Knox Co BOE Work Session 6/29/15




Great Rally Signs

If you aren’t already planning to attend the rally for teachers, students, and public education on July 1st at 3:30, at the Knoxville City-County Building, please mark your calendar!

Some participants have already started thinking about ideas for signs, so I have gathered photos from rallies all over the US, which represent many of the current topics of concern.

When making a sign, remember that most of your audience will be DRIVING and will have only a few seconds to get your message.

Here are some tips for great signs:

  • Use HUGE letters
  • Use as few words as possible
  • Look at your sign from a distance to check for readability
  • Plan your sign before making it
  • Have another person check your grammar and spelling!
  • Use sturdy materials
    • science fair type presentation boards
    • old corrugated campaign signs that are still in your garage
    • Heavyweight poster board
  • Think about space – signs that can be held up HIGH can go behind lower ones for bigger visual impact.
  • Lowe’s has yardsticks that are GREAT for signs.
  • For large signs, consider a stick on each end
  • Use BOTH sides when possible – especially for signs that will be held high.
  • CLEAN UP after the rally!
    • If you expect to need signs again, store them in a poster bag
    • Be sure nothing is left behind for others to clean up after you

Teachers at Lacy Elementary School in Raleigh wear red to show support for a teacher “walk-in” Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. Read more at

From the TEA Rally, March 5, 2011 (Photo JOwen)

From the TEA Rally, March 5, 2011 (Photo JOwen)




More Education Less Legislation


Patti Hickey of Highlands Ranch joins more than 200 others rallying in support of Douglas County School District teachers outside the district administration building Friday. (Karl Gehring, The Denver Post)

From the TEA Rally, March 5, 2011   (Photo JOwen)

From the TEA Rally, March 5, 2011 (Photo JOwen)

Members of UFT Solidarity, New Action and DTOE (Don’t Tread on Educators) hold signs as they rally on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan demanding reforms to the process of teacher dismissal in New York City public schools “New teachers deserve support, not abuse.” “Fire abusive administrators, not teachers.” “Justice for probationary teachers.” (“Probationary might be confusing to people. Alternatives would be “all,” “new,” or “non-renewed.”

March 5, 2011 (Photo JOwen)

March 5, 2011 (Photo JOwen)



March 5, 2011   (Photo JOwen)

March 5, 2011 (Photo JOwen)

March 5, 2011

March 5, 2011

Chicago public school educators and activists rallied Monday afternoon to support teachers who have refused to administer the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and parents who have opted their students out of the exam.

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley Students protest outside of Ralston Valley High School, Tuesday, Sept. 23 in Arvada.

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley Students protest outside of Ralston Valley High School on Tuesday, Sept. 23 in Arvada “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent” Edmund Burke

Jeffco Public Schools teacher Audrey Truesdale rallied with more than 100 other educators, parents, and students Friday evening to raise awareness for their concerns about the county’s school board majority. ( Photo by Nicholas Garcia )

“I may be small, but my potential is huge!”

“Think outside the bubble. Let us teach.” “One Size does not fit all.”

Chicago teachers rally support in the streets during a mass march in May “At a time when most union officials are shamefacedly selling concessions as “the best we can do,” Chicago teachers are defiant. Just ask anyone who encountered the giant inflatable rat that accompanied the spirited CTU picket outside the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) offices August 22 a few hours before a school board meeting.”

My favorite anti-testing sign:




Knox Co BOE Speakers 6/3/15

Some of the speakers from the June 3rd Knox County Board of Education meeting at the City County Building are linked below. Clicking the video will start the Youtube video and clicking the caption will take you to another page, where you can see both the video and a partial transcript.

Lauren Hopson
Knox County third grade teacher who will begin serving as President of the Knox County Education Association, in July, 2015 – Speaking in support of non-renewed teacher, Christina Graham

Christina Graham
Non-Renewed Kindergarten Teacher, with solid evaluation scores – Speaking about her non-renewal experience, and the inability to get straight answers or even a reason.

Jennifer Owen
Former Knox County Teacher – Explains that action against employees who speak is illegal and that the Board has a duty to assume all reports are given in good faith and to fully investigate.
Holly Child Knox County Parent – Speaking about staffing concerns at Mount Olive Elementary School

Jade Wilson
Knox County Parent – On  the “Vision” of Knox County Schools and the fact that numbers of those who look out for the needs of students in Knox County are dwindling. “You cannot put a price tag on nurturing young minds.”

