Monday, June 20, 2016

Buzz Thomas: Open letter to parents

Buzz Thomas
As I begin my tenure as your interim superintendent of schools, you have every right to ask – and many of you have – “What are your plans?” Not only do you invest nearly a half billion dollars in our schools, you also entrust us with your most precious resource: your children.

So, here are my plans for the first 90 days. After the new school board members are sworn-in this fall, I will write a second open letter which will reflect their plans and dreams for the coming school year.

Our big goal has not changed since the school board and county commission went on their first joint planning retreat four years ago. We are going to build the best school system in the South.

Not so we can pat ourselves on the back, but so that our children and grandchildren will have happy, successful lives in the highly competitive world in which they will live. Since that joint retreat, we have raised graduation rates to 90%, raised teacher pay and earned the state’s first large school system rating of “exemplary.”

We can be proud of that. But, much remains to be done. Half of our 3rd graders are not reading on grade level. Worse still, more than half of our graduating seniors do not meet the minimum ACT benchmarks for college and career readiness.

In response to these challenges, the school board has adopted a strong strategic plan that includes putting a great principal in every school, a great teacher in every classroom and a great school in every neighborhood. We will continue down that path. Priorities will include:
  • Using our summer training time to ensure that all elementary principals and early-elementary teachers are properly trained to teach reading. Reading remains our single biggest challenge, and we will take an “all hands on deck” approach to meeting that challenge.
  • Making our schools and central office more transparent, collaborative and customer focused. Knox County’s public schools belong to you – the students, parents and taxpayers.
  • Making decisions as close to the action as possible. When someone is assigned responsibility for a task, they should be given the authority to go with it. In so far as possible, teachers should be allowed to run their classrooms and principals to run their schools. Of course, everyone must be accountable. If someone can’t do the job, we will replace them, but we will not micromanage our schools. The central office should be the place of last resort when it comes to decisions about a child’s education. 
  • Getting our own operations in order. The Knox County Schools has declared its intention to provide “excellence for every child,” yet recent studies by outside individuals and organizations suggest that we have not held ourselves to that same standard of excellence when it comes to managing our own operations. We have experienced significant problems with transportation, public information and human resources, for example. We have asked our students and teachers to meet the highest standards of accountability. Those same standards will be applied to those of us in the central office.
The Board of Education is less divided than one might think. Every single member is united in their desire to see students learn and teachers want to teach in Knox County. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, student achievement and teacher morale are like peas and carrots.

We have much to accomplish, and we will need your help to do it. Public schools are everybody’s business, and it will take everybody working together to achieve our lofty goal of being the best in the South. Please roll up your sleeves and join us in the work. Our children deserve no less.

Many thanks,

Buzz Thomas - Interim Superintendent

Morris as Knoxville Poet Laureate

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero today announced the appointment of writer, musician and playwright R.B. Morris as the first Poet Laureate of the City of Knoxville.

Morris, whose poetry often reflects on East Tennessee culture and history, will serve up to two years in the newly created position.

Mayor Rogero created the City’s Poet Laureate Program earlier this year, and nominations for the first appointee were considered by a committee of the Knoxville Arts & Culture Alliance. The selection committee forwarded its recommendation to the Mayor.

“I can’t imagine a more fitting selection for our first Poet Laureate,” Mayor Rogero said. “Like many in Knoxville, I have enjoyed and admired R.B.’s work for years. He has long shown a commitment to building and enriching our community, and this position will give him a platform to continue and amplify that work.”

Morris, a Knoxville native, has published several books of poetry, including “Early Fires,” “Littoral Zones” and “The Mockingbird Poems.” He has served as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Tennessee. As a singer-songwriter, he has released a half-dozen acclaimed albums and EPs, and his songs have been recorded by John Prine and Marianne Faithfull, among others. Lucinda Williams once called him “the greatest unknown songwriter in the country,” and Steve Earle said, “R.B. Morris is the reason I started writing poetry.”

“It's a powerful thing for Mayor Rogero to begin the tradition of a Poet Laureate for the city,” Morris said. “The legacy of the poets and writers who have come from Knoxville give the position great esteem and expectations from the start. It's a very special honor to be able to serve here at the beginning. I can accept it for all the poets and writers that are in our city now, and that includes all the great songwriters who are living and working here.”

Rest of the story HERE.

Burchett proposes paid leave bump for county employees in Guard, Reserve

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett is proposing an increase in the number of paid leave days given to Knox County Government employees who are members  of National Guard and U.S. Armed Forces Reserve services.

Currently, employees are paid for up to 20 working days of military leave – or four weeks. Mayor Burchett proposes increasing that  benefit to 30 days of leave – or six weeks.

