Trusting Buzz: The future of Vine Middle

Sandra Clark

Parents and community leaders will learn soon what Knox County Schools proposes for Vine and the other middle schools forced to rezone following construction of new schools at Gibbs and Hardin Valley.

Here’s guessing that Vine will be OK.

A year ago, things looked grim. Political consideration, not overcrowding, led to construction at Gibbs, and it was hard to see how both Holston and Vine middle schools could survive the loss of 300-400 students to rezoning. Both were (and are) already under capacity.

But Vine got three breaks:

■ The Revs. John and Donna Butler attended all six rezoning meetings and wisely built a case for neighborhood schools;

■ Superintendent Jim McIntyre unexpectedly resigned and the school board selected Buzz Thomas as interim superintendent; and

■ The black community rallied behind the Butlers and packed the house at both Holston and Vine public meetings.

Near the end of the two-hour meeting at Vine, Thomas addressed the crowd: “This is not our last meeting,” he said. “We have absolutely no plans to close any of our schools. … You have no reason to trust me. … I promise you a proposal by the end of February. I have to earn your trust, and we will try to prove to you that we did listen.”

Not the words of a man who will propose to close Vine Middle.

Speakers said Vine-area kids are being bused to South-Doyle; Holston kids bused to Carter.

Former commissioner Sam McKenzie: “Are you considering populating Gibbs to less than capacity?” Thomas: “Yes.”

Thomas: “It is patently unfair to put the busing burden on one race or ethnicity.”

Note: The school board will be updated on the “disparities in educational outcomes” examination currently underway at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, in the board room of the Andrew Johnson Building. All are invited.

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