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.
First District County Commissioner Sam McKenzie is one of Schools Superintendent James McIntyre’s most reliable allies. A certifiably smart guy with a master’s degree in physics, McKenzie has supported McIntyre’s budget requests and repeatedly reminded colleagues that running the schools is not their job.
Jennifer Nagel’s 7-year-old daughter spent her snow days reading a book. That might not sound like a big deal, but to Nagel, it’s almost miraculous, because reading has been an ordeal for her daughter, who has an undiagnosed learning disability. Nagel says her daughter’s teacher has been very helpful, but the school system has not. So she started looking for solutions on her own.
Almost by accident, she found a critically acclaimed series of books co-written by actor Henry Winkler and the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity for and about dyslexic kids – who knew the Fonz has a master’s degree from Yale, and dyslexia?
The 6th District for both school board and county commission stretches from Amherst to Hardin Valley, from Karns to Norwood and Pleasant Ridge, swooping up to Ball Camp and Byington-Solway and Karns.
These disparate communities are bound together in a newly configured district, previously represented by Cindy Buttry and Thomas Deakins, who were squeezed out when district lines were redrawn. Buttry bowed out in 2012, and Deakins will not stand for re-election this year.
When President Barack Obama touched down in Nashville last month to continue his State of the Union message about career-oriented education, he went out to McGavock Comprehensive High School, which has been redesigned as an “Academies of Nashville” model school with the help of a federal School Improvement Grant and the assistance of local businesses and industries. His message, boiled down to its essence, was this:
“A quality education shouldn’t be something that other kids get. It should be something that all our kids get.”