We get along quite nicely; thanks.

This is being reposted from a social media conversation, regarding the budget and the relationship between the school board and county commission:

What nobody seems to want to accept, is that the “budget” the BOE “passes” in April is not the actual, final budget. It is ONLY a REQUEST and is required of every office funded by the Knox County Commission. To be able to complete all necessary steps required by law, budget REQUESTS have to be submitted before data regarding available funds is complete. (Final numbers will be available in JULY.)

The process is not the nefarious BS the media desperately wants it to be. There are some political people (not politicians, btw), who are also desperate to control the narrative and THEY are stirring the idea that there is some kind of Cas Walker-esque fist-fight brewing between the BOE and Commission.

There is not.

We get along quite nicely.

The state will not have final budget numbers for us until JULY. It has nothing to do with anyone’s feet dragging. It has to do with following the processes that are in place.

In the meantime, state budget numbers have been updated twice since the last meeting, and the administration is looking to see where those funds will best be utilized.

Final numbers COULD even make the Mayor’s recent proposal unnecessary! If that were the case, but we accepted the Mayor’s funding proposal, we could end up being committed to spending money out of reserves unnecessarily.

The entities involved in budgeting ARE talking to each other. A LOT. The media often does not bother to find that out…

I actually had a meeting with finance and accounting Friday morning. They also invited Chris Caldwell from the Knox County finance department. Though it was not at all related to any of this funding, we DID have a discussion about how easy it now is to have a discussion between entities. (And Mr. Caldwell also hand delivered updated estimates for tax revenue to our KCS finance folks.)

The groups on both sides of the street are working to make our limited funding work.

If our communities want more for our students and our schools, people have to be willing to invest more money through increased taxes, by shortchanging other entities, by shopping locally, so that tax dollars stay in Tennessee, or some other way. We cannot support all of the programs community members demand, without additional funds.

Statement from ProjectGRAD Founders

JOINT STATEMENT FROM THE FOUNDERS OF PROJECT GRAD KNOXVILLE
April 17, 2018
 
As the original founders of the Project GRAD Knoxville partnership with Knox County Schools, we want to thank the Knox County School Board for delaying its vote on the FY18 budget and for its consideration of restoring full funding to KCS’s partnership with Project GRAD.
 
For some who may not know the history, when Project GRAD (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams) started in 2001, it was the first major public-private partnership with Knox County Schools. What led to this partnership was the fact that our inner-city schools, filled predominantly with low-income students, were failing miserably with graduation rates that were less than 50 percent. As a result, college-attendance and post-secondary success by these students were almost non-existent, and at least one of our 14 inner-city schools (Maynard Elementary) was slated to be closed by the State of Tennessee. At that time, our community came together to address the specific needs of Knox County’s most vulnerable children and to turn these dismal stats around.
 
The School System and Project GRAD Knoxville jointly agreed to measurable goals from the very beginning: 1) Move graduation rates at our inner-city schools from 50 percent to more than 80 percent; 2) Push our college (and other postsecondary education) going rate to more than 50 percent of those high school graduates; and 3) Continuously improve our post-secondary completion rate. Working together, we jointly met these measurable goals by 2012, and have met or exceeded the goals almost every year since.
 
Because of the success of the Project GRAD joint effort, the Great Schools Partnership was formed to work on other partnerships with the school system, such as Community Schools, the Parents-as-Teachers Birth-to-Kindergarten program, and Leaders for Readers. Again jointly, the partners agreed to a goal of becoming the Best School System in the South; and Project GRAD Knoxville agreed to become a permanently linked supporting organization of the Great Schools Partnership to make sure there is full programmatic and financial alignment.
 
Project GRAD has been funded as a public-private partnership from its beginning. The highest costs to implement Project GRAD were in the first 5 years. Private donors agreed to cover more than 75 percent of those up-front costs and the school system agreed to cover the majority of annual costs in subsequent continuing years. In recent years, Knox County School’s $1 million annual investment in Project GRAD has leveraged an additional $1.5 million each year in private and other funding— funding that would be at great risk if the school board chooses to end its partnership with Project GRAD. All-in-all in nearly 18 years, the School System’s $18 million in funding has leveraged over $32 million in private and other support for the Project Grad partnership.
 
Project GRAD has become a symbol of hope and opportunity in our community, as everyone could see through the massive grassroots’ turnout to the April 9th Knox County School Board Workshop of more than 1,000 citizens from all walks of life—students, graduates, teachers, principals, parents, clergy, and neighborhood, business, non-profit and government leaders. Just as importantly, current 9th graders at Fulton and Austin-East have already been promised and signed four-year scholarship contracts; have been promised on-campus summer academies at Pellissippi State, the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee College of Applied Technologies; and have been promised robust family, social service, funding, college, and career supports. To end this partnership abruptly without fulfilling those promises is unacceptable.
 
