Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween, stay safe tonight

I'm dressed as an office ghost employee. So . . . . Happy Halloween. And don't eat the yellow snow. Or whatever.

Rodgers, Lyons to talk amendments

Inside Tennessee this Sunday (9:30 a.m.) on WBIR 10News will feature Knox County Elections Administrator Cliff Rodgers and Bill Lyons, chief of staff/deputy mayor/second- or third-in-command/whatever he's got a million titles to Mayor Madeline Rogero.

Photo by Jon Gustin

As always, John Becker will moderate and (Democrat) and local attorney Don Bosch and (Republican) PR gal Susan Richardson Williams will serve on the panel. (I was out this week, busting into the scoop machine.)

Heh. Get all that?

Good, Cliff and Bill will be talking about the proposed amendment changes to the state Constitution and the proposed changes to the city's pension plan. And nope, I'm not going to explain 'em today.

Check out the show on Sunday.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Board of Ed vice chair Harris says he's turned over school records to mayor; provides them to the Porch

Doug Harris
The other day Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett filed an open records request, seeking information from the school system that he says wasn’t provided. We did a story, RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Keep in mind, school officials did send over some stuff. before the request was submitted. Actually, it was the Board of Education’s vice chairman, Doug Harris, who turn over the information because the mayor and Superintendent Jim McIntyre don’t get along.

So, credit to Doug for stepping in.

Anyhoo, I talked to Doug the other day and he said school officials will give the mayor whatever information he wants. He said he was surprised that Burchett had to file a request, and he was under the impression that he had honored the county’s request.(As of today, I believe he has, but more on that - read on!)

As I recall, Burchett asked for information connected to a K-3 reading program that he’s funded to the tune of about $8.4 million during the past three years. He wanted to look at scores (were there improvements or not?), what schools participated in the program (it was supposed to be a pilot program), and details that show exactly where the money was spent (did it all go to the reading program?).

Doug said Dean “The Emperor” Rice, also known as the mayor’s chief of staff, called him about three weeks ago and asked for some of the information.

“I said ‘I’ll do everything you need,’” Doug told me. “(The superintendent) is open to giving him what he needs, but the mayor won’t talk to him. It took about 10 days to get the spread sheets
together. It’s a lot of data."

Doug said he provided all SAT-10 scores, TCAP scores, etc. He also gave them breakdowns for every grade and some budgetary numbers.

“I sent them the information in PDF form. They said they wanted it in Excel. I said that’s fine,” he told me. “They’ve never given us a detailed explanation of exactly what they’ve wanted.”

Until the open records request. Heh.


So, Doug sent me a bunch of emails that detail his correspondence with the county administration and the files he provided.

Here’s kind of the breakdown:


Emperor Dean sends Doug an email:
Doug – Thank you for the additional information. I will review with the Mayor.

I also look forward to getting the past two years of K-3 reading scores for ALL Knox
County elementary schools.

Can you please get me a listing of the 20 schools that received the additional Voyager small group funding of $440,000, as well as, which were the five additional schools that received the 1st grade intervention. ($390,000)
Doug tells him that he’s “on it.”

Dean Rice
Doug then sends a letter to Kelly, who works in the mayor’s office and whom I’ve since renamed “Boots.”

It reads:
I just returned to my office and received your text and wanted to double check the information that Dean is requesting. Here is what I am going to ask from KCS:
  1.  Referring to the literacy budget attachment, it looks like we budgeted hiring 25 additional instructional coaches for the literacy program. Confirm the schools that we actually employed coaches.
  2.  Additionally, I will ask that for each of these 25 schools we will provide corresponding scores and data on 3 year grant impact.
  3. Can you confirm that this will be the information that we are looking for?


This is sent out:
School Board Members,

We have had a number of questions about the Early Literacy initiative, and I thought it would be helpful to share the responses with everyone. You may remember that his initiative, which supports literacy K-5 with a particular emphasis on developing reading skills in K-2, is funded largely through a $3 million annual commitment of Knox County funds that was recommended by Mayor Burchett.

