The Q & A below is from the League of Women Voters interviews with candidates for Knox County Board of Education, which took place at 7PM on March 27th at the YMCA
Why do you want to run?
The teacher surveys that were returned, showing that 70% of the teachers are unhappy and the high teacher turnover concerned him. He wants to see a stable educational environment for all students and wants to work to make that happen.
Wants to see opportunities for students, without regard to race or socio-economic factors.
This is where my heart has always bee. I have volunteered in all of our schools, whether it is painting faces at a carnival, or empowering parents to become more involved.
Has a sincere interest in schools in Knox County. He graduated from Knox County Schools, has coached in Knox County, and has witnessed the concerns that the teachers are expressing. All students do not learn the same way.
She picked up an intent form to run for BOE 10 years ago, but the time was not right and the concerns that exist today did not exist then. The concerns that are happening in Knox Co. have not been fully researched by the current board.
Has an MS in Education Administration, an MS in English, and grew up in Knox County Schools. The BOE needs educators on the board.
Is running for school board because it is what she knows. She says that she has worked side by side with teachers, has been in the homes of our students, and has worked with administrators.
As a school board member, would you consider yourself responsible more to the constituents in your district, or all students in Knox County?
Sandra: All students
Marshall: All students
Tamera: District constituents and county residents as a whole.
Robert: The County as a whole, but through collaboration with the other 9 members, I would hope to be responsible to both.
Terry: The TN School Boards code of ethics says that a board member is responsible for serving ALL students in the county.
Brad: The entire county, while serving to bring information about his county to the board for consideration.
Under what conditions would you authorize a charter school proposal?
Sandra: If a charter school plan was presented to the board, I would be fully open to that plan. If it was a good plan, and would increase achievement and proficiency, I would be all for it.
Marshall: I would be open to any program that may be beneficial to our students. It boils down to all students.
Tamera: Fears that the question may be moot. Since the legislature has passed the Charter Authorizer bill, the State can now over-ride any decision we would like to make.
Robert: When it comes to charter schools, we are really farming out our obligation. Why give our money to outside businesses?
Terry: We wouldn’t have any need for charter schools if we had good community schools. As a board member, I would certainly be open to any proposals that would be brought to the board, as long as their expectations and standards were equal to or higher to those of our other schools.
Brad: Under no conditions could I support a charter school proposal. Taking our tax dollars and giving them to a school that will not have the requirements of our public schools, and will not fall under the same scrutiny.
Gloria: The Knox County School Board is not against anything that might help our students. We have approved one charter school, but it did not continue with the process.
As a Board member, what role would you play in ensuring that the Board reach a memorandum of agreement with the duly elected teachers representative in the Collaborative Conferencing process (KCEA)?
Marshall: Would certainly review the policies and make sure that requirements are being met. Wants to see the board working with teachers.
Tamera: Is not aware of the process and would have to find out more about the requirements.
Robert: First, I would listen to them. They are on the front line and they know what is happening in that classroom every day. They know what is going on.
Terry: Has visited with KCEA representatives and is very disturbed to learn that the Collaborative Conferencing process has been stalled for months and months. She wonders why the current school board has not asked questions and has not tried to find out why the process is not moving forward.
Brad: Someone needs to be held accountable for getting this MOU in place. If the superintendent is the person responsible, and it is not getting done,
Gloria: Collaborative Conferencing is a process that was mandated by the state. She claims that the process is working and that Dr. McIntyre reports back that he expects that they will be coming to an agreement on the MOU soon.
Sandra: Does not know about Collaborative Conferencing. She wants to see more two-way communication and wants to see the board listening to the teacher working group that has been formed.
(*Note: The teacher working group is not part of the Collaborative Conferencing process.)
Do you agree with the Governor’s plan to remove the cap on class size? What is an acceptable class size for Elementary, Middle, and High School?
Terry: Absolutely not. Teachers should be advising the school board on this issue, not the other way around.
Brad: There is a very large study in TN, that shows that smaller clas size makes a difference. it doesn’t make any sense to increase the number of students in a classroom and expect the same learning to take place.
Gloria: Administrators and teachers in each building know what their building needs and we should be able to decide that within our district.
Sandra: Knox County generally has lower class sizes than other districts. The smaller those class sizes are, the easier it is for teachers to reach those students. The teachers have to be able to decide that.
Marshall: Subject matter should play a roll in the number of students in a classroom. I would want teachers to give me input into those decisions.
