Teacher Advisory Committee discusses evaluations

By Mike Steely


Teacher evaluations and school textbooks were the topics of Tuesday’s meeting of the Knox County Teacher Advisory Committee and Interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas said the meeting was incredibly helpful.

Thomas chaired the group, made up of 20 teachers and one assistant principal, and opened the discussion about options to the current evaluation system. He said that the “Tiger” system seems less stressful on teachers. Any new system adopted by the school board would be for future use, not the current year.

“Or perhaps you want to customize ours, just for Knox County,” the interim superintendent said.

He called on Dr. Rodney Russell, Director of Human Capital Strategy for the school system, to act as coordinator for coming up with an evaluation system based on the Advisory Committee’s suggestions.

Russell asked the advisory group for volunteers and the interim superintendent will nominate some of those to a subcommittee. The working subcommittee would then report back with suggestions on a new evaluation process.

Board of Education member Terry Hill and Chair Patti Bounds watched the meeting and Hill suggested that the evaluation subcommittee be compensated for their time while they work on a plan.

The room discussed the inconsistencies in evaluating teaching and non-teaching positions and being evaluated by people who are not familiar with a specific subject. Also suggested was ending the numerical ratings of teachers.

The discussion then turned to textbook needs and several teachers said that many subject textbooks are old and “falling apart.” Others noted that the textbooks don’t work well in their classrooms and they don’t use them.

Other teachers commented on the need to create their own texts by copying pages but noted there’s now a restriction on the number of copies teachers can make. Others said they use textbooks but there are not enough books for each student to use one.

“We must allocate resources for textbooks,” Thomas said, noting that he will consider adding extra funds for books in the budget request to county commission. He also noted that many textbooks are now available online but added that some students don’t have internet access and going to a library every day to do their homework online is inconvenient.

One teacher said that the state requires a textbook for each student and teachers are required to sign off on that each year, but many do so knowing they don’t have the books needed.

Updated books, more input with the Textbook Selection Committee, and allowing local schools more power in deciding how their budgets can be used were all requested.

“This speaks volumes about our teachers,” Thomas said, adding, “Imagine what we could do with the appropriate resources.”

Speaking about what he heard from the advisory group Thomas said, “It was jarring and a bit depressing.”

“It makes me really focused and determined,” he commented.

He then asked the teachers to consider a choice, given that the county commission probably won’t raise property taxes to fund schools. He asked them to consider choosing between a 4% raise or a 3.2% raise with additional funds for classroom resources.

He told the educators that he’s asked his staff to look at one-on-one technology, the effectiveness of teacher coaches, the pre-K program and whether or not Summer School programs work well.