By Sally Absher
The Knox County School Board met for a Work Session on May 27 to discuss the Draft Strategic Plan. Board members Gloria Deathridge, Tom Deakins, Kim Severance, and Mike McMillan were absent.
In his Superintendent’s Report, Dr. McIntyre congratulated student representative Lucy Greer (West High) on her recent graduation. He reported that the TCAP Quick Score data was received by the district that morning. Report cards were mailed out to students in grades 3-8, with TCAP scores not included in the final grades per the waiver received from the state on May 21. The estimated cost of mailing report cards is $10K in postage, plus labor and supplies.
Indya Kincannon expressed disappointment in the TCAP score delay. She suggested the board send a letter to (Education) Commissioner Kevin Huffman to express the disappointment when he “asks us to go above and beyond as a district for our teachers and our kids all the time, and we expect nothing less from the state department, and yet we are getting less.”
She added another thing that is upsetting is the “mysterious change in BEP,” and suggested the board “also consider writing a letter from our board to our delegation and our Governor and our Commissioner,” adding, “the biggest challenge of this is the late notice.”
Karen Carson suggested that the letters not just express their disappointment (with regard to TCAP changes), but to ask for “an explanation of why it happened written in terms that every parent can understand… That lends to the credibility of whatever they did with those numbers.” She added she wants to know “how they are going to prevent this in the future.”
When asked about the waivers, Dr. McIntyre stated that the Commissioner can “waive a variety of laws pertaining to public education at his discretion based on specific need and specific request.”
The issue of teaching to Common Core standards, but using TCAP testing (which is not aligned to Common Core) for another year due to the delay of PARCC testing was discussed. McIntyre said that individual districts could explore PARCC testing in addition to, but not in lieu of TCAP testing. TCAP will be the assessment of record for accountability for next year.
Dr. McIntyre then presented the Draft 2020 Strategic Plan, with BOE small group discussions. The strategic plan consists of four main goals: Focus on Every Student; Invest in Our People; Partner with Our Stakeholders; and Embrace a Culture of Excellence. Each of these is further broken down into 3 to 4 objectives, for a total of 14 objectives.
BOE members generally agreed with the goals and objectives of the plan. Doug Harris thought there were too many objectives, and wanted to see the budget requirements for each. He said “Knox County is 51st of 95 counties in (per student) education funding.”
Unfortunately, he failed to add that Knox County is 4th of 95 counties when looking at local per student funding. Knox County has a BEP problem, not a local funding problem.
A balanced calendar (year round school) is a key component of Goal 1. There was no discussion of this at the meeting.
Carson had concerns about the role of central office, rather than principals, hiring or screening teacher applicants (Goal 2), as did many of the teachers in the audience. Kincannon raised the issue of teacher morale, turn-over and burn-out. She added that she would like to see some kind of performance target to assess if teacher morale is getting better, since “a happy teacher is an effective teacher.”
On Partnering with Stakeholders, Lynne Fugate asked “How do we find the people we want to hear from?” She said “we need outside help from people who put focus groups together.”
Check out the 2020 Strategic Plan at knoxschools2020.org. On the Strategic Plan tab, a drop down menu lists each of the four goals, with links to the video, general information, and an online survey for each goal. The plan will be tweaked based on “stakeholder input” and voted on in July. Read the draft plan information, watch the videos, and complete the surveys.
Joe Sullivan, columnist and former owner of MetroPulse, was the only Public Forum speaker. He urged the Board to seek full recovery of the approximately $10M that the Trustee’s office has been “wrongfully collecting” from the sales tax over the past 15 years. He said this fee should go to the schools, and this recovery would “come close to covering the one-time cost of a system wide roll out of the instructional technology initiative.”