This initiative is examined thoroughly in the annual Return on Investment (ROI) Report that we published during the FY15 Budget planning process. Information is found specifically on pages 21 and 40-49. (You can access the full ROI report on our website at (RIGHT SMACK HERE) click on “April 2014 – Return on Investment Report”)

McIntyre, Burchett
All elementary schools in the district were impacted in some way by the early literacy initiative. The resources were allocated primarily for personnel (25 literacy coaches, 5 early literacy coaches and 20 instructional assistants), with some funds for materials and professional development. (Pages 45-46 of the 2014 Return on Investment Report delineate the schools for the early literacy coaches and instructional assistants.) A specific reading intervention program, Voyager, was purchased for district-wide use from these funds. The decision to purchase Voyager was made by the elementary school and elementary reading departments with input from principals and coaches. Voyager was one of several intervention programs considered, and it was already being used in many of our schools.

Attached, please find two other relevant documents:
  1. A spreadsheet that details the FY14 expenditures with regard to the County’s $3 million commitment to early literacy.
  2.  An analysis of performance by school and grade level. It is notable that in all three early grades (Kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2) in 2013-14 Knox County Schools students overall made gains in the percentile rank against the national norms on the Stanford-10.
Please let me know if you have any additional questions.


(Slim) Jim

Dean asks Doug: "Do you have the list of the 20 schools primarily targeted by the grant funds?

Doug sends him an email with two reports

1. According to the full-time literacy report there were 15 schools.  RIGHT SMACK HERE.

2. The second report details the entire literacy initiative. RIGHT SMACK HERE.

I should also note (This is the Porch talking) that Doug at some point also gave the administration a report about "early learning expenditures." I can't remember when, but here is that report, RIGHT SMACK HERE.


The mayor files and open records request. In addition, Communications Manager Michael "Big Sexy" Grider sends Doug the following:
Hope all is well.  I understand that you recently sent some district-level reading scores to Dean Rice. Is there any chance that you have the actual spreadsheed/Excel file from which those pages were generated? If not, might you be able to see if you can get it? 

As you know, the ability to sort data is helpful.

Thank you,

Michael Grider
Doug responds that he will get it, and today he sent it over.

You can find that request RIGHT SMACK HERE (It's actually the same as the PDF but in Excel form.)

By the way, here's a few more records that Doug Turned over:

FY 2013 Investment proposal: RIGHT SMACK HERE

2010-2014 Elementary School Reading Trends: RIGHT SMACK HERE  (Now that I've reviewed this post, I noticed that this is the PDF of the Excel file.)
In the meantime, there's a chance that none of this would have happened if the superintendent knew how to speak in sentences, rather than paragraphs. Heh. 

Or if the mayor would pick up the phone.

Either way, this was a looooong post. Hope you enjoyed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Superintendent kills SAT-10 testing for kindergarten students; BOE still plans to vote on its overall future

So, some members of the school board moved to have a special called meeting this week to vote on the future of the SAT-10 tests, which assesses kindergarten through second grade students.

Then some members decide they can't make it. That meant the board wouldn't have a quorum. (You need six apparently).

In response, BOE Chairman Mike McMillan announced today that he's going to call a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Nov. 3. (The plan is to take a recess from the work shop and go into the special meeting, and then go back into the work shop.)

You with me so far? Good.

Soooo, today - after McMillan has the BOE secretary send out the email - Superintendent Jim McIntyre, in a memo, says he's canning SAT-10 testing for kindergarteners. You can read the memo, RIGHT SMACK HERE. The move does not apply to first and second grade students.

I suspect this will still got to a vote on Nov. 3, and that there's enough board members who will want to do away entirely with the SAT-10.

From what I understand, the school system needs to order the testing materials  by Nov. 7.

Mayor files records request with schools, seeks reading, funding data

Some time back we had Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett on Inside Tennessee. At the time, he said that he wanted information connected to a school system reading program he helped established several years ago, and that school leaders were resisting his request.

Since then, some other media outlets have picked up the story.

Well, yesterday, Burchett - saying he was frustrated that officials hadn't given him the data he wanted - filed an official open records request for it.

That's messed up. No, seriously. Public officials shouldn't have to do this.

Anyhoo, you can read the entire story, RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Knoxville Police Department to host 3-day law enforcement conference

I thought this was interesting. The Knoxville Police Department beginning tomorrow will host the first annual conference of the Tennessee Association of Law Enforcement Analysts (TALEA), according to a release the department sent my way.

