By Sally Absher

State Attorney General Re-Affirms Prior Opinion on KCS Superintendent’s Contract

Last Wednesday, the Knox County Law Department forwarded a letter from the State Attorney General’s office to the School Board and County Commission. In that letter, the AG re-affirmed his prior opinion regarding the Knox County BOE Contract with the Director of Schools.

The letter notes, “The prior opinion was addressed and answered by the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Heatherly v Campbell County Bd. Of Educ., 2005 Tenn. App. LEXIS 144, which essentially confirms our 2001 Attorney General Opinion No. 01-102.”

Although the letter cites Heatherly, the more relevant document is the AG’s original ruling the 2001 AG Opinion, which addresses the broader question of whether a BOE may extend the term of such a contract at all, if that contract isn’t close to its expiration date. Here is the explanation of why the AG answered NO in the 2001 opinion:

“The Education Improvement Act (92 Tenn. Pub. Acts Ch. 535) established a uniform system of accountability to the public for what is happening in the schools. The EIA replaced a hodge-podge of systems for governing schools with the single system of school boards elected for staggered four-year terms who hire superintendents under contract for terms of up to four years. The superintendent answers to the Board who answer to the electorate. By providing that new board members may be elected two years into a four-year contract with a Director of Schools, the statutory scheme contemplates that the electorate will have an opportunity to express its satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the decision and conduct of the superintendent who was selected by the previous board.

If the school board, who hired the superintendent, could extend the term of the contract, that Board has effectively put the superintendent’s evaluation and continued employment beyond the accountability and control of any new board members elected two years following the selection of the superintendent.”

Furthermore, the AG stated, “The Board’s action in October 1999 extending the Director’s four-year contract by two years… is illegal and therefore must be treated as a nullity.”



Great Schools Partnership Awards TeacherPreneur Grants to Area Teachers

The Great Schools Partnership surprised 12 teachers last Thursday in “Publisher’s Clearing House” style for their winning submissions to the Knox County Schools’ TeacherPreneur grant program, a joint project of Great Schools Partnership (GSP) and the Knox County Schools’ Office of Innovation.

The TeacherPreneur grant program encourages educators in the KCS to be creative problem solvers; it builds and celebrates the instructional capacity of educators, and improves the quality of teaching to directly benefit students. The funds awarded to each teacher will help them turn ideas for improving instruction into realities inside their classrooms. A total of 45 proposals were submitted, and from these, twelve were chosen as having the most potential to positively impact student learning and success.

The grant amounts differ greatly, but range from $1,550 to just over $49,000 for a total $154,687.79 in grants from the Great Schools Partnership; $85,000 of which is being provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Awardees include:

• Catherine Bell (Fulton High): $1,710.70 to help CDC-A students learn life skills by developing a school coffee shop

• Tommie Branscum (Green Magnet Academy): $2,831.87 for blending the elementary Genius Hour and Makerspace

• Frank Chen (Hardin Valley Academy): $1,550 for the expansion of the language learning lab

• Jordan Haney (Rocky Hill Elementary): $2,257.87 for student produced music to teach language arts

• Victoria Henderson and Julie Cabbage (South Knoxville Elementary): $10,000 for Elementary STEM Makerspace

• Amber Hodge (Rocky Hill Elementary): $7,819 for the redesign of elementary school classrooms

• Sarah Kerstetter (Farragut Intermediate): $1,202.13 for the use of an aeroponic system in science instruction

• Katie Lutton (Central High): $16,350 to develop new a ELL curriculum for students with limited formal education

• Tiffany Nicely (Karns Elementary): $20,700 for the use of student-produced videos for learning

• Dominique Nichols (Gresham Middle): $16,100 for the redesign of In-School-Suspension

• Jennie Randolph (serving Carter, Farragut, Karns and Vine Middle): $49,160.22 for mobile Makerspace

• John Tilson (Hardin Valley Academy): $25,000 for the purchase of STEM Makerspace


Elementary Schools Receive PeyBack Foundation Donations

Last week, representatives from 14 high-needs Knox County schools gathered in the library at Beaumont Magnet Academy to formally accept gift cards from Peyton Manning’s PeyBack Foundation to provide gas assistance to families during the holidays. Staff distributed the cards to their schools’ families before winter break begins.

The gas cards benefit families from the following Knox County elementary schools: Beaumont Magnet Academy, Belle Morris, Christenberry, Dogwood, Green Magnet Academy, Inskip, Lonsdale, Maynard, Norwood, Pond Gap, Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy, Spring Hill, South Knoxville, and West View.

This year’s donation from the PeyBack Foundation is valued at $15,000; bringing the total donated to the Knox County Schools over the past eight years to more than $140,000.

Peyton Manning established the PeyBack Foundation in 1999 to promote the future success of disadvantaged youth by assisting programs that provide leadership and growth opportunities for children at risk. Since its inception, the PeyBack Foundation has made an impact of more than $10 million through its grants and programs for at risk youth in Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana and Tennessee.


Cassandra Dowd Named State Assistant Principal of the Year

Cassandra Dowd, assistant principal of Bearden High School, has been named the State Assistant Principal of the Year by the Tennessee Association of Secondary School Principals.  Designated a state winner in the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) National Assistant Principal of the Year program, Mrs. Dowd is eligible for consideration to be named the National Assistant Principal of the Year.

Mrs. Cassandra Dowd earned a B.A. in English Education from Trevecca University and a M.A. in Instructional Leadership from Tennessee Technological University.  She started her career as an English Teacher in Blount County in 1996 and became an assistant principal there in 2007.  She joined Knox County as an assistant principal at Bearden High in 2013.

Mrs. Dowd has worked with 9th grade students throughout her career and strives to make this transition year a success for all students.  She believes in building relationships with students and holding them accountable to help them achieve their potential.  She is married to David Dowd, and they have two children, Callie and Will.