By Sally Absher

It’s Budget Time for the Board of Education

The Knox County Board of Education will hold its mid-month work session on Wednesday, March 23, at 5 pm in the Boardroom on the first floor of the Andrew Johnson Building (912  Gay Street). This month’s mid-month meeting will focus on discussion of the preliminary FY 2017 General Purpose Budget, Capital Improvement Plan, Plan for Spending Accumulated Capital Savings, and School Nutrition Fund Budgets.

The full agenda and available supporting documentation are available on the Board of Education page of the KCS website, The mid-month work session will be broadcast live on Comcast Cable Channel 10 and streamed live at


U.S. Senate Votes to Confirm John King as Secretary of Education

Last week the Senate voted to approve the nomination of Dr. John King Jr. to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education. Former Principal Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education, who worked under Dr. King in New York, had this to say, “John B. King’s strong support for Race to the Top reforms resulted in a costly experiment riddled with problems when he led New York. King is an unapologetic proponent of the Common Core, evaluating teachers by student test scores, student data collection, and Common Core testing. He will only bring more of the same to the nation.”

Tennessee’s senior senator doesn’t see any problems though, and believes that Congress will be successful in holding Dr. King accountable. Senator Alexander issued the following remark after the confirmation vote was held, “We need an education secretary confirmed by and accountable to the United States Senate so that the law fixing No Child Left Behind will be implemented the way Congress wrote it.”

“This is such an important year for our nation’s 100,000 public schools. We are working to implement a new law that reverses the trend toward a national school board and restores to those closest to children the responsibility for their well-being and academic success. That’s why, in December, I urged the president to send to the Senate a nominee for education secretary—and I’m glad there’s now someone confirmed and accountable to Congress as we implement this new bipartisan law that represents such a dramatic and important change in direction for federal education policy for 50 million children and 3.4 million teachers in 100,000 public schools.”

Senate Education Chairman Alexander has said that the Senate’s education committee will hold at least six oversight hearings on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act this year, saying, “A law is not worth the paper it is printed on unless it is implemented the way Congress wrote it.” Hope springs eternal from the beltway crowd…


Latest Knox County Bus Wreck

It was reported last week that a Knox County School bus driver has been charged with DUI, reckless endangerment and simple possession after he wrecked his bus with 26 students on board.

Hollis Walker, 78, a driver with Mayes Bus Lines, was taking a group of Green Magnet Academy students to Safety City when he lost control of the bus. After hitting the entrance gate with the mirror of the bus, he crossed a grassy area near the entrance to Safety City, sideswiped a fence, and finally came to stop in the parking lot.

No children were injured, and they were taken inside for safety. Walker was found by medical personnel slumped over the steering wheel and incoherent, according to police reports. He was taken to Ft. Sanders Regional Medical Center, where he was admitted for treatment. Following release from the hospital, he was booked in the Knox County Detention Facility and charged.

Walker was in possession of a bottle of Klonopin pills, an anti-anxiety medication used to treat panic attacks, seizures, and other disorders. The prescription, which was not in his name, had been filled that morning. 69 of the 90 pill Rx were in the bottle.

Superintendent Jim McIntyre said in a statement last Monday “Hollis Walker was immediately removed from our bus driver eligibility roster following the March 10 incident at Safety City, and remains ineligible to drive a school bus.” McIntyre further stated that he would be removed from the eligibility roster permanently if found guilty of the current charges.

This is another in a series of bus wrecks since the fatal wreck in December 2014 that killed two students and a teacher’s aide. There have been at least 16 lawsuits filed in conjunction with that wreck.


Tate’s Middle School Introduces New Drone Curriculum

Tate’s School has announced that they have integrated a unique and practical initiative to engage middle school students with emerging technology; the Drone Pilot Program (DPP). As a part of Tate’s advanced technology curriculum, the DPP is designed for 6th & 7th Graders and teaches students to understand the theory behind Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flight operation as well as the ability to apply that knowledge in real time flight scenarios.

The architect and instructor of the course is Dr. Donald Gunter, the former Director of Standards and Evaluations for Boeing UAV Training.  Students will benefit from his extensive aviation experience as an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) pilot, airline pilot, certified flight instructor, and UAV instructor and evaluator.

Students will complete the second half of the course by aligning their flight experience and training with other technology areas including visual media and video editing. “This program directly aligns with our STEAM curriculum and helps to develop the next generation of aerospace scientists and engineers,” said school founder, Lou L Tate. Tate’s School is a STEMspark school, supports high quality STEM education, and has an ongoing partnership with the Graduate Association for Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineers at the University of Tennessee.