The three-day conference will be held at the Crowne Plaza on Summit Hill Drive.  The goal of TALEA is to build a stronger community of law enforcement analysts throughout the state of Tennessee.  The conference will provide training on tools, tips, and techniques for crime analysts.

Crime analysts provide valuable crime fighting tools that help reduce crime within our communities.  Topics will include training on predictive policing, techniques for gathering intelligence on gangs, crime mapping, and building a repeat offender database. 

The opening ceremonies begin at 8:30 a.m.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Knox County to again host local 'Wreaths Across America' program

The county Mayor's Office is again spearheading the local Wreaths Across America initiative, according to a release and conference from earlier today. The effort raises funds to place wreaths on the graves of veterans buried at three veterans cemetery locations in Knox County.

According to the release:
A $15 sponsorship will pay for a wreath made of live greenery to be placed on a veteran’s grave at either the Old East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery on Lyons View Pike, the New East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery on Governor John Sevier Highway or the Knoxville National Cemetery on Tyson Street near Old Gray Cemetery.

“If you simply sponsor one wreath or choose to sponsor 100, you are honoring veterans and families who have honored our community with their service,” said Mayor Burchett. “Whether the men and women buried in our veteran cemeteries were lost during combat or after living a long life, we do this for the family members who are still living.”
There are more than 15,000 veterans buried at the three veteran cemetery locations in Knox County.

To sponsor a wreath click RIGHT SMACK HERE and then clock on the "Wreaths Across America" banner. The organization is also offering a “three-for-two” sponsorship special, which means they will donate a wreath for every two that are sponsored.

The wreath sponsorship cutoff deadline is Dec. 1, and the wreaths will be placed on the graves on Dec. 13.
During a news conference this afternoon, Burchett talked about the program. Also in attendance was Kim Harrison, who lost her son, Army Pfc. Daniel Harrison, when his Humvee was attaced on Dec. 2, 2004 in Mosul, Iraq.

To find out more about Daniel, CLICK RIGHT HERE

Student K-2 test headed to a vote

Well, it looks like a number of the new Knox County Board of Education members are following through on some campaign promises to look into student testing and teacher evaluations.

The BOE could quite likely hold a special called meeting next week to determine the fate of the K-2 assessment, formerly called the SAT-10.

You can read the entire story, RIGHT SMACK HERE.

The timing of the vote is interesting, and there's a number of ways to look at it.

Some officials say they want to put it to vote now rather than in early November, since that meeting already has a packed agenda (particularly with the IB program discussion) and they probably don't want to hang out in the A.J. Building together for another six hours. Heh.

Another thought is that it's good to go ahead and vote now before the tests are ordered. Keep in mind, however, that the tests haven't been ordered yet and that they can be returned. The Knox County school district doesn't pay for the tests, but the state does. And don't forget: The state is always complaining that it doesn't have money.

Third thought is that the current board - which includes interim member John Fugate - would more than likely kill the test than a board that included Tracey Sanger, who is running for Fugate's seat. I don't buy this one.

Even if Sanger won, she's not taking over the seat until the election gets certified, so that means her first meeting wouldn't be until December. The board could still put the measure to vote during the early November meeting without her. The election isn't an issue this time around.

That won't stop folks from turning it into one, though.

In the meantime, here's a survey regarding the SAT-10, RIGHT SMACK HERE. It's kind of like voting, folks. Don't complain if you don't participate.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Early voting up compared to August

We're now at the halfway mark for early voting, and more than 220,000 folks across the state have cast votes in the Nov. 4 election.

Of those, almost 19,000 are from Knox County. And that's up slightly from the almost 16,000 who voted early by the halfway mark in the August election.

Still, it lags the November 2010 election (20,000 at the halfway point) and the November 2006 election (23,700), which also featured a gubernatorial contest.

Early voting wraps up Oct. 30.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Burchett to host 10 constituent meetings during October, November

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett will host 10 constituent meetings during October and November to give citizens the opportunity to meet one-on-one and speak individually with him about issues that are important to them, according to the office's latest release. These meetings are open to the public.

This series of constituent meetings will be held throughout Knox County.

