By Amy Box Fellhoelter
After a moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, an explanation was given as to the purpose of the Knox County Board of Education executive session by Mr. Gary Dupler of the Law Department. The executive meeting, which occurred thirty minutes prior to Wednesday night’s work session, was for board members and the law department to discuss pending litigation.
After the agenda was approved, Superintendent Bob Thomas began his report with applauding those involved with the Knox County coupon book sales, referencing that nine dollars returns to every school for each book sold. Thomas congratulated both Sequoyah Elementary School as a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, and Powel High School Principal Dr. Chad Smith for receiving the 2019 Principal of the Year Award for the state of Tennessee. He then announced fall break October 7-11, 2019, and made great emphasis for students to read during this week.
One main focus of the October session was the introduction of the 2019-2020 Teacher Advisory Council. Council members in attendance came forward to shake hands with the superintendent and Board Chairperson Susan Horn before gathering together for a photo. New to the council are members Elishia Basner, Sherry Fischbach, Anthony Hancock, Michelle Staal, Dave Brooks, and Douglas James. Those serving the council for a second year were recognized as members August Askins, Rachel Evans, Stephanie Lewis, Lucius Irvin, Whitney Parson, Stacey Reece, Lynn Shuryan, and Laurie Smith. Third year members were presented as Tanya Coats, Dr. Michelle Keaton, Amy Cox, Megan Christian, Natalie Dowling, Tiffany Holmes, and Ali Umbarger.
The announcement of a $500 TVA Employee Credit Union grant to Beaumont Magnet Academy was added as item 10-F to the Oct. 16, 2019, BOE regular session meeting agenda.
One agenda contract that served up discussion was regarding the approval of the Interagency Agreement with the Knoxville Police Department, Knox. Co. District Attorney General’s Office, Knox County Juvenile Court, Tennessee Department of Children Services, Knox County Sheriff’s Department, UT Police Department and the Helen Ross McNabb for participation in the Serious Habitual Offender Comprehensive Action Program. Although this contract has been in effect for the past 20 years, it was added to the agenda because of a change made in the addition of FERPA which protects the privacy of a student’s educational information.
Tony Norman asked, “Will there be access to information for teachers of a student who is a serious habitual offender? Do teachers receive a protective layer for habitual offenders?” He was assured by Knox County Schools Chief Operating Officer Russ Oaks that teachers will be made aware of any such condition. Russ replied, “For those who are enrolled, we should make that information available to the teachers. If there is a need or specific threat that needs to be addressed, then we can put measures in place to address those particular students.”
Kristi Kristy questioned Contract 5 which is an agreement with Carson Newman University to develop administrative leaders in the Knox County School system through using the Aspiring Leader program at a cost of $21,800 using Aspiring Principal Program (APP) general purpose funds. Discussion formed around Carson Newman University being one of many higher education institutions which provide the professional administrator licensure. KCS Director of Human Capital Strategy Dr. Rodney Russell answered questions on behalf of the leadership development program and the Leadership Academy. Upon acceptance into CNU, it usually takes a candidate three years to complete the APP. The APP funds would provide the first four courses free of charge helping defray the costs of the program.
Patti Lou Bounds asked, “Why use CNU?”
Russell explained, “It is to Knox County’s advantage to have multiple partnerships. This program expands it,” stating the leadership development program allows the school system to identify current KCS teachers or administrators who have leadership talents and abilities and to encourage them to apply to the program as opposed to hiring people outside of the district.
“Since we are providing this, are there any stipulations, assuming that they complete it, that they have to stay with Knox County for any specific time? From a personal standpoint, I would like to see something to provide an incentive that they stay. I think they should. If accepted, then it should be a minimum of three years from the time they attain the certification,” said Mike McMillian. Russell stated that clause could be included into the program details if the board and superintendent agree. Chairperson Horn declared the agenda item should be added to a work session for further discussion.
Norman then questioned the language in explaining the zero-tolerance policy under the state law regarding the resend of policy J-194. The policy states that it only applies if a bodily injury occurs. “I’m just serving this up as a warning. Any type action that intends to do harm to anyone in our system should be severely punished, if not zero tolerance. It should be very serious,” declared Norman. Jennifer Owen added, “repeated behaviors and those that are sever, that are not zero tolerance, are covered in our Misbehaviors and Disciplinary Options Policies. It gives administration a lot of leeway in how to use those.”
A question from Virginia Babb was asked in regards to the use of money for Grant A – a Tennessee DOE McKinney-Vento Homeless Grant in the amount of $63,000 for the current school year. Ex. Dir. of Student Support Services Jason Myers explained how the federal grant using Title 10 provides stabilization for students who are homeless by way of tutoring, transportation, materials, clothing, and a homeless liaison employee.
Regular agenda Item F was questioned by Evetty Satterfied on the use of the Sam E. Hill building to be opened to the community for recreational purposes. Oaks explained the intent is to have the playground area available to the community through procedures that charge fees for the facility similar to an agreement between Christenberry Elementary School and the community.
Agenda Item G was removed at the request of the county because of ongoing negotiations with TVA.
Lastly, Satterfield congratulated three Austin-East female students attending UT this fall, Norman asked for an evaluation of the BOE retreat from each of the BOE members, and Bowden congratulated Sequoyah E.S., and thanked Stephanie Welch for her hard work for the Great Schools Partnership.
To learn more about the Aspiring Principal Program, visit: https://www.knoxschools.org/Page/18574.
The next regular session of the BOE will be held Oct. 16, 2019, due to the Knox County Fall Break. To watch the Oct. 2, 2019, BOE work session or download its agenda, visit: knoxschools.org/kcstv.
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By Amy Box Fellhoelter