It is difficult to fathom that our school board would reject the advances of the past 18 years, and unilaterally tear down the partnership bridges that have been built to increase the success rates of our most under-privileged children, with nothing proposed of relevance to replace the current joint effort. This community has made promises that need to be fulfilled to these children. In addition, the school board’s decision will impact continued and future public-private partnerships of all kinds for many years to come. We, the undersigned below, strongly urge the school board to focus on these concerns and we appreciate the school board’s action to take the time to thoughtfully consider a better resolution.
 
Sincerely, Project GRAD’s founding partners
(Please see the following page for the names of all who have signed in support of this statement.)
 
2001 Knox County Schools’ Partners
• Sam Anderson, former KCS School Board representative
• Jerry Hodges, founding executive director of Project GRAD
• Montina Jones, former KCS Vine principal
• Marion Quinn, former KCS Austin-East principal
• Michael Reynolds, former KCS Fulton principal
• Dr. Sharon Roberts, former KCS elementary principal
 
2001 Community Partners
• Gloria Deathridge, current KCS School Board
• Steve Diggs
• Takisha Fitzgerald
• Rev. Joseph Smith
• LeRoy Thompson
• Pam Trainor
• Dr. John Turner
 
2001 Business/Foundation Partners
• Chrisi Haretos (Bollinger)
• Governor Bill Haslam, who served as Project GRAD chair until he took office as governor in 2010
• Rodney Lawler
• Larry Martin, former COO of First TN Financial Services
• Larry Mauldin
• Kelly Milam
• Lila Pfleger, Executive Director of Lucille S. Thompson Family Foundation
• Bob Talbott
• Laurens Tullock
 
2001 Partnering Organizations
• Terrence Carter
• Dr. Allen Edwards, former Pellissippi State president
• Dr. Robert Levy, former University of Tennessee executive
• Alvin Nance
• Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and former director of Knoxville’s Promise – The Alliance of Youth
• Vaughn Smith

TN(still not)Ready

Once again, the Tennessee Department of Education has both failed to deliver a usable achievement test and refused to accept responsibility. The email from Commissioner McQueen to Directors of Schools makes it clear that they are blaming everything EXCEPT the department’s continued failures:

Sent: Monday, April 16, 2018 3:07 PM
Subject: RE: Update on Nextera

Directors,

Let me first express my appreciation at your patience and flexibility with the issue this morning. The issue earlier today was not related to either volume of student testers or a server issue. It was also not a problem with the test delivery system – Nextera – any network or broadband performance, nor any district action. It was not a “crash.” Our understanding from Questar is the issue was related to a conflict between the Classroom Assessment Builder (CAB) and the test delivery system, which previously shared the same log-in system. This conflict immediately caused unacceptable log-in delays for some students. That issue has been resolved, and we feel good going into testing tomorrow.

More than 20,000 test sessions have been started and/or completed since the fix was applied at 10:30 a.m., and the platform worked as anticipated in maintaining students’ progress and allowing students to complete their test despite the log-in issues.

We understand many of you suspended testing today, and we apologize for the unanticipated scheduling changes this issue may have caused. Our hope is that all testing is completed within the three-week testing window and that subpart 1 for English language arts and U.S. history is completed this week. If you believe you will need additional time, please reach out to tned.assessment@tn.gov. However, timeliness is very important to ensuring that score reports and raw scores are delivered on the original timeline.

Finally, we know many of you have experienced long wait times with Questar customer service. We have escalated this issue with them.

Please continue to reach out. Thanks for your coordination with us today.

Candice 

 

Candice McQueen, Ph.D. | Commissioner

Andrew Johnson Tower, 9th Floor 

710 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, TN 37243

p: 615-741-5158

candice.mcqueen@tn.gov

tn.gov/education

TNClassroomChronicles.org 

 

We haven’t been given any indication of what the Department of Education considers to be a “state-wide” issue, but this list of outages, compiled from Facebook posts and personal contacts, looks pretty far-reaching:

Bedford
Bledsoe
Blount
Bradley
Campbell
Carroll
Cheatham
Chester
Coffee
Cumberland
Davidson
Decatur
Dickson
Fayette
Franklin
Greene
Grundy
Hamilton
Henry
Houston
Jefferson
Knox
Lake
Lake County
Macon
Marion
Maryville City
McMinn
Milan SSD
Monroe
Putnam
Roane
Robertson
Rutherford
Shelby
Stewart
Stewart
Sumner
Tipton
Union
Washington
Weakley
Williamson 
Wilson

KCS Harassment Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The policy continues with

Harassment by any employee will not be tolerated.

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

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

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

Also included, is language similar to the employee policy:

Harassment of any student will not be tolerated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BILL FOR PARTISAN SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS

Partisan politics has no place in public education.