The next two are set for Oct. 27 from 11 a.m. to noon at the Burlington Library on Asheville Highway; and Oct. 30 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Bearden Library on Golf Club Road.

You can find the complete list, RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Monday, October 20, 2014

School IB forum set for tomorrow

Knox County Schools has scheduled a community forum to talk about the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB MYP) for tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the Bearden Middle School auditorium.

The purpose, according to a release, is to provide info about the program and answer questions.

The program is already in place at West High School could expand into Bearden Middle School. The IB MYP is apparently a set of challenging program standards that teach and incorporate intercultural understanding, lifelong learning and rigorous assessment.

School board members talked briefly about it last month after Superintendent Jim McIntyre brought it to them, but later opted to table it for a month to do more research.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Commissioners to host public forum

Broyles, left, Ownby, right
Knox County commissioners Amy Broyles and Jeff Ownby will begin hosting regular community forums that give the public the opportunity to ask questions about local government, and let officials collect input on current issues.

The first one is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at West High School’s small auditorium. The two said they expect state Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, to attend. But, they said at this point they do not expect her Republican opponent in the Nov. 4 election – Eddie Smith – to be there.

Ownby said he reached out to his campaign and was told he had something else scheduled.
The plan, according to the commissioners, will be to host the meetings either monthly or bi-monthly in various districts across the county.

Broyles said the two got the idea during a National Association of Counties meeting they attended in Washington, D.C. this past spring. At the time, they were told by some Florida officials that the forums were a big draw when jointly hosted by Democrats and Republicans who sit on the same board.

Broyles is a Democrat, and Ownby is a Republican.

“It’s more like a town hall style where the public can come in and ask questions about county business and we can offer our perspectives,” said Broyles. “I think it’s a great thing to do.”
Ownby agreed.

“It will get some questioned answered,” he said. “A lot of people can’t make regular meetings, so this is a chance for them to be able to talk about concerns and issues that don’t always get airplay. It also gives them a chance to bring us issues and let us get out in front of them.”

Broyles said since the first meeting runs concurrently with early voting, they wanted to bring in a number of candidates in state races.

In addition to the 13th District race that features Johnson and Smith, they plan to ask 7th District state Senate candidates Cheri Siler, a Democrat, and Richard Briggs, a Republican, to come.

Broyles and Ownby said they will hammer out more details in the coming days.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Broyles said. “I enjoy working with Jeff even though, politically, we are often at the opposite spectrum on a number of political issues. But, I think this is a good thing for the commission and I think it’s providing a good public service.”

Thursday, October 16, 2014

KCS wants nutrition dept. audit

You might recall back in mid-September when we broke the story that the state is investigating Knox County Schools Executive Director of School Nutrition Jon Dickl for allegations connected to the misuse of funds.

We were told at the time that the probe is tied to the use of two $500 gift cards that were given to food services and into ties that a school vendor has to a car dealership that possibly sold Dickl a deeply discount vehicle.

(Dude makes more than $100K annually by the way. He's currently on paid administrative leave.)

Anyhoo, the school system today issued a release, saying that it is requesting that the county's internal auditing department conduct an audit and an independent risk review of the KCS School Nutrition Department.

According to the release:
Internal Auditor Andrea Addis has been apprised of the school district’s request that her office conduct a financial audit of the school system’s nutrition department as well as providing an independent risk review of that department’s financial operations. Any work conducted by the Internal Auditor would need to be authorized by the Knox County Commission.

“This is a needed step to ensure that the school system’s food service department has a sound financial operation,” said Mike McMillan, Chair of the Knox County Board of Education. “While the department receives an annual financial audit, this review would examine the daily financial management of the department. Pending the Commission’s approval, I look forward to receiving the auditor’s report and to sharing it with the Board of Education.”

“I appreciate the Internal Auditor’s willingness to potentially work with us to take a hard look at the financial operation of our School Nutrition Department and identify any weaknesses in the department’s processes and internal controls,” said Superintendent Jim McIntyre. “I think this is a prudent and necessary action in light of the ongoing investigation into allegations that have been made about the KCS food service director. If the Commission agrees, we will work with Ms. Addis in the coming days to develop a complete project scope of services, and I look forward to initiating the work as soon as possible.”

