Metro Pulse sent the following questionnaire to all 13 candidates for the four contested and one uncontested Knox County Schools Board of Education seats. Candidates' responses have not been edited in any way, except to correct minor typographical errors for stylistic clarity.
TERRY HILL, candidate for KCS Board of Education in the Sixth District
Why are you running for the Board of Education? If you're an incumbent, why do you want to continue to serve for another four years, and is there anything you hope to do differently this term if reelected? If you're a freshly minted candidate, how long have you been interested in serving on the Board, and what do you think you can bring to the position?
I am running for the Board of Education because the schools are what I know. It has been my life for the past 30 years and I understand the system. I have been in the classroom with teachers, counseled with students, been in the homes of the parents, consulted with administrators and Central Office and understand the barriers presented that keep our kids from learning. I decided to run for District 6 six months after I had retired from Knox County Schools. As the discontent in our schools and concerns of parents escalated I realized that I was in a position to devote myself without distraction, to be a part of the solution.
Please elaborate on any experience or qualifications you have that you think would serve you well as a member of the Board.
• Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Tennessee
• 30 years experience as a School Social Worker and Lead Consultant with Knox County Schools
• Adjunct Instructor for the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Wesleyan College
• Past Chairperson and currently serve on the Tennessee Health Related Boards of Social Work Licensure
• Tennessee Social Worker of the Year awarded by Tennessee Conference of Children and Youth
• Leadership Education Participant
• Professional Licenses: Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Tennessee State Department of Education
• My most valuable experience is as a mother of two daughters, both Knox County School graduates, college graduates and successful women. I am proudly the Grandmother of three who are, or about to be, Knox County students.
What is your opinion of the current leadership of the state Department of Education under Governor Bill Haslam and Commissioner Kevin Huffman? If positive, how will you work with the many teachers and parents who are frustrated with the direction of the department? If negative, how will you try to maintain a good working relationship with the department?
I am very concerned about the attitude our Commissioner of Education has taken toward public education. He has not demonstrated a willingness to listen to the teachers and administrators. His presentation of new initiatives has been short-sided in recognizing that even the best plans may need some adjusting and changing. This is unfortunate, but not hopeless. It is the School Board's responsibility to direct the Superintendent in communicating the concerns of Knox County Schools to the Commissioner.
What is your opinion of the job being done by the current Knox County Schools Superintendent, Jim McIntyre? If negative, how will you try to maintain a good working relationship with him? Would you vote to buy his contract out before it ends, despite the substantial cost to the district, if you felt you had the support of enough Board members to do so?
I believe Dr. McIntyre is doing what he thinks is best for Knox County Schools. I do not agree with some of his decisions and have felt that he has not been open to listening and taking action. I believe this can change. The question that needs to be asked is "Are the taxpayers of Knox County ready to spend over $1,000,000 to fire Dr. McIntyre and expect that will fix the problem?" I am not sure we are just yet.
What is your opinion of the performance of the current Board members, both those running for reelection and those who will remain in office until at least 2016? If negative, how will you try to maintain a good working relationship with them, especially if you've publicly criticized your potential colleagues in the past? If you're an incumbent, how will you try to maintain a good working relationship with any potential new colleagues who have been vocally critical of you?
I have not publicly criticized individual Board Members and do not think they have done so about me. I do feel, collectively as a School Board, they have not been as attentive as they should have been to concerns expressed by teachers and parents which began over two years ago. This has been very unfortunate. I know much of the dissatisfaction could have been avoided with changes that the Board did have the ability to initiate.
Putting your thoughts about the administration aside, what is your opinion of the Knox County Schools—the district itself? Do you think the schools are generally moving in the right direction? If not, in what direction do you think they should be moving? How would you work to make that happen on the Board?
I do feel Knox County Schools is moving in the right direction. In spite of the very serious issues that have been presented within our system I believe we all want the same thing, to be sure our kids have the best education and opportunities we can give them.
What is your opinion of the Tripod survey administered to students, intended to gauge their perceptions of their teachers' performance? If favorable, do you think it's a good idea for all students, including those in grades K-2? If negative, are you specifically opposed to the Tripod methodology (and cost), or the idea of surveying students about teachers' performance in general? The Memphis school district, among others in the country, has tied these surveys into a teacher's overall evaluation—is this something you'd ever consider, whether with Tripod or a different but similar survey?
I am opposed to the Tripod survey or any other similar survey being administered at any grade level. I am opposed to the idea of surveying students about teacher performance in general. Performance ratings should not be controlled by children. As a parent I am sure there were days my own kids would have rated me below average. As adults they now look back on those days and understand I always acted in their best interest.
Although state law currently requires teacher evaluations be tied to test scores, there is not a mandate for Knox County to use the current TEAM model. Do you think KCS should look into other evaluation models? If not, why? If so, are there specific models you favor?
There are serious flaws in the TEAM teacher evaluation currently being used in Knox County Schools. I speak from personal experience having been evaluated under this model. I obtained a better than average score (4.2) so am not addressing this issue as an unhappy employee. I believe there are better evaluation models that more closely align with what teachers or support personnel are suppose to actually do. I would welcome the opportunity to be a part of the process to find a better alternative.
What is your opinion on charter schools? If negative, does this mean you would never vote to approve any charter application that came before the Board, no matter what? If you do support charter schools in any form, would you support an otherwise well-thought-out charter proposed by a for-profit operation, should the Legislature allow such schools to open in Tennessee (which it is currently considering doing)?
I believe any charter school applications presented to Knox County Schools should be researched and held to the same standard and expectation that is required of public schools. Yearly reviews and evaluations, along with sanctions equal to those imposed on public schools should be in place. A School Board Member needs to be open and willing to embrace ideas and initiatives that will make educating our kids a successful proposition. The truth is if all our schools were successful community schools this would not be an issue.
Would you support KCS funding going to employ Teach for America teachers at regular public schools in the district? Would you vote to authorize a charter school that planned to employ mostly TFA teachers?
I strongly support first hiring teachers that have graduated from accredited College of Education programs. Knox County Schools, like most school systems, may experience a shortage of teachers certified in specific subject areas (usually math and science). If qualified certified teachers are not available in areas of need then I would consider other viable alternatives that could include TFA teachers.
Do you have children in the school system in Knox County? Have you ever? If your children are school-age and attend (or recently graduated from) non-KCS schools, please explain why.
I have two daughters that graduated from Knox County Schools. I have two grandchildren currently attending Knox County Schools.
As a member of the KCS Board of Education, you will be expected to sit through multiple long, tedious meetings filled with interminable PowerPoint presentations each month. Are you sure you can pay attention that long? Seriously, are you really sure about that?
Yes I am seriously sure about that!!