The Chalk Board, May 4, 2015

By Sally Absher

A Retroactive Vote won’t make it right.

After learning that Dr. McIntyre had quietly approved the KCS hiring of Broad Center Resident Christy Hendler under a matching grant agreement, BOE members Patti Bounds and Amber Rountree separately asked the Law Department if the law authorizes the Director of Schools to unilaterally approve and accept a gift or grant, without the consent of the Board of Education.  A corollary question was also asked: Is Board Policy DM entitled “Grants Management” legally valid?

Law Director Bud Armstrong notes in his April 17 memo that the answer to both the question and corollary is NO.

Armstrong cites two sections of TCA: § 49-2-115 (c), which provides for grants from the state Department of Education, and § 49-2-203, which provides that it is the duty of the BOE to apply for and accept grants. Armstrong adds, “The superintendent, under statute, is given no authority to unilaterally accept grants and to sign grant contracts. Further, state statute requires a resolution by the BOE and notification to the County Commission.

Armstrong further examined the actual Broad Academy Grant Agreement for Christy Hendler. He states that this is the first time the Law Direcotr’s Office has been offered the opportunity to review the document, and notes, “Clearly, there are provisions which are not legal with regard to a contract binding the Knox County taxpayers. There are other items which may be questionable.”

After schools superintendent Jim McIntyre told WBIR, “The district “has entered into this same grant agreement with the Broad Foundation four times,” the Focus requested and received copies of the Broad Grant Agreements for T. Nakia Towns, Ginnae Harley, and Krista Tibbs. McIntyre signed all of these agreements. The BOE did not vote to approve any of them. They all contain “…provisions which are not legal with regard to a contract binding the Knox County taxpayers. There are other items which may be questionable.”

The preliminary agenda for this week’s BOE meetings indicates that the superintendent intends to bring the latest grant agreement to the BOE for a vote retroactively. We would caution BOE members not to vote for an agreement which the law department has declared contains illegal and unenforceable provisions. To do so would be a clear dereliction of duty.

KCS High School students to take EOC tests after being in school only 13 of 18 week semester.

It always seemed a bit strange that the “end of course” tests are given up to three weeks prior to the end of the school year. For high schools on block scheduling, the EOC test is given in early December (school dismissed for the Christmas break on December 22) and the week of May 4 (school is out for the summer on May 21).

But to complicate matters more, the winter of 2015 brought us “snowmadeggon” with school closed for two full weeks. To the Superintendent’s credit, there was white stuff covering the roads during much of that time.

Additionally, some high school students lost a day for PRACTICE for the TCAP writing assessment, a day for TAKING the TCAP writing assessment, and a day for the US History Social Studies field test. NONE of these various assessments, practices, and field tests counted. At all. Zip. And yet, they took instructional and review time away from subject matter that students will be tested this week, on the EOCs that DO count – for 25% of the student’s grade.

And wait… there’s more. Several weeks ago the Focus reported computer problems with the social studies field testing. As students began the test, it was discovered  that computers needed to have the updated version of JAVA installed. In at least one high school last week, it was again discovered, as testing was set to commence, that the computers had not been updated with the most current version of JAVA. What was supposed to be a one or two hour event ended up taking all day.

This is something Doug “High Tax” Harris and other BOE members should remember during budget requests for more funding for technology. In a recent BOE meeting Harris even suggested that the County could give KCS $5M as a one-time expenditure so the school district could purchase more technology. Technology is not a one-time expense. It has to be updated – or replaced – regularly.

Remember back in the day when we used a pencil and paper to take a test? The biggest liability was that the pencil would break or the point would become worn down, which is why we were always told to “bring two number 2 pencils” to the exam. And, in the unlikely event that both pencils broke or became worn down, there was the pencil sharpener.

 

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