The 2013 year saw the Bradley County Board of Education doing everything from welcoming its very first female chair to signing off on various school renovation projects.
Board members began their year by meeting together on Jan. 13, 2013, to discuss their goals for the coming year.
Among the goals was a desire to be named a “Board of Distinction” by the Tennessee School Boards Association for a second time, something the board would later achieve at its Nov. 21 meeting.
On Feb. 14, the board voted to make one capital project in particular its main priority for the year. They voted to explore options in making renovations to Lake Forest Middle School, which was estimated to need about $12 million worth of work.
Debates on how to cover the costs of Lake Forest’s renovations lasted through the majority of the year as the school board communicated with the Bradley County Commission on the matter.
In what he said was one of the school board’s most important actions of 2013, vice chairman Nicolas Lillios said an agreement had been made to at least cover the cost of the original $12 million estimate.
“The board has reached a consensus with the Bradley County Commission on funding for Lake Forest,” Lillios said. “We didn’t know that a year before.”
Other construction and renovation projects were discussed throughout the year, including a large addition to Walker Valley High School.
In May, the board selected Tri-Con Construction to build an eight-classroom addition onto the school to help remedy overcrowding. The project was estimated to cost $1.7 million and is set to be completed this coming spring.
Lillios said Board of Education chairwoman Vicki Beaty being named to her position was one of the biggest highlights of the year because it represented a big milestone for the board.
When she was elected on Sept. 12, Bradley County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel said he believed she was the board’s very first female chairman.
“Out of all the years it could have been, 2013 was the first year the board was led by a woman,” Lillios said.
Issues like the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System and Common Core state standards dominated the board’s discussions at different points throughout the year.
On Oct. 18, the board unanimously approved a resolution that articulated its members’ collective views on using the TVAAS scores to evaluate how teachers perform. The board opposed the idea of the state issuing, renewing or denying teaching licenses based on the scores that evaluate the academic performance of students.
The resolution’s passage was met with applause by county school employees in attendance, and it was later sent to state legislators for their consideration.
The fall season saw some board members talking with local teachers and principals about the continued implementation of Common Core standards in Tennessee.
“I visited several schools and asked them to give me positives and challenges,” Beaty said at the board’s Nov. 21 meeting.
There were many different pros and cons teachers mentioned, she said.
Some frequently mentioned pros were that the standards put more emphasis on literacy skills, that students’ performance could be more consistent with students in other states and that teachers could focus more on building skills that had not been emphasized as much in the past.
One con was that some of the standards were too “lofty and broad” because one Common Core standard could have several objectives contained within it.
Beaty said teachers also doubted the school system’s ability to provide the technology needed to do student testing online and if the standards were age-appropriate in the lower grades.
At the same meeting, two local school principals spoke to the board. Both acknowledged similar pros and cons.
The year came to a close with a special called meeting on Dec. 18 to discuss how liquor taxes had been distributed by the state.
Tennessee state law requires a 15 percent tax in liquor that is sold by the drink in places like restaurants. The rule is that 50 percent of the money is supposed to go to the state’s general fund for educational purposes, and 50 percent goes directly to the local “political subdivision” to be distributed the same way county property taxes are disbursed.
Attorney James Logan Jr. addressed the board on the matter at the meeting and explained that he believed the local governments owed the school system.
While the Bradley County Commission had already acknowledged its part in that, Logan said the city of Cleveland owed the county school system more than $700,000.
The school board approved a resolution stating their position on the matter, saying that its members believed that money was still owed to the local school system.
Board members, as well as Bradley County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel, said they wanted to discuss the tax collections issue with Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel and members of the Cleveland City Council before taking any legal action.
Logan was selected as the board’s legal counsel for that particular matter, and those discussions are still continuing today.