“Our service members in the Guard and Reserve are increasingly being asked to fulfill the role  our full-time, enlisted servicemen filled, which means more time than ever spent away from  work and family,” said Burchett said.

The proposal would require an amendment to the Knox County personnel ordinance and will go  before the Knox County Commission later this month during the board’s June 20 work session  and June 27 meeting.

“Knox County supports our employees’ service and sacrifice for our country, and this is an important, meaningful way to show our appreciation and also reduce the financial burden on employees who are on assignment or deployed,” the mayor added.

The ordinance amendment must pass two readings by the County Commission before becoming law.

Unwanted medication collection event

Members of the East Tennessee Regional Medication Collection Coalition will be on hand to collect and properly dispose of unwanted medicines Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Food City in Fountain City located at 4805 North Broadway near Adair Drive.

Medicines can only be dropped off at this location during the event. At all other times, Knox County residents can bring old or unused medicines to the Knoxville Police Department Safety Building at 800 Howard Baker Jr. Ave. The Safety Building is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This event is sponsored by: the Knoxville Police Department, Knox County and City of Knoxville Solid Waste Offices, Knox County Health Department, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, UT Academy of Student Pharmacists, KUB, the Metropolitan Drug Commission, WBIR and WUOT.

For more information visit http://www.medicationcollection.org/.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Marijuana use petitioner hopes he's raised awareness about issue

Steve Cooper
Knoxville man who tried to get two marijuana measures on the November ballot for Knox County voters says he hopes he's at least raised awareness about the merits of the issue.

"I may not have succeeded at getting on the ballot, but I believe I have brought attention to an issue that is important not only to me but at least 17,000 residents and voters of Knox County. And hopefully the idea of Tennessee having medical marijuana is not so farfetched anymore," Steve Cooper wrote in an open letter Wednesday afternoon to Knox County.

Wednesday afternoon was Cooper's deadline to turn in signatures in support of the petitions - one to legalize medical marijuana use and another to legalize recreational use for adults.

Cooper said in a letter to members of the media he sent out Wednesday afternoon that he fell about 3,000 signatures short of his goal of 20,000 for each.

"He got close," Cliff Rodgers, Knox County elections administrator, told 10News. "He just didn't get where he needed to be to have us count them to see if he can get on the ballot."

Cooper, an accountant,  said he'd collected 17,128 signatures in support of the medical marijuana petition and 16,875 on the recreational marijuana petition.

"While the total number of signatures is greater than the amount needed for the ballot, I have not reached the goal of 20,000 and I do not believe I have sufficiently covered the margin of error to warrant the (election commission) counting the petitions," his letter states.

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Mayor Burchett launches collection program to ensure proper flag disposal

In recognition of Flag Day, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett announced today that all Knox County senior centers will serve as collection locations for to-be-retired American flags.

Flags that have reached the end of their useable life can be dropped off at any of the centers and Knox County staff will ensure they are disposed of properly and in partnershipwith several community organizations.
 
“The red, white and blue flag of the United States of America is not only a symbol of pride for our nation’s citizens, but it is a beacon of freedom and opportunity for the rest of the world,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. “Our soldiers go to battle under our flag, and those taken by war come home in caskets draped in the stars and stripes. It is only proper that we do everything we can to ensure the flag is retired properly.
 
Once collected, the flags will be handed over to various community organizations, including American Legion Post 2, Woodmen of the World, Boy Scouts, the Order of Elks and others for proper disposal during the organizations’ respective flag retirement ceremonies. Community organizations interested in becoming a program partner should contact Knox County Veterans and Senior Services Director Robert “Buzz” Buswell at 865-604-4443.
 
Knox County Senior Center hours vary. More information about the centers can be found online
at http://www.knoxcounty.org/seniors.
 
Flags can be dropped off at any of the following locations:
  • Carter Senior Center
  • Corryton Senior Center
  • Frank R. Strang Senior Center
  • Halls Senior Center
  • Karns Senior Center
  • South Knox Senior Center

Karns senior center to host art reception Thursday evening

The Karns Senior Center will host an art reception on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at 8042 Oak Ridge Highway.

The public is invited and refreshments will be served.
 
Art pieces featured at the reception were completed by art class students at the Karns and Frank R.
Strang senior centers. Types of work include watercolor, pen/ink and charcoal/pencil sketch.
 
Knox County senior centers provide programming specifically geared toward seniors. These programs
offer recreation opportunities, health and wellness resources, computer and technology lessons, and
other activities for those aged 50 and older.
 
More information about Knox County Senior Services can be found online at
http://www.knoxcounty.org/seniors.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

State Supreme Court development takes another step as city accepts bids

The city has kicked off the bidding process to develop create major mixed-use development at the former downtown site of the State Supreme Court.