Please contact Representative Smith and Senator Gresham, as well as all members of the Local Government Subcommittee to let them know that you OPPOSE this legislation. (Contact information is below.)

Our kids and our public schools deserve to be represented by people who are focused on them – not on partisan political games.

Partisan School Board Elections:  House Bill 1039 / Senate Bill 582 by Eddie Smith / Delores Gresham will be heard in the Local Government Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 14 at 3:00 p.m.  This bill would require partisan elections in municipalities with a population of 100,000 or greater and in all school board elections. We urge you to reach out to your representatives and ask them to oppose this legislation.

 

Sponsors of the Bill:

Sponsor Nashville
Address
District
Address
Phone Fax Staff
Contact

Eddie Smith

rep.eddie.smith@capitol.tn.gov

301 6th Ave. N
207 WMB
Nashville, TN 37243

1508 Charles Drive

Knoxville, TN 37918

(615) 741-2031

(615) 253-0192

Zack Huff

Delores Gresham

sen.dolores.gresham@capitol.tn.gov

301 6th Ave N
Suite 308 WMB
Nashville, TN 37243

16980 Highway 64
Somerville, TN 38068
(901) 465-9433

(615) 741-2368

(615) 253-0204

Linda Klingmann
Executive Secretary

Michael Maren
Research Analyst



Local Government Subcommittee Members:

Representative

Nashville
Address

District
Address

Phone

Fax

Staff
Contact

Dale Carr

rep.dale.carr@capitol.tn.gov

301 6th Ave N
Suite 214 WMB
Nashville, TN 37243

2150 Murphys Chapel Dr.,

Sevierville, TN 37876

(615) 741-5981

(615) 253-0303

Becky
Gregory

John Crawford

rep.john.crawford@capitol.tn.gov

301 6th Ave N
Suite 20 LP
Nashville, TN 37243

904 E. Center Street
Kingsport, TN 37660
(615) 741-7623 (615) 253-0272  Matt
Bodkins

Dan Howell

rep.dan.howell@capitol.tn.gov

301 6th Ave N
Suite 110 WMB
Nashville, TN 37243

252 Chestoee Trail NW
Georgetown, TN 37336

(615) 741-7799

 (615) 253-0252 Brooke
Brennan

Larry J. Miller

rep.larry.miller@capitol.tn.gov

301 6th Ave N
Suite 36 LP
Nashville, TN 37243

1778 Overton Park Ave
Memphis, TN 38112
(901) 272-7884

(615) 741-4453

(615) 253-0329 Tuwania
Martin

Antonio Parkinson

rep.antonio.parkinson@capitol.tn.gov

301 6th Ave N
Suite 36-B LP
Nashville, TN 37243

P.O. Box 281453
Memphis, TN 38168
(901) 570-5810 

(615) 741-4575

 

(615) 253-0347

 

Vanessa
Horner

Tim Wirgau

rep.tim.wirgau@capitol.tn.gov

301 6th Ave N
Suite G-2 WMB
Nashville, TN 37243

245 Savannah Dr
Buchanan, TN 38222 

(615) 741-6804

 

(615) 253-0239

 

Pamela
McCary

 

 

 

 

 

Austin East Dancers & Knoxville Police Department Dance Off

 

KCS Enrollment Zoning Changes

Though I have not yet seen this letter, Mike Donila reports:

“In the letter sent to middle school parents and staff, Interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas said the construction of a new Gibbs Middle School and Hardin Valley Middle School could affect as many as 11 of the district’s 14 existing middle schools.”

http://www.screamsfromtheporch.com/2016/11/kcs-new-middle-schools-will-change.html

 

Dates for community meetings to get input prior to making these changes are listed below.  I hope to see you there!

  • Nov. 28 at Farragut Middle School (Hardin Valley Middle)
  • Dec. 6 at Gibbs Elementary School (Gibbs Middle)
  • Jan. 17 at Hardin Valley Elementary School (Hardin Valley Middle)
  • Jan. 24 at Holston Middle School (Gibbs Middle)

Meetings will also be held in the spring, after a zoning proposal has been formulated.

If you are unable to attend one of these meetings, please submit your ideas to:  rezoning@knoxschools.org.

TN Legislators Seek END to Adequate Funding for Public Schools

 

NOTE: This post is still in progress and is being published early to share the ridiculous things that are said in the committee meeting video at the bottom. 


The State Constitution of Tennessee has only been amended 27 times in 233 years. However, amending the State Constitution is exactly what Bill Dunn wants to do in his latest attempt to remove YOUR PUBLIC TAX DOLLARS from public schools.


Comparison between Dunn’s amendment and current Article XI, Section 12 of the Constitution of Tennessee:

HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION 493  – By Dunn

A RESOLUTION to propose an amendment to Article XI, Section 12 of the Constitution of Tennessee, relative to education.

