives and discuss funding with them. I believe our Board will need to really pay attention to bills as they pass through the legislature and ensure our voices are heard when programs are mandated without adequate funding. Current funding is not adequate. The average per pupil expenditures for Knox County Schools falls below the Tennessee average and significantly below schools like Oak Ridge and Maryville. With the MOU between Knox County Board of Education, the Knox County Mayor, and the County Commission, we are unable to increase funding other than by increasing growth revenue. That doesn’t leave many options, and it will force us to think creatively and collaboratively. There may be opportunities to reallocate funds from ineffective programs, and I look forward to looking closely at the budget and hearing the creative ideas that will come from the principals and teachers.  

Q: 2. If you are elected, you would be involved in choosing a new school superintendent. What are the most important characteristics you would look for in a candidate for the position, and what should, at a minimum, be a candidate’s qualifications?

I believe a successful academic leader must have appropriate experiences and qualifications that exceed the those of the people he/she manages. As the instructional leader for the community, he/she must be fully qualified to lead at all levels.

Min. qualifications should include:

  • Professional teaching license
  • Professional administrative license
  • MS in education (PhD from accredited university pref.)
  • 5yrs teaching & 5 yrs as a principal in a public school
  • 5yrs as a district level leader
  • Experience in an urban public school district
  • Skills to enhance the flow of information between parties
  • A demonstrated commitment to a child-centered philosophy
  • Proven ability to develop, administer, and transparently communicate a comprehensive budget
  • Success in obtaining & maintaining funds to enhance instruction
  • Experience integrating relevant technology into instructional plans & district budgets Success recruiting, supporting & retaining quality employees & maintaining high morale among staff
 I would be looking for a person who is committed to academic excellence for all of our children. Our new superintendent should be able to communicate clearly, cast vision, and work with others to bring about effective change to benefit every child. It is also critical that this person be someone that is able to listen, gather critical data and make difficult decisions regarding what is best for our children. In regard to a candidate’s qualification, certainly teaching experience would be important, however most candidates will not have been in the classroom for several years. Things change quickly in classroom instruction. This person, therefore, needs to be very aware of the issues facing educators and particularly knowledgeable about issues in Tennessee surrounding testing and other concerns expressed by the public. The candidate should have at least an Ed.S degree and preferably an MBA as well. The person we hire is also going to need a strong financial background.  
  Q: 3. The state is once again considering vouchers for low-income students. What is your position on vouchers?

 As a citizen, when I see my Representatives supporting and voting for vouchers, I see them abandoning public schools and their students. Public schools are already seriously underfunded by the state. Vouchers will strain local and county budgets as school districts try to make up the difference after millions are drained away from them.

Regardless of claims that school costs will decrease costs for districts, this simply makes no sense. Removing 5% of the students from a building does nothing to reduce heating and air costs, building maintenance costs, and costs of staffing.

Taking millions of dollars from public schools is not in the best interests of students. The only ones with real “choice” in these programs are the private businesses receiving the funds. Other states have had voucher programs for over ten years – and they have proven, again and again, that students remaining in their PUBLIC schools overwhelmingly perform better than those in the voucher programs.

 We have poured a great deal of money and effort into the schools with a larger percentage of low-income students, and the results have been anything but encouraging. Both those who support vouchers and those who oppose vouchers make valid and thoughtful points. What I can say with certainty is that I am willing to read, research, engage in lively discussions, and consider any approach other than maintaining the status quo for helping our low-income students get the best possible education. What we have been doing for years has not been effective, and we must consider every viable option.      
  Q: 4. At present, Knox County has only one charter school. What is your position about increasing that number?
Knoxville’s one charter school has not yet been in business long enough to evaluate its progress. It would be financially irresponsible to consider adding additional charter schools without a clear picture of how it may impact students.                We need to explore every possibility for providing a great education for our students. The charter school we have is a public school included in the Knox County School District budget. Knox County children attend this school and Knox County educators teach in it. I want them to be successful in every way. Within this charter school is a possibility to create an entirely different culture that brings about transformational change rather than just incremental change. I feel strongly that we should explore every possibility for Knox County students to get a great education. I’m not out recruiting others to submit an application for more charter schools, but I also know that if a legitimate application for a charter school is submitted that meets all the criteria and the Knox County BOE rejects the application, the State of Tennessee can overrule that decision and that school would then become the responsibility of the state. Local control of our public schools is the most desirable.

