Karen Latus teaches Spanish at Bearden High School, but her mission is to help kids learn life skills.
“I consider Spanish the platform for what I do, but in the end I’m in the classroom to help kids grow up. We’re learning about how we interact with each other and how we manage our emotions and how we deal with conflict. For me, that’s what it’s about,” she said.
The school year is limping toward the finish line with much unresolved.
The last-minute ditching of the year-end tests, ironically known as TNReady (and before that, TCAP), has angered and confused parents from Memphis to Mountain City, and here at home, the impending superintendent swap of James McIntyre for interim Buzz Thomas will happen against a backdrop of long-running turmoil at schools like Bearden High as controversy over the once-stellar girls softball program enters year two.
Last season, they were Bulldogs. This season they are Tennessee White Lightning, playing teams along North Georgia’s I-75 corridor from Dalton down to Marietta.
The team is composed primarily of former Bearden High School student athletes who resigned from school’s softball team after their coach was summarily fired last year. This year, they are playing travel ball with the North Georgia ASA under former Bearden coach Leonard Sams and assistant coach Adam McKenry. So far, their record is 5-1-1 against tough competition.
Thirteen of 15 players from last year’s Bearden High School softball team have quit in support of their coach, Leonard Sams, who was forced out after last year’s first-ever trip to the state tournament.
Parents, players and the coach himself are asking why. Answers are absent.
Confetti flew when Gov. Bill Haslam brought the state commissioner of education to Carter Middle School on Aug. 3 to celebrate last year’s test scores. Haslam said Carter Middle had gone from a “Level 1” to a “Level 5” in one year, and Knox County was labeled “an exemplary district.”
But no one mentioned the soft spots in this “exemplary” status.
For instance, Bearden High School plummeted from “Level 5” to “Level 1” in a year. Even a month later parents of Bearden High kids had not been told.
Bearden High School students and parents didn’t lament the possible loss of long, leisurely summers during principal John Bartlett’s discussion of Knox County Schools’ proposed balanced calendar.
There was little reaction, aside from a few questions about specifics, to the idea that the 2016- 2017 school calendar could have two-week fall, winter and spring breaks and an eight-week summer break. There would still be 180 instructional days.