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED NINTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that a majority of all the members of each house concurring, as shown by the yeas and nays entered on their journals, that it is proposed that Article XI, Section 12, of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by deleting the section and substituting instead the following:

The State of Tennessee recognizes the inherent value of education and encourages its support. The General Assembly as the elected representatives of the people shall provide for the maintenance, support and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools in such manner as the General Assembly may determine.

The General Assembly may establish and support such postsecondary educational institutions, including public institutions of higher learning, as it determines.

….

Section 12.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The state of Tennessee recognizes the inherent value of education and encourages its support. The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance, support and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools.

The General Assembly may establish and support such post-secondary educational institutions, including public institutions of higher learning, as it determines.


Notice who is being removed from the State Constitution: The People!

The missing phrase, “as the elected representatives of the people,” is a significant piece to remove. 

The purpose, as stated in their agenda is :Constitutional Amendments – Proposes an amendment to Article XI, Section 12 of the Constitution of Tennessee to affirm the general assembly’s sole discretion in the establishment of a system of public schools. “

In other words, if they fail to fund our public schools, and the court finds that they have failed to fund our public schools, it doesn’t matter – because it gives them “SOLE DISCRETION” and the ability to do whatever they want, however they want, and with no recourse for the people.


Replays of hearings on this bill are available below:

House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee (Dunn begins at 59:00)

Senator Roy Herron explains how this amendment removes a child’s right to an adequate public education and compares it to removing one leg from a stool, which will surely cause the stool to fall.

*Note that they have not yet gotten an opinion from the Attorney General, regarding how this amendment could really impact us, regarding equity.
Also, be sure to listen to 1:29, where Dunn claims that Vanderbilt’s study proved that Pre-K causes students to do worse in school.
THEN, he says, “When you find kids who are struggling or who can’t read, and go back to the homes and you will find people who are strung out on drugs…”
 
.

 

 

Sample Ballot for March1st, 2016

Some voters have said that they are confused by the sample ballot and can’t find their candidates on it. I have taken the sample ballot from the Knox County Election Commission site and outlined the different race headings to make them a little easier to spot. Keep in mind that your actual ballot, though long, will not have all of these categories. You will only have the primary you are voting in and your district-specific races.

Sample Ballot

 


 

SPEAK Endorsement

On February 9th, members of Students Parents Educators Across Knox County (SPEAK),  met to consider candidates’ answers to questions which had been submitted by members, regarding issues that are important to our public schools. We are proud to announce that Jennifer has been endorsed by SPEAK for District 2 Board of Education!
SPEAK Rally

SPEAK members rally in support of Knox County teachers in 2015.

Questions posed by SPEAK and the candidate answers are listed below. As always, if you would like more information about any of these answers or other issues of importance to students in Knox County Schools, please contact Jennifer and she will be glad to discuss your questions, or use the comment section at the bottom of this post!
Questions from SPEAK and answers from Jennifer Owen:

Jennifer Owen (2nd District School Board candidate) answers to the SPEAK candidate questionnaire:

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 professional license which equals or exceeds the requirements of a professional TN teaching license
  • Strong instructional experience
  • A Master’s degree in an education specialty (An earned PhD from a fully accredited university is preferred.)
  • At least 5 years of full-time, high-quality experience teaching in a public K-12 school
  • At least 5 years of full-time, high-quality experience as a principal in a public K-12 school
  • Demonstrated, in-depth, successful school leadership experience
  • Experience coaching and mentoring teachers
  • At least 5 years of full-time experience as a leader at the district level
  • A record of assembling and maintaining effective collaborative teams
  • A record of engaging the education community as well as the community at large, to work TOGETHER to create attainable, realistic, and honest goals for the district
  • A record of clear and open communication at all levels
  • A record of successfully mentoring others
  • A record of open communication with all district and community members
  • A record of creating, cultivating, and maintaining increasingly 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 between parties
  • A demonstrated commitment to a child-centered philosophy
  • Proven ability to develop, administer, and transparently communicate a comprehensive school budget which meets all federal, state, and local funding guidelines.
  • Demonstrated success in obtaining & maintaining funds for projects to enhance instruction
  • Experience analyzing & integrating relevant technology into instructional plans & budgets
  • Demonstrated success in improving and maintaining morale among a diverse staff
  • Demonstrated experience recruiting, supporting, and retaining quality employees
  • The ability to correctly define the word, “rigor,” and explain why it is not an appropriate word to ever use regarding the education of children

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.]

 

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.)

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.

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.) Word 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.

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.

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.

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.

 


 

Questions from SPEAK and answers from District 2 Candidate, Grant Standefer:

Grant Standefer (2nd District School Board candidate) answers to the SPEAK candidate questionnaire:

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

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?

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? I’m not sure why these two are mutually exclusive and why are they have been placed in juxtaposition with one another?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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.