The Knox County Schools School Nutrition Budget for Fiscal Year 2014 is $27.5 million. The department receives no local or state funding but operates on revenues received from the sale of meals as well as reimbursements from the federal government for meals provided to students of limited economic means. By statute, the food service budget and fiscal management are separate from the school system’s general operating budget that provides for the daily operation of the school system.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What the??? No more Metro Pulse? Layoffs lead to reorganization

So, apparently a bunch of boring newspaper peeps are now tasked with putting together the snarky alternative.

For the two of you in the Knoxville area who don't know, the Metro Pulse, the local alternative weekly, shut down today under some kind of reorganizational plan or other.

And, parent company E.W. Scripps, which also owns the Knoxville News Sentinel, laid off the entire staff. (In addition, KNS laid off a number of its own employees.)

You can follow the Metro Pulse mess on Twitter, RIGHT SMACK HERE. Also, folks are commenting OVER HERE and wishing the former staffers well.

In the meantime, the new plan is have the KNS newsroom produce the Pulse and distribute it inside the Sentinel and in free-distribution racks.

Here's the rest, according to an email, by head KNS editor Jack McElroy:
"A bit more information to go with the note (Publisher) Patrick (Birmingham) distributed and the story on Knoxnews:

Effective immediately, Amy Vellucci will be directing our local news operations as city editor. She will be looking to promote someone within the local staff to assistant city editor to support her.

Amy Nolan will become News Sentinel business editor as well as editor and publisher of the Knoxville Business Journal. Josh Flory will report to her as assistant business editor and will continue as News Sentinel data editor.

Vivian Vega will move into the newsroom and continue to direct special publications. The newsroom will provide production support, but newsroom writers will not be producing any advertorial content.

Chuck Campbell, Susan Alexander and Lori Wilson will be working with the combined features and entertainment staff on a merger of and Metro Pulse, which will be produced by the newsroom and distributed in-paper and in free-distribution racks. Jennifer Dedman will be assisting in this project.

Department meetings will be scheduled in the next few days to discuss plans further."

City to light Henley Bridge red

Tonight (Oct. 15), the city will light the Henley Street Bridge in red in support of the Redeeming Red Project and Dyslexia Awareness, according to a county news release.

Apparently, today is World Dyslexia Day and local officials are "Redeeming Red" in support of the roughly 20 percent of the population that is affected by the learning disability.

Knox County Commissioner Jeff Ownby has been instrumental in the effort here in the area.

For more info, click RIGHT SMACK HERE.

City study shows below average pay for Knoxville police and fire

Knoxville city leaders plan to meet in December to discuss government employees' wages.

This comes after a study (2014 General Employee & Public Safety Total Compensation Studies) revealed pay for firefighters and police officers in Knoxville is below the market average.

The city of Knoxville paid Segal Waters Consulting $215,000 to complete the study. It broke city pay into three categories: general employees, police and fire.

PRESENTATION: Power Point report of study

The study showed Knoxville's police and fire wages are about 12 percent to 13 percent below market average.

Segal Waters Consulting looked at both base pay and total compensation costs which includes health and retirement benefits.

With base pay and benefits, a Knoxville Police Department (KPD) recruit makes about $45,392 compared to the market average minimum of $46,363. The gap is much larger higher up the ladder; a KPD Police Captain makes about $86,570 compared to the market average of $99,399.

Rest of the story RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Gov Big Bill releases first TV ad

Republican Governor Bill Haslam released his first television ad for the general election today. Check it out below:

His campaign peeps noted that this is a full-on broadcast and cable statewide ad, so I figure it wasn't cheap.

The election is Nov. 4. He's taking on a Democrat named Charlie Brown.

I'm not kidding.

As always, send me your election stuff for publication consideration.

Emails: Safety concerns led to Knox Co. school secretary's paid leave

The latest in the Tina Needham saga. If you've been under a rock, she's the Knox County School secretary who has been on paid administrative leave for more than two years. The same person who has filed an EEOC complaint and thus will probably remain on paid administrative leave for another year.

Anyhoo, story, which details what actually led to her going on paid leave, is RIGHT SMACK HERE.

We asked the school system why she was placed on administrative leave and not on medical leave (as they've suggested that's the real reason she's not working).