Tamera: The peer review research does not exist to show that larger class sizes are helpful.
Robert: “You know I want to keep them managable.” I don’t want to increase any class size, but it depends on the content and the situation.
How important are teacher salary increases to you and what are your feelings toward the current performance pay model?
Gloria: They work very hard. We are always looking at ways to do that. We need to look at the model and talk to the teachers working group…
Sandra: We have to pay our teachers more. As a community, we have to respect our teachers… we have to have a shift and think that our teachers are as important as our sports stars. The strategic compensation model, in the feedback that I get from teachers and principals, is clearly, not working.
Marshall: Would consider an across-the-board raise for all teachers. To continue to use the model that is in place today, would ensure that some teachers never recieve a raise.
Tamera: We had every reason to be leary of this, three years ago. There are problems with it all over the state. If the legislature does not change this in the legislature, the best thing the Knox County School Board can do, is file its own law suit.
Robert: Teachers are the lowest paid, next to social workers. To have their pay scale based on evaluations is rediculous. Raises should be based more on the cost of living.
Terry: Teachers do need to make more money. She got a small check, under the performance pay model, and after taxes, it was certainly not worth the ill will that came with it.
Brad: Told a story of a veteran teacher, who had evaluation scores of 5, but did not get performance pay, because she had breast cancer, and was too tired to stay and do the “leadership” portion at the end of the day.
Teacher moral is at an all-time low. What do you think the school board can do to boost morale?
Sandra: I feel like the morale problem is based on the fact that teachers feel like thay have not been heard. I hope that the first step is the teacher advisory group that is meeting.
Marshall: I would deviate from the normal priorities of waiting for the superintendent to schedule visits for me, with teachers and schools.
Tamera: Says that we have a cultural problem in the Central Office, and a lack of respect for our “human capital.” The Parthenon Group’s proposal is Dr. McIntyre’s idea of management. Those dollar decisions do not value people. The administration needs to make a decision about whether they want this to be the culture in KCS.
Robert: Everything is top-down. This doesn’t work. I would go and meet with the teachers and listen to them and support them and be an advocate. They don’t know that they have anybody in positions of power, to listen to them. The most demoralizing thing, is that they can’t just be free to teach.
Terry: There has been plenty of listening going on. The problem is that no change has been happening. The teacher advisory group needs to have a more formal set-up, with a formal report to the Board, not just one school board member, if they decide to meet, giving a report. So much of this won’t cost a dime. The morale problem that we have right now, didn’t have to happen. Three years ago, when teachers started coming, and started talking about concerns, something should have been done then.
Brad: A number score can’t just be assigned to represent a teacher. I would visit with teachers. Be sure people come to the board and talk about what is going on in their schools. I would like to explore the idea of a teacher sitting on the board, selected by the teachers, to serve as a liason, to get information from teachers, not second hand.
Gloria: The teachers have been inundated with a lot of things – an lot of demands. It can be overwhelming. We are listening to them. Change is not quick. We are listening to them. We are all in this together. It is all about the children. We are listening. Hopefully, we will be able to do what we need to do, to move this system forward.
How do you view Dr. McIntyre’s leadership, to this point?
Marshall: Comparing him to a building, I would not hire the school board as a contractor, because they would start with a roof. If I wanted to hire a great CEO, I would hire him. School systems are not businesses.
Tamera: I think his leadership is indicitive of his indoctrination. The Broad Foundation and ____ gives a lot of information about his training and helps us to better understand where he is coming from. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he is a good match for us. We don’t care to adopt the model in which Dr. McIntyre is so deeply steeped.
Robert: I don’t think he knows education. You need someone who really knows education. There is too much unhappiness there. Sure, he can control six people on the board, and he can get what he wants. Does that mean it is right?
Terry: I believe that Dr. McIntyre believes that he is doing what he needs to do. I do not agree with it. When you have 70% of your employees unhappy, it is not working.
Brad: Leaders have followers. If he were a good leader, he would have teachers lining up behind him, to follow him. If he were a successfull educational leader, I don’t think you would have this many candidates running for school board.
Gloria: Dr. McIntyre cares about kids. I believe Dr. McIntyre is doing what he needs to do as a board to get results…
Sandra: In looking at our achievement results, Knox County is making huge strides. Looking at his contract renewal and the fact that the entire board voted for it, it is clear that he is doing what we want him to do.