Therese Sipes
Knox County Parent – Speaking regarding the “vision” at Mount Olive and the atmosphere of fear in KCS. “If this teacher didn’t fit one person’s vision for our school, then it is the vision, not the teacher, in need of replacement.”

Lynn Schneider
Parent and Former Knox County teacher –  “As our elected school board representatives, you have an obligation to advocate for our students. You should realize that the educators ARE the experts and they SHOULD be driving education policy.”

Jenny Ortner
Knox County Parent – In Support of Natasha Patchen at Copper Ridge and on the climate of low morale, mistrust, and fear among staff. “Every decision educators make, is supposed to be about the students. I believe that the staffing decisions made at Copper Ridge have lost sight of that.”

Kelly Wright
Knox County Parent – Speaking in support of Natasha Patchen and Christina Graham at Copper Ridge Elementary School
Steven Rogers
Knox County Schools Teacher

Rob Taylor
Former Knox County Schools Teacher

Mark Taylor
Knox County Schools Teacher

Louise Povlin
Knox County Parent – Addressing assessments, assessing the assessments, and the balanced calendar, and the “capricious and cruel” way teachers have been non-renewed. “I’m tired of seeing good teachers disappearing from my children’s schools.”

To the Knox Co BOE, 6/3/2015

To the Knox County Board of Education, June 3rd, 2015

I have a great deal of respect for the educators behind me & I know they have sacrificed dearly, trying to bring information to this Board and the public, for the benefit of students in Knox County Schools. However, I think we are going about things the wrong way: This may not be the best forum for these concerns. We may need a larger forum.

We tend to forget that Knox County does not have a school system.

  • Our state has a school system.
  • This state system is divided into smaller districts: Local Education Agencies (LEAs)
  • Management of those LEAs is entrusted to local boards of education.

So – just looking at the Big picture:

  • The State Legislature makes the laws regarding schools in the state;
  • the State Board of Education further creates policies;
  • the State Department of Education is tasked with enforcing the laws and policies;
  • cities and counties elect boards of education;
  • Boards of education serve the STATE, by managing the Local Education Agencies;
  • and those boards hire a Director of Schools to oversee day-to-day operation of their LEA.

As teachers and community members, we keep talking to middle management. “Truth to power” doesn’t come from talking to middle management – especially when middle management is a large part of the problem.

To better serve our community, we need to take a look at Tennessee Code Annotated and really think about where our voices might better serve our students.
There are two things the following laws address:
Illegal acceptance of the Broad grant and treatment of employees who have tried to addressproblems within KCS.

The Education Truth in Reporting and Employee Protection Act of 1989 deals with the very problems we are seeing. (TCA 49-50-1402)

(a)….It is the intent of the general assembly to reduce the waste & mismanagement of public education funds, to reduce abuses in governmental authority & to prevent illegal & unethical practices.

(b) To help achieve these objectives, the general assembly declares that public education employees should be encouraged – ENCOURAGED – to disclose information on actions of LEAs that are not in the public interest … any employee making those disclosures shall not – SHALL not – be subject to disciplinary measures, discrimination or harassment by any public official.

[I believe that should include attempts by this board to publicly chastise or shame those employees in these meetings]
Tennessee Code clarifies:

(1) “Disciplinary action” means any direct or indirect form of discipline or penalty, including, but not limited to, dismissal, demotion, transfer, reassignment, suspension, reprimand, admonishment, reduction in force, withholding of work, unsatisfactory or below standard performance evaluation or the threat of such discipline or penalty;

(2) “Disclosure of information” [May include]

  • the waste of public education funds, 
  • mismanagement, 
  • falsification of state required reports, 
  • inaccurate compilation of statistical data or reports 


  • abuse of authority by locally employed, elected or appointed officials or employees of an LEA…

The Penalties are clearly laid out in TCA 49-50-1406 

  Should any person [This could also be an employee – like a Director of Schools] – be found guilty of knowingly and willfully making or causing to be made any false statement or report or otherwise violating the requirements … that person shall forfeit all pay and compensation for the position held for a period not to exceed one (1) year, be subject to dismissal, removal or


Yes, an EMPLOYEE can also be subject to OUSTER

from the office or position and be ineligible for election or appointment for the same or a similar position for five (5) years.

