By Sally Absher

Students Lack Volunteer Hours for Tennessee Promise Scholarship Program.  Only one in four students planning to participate in the Tennessee Promise scholarship program has completed the volunteer work needed to remain eligible.

If the students don’t complete and submit their hours by August 1, they will no longer be eligible for the scholarship program, which offers new high school graduates a tuition-free ticket to community and technical colleges.

How much volunteer time is required? Eight hours. Eight (8) hours, total. And three quarters of those planning to attend college under the Tennessee Promise program haven’t managed to complete eight hours of volunteer time.

The Tennessean reports ( ) that the approaching deadline has triggered “a campaign of constant communication” from officials, according to Mike Krause, executive director of Tennessee Promise.

Krause said he and his staff are flooding the more than 31,500 eligible students with text messages and emails encouraging them to finish their community service during their summer break.

The state is pointing students toward remaining chances to volunteer. On July 18, every state park is holding special community service events for Tennessee Promise students. In the Nashville area, Students will have the opportunity to paint at Bicentennial Capitol Mall, clear honeysuckle bushes from Harpeth River State Park and build a log cabin at Bledsoe Creek State Park, for example.

“This is a win-win,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement. “It’s a great way for our Tennessee Promise students to fulfill their community service requirements while enjoying and improving our state parks and probably learning a little bit more about our state in the process.”

Students can find other options through their community colleges or tnAchieves, an organization that partnered with the state to guide Tennessee Promise students in 84 counties through the process.

Law Director Clarifies Role of Board of Education in Teacher Non-renewals. In response to a “vigorous public forum” at the July 1, 2015 BOE meeting regarding non-renewal of a teacher’s contract, Knox County Law Director Bud Armstrong issued a July 2 memorandum to the Board delineating the power they have with regard to this issue.

In stating that the School Board has absolute authority over the operation of the schools in its district and over its employee, the superintendent, Armstrong cited T.C.A. § 49-2-203 . Duties and powers:

“It is the duty of the local board of education to…Manage and control all public schools established or that may be established under its jurisdiction…”

Armstrong further cited the Supreme Court case of Howard v Bogart, 575 S.W.2d 28 1 , 1 979 Tenn. LEX I S 41 1 (Tenn. 1979):

“The county board of education is the supreme authority in school matters within the county, and the superintendent (now director) of schools is subservient to the board…In hiring and discharging school personnel the board is supreme and may take such action alone, over the objection of the superintendent (now director of schools).

Armstrong concludes, “The Board has absolute authority, in its discretion, to review any non-renewal or any other personnel matter that is brought to the attention of the Board. The Board may implement any procedure and take such action as the Board deems proper.”

So, now the ball is in the hands of the School Board. We trust you will proceed with discernment, as each teacher non-renewal is a unique situation and should be considered separately.

Update on Pending Lawsuit on the December 2 Fatal Bus Wreck. The News Sentinel (My Kid My School) reported last week  that the wrongful death lawsuit filed last month has been amended to add the school system, bus contractor Fawver Buses and Fawver driver Joe Gallman – who was driving the bus the three victims rode – to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that Knox County Schools demonstrated a “systemic failure” of its student transportation system in the December 2 bus crash that killed two Sunnyview Primary School students and a teacher’s aide.

Ukennia Arinze, the mother of 6-year-old Zykia Burns who was killed in the crash, said in the lawsuit that she “adopts fully” Superintendent Dr. McIntyre’s statement that “ultimately” it is the school system’s responsibility to make sure transportation is safe, efficient and effective for students.

She contends that “the track record of defendant Knox County Schools in failing to monitor and oversee properly the compliance of its private contractors in transporting Knox County’s most precious cargo, its student citizens, demonstrates a systemic failure of the Knox County Student transportation system as a whole.”

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and up to $12 million in damages.