Q: 5. Who should set the educational policy and direction for Knox County, the board of education or the school administration?

This is already laid out in Tennessee state law: School boards should be responsible for setting policy and the board-appointed Director of Schools should be in charge of the day-to-day administration of the schools, as laid out in TCA 49-2-301.

In other words, the school board should govern the school system; the superintendent should administer it.

The BOE sets educational policy and direction for Knox County with the input and cooperation of the superintendent and the administrative staff of Knox County public schools.  

Q: 6. The board of education will make decisions about building new or renovating existing schools. With population growth and our school capital funding limited by current obligations, what steps would you take to assure that tax dollars are spent wisely for school construction in the future?

The decision to build a new school or renovate an existing one is a complicated matter that will be different with each project. It is important to carefully consider population trends, student access, and community needs, as well as whether renovating a current building may be more costly in the long run. Sadly, we have some buildings that have been poorly constructed and have been very costly to maintain.

In some cases, it could be more cost effective to rebuild than to keep pouring funds into a building that isn’t well-constructed to begin with. On the other hand, we have some buildings that are very solid and have been well cared for. In those cases, renovation could be a better option.

To ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely in the future, I would ask for comprehensive assessments and comparisons of all plans and carefully consider their impact.

In district 2, Inskip Elementary has more portable buildings than perhaps any other school in the county. Action needs to be taken. The decision regarding Inskip or any of our other school buildings should be made on whether or not it is more cost effective and efficient to renovate or to build new buildings.          

 


Board of Education District 3

Candidate Name: Tony Norman

Address: 3520 peachwood rd

Campaign Phone: 524-4301

Email: Tony.norman@knoxcounty.org

Q: 1. Is the current funding for Knox County Schools adequate? If not, how would you work to correct the problem?

Tony Norman: The current level of funding is more adequate if properly administered.

Q: 2. If you are elected, you would be involved in choosing a new school superintendent. What are the most important characteristics you would look for in a candidate for the position, and what should, at a minimum, be a candidate’s qualifications?

Tony Norman: Minimums; 5  classroom experience, 5 years building level experience, managerial experience with departments of the size totalling, at minimum, 20% of the size of Knox Countyyears Schools, significant experience in the development and administration of multi- million dollar budgets. On the personal level, the candidate would demonstrate and have a history of exceptional communication skills in group settings as well as one on one. A favorable review of candidates last 2 positions of employment including interviews with coworkers and with employees over which they have authority.

Q: 3. The state is once again considering vouchers for low-income students. What is your position on vouchers?

Tony Norman: All our public schools should function at the level of proficiency that vouchers are unnecessary.

Q: 4. At present, Knox County has only one charter school. What is your position about increasing that number?

Tony Norman: Although a charter school may function in some respect as r&d for KCS, I would contend that Charters generally pull funds from schools and drain those in low income areas of their best students and needed funding.

Q: 5. Who should set the educational policy and direction for Knox County, the board of education or the school administration?

Tony Norman: The Board of Education is designated by T.C.A.as the agent which has complete and absolute authority over the management and administration of Knox County Schools. School administration is the agent implementing the policies and practices determined by the board.

Q: 6. The board of education will make decisions about building new or renovating existing schools. With population growth and our school capital funding limited by current obligations, what steps would you take to assure that tax dollars are spent wisely for school construction in the future?

Tony Norman: We have administrative functions in place to assist in predicting where capital needs are. Each budget is an exercise in the prudent use of public funds. The current funding mechanism and the political reality of taxation in Knox County may require new approaches to how we develop budgets for Knox County Schools.

 


 

Knox County Board of Education District 5

Candidate Name: Lori Ann Boudreaux

Address: 10309 Tan Rara Dr. Knoxville, TN 37922

Campaign Phone: (865) 403-9493

Web Site: http://votelori.org

Email: lboudreaux@live.com

 

Candidate Name: Susan Horn

Address: 12705 Coral Reef Cr. Knoxville, TN 37922

Campaign Phone: (865) 607-9606

Web Site: http://votesusanhorn.net

Email: votesusanhorn@gmail.com

 

Candidate Name: Reuben “Buddy” Pelot

Address: 9211 Colchester Ridge Road Knoxville, Tennessee 37922

Campaign Phone: (865) 539-1429

Web Site: http://pelotforschools.com

Email: pelot4schools@gmail.com

 

Q: 1. Is the current funding for Knox County Schools adequate? If not, how would you work to correct the problem?