In a statement from Jim McIntyre, the superintendent said administrative leave was the only option available to the system and that any other type of action must be initiated by the employee.

That is not the case. I'll leave it at that.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Law Dept. looking into whether West High PTSO email broke election law

Well, this is interesting . . .

Sooooooo, you might recall that back in January Sandra Rowcliffe, then-president of the Knox County Council PTA, sent an email to members, warning about the use of tax-exempt non-profit organizations for political purposes.

She noted:
“PTA is a non-commercial, non-sectarian and non-partisan organization. Because PTAs are 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, the IRS rules regulating some types of legislative activities of non-profit organizations must be followed.”

She also advised principals that “if your parent group is a PTO as opposed to a PTA that you inform them as well if they are, in fact, a 501(c)3.” 
“Certain political activities are absolutely prohibited: supporting or opposing political parties or candidates for federal, state, or local public office…”
Well, on Saturday an email started making the rounds, and it was forwarded to a number of reporters. It was initially sent Oct. 10 by West High School PTSO co-secretary Carolyn Rezler.

You can read it RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Anyhoo, as I noted, a number of us received this Saturday evening. Looks like Betty Bean over at the Knoxville Shopper beat everyone to the punch. Find her story RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Essentially, the email - written by a member of non-profit PTSO - is asking members to support a certain opponent in the 2nd District BOE race.

Um, folks, I'm not sure if you should be doing this. It appears to be a political email (soliciting political support) and these are the types of things that jeopardize non-profit status.

As Betty noted, the county law office is now looking into it.

By the way, here's another note that made the rounds. It's a document that talks about what PTAs (and by extension, PTSOs) may and may not do.

Find that one RIGHT SMACK HERE.

It may provide a glimpse into what the law department will say.

In the meantime, the three 2nd District candidates - Charlotte Dorsey, Jamie Rowe and Tracey Sanger - will participate in a forum beginning at 6 tonight at the Christenberry Community Center on Oglewood Avenue.

Go out, show your support, vote for whoever you want to. Try not to violate election laws.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pilot Flying J dividend payment could mean another surplus for Knoxville

Last month, Standard & Poor released a report, noting that Pilot Flying J was buying back a bunch of its share. It got a little coverage, but the media that did mention it missed the big picture.

The truth is . . .  few care about a bunch of rich people buying back a company they already own more than 50 percent of. It's not like they're really buying back the company.

No, the real news is that the company will pay out $750 million in dividends to shareholders. So, what's the big deal? Well, it means the City of Knoxville can more than likely expect a whopping surplus from the Hall income tax at the end of next July.

DOCUMENT: S&P Report on Pilot

If you do the math (here, I'll do it for you) and you don't take any exemptions into account - and pretend all the shareholders live in Knoxville - then you're talking about a $16.8 million bonus check.

Now, it's not going to be that much, but if it's $15 million, don't be surprised. 

Here's a story we did about it last night. RIGHT SMACK HERE.

By the way, a similar dividend windfall happened back in 2012 when the Haslam family bought the Cleveland Browns. Joe Sullivan over the the Metro Pulse wrote briefly about it awhile back. Read that one RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Endorsements in for Siler, Briggs

Couple of endorsements here. Note that I typically don't run these things, but since I've been getting a number of them ...

First, the Cheri Siler for (7th District) State Senate campaign is pleased to announce the endorsement of the Knoxville Fraternal Order of Police,  Volunteer Lodge No. 2.  "It is a great honor to have the support of Knoxville’s police who are responsible for our everyday protection.  We pledge our campaign’s support for Knoxville’s police and will work to advance their interests when we are elected to the legislature."  

Second, the National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee's leading small business association, has endorsed Dr. Richard Briggs, Republican candidate for State Senate, District 7. "Creating Good jobs is my number one priority. I know the impact government red tape can have on small businesses and I will use my experience (to) ensure that businesses in Tennessee thrive."

As always, send in your election/campaign stuff for publication consideration.

The election is Nov. 4

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Knox County HD prepping for Ebola

With news that the Ebola patient in the Dallas hospital has died, it's probably worth noting what the Knox County Heath Department is doing regarding preparation (which - knock on wood - we hopefully won't have to worry about).

