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BOE debates test impact on local county teachers


Staff Writer

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State tests may have made headlines during the state-wide malfunction, but the effects were still lingering when Washington County’s Board of Education passed the resolution to the testing mishap.

The resolution proposed by school board member Annette Buchanan at the latest BOE meeting on Thursday, Jan. 5, keeps recent TNReady test results from being a factor in teacher evaluations. Buchanan said the resolution would only be instated for one year to see if the test will be issue-free this spring.

Chairman of the board Jack Leonard mentioned that the resolution does not legally bind Washington County. Nashville and Knoxville have both accepted this resolution while many boards throughout Tennessee have not.

“I do have teachers who are concerned with the new testing,” Leonard said. “I was a testing coordinator last year in the school. You should have seen the stress involved with taking this test online. It took away from instruction because teachers were so concerned about this. I just think that we need to go through a testing cycle to have it as a learning process.”

Teachers aren’t the only parties the board considered while discussing the resolution; Board member Todd Ganger said he feels this resolution might send the wrong message to the funding body. Meanwhile, Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton was concerned about the community.

“My concern is just the message of accountability,” Halliburton said. “I’m very concerned about the message this would send our community, not just our commissioners. I’m concerned about parents who might be transferring here. Surrounding counties have not brought this resolution forward. Shopping parents might not take us as seriously as they would other counties if they read this in the paper.”

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger came equipped with quotes from Nashville and Knoxville board members who were quoted saying that teachers shouldn’t be held accountable until the state can make sure testing is reliable.

However, Halliburton said principals are still being evaluated according to testing scores. Ganger said a “no” vote for the resolution didn’t mean he didn’t support teachers. He also asked the board to consider the director’s wishes.

“I just ask this board just to support the director. The director opposes us doing this,” Ganger said. “I also feel like if we just let it play out, legislation is going to take care of itself. It may work out that way and then we’ve not put ourselves in a divisive position.”

All board members voted in favor of the resolution minus Ganger and Clarence Mabe.

It was also decided that Daniel Boone High School will hold its graduation at the East Tennessee State University mini-dome for the graduating class of 2017. David Crockett High School students held a vote with the majority in favor of keeping graduation at Crockett.

Halliburton reported her results from the Health Education and Welfare meeting at the Historic Courthouse earlier that day. The committee passed all three of her requests from the BOE. These were the purchase of the McCoy land for the site of the new  Jonesborough school, $500,000 for the design work of both the new Jonesborough K-8 school and renovation of Jonesborough Middle, and a reallocation of funds to install audio enhancements in K-5 classrooms.

The director also introduced a new school lunch application that has been sent home to Washington County School parents. Schools could provide free breakfast and lunch for all students should the grants be secured. Halliburton said she is looking for 100 percent return on the applications.

“It could be very meaningful for many of our schools out there in terms of federal dollars,” Halliburton said. “It’s a service that is provided for families that are struggling whether it’s a permanent struggle or a temporary struggle. We just want all of our families to take advantage of that. With that, we might be able to do some very creative things for our students in some specific schools.”