(a) Any person having knowledge…may report or disclose the falsification, waste or mismanagement

  • to the department of education
  • or committee of the general assembly
  • or individual official, member or employee of the department

(b) The department shall make a thorough investigation of any written report of falsification, waste or mismanagement. 

[Have our BOARD members ALL made a THOROUGH investigation of of issues that have been brought up???

(c) …a person reporting shall be presumed to be acting in good faith 

[something that has NOT been evident in these meetings]

and shall thereby be immune from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred or imposed for the reporting.
I believe we have dealt with middle management long enough. It is time to exercise OUR due diligence, as community members, and move these problems up the chain.


Please Stand for Something

Teachers in Knox County are finding out that speaking to the Board of Education may cost their jobs. This has always been a risk, but many felt that expressing concerns was well worth it, as long as they did so respectfully. They are now finding that even respectfully speaking about certain topics can cause them to be non-renewed. Now, teachers are being told that even SITTING IN A BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING will be “professional suicide.”

In response to those threats, my friend, Steven, posted this:

Point of order about protest/speaking up/taking a stand for what you think is right. Your PERSONAL situation may be good or great (for example, my gig is actually pretty damn good), but the situation of your colleagues in another part of the building, or county or in a different discipline, may be unacceptable. Saying “I’ve got mine” and letting them fight alone is lazy at best, and selfish at worst.


And I absolutely agree.


I have heard many groups gather together, to lament something that they see being done to a colleague, but RARELY see them do more than that. Shaking your head and saying,”Oh, this is terrible,” and then going on with business as usual solves nothing. It does, however, set up a spiral of hand-wringing and hiding.

Ten years ago, teachers in my building were faced with a reading curriculum that was so poorly put together, half the school could barely figure out how to use it. The other half had very little trouble, as they were using a different version and had different training. It was so bad that some of the staff got together, re-arranged the materials, to be usable, and retrained each other. (I assume that was very problematic for the people who had not disclosed that the whole thing was a RESEARCH PROJECT, to show how inferior training impacted student learning!) Throughout that time, we were never afraid to tell our principal that things needed to change.

Ten years ago, our principal met mistakes with a question about how we thought we could correct them and how she could help. By 2010, things had changed drastically, and we started to see sweeping changes throughout the state, as well as the nation. In our building, teachers opinions and ideas were no longer welcomed, but met with disdain and even public shaming. Six years ago, teachers in my building said that we should just “roll with it” until things changed.

Things have changed: Many of those educators are no longer teaching.

Three years ago, when I asked our BOE member to SHOW US the things that were being touted in the budget, the faculty urged me on and congratulated me for asking tough questions. When I asked them to go with me to speak with our legislators, or to even tell me what they would like me to say, they said, “You always do a great job with that. Whatever you say, I’m with you.” They were behind me, but not a single one of them stood BESIDE me.

When they came, in groups, to tell me about a problem that made them afraid to be in our building, that the administration would not address, I called KCEA for help. NONE of those teachers would talk. And when the administration came to my room and said that they knew I had made the call and that I had better never do anything like that again, I stood against them, alone. (Technically, I sat alone, because they were standing and had me cornered, behind my desk.)

Of course, there were always a few other teachers, who would question policy or curriculum, or other school-based decisions. They now say things like, “I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut; it’s just easier” or “See this? This is my happy face, and this is the face I am going to have this year – all year – no matter what.”

I expect those teachers to be gone soon, too.

Accepting terrible treatment and illegal actions, will not make them go away. Hiding them behind a smiling face will not make them go away. Allowing a few to stand up for you may make a difference for a while, but as they are struck down, one by one, who will be there to take their place?  When you are the one being chopped, without due process and you are standing in an auditorium alone, facing the Board of Education, I hope some of us are still around, to stand with you. Based on the unwillingness of most, to even stand up for their students and themselves, I can’t imagine there will be many who are willing to stand for others, by this time next year.

Knox County BOE 6/1/15

Live Blog from the June 1st, 2015 Work Session of the Knox County Board of Education