“This is a prime piece of the downtown landscape,” said Dawn Michelle Foster, the city’s Director of Redevelopment. “This presents a tremendous opportunity. It’s crucial that this block be brought back into reuse the right way, with a mixed-use redevelopment that contributes significantly to the vibrancy and energy across our downtown.”

The 1.7-acre site is bounded by Henley Street, Cumberland Avenue, Locust Street and Church Avenue.

The State Supreme Court relocated to the Post Office Building on Main Street in 2003, and the city purchased the mostly vacant surplus property fronting Henley Street from the State of Tennessee last year for $2.47 million.

The city's long-term plan is to direct the scope of the development and then return the property to private ownership as quickly as possible.

For details about the site and guidelines for its redevelopment, read the Request for Proposals at www.knoxvilletn.gov/bids.

Proposals are due Oct. 10.

Another Ed & Bob 'Night Out'

Time for another Ed and Bob Night Out in Knox County.

The two at-large Knox County Commissioners plan to eat ice cream with the public in Rocky Hills at Bruster's Real Ice Cream on South Northshore Drive June 22 from 5-7 p.m.

According to the duo, the two feel that "going out to the people eases the strain on those who, because of work, commitments, financial situation or the distance to the City-County Building, cannot attend regular commission meetings."

The event is open to the public.

Also, Brusters provides free baby cones to children under 40" and free 'doggie sundaes' to your furry friend, so bring the entire family then Ed and Bob can "kiss some babies and shake some paws!"

Heh.

Site domains for Burchett, Congress, Senate and governor scooped up

Ha ha, so yesterday the ol' Porch noted that blogger Brian Hornback scooped up a number of recently expired internet domain registrations tied to Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

Well, last night someone else grabbed burchettforcongress.com, burchettforsenate.com and burchettforgovernor.com.

Heh.

The sites at this point are parked and the registration is private, so there's no way of knowing for sure who got them. I have confirmed that it wasn't Brian, who has said previously that he's made his point.

There's long been rumors that Burchett will run for Congress or governor. In addition, the Tea Party in 2014 tried to get him to run against U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in the Republican Primary but he declined.

On a side note, a local WBIR 10News viewer grabbed brianhornback.org.

Click on it. Heh.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Knox Board of Equalization meeting

Knox County property owners who don’t think their land is worth its current assessed value, can appeal to the local Board of Equalization, which meets each June.

Those wishing to challenge the value can schedule a meeting by calling 865-215-2006.
Last year some 808 folks appealed.

"We think all the training that we'd provided the appraisers now and the technology have allowed us to be more fair,” said Knox County Property Assessor Phil Ballard. There has been a leveling off and the real estate market and everything."

The Board of Equalization usually sees a spike in appeals every four years when the county does property appraisals.

The next round of re-appraisals takes place in 2017.

Hornback grabs 'Burchett' websites

Brian Hornback
UPDATE: Comments from Burchett and Hornback at bottom

They don't call him "the rogue" for nothing.

It appears that local blogger Brian Hornback has fired another shot (sort of) at Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, this time scooping up a number of internet domain name registrations including timburchett.com, timburchett.info and timburchett.org.

In addition, he also snagged electburchett.com, which expired and is the site the mayor typically uses when running for office. And if you click on it, guess where it will take you? Yep, to the rogue's home. Heh.

Anyhoo, this could get interesting because - as the hippie over at knoxviews noted - "if Tim Burchett decides to run for another office, it appears Brian Hornback holds the keys to his online presence."
Tim Burchett

Burchett, who is term-limited - is serving his second four-year term as mayor. He has a little more than two years left in the term.

The mayor on Wednesday did not appear happy about the move:
"It's been reported that Brian apparently has registered my campaign domain and redirected it to his blog," he said in a written statement. "Ultimately, we're talking about someone who doesn't like me personally, and who drags my beautiful wife and sweet daughter into his blog posts. At the end of the day, all I can do is pray for someone like that, and that's what I do for Brian."  
Brian fired back after hearing the mayor's remarks:
"Mayor Burchett has repeatedly stated that he is term limited and now a proud father. He has made no public indications of seeking higher office. Clearly in my opinion this is the strongest indication to date that Mayor Burchett plans on not pursuing any future political aspirations."

"If the Mayor doesn't have the ability or wherewithal to manage a website domain. It really begs the question, can he manage anything of substance?"

"The acquisitions of the domains was a strategic business move in an effort to potentially enlarge the base of political commentary in the Southeastern region of the United States. I thank the Mayor for this business opportunity as he has continually stressed his commitment to small businesses."