Lori Ann Boudreaux:

The current system in place with the Mayor/Commission provides an appropriate system of checks and balances. Lack of funding is often mentioned as a problem, but extra funding is not always a plausible solution. My priority with the school budget involves the transparent appropriation of funds. Funding must be prioritized to accommodate the classrooms, the teacher, the needs of the students, technology, support staff and etc. Since the board budget is limited, it is imperative not to waste or misuse funding. The strategic financial planning and budgeting process should include input from all the stakeholders. A partnership between the KCS System and the County Commission to set priorities will help the school system to achieve more. I have the education and experience of working on a team to mediate, facilitate and lead. This will allow the Knox County School System to advance educational priorities and achievements.

 

Susan Horn:

Additional funds that go directly into the classroom are always needed. We must encourage the governor, the General Assembly, and the TN Department of Education to fully fund the BEP. Reuben “Buddy” Pelot: While Knox County has an exemplary school system, it is apparent from what I have observed that the needs of the Knox County School system exceed currently available resources and offer students the best educational opportunities. The board must always be vigilant as stewards of hard-earned taxpayer funds. At the same time, Knox County wants to be able to offer compensation that will attract and retain the best educators. While there are factors at the state level that need to be addressed, I would evaluate whether any resources can be reallocated within the budget and work with members of Knox County Commission and the Knox County Mayor’s office to determine if additional funding can be found to help Knox County recruit and retain the best teachers, increase access to technology for students, and meet the growing needs of Knox County’s students.

 

Q: 2. If you are elected, you would be involved in choosing a new school superintendent. What are the most important characteristics you would look for in a candidate for the position, and what should, at a minimum, be a candidate’s qualifications?

Lori Ann Boudreaux:

Specific training and experience give me a unique advantage in the superintendent selection process. Progressive and multi-disciplinary education has provided me with a diverse background from the classroom to the boardroom. Over fifteen years of hands on experience in the school system in a variety of roles has enabled me to consider student, teacher, counselor, parent, and administrator perspectives. Previous superintendents have not been accepted in an overwhelming manner by all of the stakeholders. As a board member who desires to represent my community, I will do something different to move the district forward, as it is not likely to achieve different results by continuing the status quo. A successful superintendent should be a good listener and communicator who is responsive and accountable. He should foster collegiality and practice a “Platinum Rule” style of leadership compatible with leading adults and have 5 yrs. of progressive experience at the building level.

 

Susan Horn:

A superintendent must possess strong leadership and communication skills. This person must have the ability to collaborate with and satisfy the demands of the School Board, central office staff, administrators, teachers, parents, and community stakeholders. We need someone who can build consensus, inspire staff, and bring a sense of harmony to our school system. A superintendent should have vast classroom and administrative experience and possess a vision of providing students with a stimulating, engaging education that encompasses all areas of a child’s learning experience, from academics to art, music, and athletics. Reuben “Buddy” Pelot: A passion and vision for achieving excellence in public education based on significant experience in education. The ability and experience to effectively lead a large, complex group of teaching professionals and administrators in a way that enables Knox County to recruit and retain the best educators and administrators. The ability to effectively balance and administer a budget the size and complexity of Knox County Schools.

 

Q: 3. The state is once again considering vouchers for low-income students. What is your position on vouchers?

Lori Ann Boudreaux:

That is a state decision, not a Knox County School Board decision. However, as a public school system, every dollar is needed to ensure every child succeeds. The disadvantaged areas must get attention and assistance to achieve success here in our public system in order to remove the enticement of a voucher.

 

Susan Horn:

I’ve spoken with many parents and teachers in Knox County about their thoughts on vouchers. The support for these is not as strong in Knox County as it is in other parts of Tennessee such as Memphis and Nashville. We have good public schools in Knox County and have more school choice already in Knox County than in any other district in the state, through our Magnet School network. I don’t believe vouchers would be accepted by our private schools here because of the rules that come with them. And, I don’t think Knox County can afford to spread our limited public school funding beyond the schools we already support, especially with the addition of two new middle schools over the next five years.

