October Board of Education Meetings Yield Unexpected Outcomes
By Sally Absher
The Board of Education sped through their regular meeting agenda in under an hour last week, thanks in part to deferring two Board Policies and tabling a controversial document defining communication and information requests for the Board.
At Monday’s work session, Karen Carson asked for personal privilege to defer the approval of the first reading of Board Policy GBG “Non Tenure” as amended. And on Wednesday, Doug Harris said the Law Department had requested a 30 day deferral on the second reading of Board Policy JCAC “Random Searches for Dangerous Weapons” as amended.
As Doug Harris explained at the work session, the Information and Communication Request document “arose out of our Board Retreat. I think it’s obvious that we’re not all on the same page on our communication regarding how we’re supposed to work with the staff and Dr. McIntyre, so I asked Dr. McIntyre to put together a rough draft of some of the items that we had that we worked off previously, and then I made some edits to it.”
Once again, Harris cedes BOE authority to the Superintendent. The “some of the items that we had that we worked off previously” refers to the infamous Superintendent Side Agreement, which Knox County Law Director Bud Armstrong said in an August 27, 2014 Memorandum, was “unenforceable and not binding on the Board of Education and its Members.”
Several Board members, noting the similarities, voiced their concerns at Wednesday’s meeting. Mike McMillan said, “There are parts of this that look very similar to what we had in place for several years, and decided to dispense with…I just think it is an unnecessary item and I’m not going to vote for it.”
Amber Rountree added, “As Board members we have to have access to as much information as possible and I have concerns about this body voting in any document that would imply to the public or otherwise that our flow of information may be stifled…”
Terry Hill said, “This does sound like what was in place before the new Board came….Some Board members have requested information say, from the law department, not knowing that others were requesting the same information – I get that we need some clarification with that, but I think this is going way beyond that. I am very reluctant to relinquish any authority that the Board might have to a document like this.”
Karen Carson commandeered the meeting back on track, saying, “I think the purpose is to address communication, trust, and resource allocation. Those are the issues that bubble up. We can pass any kind of document, but if everyone doesn’t agree to it, if it’s not a 9-0 vote, it really doesn’t matter, if we don’t all agree… The issues of communication, trust, and resource allocation have to be addressed by this board in discussion so we can reach some agreement or clear understanding of how we are going to operate.”
She then made a motion that the document be tabled and that the Board address the issues of trust, communication, and resource allocation in one of the upcoming mid-month work sessions. The motion was approved unanimously. Tabling the document takes it off the agenda, effectively killing it.
One agenda item that surprisingly received unanimous approval, was a one year suspension of Board Policy IHAC “Integration of TCAP Scores in Student Grades” to allow for the exclusion of quick scores in course grades for the 2015-2016 school year.
The state Department of Education has indicated that the new TNReady assessment quick scores will not be ready within the required timeframe for the fall and spring semester report cards, and offered districts a waiver so they wouldn’t have to comply with the requirement that scores be included in students grades.
Carson went one step further than supporting the waiver by suggesting that the Board work with the legislature to repeal the requirement to include quick scores in student grades. “I don’t think student test scores should impact student grades. I cannot find any benefit to it. I think it’s time for this board to lead at the state level and work with our legislators.”
Harris asked Lauren Hopson what she thought about Carson’s recommendation. She said, “I think taking the lead on legislation is a FABULOUS idea.… I think that originally TEA (the TN Education Association) did have some support for it because like everybody else, they felt it might provide students with some motivation, and if teachers are going to be held accountable to test scores, the kids should be too. But it hasn’t worked out that way… As KCEA president I would love to work with you on getting some legislation together.
Unfortunately, nothing was said about waivers for including student test scores in teacher evaluations. Still, it was a larger victory than anticipated.
Another concern brought up at Monday’s work session was the scheduled testing window for EOC tests for high school students. The testing window this fall begins on November 2, the beginning of week 12 of instruction; and ends on November 20, the end of week 14 of instruction. Public Forum speaker Louise Povlin addressed this on Wednesday.
After addressing the use of calculators in elementary school, Povlin said, “Am I to understand that the curriculum for these courses is now required to be compressed from 18 weeks to 12 – 14 weeks? What exactly do my children attend school for, to receive an education, or to take assessments? It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the two are mutually exclusive.”
“I can’t help but wonder why this Board is not outraged by this. As the parent of a Knox County student, I am. It is unclear to be from the quick score vote you just took whether it applies to high school assessments. Results of these state exams should not be used in a high school student’s GPA. An end of course exam, developed by Knox County, and given at the ACTUAL end of the course should be the only grade used in a high school student’s GPA.” (watch the video here: https://youtu.be/dRkWw-uBRbM)
Parents who agree need to contact their BOE members.