Here's is the office's response, regarding input its received from state and federal officials:

The Knox County Health Department (KCHD) has received a great deal of guidance via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Alert Network advisories and CDC conference calls. Our hospitals and public health systems are able to manage such patients with the infectious disease resources, plans and protocols that were in place prior to the Ebola outbreak.  Since the Anthrax attacks in 2001, there have been crucial federal grant funds available in the form of Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Hospital Preparedness Programs to help local communities prepare for disease outbreaks and other medical emergency situations. KCHD has federal and local funding as well as dedicated staff to ensure our ability to respond to any public health threat.

At the state level, there have been numerous Tennessee Health Alert Network advisories sent to public health and hospital partners with information and guidance, including everything from triage guidance to personal protective equipment and infection control protocols for health care and EMS personnel. The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) has created a tabletop exercise for hospitals to utilize to work through the process of triaging, identifying and isolating a potential Ebola patient while assuring the personal safety of staff and others in the hospital. Hospitals throughout the state are having the tabletop exercises this week and next. TDH is gathering data from those exercises to determine where best to direct further education and guidance. 

On the local level, we are taking it a step further and hosting a combined tabletop exercise at the end of this month with our partners in the East Tennessee Regional Office of TDH - inviting public health, hospitals, EMS and other stakeholders to work through an Ebola scenario. We also conducted a training and orientation today for the Knox County Health Department’s Public Health Investigation Team.

Ethics Committee to get new member

I joke that the panel is nothing more than a paper tiger, but you probably don't want to get called before the county's ethics committee. That never looks good.

Anyhoo, the Knox County Commission is accepting resumes from candidates seeking an appointment to the board.

They're due by Oct. 17.

Send them to:

Office of the Knox County Commission
Suite 603, City County Building
400 Main St.
Knoxville, TN 37902

Fax: 865-215-2038


The commission will hold public hearing to interview the candidates (hint: Show up if you're actually interested) at 4 p.,m. Oct. 20 in the Main Assembly Room of the Death Star.

The following week, commissioners will vote on the appointment.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bond refinancing saves $7.4 million

Knox County issued a release today, noting that it's gonna save $2.4 million more in folding paper than initially projected due to "lower-than-anticipated" interest rates.

This is all tied to some bond refinancing. Or something. 

Anyhoo, the county overall will save $7.4 million in avoided interest payments over the life of the bonds, which is until 2027. 

However, don't expect Mayor cheapo to cut you a check.

“While our state and federal governments are having trouble balancing budgets, Knox County continues to find ways to save money through efficiencies, and it’s always great when efforts like this turn out better than planned,” Mayor Tim Burchett said. “When we can save taxpayers millions of dollars by simply refinancing a portion of our debt, we’re going to do it. Common sense steps like this, combined with conservative fiscal budgeting, have put Knox County in a sound financial position.”

Monday, October 6, 2014

McInytre in DC for 'innovative' meet

Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre is currently in Washington D.C. for a League of Innovative Schools meeting, according to his PR peeps.

From Melissa Ogden: 
The League is a small, selective group of school districts who are trying to do innovative things with technology to support student learning. The Knox County Schools was admitted last spring after a rigorous nomination and selection process, in large measure because of the Knox County Schools’ work in implementing the School Technology Challenge/Personalized Learning initiative. As part of the League meeting, Dr. McIntyre is scheduled to be at the White House on Tuesday with colleague superintendents for meetings with Obama Administration officials to discuss instructional technology and digital learning. 
Here's the original release from March, RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Burchett bringing back the cash mob

According to the latest county release, Mayor Tim Burchett is bringing back da Cash Mob. (Not sure when he held his last one as he's been focusing on those "lunch with the mayor" deals).

The next mob is set for Saturday, Oct. 11, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is kind of odd cause it's (a) a Saturday and (b) a game day.

Anyhoo, the mayor will host this event at Fountain City Exxon station, 5306 Broadway. Stop by, fill up on gas, grab a soft drink or get an oil change, the release notes.  Mayor Burchett also will be pumping gas at the station during this time.

The release continues:

World War II veteran Alvin Frye, 91, has owned the Fountain City Exxon station at the intersection of Broadway and Essary Road for 24 years, and for nearly 60 years has owned stations at various Fountain City locations.