 

Reuben “Buddy” Pelot:

The Disparities in Educational Outcomes Task Force is currently assessing and preparing strategies for addressing disproportions in academic achievement and discipline outcomes in Knox County. Depending on what is developed by that task force, I believe our community should be open to all options to immediately address the disparity and improve student proficiencies and achievement. If the state passes legislation allowing vouchers in Tennessee, then the Knox County Schools should thoroughly evaluate whether the use of vouchers would be in the best interest of Knox County’s students.

 

Q: 4. At present, Knox County has only one charter school. What is your position about increasing that number?

Lori Ann Boudreaux:

Before answering this question, I would like to conduct an evaluation of the results of this school. Unlike my opponents, I have the education and experience (doctoral program evaluation coursework) to work with the board to evaluate the Emerald Youth Charter School in the next few years.

 

Susan Horn:

Emerald Academy has been open for less than one year and I think the Board of Education made the right decision in voting not to increase their enrollment beyond the initial plan at this time. I want to see how Emerald Academy does over the next few years before we have any votes on expansion or future charter schools. Our resources should be concentrated in the schools already in place.

 

Reuben “Buddy” Pelot:

Again, I believe Knox County’s board of education should be open to all options to address achievement gaps and disparity in student outcomes. As stewards of the limited resources available for public education in Knox County, Knox County’s first charter school deserves close evaluation to determine the effectiveness of charter schools in our community and whether additional charter schools in Knox County would be in the best interest of the students of Knox County.

 

Q: 5. Who should set the educational policy and direction for Knox County, the board of education or the school administration?

Lori Ann Boudreaux:

The board sets policy of course. However, in the past with many non-educators on the board, there was a reliance on the Superintendent and central office staff to assist in policy recommendations. Again, the extensive educational background I bring to the table will help the board achieve a better independence in setting and establishing policy.

 

Susan Horn:

I think the school board and the superintendent should jointly establish the priorities and direction of the schools and it is the superintendent’s job to implement those priorities. School board members are elected representatives of the taxpayers and, therefore, should represent their views. The school board is the governing body for the school system, while the superintendent runs day-to-day operations.

 

Reuben “Buddy” Pelot:

The board of education sets the educational policy and direction for Knox County. The board is responsible for assessing the needs of the system with the assistance of community input from parents, teachers, students, administrators, voters and community leaders. The board establishes the policy and direction that provides the framework within which the superintendent and school administration then administer the system. I don’t believe the board member’s role is to micromanage; however, the board is responsible for helping to develop the vision and mission through board policy to direct, evaluate, and guide the superintendent’s performance.

 

Q: 6. The board of education will make decisions about building new or renovating existing schools. With population growth and our school capital funding limited by current obligations, what steps would you take to assure that tax dollars are spent wisely for school construction in the future?

Lori Ann Boudreaux:

Since I currently am not serving on the board, I can only make a determination from my position as a community member. As such, I do not anticipate the need for new buildings as the current board has built Carter Elementary School and Northshore Elementary School and are planning to build Hardin Valley Middle School and Gibbs Middle School. Again, I am confident with my training and work experience in schools, I can and will help the board improve their approach in working together as a team to ensure tax dollars are spent wisely.

 

Susan Horn:

One of my highest priorities is to see that funds spent directly impact student learning in the classroom. I would use the same criteria when making determinations about school construction and capital improvements. Such decisions require much due diligence and deliberation. We must be sure we are maximizing the educational impact of dollars spent.

 

Reuben “Buddy” Pelot:

Timely, thorough, and ongoing evaluation of existing student populations, school facility capacities and population trends in the county is essential. For each construction project or renovation, it is important to ensure proper systems are in place and contractors are accountable for completing projects within budget. The board should work closely with the county to find the most efficient and cost-effective means for meeting the Knox County Schools’ capital needs to provide Knox County students the best available environment for learning.


  Knox County Board of Education District 8 Candidate Name: Michael McMillan Michael McMillan: – no response