Knox County School Board Endorsements

Here’s a great breakdown of the Knox County School Board races from a local blogger. In it, he explains why he thinks school board races are so important this year:

Probably the biggest threat to public education is the charter school movement. Designed at its heart to divert funding from public schools to private, often religious, schools, it serves as an existential threat to a free and equal public education in the United States. While “school choice” is an appealing phrase, the reality is that these schools diminish funding where most middle and lower socio-economic status children attend to give a tailored, often much less regulated, experience for those who desire their children to be segregated.

When it comes to endorsements, here are the recommendations:

District 1 – John Butler

District 4 – Katherine Bike

District 6 – Phillip Sherman

District 7 – Dominique Oakley

District 9 – Annabel Henley

Reasons for the endorsements are offered in each case along with a plea to restore some sanity to the overall operation of the School Board.

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Bike Campaign Calls Out Deceptive Campaign Tactics

Knox County School Board candidate Kat Bike issued a statement today calling out a deceptive campaign tactic known as “push polling” which she suggests is spreading misleading information about her to voters.

Here’s the campaign’s statement:

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Kat Bike for Knox County School Board

Betty Bean in Knox TN Today reports on the campaign of Kat Bike for Knox County School Board:

District 4 school board candidate Katherine “Kat” Bike has maybe one-tenth the campaign kitty that her opponent has amassed, but she’s banking on fighting the money gap with what appears to be a bottomless reservoir of energy.

Bike is the parent of two Knox County Schools students.

Read more about Bike and her campaign.

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Manufactured Teachers?

Knox County is down to two finalists to become the district’s next Superintendent.

The choices are current Knox County Assistant Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer Jon Rysewyk and Bradley County Superintendent Linda Cash.

During a forum with both candidates, WBIR reports that Rysewyk made this statement:

“The new name of the game isn’t recruiting — it’s how to build alternative pipelines to manufacture high-quality teachers,”

That’s an interesting way to put the development of teaching talent – the intentional recruitment and retention strategies used to attract PEOPLE to the profession. Not sure exactly where teachers are manufactured.

The statement from Rysewyk reminded me of yet another story out of Knox County:

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Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Mask Madness in Knox County

After a federal judge on Friday ruled that Knox County Schools must make masks mandatory, a group of parents began organizing a protest – suggesting they would send their kids to school without masks and then refuse to pick them up. Then, the planned protests escalated to using cars to block entrances to schools. Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs tweeted in favor of resisting the judge’s order. Now, though, the school system has closed for tomorrow as the district prepares to both enforce the judge’s ruling and deal with the protesting parents. The Knox County School Board had previously refused to issue the type of mandatory mask order that is in effect in a number of school districts across the state.

Here’s more on the story in a series of tweets from various players:

https://twitter.com/KnoxvilleHoller/status/1441864236335091716?s=20

Looks like someone missed the Intro. to U.S. Constitution class:

Rep. Gloria Johnson reports on the protest escalating:

The end result: Schools are closed in Knox County tomorrow. Ostensibly, they will reopen Tuesday. However, it is not yet clear how the schools will go about enforcing the mandate and keeping kids safe in light of the escalating rhetoric around protesting the mandate.

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Mask Mandate Mandatory

A federal judge has ordered Knox County Schools to mandate masks with no opt-out in order to protect student safety. The move follows a recent order by a federal judge that Shelby County Schools may enforce a mask mandate with no opt-out in defiance of Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order requiring an opt-out option.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel has more:

Knox County Schools must require all staff and students to wear masks in schools while a lawsuit by families of disabled children plays out, a federal judge ruled Friday. The ruling takes effect immediately. 

U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer also blocked Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order allowing Knox County Schools parents to opt out of the mask mandate. The judge’s ruling only applies to the school district.

The governor’s executive order was already set to expire Oct. 5. Jessica Salonus, a lawyer representing the four families who are suing the Knox County Board of Education and the governor, said that even if Lee extends his opt-out order, it still won’t apply in Knox County.

A similar lawsuit is now pending in Williamson County.

The rulings in Shelby and Knox counties mean that Lee’s opt-out order is essentially a moot point in two of the state’s four largest school districts.

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Knox County’s Thomas Announces Retirement

Knox County Director of Schools Bob Thomas announced last week that he will be retiring at the end of this school year (June 2022).

The Knoxville News-Sentinel has more:

Knox County Schools superintendent Bob Thomas will retire June 30, 2022, he announced to families Friday evening. 

“In discussions with my family over the summer, I made the decision to retire on June 30, 2022,”

Thomas took the helm in April 2017 after a tumultuous time for the district. Before being named superintendent, he had worked as an assistant superintendent since 1990. Before that, he was a teacher at Bearden Junior High and Bearden High School. He also worked at Rule High School as an assistant principal and then principal.

MORE>

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COVID Crisis in TN Classrooms

As school systems close amid COVID-19 spikes, some districts are also seeing teachers leave the profession.

WBIR in Knoxville has video of a local teacher who is giving up her job due to concerns over the spread of COVID and lack of action by the district to mitigate spread.

https://twitter.com/TheTNHoller/status/1435369915343687680?s=20

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Students Set to Return to School as COVID Cases Spike

The head of the Knox County Education Association (KCEA) is calling on that district to begin school this semester in a hybrid or virtual model as COVID-19 cases spike in Knox County and across the state.

WBIR has more:

The Knox County Education Association called for the county’s schools to start the semester in the “red zone” with no in-person learning, or with an alternating hybrid schedule where students alternate in-person days, the group’s president said Monday. 

“We can’t sacrifice lives over politics and we need to do what’s right and what’s best for everyone,” Tanya Coats told 10News. “Educating kids is a priority for us, but we just need to do it remotely from home.” 

The push in Knox County to move to remote learning comes at time when new cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee and in Knox County are increasing.

As WBIR notes, since December 11th:

. . . the county’s health department has reported in excess of 10 thousand more positive tests and more than 100 new deaths tied to the virus. The number of active cases has increased by 62 percent. 

In fact, Tennessee achieved “best in the world” status for COVID transmission rate (the highest rate) in December and the entire state is currently identified as a COVID-19 “hot spot” according to Tennessean reporter Bret Kelman:

Some districts have already announced they will open virtually this semester for at least a few days up to a few weeks. With numbers surging and a post-Holiday spike expected, it’s not clear when conditions will be safe for in-person learning.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Lee has called a “not so special” session of the legislature to address the issue. That meeting will begin on January 19th.

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Kirby Endorsed in Knox School Board Race

In a race for a seat on the Knox County School Board, the Knox County Political Action Committee for Education (K-PACE) has endorsed Hannah Kirby, per a Facebook post.

While Kirby is a staunch supporter of public schools, her two opponents for the seat have both expressed support for school vouchers.

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