The Knox County primary elections are upon us. Early voting begins April 16 in this odd kind of election year. The contests that are drawing the most interest are the school board races, primarily because of the controversies surrounding Superintendent James McIntyre. The incumbents are all McIntyre supporters, and all have drawn opposition.
First District challengers Marshall Walker and Robert Boyd are able guys who know their way around schools (Boyd has taught on the college level; Walker is a retired school social worker) but seem slow to get off the blocks.
Contrary to what a lot of people probably think, Ed Harvey never met my brother John. Not that he knew of, anyhow.
Even though John put Eddie in the Prank Call Hall of Fame (if there’s not such a thing, there should be) when he called him up in the late ’70s to complain about buying a bad oil filter at Eddie’s Auto Parts, the two were never formally introduced, and John was long dead by the time the tapes went viral in 1987. (Note: Viral was not a word we would’ve thought to use back in the day.)
Before the summer is over, the school board will approve the district’s first charter school.
Last week, Steve Diggs (executive director of the Emerald Youth Foundation, an organization that he helped found in 1988 as an inner-city youth ministry that has done immense good work with disadvantaged children in the years since) formally announced that Emerald Charter Schools will submit an application for a tuition-free, K-8 public school, to be called Emerald Academy, on April 1. The school board will vote it up or down before the start of next school year.
Hardly anyone in Knox County has poured more time, work and love into a school than Mari Brooks at West High School, which she believes is the last, best hope for a better future for a significant portion of its students.
“I am a devout believer in public education,” she said. “It is the foundation of our nation, and it’s where kids learn to live in the real world. We’ve got kids born in 33 different nations at West and everything from the lowest socioeconomic group to the highest and everything in between. At West High School, you can excel no matter what your background.”
Mark Taylor has become the second Knox County educator to challenge the constitutionality of the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System for teacher evaluations.
The Tennessee Education Association filed a lawsuit on Taylor’s behalf in federal court last week charging Gov. Bill Haslam, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and the Knox County Board of Education with violating Taylor’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection from “irrational state-imposed classifications” by using a small fraction of his students to determine his overall effectiveness.
Last summer, shiny happy school board members gathered around Superintendent James McIntyre to cheer the announcement that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was giving Knox County Schools a humongous grant to help figure out how to spend taxpayer money. It was festive.
Nobody was rude enough to correct McIntyre’s math when he said it was a $1.2 million Gates grant, when in fact $840,000 came from Gates and the other $360,000 in equal amounts from the Knox County-subsidized Great Schools Partnership and from Knox County Schools. And nobody mentioned that the Parthenon Group – the Gates-approved, Boston-based business consultant chosen to create the “Smart Spending” plan along with its subcontractor Education Resource Strategies – is known for recycling the same advice in different school districts, so there wasn’t much mystery about what the recommendations would be.
Time is running out on the open enrollment period to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
The deadline is Monday, March 31, and local residents can find information on the city of Knoxville website at www.cityofknoxville.org/AffordableCareAct, as well as at healthcare.gov, the federal government website. Or call 1-800-318-2596.
Fourth District incumbent Lynne Fugate is one of schools superintendent James McIntyre’s strongest allies. She is in her second year as school board chair and is seeking to be elected to a second term.
Fugate is sitting pretty, money-wise, reporting a balance-on-hand of nearly $18,000 at the end of the last reporting period, on Jan. 31. Her list of financial supporters is long and impressive, studded with the names of some of Knoxville’s most powerful citizens. She raised much of her war chest at a January fundraiser at the home of Ann Haslam Bailey, including a $1,000 contribution from James Haslam II, also a strong McIntyre supporter.