My family and I are humbled by the support and prayers we have received over the past few weeks.
The support from the Williamson County community, including parents, former parents, students, Williamson Inc. and the business community, and Williamson County Schools employees has been overwhelming. I also appreciate the support of the Williamson County School Board members who have worked with County Mayor Rogers Anderson and Williamson County Commissioners.
I want to thank the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Board of Education for allowing me to get to know them and for allowing me to explore the opportunity of working for boys and girls in Nashville. I was impressed with the warm reception I received. It is evident the Board’s focus is on student success, and I am encouraged about the future of MNPS.
After careful consideration, I have made the decision to remain in Williamson County Schools in order to continue our journey to becoming a district recognized nationally in the academics, athletics, and the arts.
The school board, as sort-of expected, rescinded its appointment of Jay Steele as interim superintendent and appointed Chris Henson in his place, and did so with some procedural mess-making.
With no discussion, the Metro Nashville School Board responsible for 87,000 students and nearly 11,000 employees on Tuesday night promoted an officer deemed unqualified to run the school system to the district's top job.
The School Board voted 5-4 to promote Chief Academic Officer Jay Steele to director of schools. The move is effective July 1, after the month-end retirement of current Director Jesse Register.
The interim position does not disqualify Steele from going after for the job on a permanent basis, according to several members of the board who voted for him. Steele had applied to become a permanent replacement, but was told by officials with Chicago-based search firm Hazard Young Attea and Associates they would not recommend he make the first cut of candidates due to lack of experience, he said. Board members say that, depending on who appears on a short list of candidates set to be unveiled July 6, there could be room to consider Steele.
Steele, credited for growing the career academies program in Metro high schools, said he is still interested in the director job on a permanent basis and was surprised the board voted him in as interim leader on Tuesday.
“I was not asked to be the interim. But I am humbled by the board members who voted for me tonight and I’ll serve them and this district the best I can,” he said after the meeting.
An East Nashville parents' group wonders why Elissa Kim — a vice president for Teach for America — isn't recusing herself from votes on charter contracts that include intents to use TFA for teacher recruitment. Metro Legal, for what it's worth, says it's not a violation.
Tuesday night’s school board meeting left Board Member Amy Frogge declaring the board can’t have meaningful conversations because it’s “spun” in favor of charters, and Will Pinkston saying any faith he had in Chairwoman Sharon Gentry’s leadership has evaporated. On the other side, it’s left charter advocates Elissa Kim grasping for straws to keep the conversation about policy and Mary Pierce unable to see a path forward.
“It’s pretty evident with this current makeup we’re not going to move forward on the board in discussing and creating a thoughtful plan for charter growth and how to implement them in our district,” Pierce said after the meeting.
Justin Testerman, the COO of the Tennessee Charter School Center, will be the co-CEO of Project Rennaissance, Karl Dean's post-mayoral nonprofit that isn't supposed to be exclusively focused on charter school expansion but has hired a lot of pro-charter people.
Testerman isn’t the only one leaving the Charter School Center, according to a letter to charter school leaders from DeLoache and fellow center board member Pitt Hyde. CEO Greg Thompson is also leaving the center for a leadership role at Pyramid Peak Foundation, a Memphis philanthropic organization supporting education reform, they said.
After two years of repeated failures trying to control the shape of a school voucher program, the governor is giving up on the legislation.
Instead, this year’s legislative agenda includes bills that focus on aiding adults going back to college, adjusting teacher evaluations and liability laws, transforming state-employment to mirror private sector employment and installing a tax on out of state companies.
Abandonment of the long fought-over school voucher plan — also known as Opportunity Scholarships for public school students to attend private schools — means the legislature will control much of the conversation over what any such program would look like. In the past two years the governor has run a proposal, he has either pulled the legislation because legislators wanted to expand it against his wishes or it has failed to gain enough votes in the House.
Below is a summary of the governor’s proposals for 2015, as prepared by his administration. The legislation is in addition to a trio of bills the administration filed in January adjusting the formula for teacher evaluations, tweaking the Tennessee Promise and encouraging people to become volunteer drivers for the elderly.
From the administration:
- The Community College Reconnect Grant pilot program would use a one-time payment of $1.5 million in lottery funds in the FY 2015-16 budget proposal to provide last-dollar scholarships to adults with some college credit to attend a community college. In Tennessee there are nearly 1 million adults with some post-secondary credit but no degree, and this is an additional component of the governor’s Drive to 55 initiative.
- The Educators’ Liability Trust Fund would provide personal liability coverage to teachers free of charge. While many teachers are covered through their school districts’ insurance plans, the governor heard from many in his conversations around the state that they are concerned they’re not adequately covered and teachers end up paying for liability protection at their own expense. This year’s budget proposal includes a one-time appropriation of $5 million to establish the fund to provide coverage.
- The Revenue Modernization Act would help keep Tennessee a low tax state by leveling the playing field between in-state companies and out-of-state companies doing business in Tennessee. The proposal would also seek to close certain loopholes by adapting to changes in the way products are bought and sold. The proposed legislation includes:
- Addressing “nexus” in sales and use, franchise and excise, and business taxes;
- Adopting market-based sourcing of services to determine which state counts the sale of service for tax purposes when a company conducts business in more than one state;
- Making Tennessee’s tax structure more competitive with surrounding states by changing the way a multi-state company’s income and net worth is taxed for franchise and excise purposes;
- And allowing the use of software and video games being accessed remotely to be subject to sales tax as if they had been purchased or downloaded.
- The Compensation Enhancement Act continues the administration’s focus on recruiting, retaining and rewarding a talented state government workforce by adapting longevity payments to help implement the market- and performance-based compensation plan. Since the governor took office, $139.4 million has been allocated in the state budget for salary increases, and the FY 2015-16 budget proposal includes another $47.7 million for salary increases. Under the proposal, executive branch employees would receive a permanent increase to their base salary equal to half of the longevity payment due, effective July 2015. The remaining half of the longevity payment would be reallocated to the state’s General Fund and then used to fund market- and performance-based salary increases.
- The State Health Insurance Reform legislation aims to address the rising state employee retirement health care costs and give the state flexibility to offer more competitive total compensation packages and to design benefits for state employees. Key changes include:
- The state would have the flexibility to offer a defined contribution or defined benefit to current employees for pre-65 retiree health insurance, reflecting the practice of most large private sector employers, and state and local education employees hired after July 1, 2015, would not be eligible for pre-65 retiree health insurance;
- The State Insurance Committee would have the flexibility to change the percent subsidy that is given to the active state employees by offering one basic health plan;
- After July 1, 2015, no part time state employee may be eligible for any insurance plan while current employees working 1,450 hours or more per year will be grandfathered into the plan;
- The state would not offer Medicare Supplement Insurance under the state and teacher insurance plans for employees hired after July 1, 2015.
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