Monday, October 31, 2016

BOE's focus on finding new Knox Co. Schools leader, testing data

The Knox County Board of Education tonight and Wednesday will continue discussions that touch on the search for a new superintendent and whether state testing data should help determine teacher evaluations and student grades for the current year.

The board also has some “housecleaning” and policy matters that officials will address during tonight’s work session, but the two “key items” focus on testing and the school system’s next leader, BOE Chairwoman Patti Bounds told WBIR 10News on Monday morning.

Bounds said the board will talk about whether it wants to put together a search committee and – if members do want a committee – then who should serve on it. The county law department has recommended three members, but Bounds said the board doesn’t necessarily have to stick to that number.

Buzz Thomas, who oversees the Great Schools Partnership, is currently serving as interim superintendent.

However, the GSP wants him back by next summer, so Bounds said the school board wants to get it done by then.

“I don’t think there are any members of this board who will not do their due diligence to get the best person, but we know we’re on a very tight schedule,” Bounds said.

The board also will talk about a proposed resolution sponsored by Amber Rountree that comes in the wake of the state’s recent announcement that it has signed a contract with Questar to oversee Tennessee’s annual student assessments.

Rountree wants the state to grant a waiver so that the tests don’t count against teacher evaluations and student grades for the current year.

The state in the past year or so has struggled to roll out new tests for students and she wants to make sure the kinks are worked out of the new tests.

Her resolution also notes that “there are documented errors on the part of Questar” to administer similar tests in New York and Mississippi, and that Knox County teachers wouldn’t be involved in writing test items for the current year.

Thomas has called the resolution “ill-advised” and “at the very least . . . premature.”

“(The) proposed resolution does not sound like a school district that is aspiring to be the best in the South or even in the state,” Thomas wrote to board members in a Sept. 23 email. “It sounds like we are making excuses. We need a good standardized test each year to tell us how we are doing compared to others across the state and the nation. We will achieve greatness not by shying away from this accountability but by welcoming it.”

The county’s Teacher Advisory Committee met earlier this month to talk about the issue.

“A great majority of those reported that in surveying their schools the teachers were in favor of Amber’s resolution . . .  (and) that their schools and teachers were in favor of it by a pretty significant number,” Bounds said.

An advisory committee member will give board members a presentation prior to the official start of tonight’s meeting.

The board meets tonight at 5 at the Andrew Johnson Building. The board’s voting meeting is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the City County Building.

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