Many Knoxville residents will recognize Frye’s service station for its “No Lottery, No Beer” sign displayed along Broadway – others may remember the sign as saying “No Lottery, No Beer, Not a Casino.”

Burchett occasionally hosts cash mob and “Lunch with the Mayor” events at local retail establishments and restaurants as a way of encouraging the entire community to turn out and support local business.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

County, anti-Sharia group reach settlement in civil rights lawsuit

This is what ya call a $17,500 oopsie.

Knox County has reached a settlement with an anti-Sharia law group that filed a civil rights lawsuit against the school system earlier this year after officials reneged on a promise to let the organization hold an after-school event at Farragut high School.

School officials initially said Act! for America could hold a forum at the school on April 24 to talk about Sharia law and its potential threat to American culture. But, in the wake of media publicity just weeks prior to the event, Superintendent Jim McIntyre, rescinded the offer, saying it would cause a "disruption" at the school.

John Peach, director for the organization's Knoxville chapter, and Bill French, one of the scheduled guest speakers, then filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in August, suing the school board, McIntyre and Michael Reynolds, the principal of Farragut High School.

The sides officially reached an agreement Wednesday night. Under the terms, the county will pay out roughly $17,500 in attorney fees, administrative costs and monetary damages tied to advertising for the event.

In addition, the school board on Wednesday – under the terms of the settlement – amended its policy regarding the community's use of school facilities.

Read the entire story RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Settlement agreement and new county policy, RIGHT SMACK HERE.

2nd Dist. BOE candidate forum set

The League of Women Voters of Knoxville/Knox County and the Knox County Education Association will hold a moderated forum with the three 2nd district BOE candidates: Charlotte Dorsey, Jamie Rowe and Tracey Sanger.

The event will be held Oct. 13 from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. at the Christenberry Community Center on Oglewood Avenue.

For more info, click RIGHT SMACK HERE.

BOE picks McMillan to serve as chair

McMillan, left, Harris, right
As my colleague Jim Matheny noted in his story last night: “What a difference less than a year makes when it comes to the direction of the Knox County school board.”

School board member Mike McMillan went from odd man out to BMIC.

On Wednesday, the board (5-4) voted him in to serve as its chairman for the next year.

All this despite the PR stunts, the media manipulation attempts, the intimidation emails and whatever else I missed.

McMillan last December was the lone dissenting vote (8-1) to extend Superintendent Jim McIntyre’s contract. Now, he’s in what appears to be a 5-member majority voting bloc that doesn’t like the direction the school system is headed.

Folks, change this dramatic doesn’t happen because the community is happy.

That said, both sides should tread cautiously.

The majority, which has opposed the ways teachers are currently evaluated and students are tested, is precarious, at best, in power right now as another election nears. They certainly should continue to ask question, but also work with the other four.

(Just because the administration comes up with an idea, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad one.)

The same goes to the folks on Wednesday’s losing side of the vote. Look what happened when you didn’t work with the odd man out.

In the meantime, congratulations to McMillan and newly-elected vice chairman, Doug Harris.

Here’s Matheny’s story from last night, RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Internal audit: Knox County schools PPU fund needs better accounting

A Knox County audit that looked into the school system's physical plant upgrades account – one some officials dubbed a "slush fund" – recommends that officials do a better job tracking how the money assigned to it is spent and improve the overall accounting process to ensure that the money is spent how it was intended.

"I know it's not the most exciting thing, but it's an area that's really important," said the county's internal auditor, Andrea Addis. "To know when we spend money, when we're spending our money, that we know we're spending it in the right places. That's really what it comes down to."

The audit did not identify any areas officials found "criminal in nature," nor did it discover any "acts of fraud, waste (or) abuse," but none were expected, either.

Instead, auditors were tasked to conduct a "performance audit," something that looks at how the accounting process works and whether officials followed the rules.

Addis said "there's areas to improve," but noted: "There's nothing that jumps out that says 'hey, this is a really bad thing,' or 'there's something going on here," but it's just about building a stronger structure."

She said more controls in place would give officials the "tools to monitor their performance and hold them accountable for their performance."

The entire story, RIGHT HERE.

The audit, RIGHT HERE.