Commission explores role in educational issues
by JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Oct 22, 2013 | 1122 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The stand the Bradley County Commission should take on educational issues was a debated topic during Monday’s voting session.

The Commission voted to ask the Bradley County Board of Education to formulate an official opinion of the Common Core State Standards and make it known to the Commission.

Commissioners then voted to send a resolution to the Tennessee General Assembly opposing the linking of a teacher’s licensure renewal to student achievement through the Tennessee Value-added Assesment System.

Before the vote, some commissioners voiced concern that the governmental body may be sending mixed messages with the resolutions.

“I think we gotta decide if we are going to be a voice, or if we are not going to be a voice,” 4th District Commissioner J. Adam Lowe said.

“We have one item on the agenda that says we are going to speak on an educational issue. We have another item on the agenda that says we are not going to speak on an educational issue.”

Fifth District Commissioner Jeff Yarber’s motion to ask the state Legislature to reconsider Common Core and develop a set of standards based on input from around the state did not pass.

“I have been an advocate for years now not to micromanage the school board,” Yarber said. “We need to make a decision whether we are going to be a voice or not.”

He said the Commission could have one opinion and the school board another.

He said the Commission can have an opinion on the standards because county students are being impacted.

“No one is asking to not have standards. All I’m saying is take the federal government out of it and let the state of Tennessee and localized government do their job,” Yarber said.

In the past, the Commission has passed a resolution related to the statewide issue of having elected or appointed directors of schools.

“I do believe this (Common Core) is a schools issue. I do appreciate you referring this to the county school board,” said Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel.

McDaniel and 2nd District Commissioner Connie Wilson emphasized textbook decisions will still be a local decision.

Wilson read from the Tennessee Common Core website’s Frequently Asked Questions section, which emphasized that local school systems would not lose decision-making power on curriculum.

“The biggest issue we see is people get confused about what standards are and what curriculum is,” said Cleveland City Schools director Martin Ringstaff.

“The standards are nothing more than a clear set of standards, very similar to the standards we have in place. A big difference is there are a lot less of them and they are very streamlined.”

Ringstaff said the standards are better than what Tennessee had.

“They are already implemented. It’s finished,” Ringstaff said. “I am 100 percent behind Common Core because it’s better than what we had.”

Resident Dan Rawls also spoke on the Common Core issue.

“The Common Core standards are not benchmarked,” Rawls said. “They have never been tested ... Common Core is the federalization of the school system.”

First District Commissioner Terry Caywood said he was concerned about Bradley County students switching to Common Core. He said students’ grades would be negatively affected.

Caywood and Yarber expressed concern over the role of federal grants to fund the implementation. Ringstaff said federal funds help Bradley County and Cleveland students every day through programs to help special education students and through the free and reduced lunch program.

Seventh District Commissioner Bill Winters said the teachers he has talked to are tired from all the educational reforms and changes instituted in the past few years. He said none of the teachers have said they do not want educational standards.

Common Core State Standards were formulated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. These organizations hold the copyright on the standards.

The Commission voted unanimously to send a resolution to the state Legislature opposing linking a teacher’s licensure renewal to student achievement through Tennessee Value-added Assesment System.

TVAAS gives teachers a score based on where students were expected to perform academically and where they actually did. The complex formula used to determine the score is said to compensate for differing life circumstances and judge growth on a level field, according to Winters.

Also during the meeting:

n The Commission approved a health insurance policy with BlueCross BlueShield for county employees. The insurance committee looked into other options to the contract with Cigna because the insurance company had not reached an agreement with SkyRidge Medical Center to cover nonemergency care.

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said there is little difference between the Cigna plan and the plan the county is moving to under BlueCross BlueShield.

“A couple things that are minor differences are actually in our favor,” Davis said.

One of these differences is the cost to the county. The plan will save the county $500,000.

n Purchasing a vehicle for the environmental officer out of the landfill solid waste fund budget was approved. The vehicle will belong to the county, not a particular department. However, upkeep and insurance will be paid by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, of which the environmental officer is a part.

n The Commission also voted to make the veterans home a priority for Healthy Community Initiative funding. The HCI committee will be deciding grant recommendation to the Commission at another meeting.

n Updates to the Commission’s policies and procedures were also approved.