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.

1 comment:

fischbobber said...

So will the teachers get a raise and their due process rights,real retirement plan, tenure and collective bargaining rights back, or what? Is anyone in this discussion even trying to stand up and support teachers?