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.
PAM TRAINOR, candidate for KCS Board of Education in the Ninth 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 have seen great strides happen in all nine, ninth district schools during my tenure on the board. Increased graduation rates at my high school, technology grant recipients in three schools, Arts 360 integration in three of the elementary schools, increased test scores in every school, facility improvements in greatly needed areas in all schools. I would like to continue to support and shepherd these great changes as our schools move forward.
Please elaborate on any experience or qualifications you have that you think would serve you well as a member of the Board.
I am a lifelong native in this community where I grew up. I raised my family here. I know the families here and know their needs. I have twenty years of volunteer service in this community. I have been in the forefront on community and educational boards and with advocacy groups on its behalf.
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 think as Tennesseans, we are in very challenging times. Education is a hot button issue in almost every facet of our country today. Tennessee is no different. Governor Haslam and Commissioner Huffman have set forth immense change and there are many challenges in that amount of swift movement. I worry that things are not adequately thought through at the state level, at times and our local districts are left to do the heavy lifting. We work together to subdue frustrations and answer questions and bring our children the best education that we can possibly afford. A working relationship, however, is the only thing that will ever propel our children to the next level.
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 have been involved in Knox County schools through the tenure of three different superintendents, not including the interim ones. I find this superintendent to have a vision and purpose that others did not possess. However, there are always areas of improvement that can be worked towards. They can be explored by all of us.
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?
My concern of other board members performance is for the most part out of my control. I have only the control of my own performance. If the common goal of this board and its school system, is the 56,000 children that depend on it for their education, then the boards performance will speak for itself.
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?
Due to the incredible hard work and the dedication our educators, involved parents and the committed students of Knox County Schools, we are making great strides towards where we wish to be and are experiencing great success in a vast area. There is, as said before, always room for improvement. We have to build on our weaknesses and greatly enhance our victory's.
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?
The Tripod survey in its first iteration was actually brought to the KCS board by the Mayor's Youth Action Council: a board of student leaders from all over Knox County, several years ago. I was deeply invested with this group of young students at the time. They wanted their voice to be heard. Who better than the "direct customer" of a teacher to give input on their performance? I don't see it necessary at a K-2 level. As far as, a direct tie to a teacher's evaluation, it would be tough to say. That being said, I still think it holds great merit to any teacher and should never be discounted. Now how to eventually use it, should be a discussion between teachers and administration, until an adequate usage could be decided upon.
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?
In a perfect world I would prefer a TAP model, simply because it brings with it greater resources for our teachers and students. Finances play an integral role in these decisions. I would be open for any option that could benefit an educators craft and show us where our children are heading.
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 am not in favor of charters in the least. I fear they drain the sharpest and brightest students from our schools with fragile populations and leave children behind that could benefit from the abilities of the children leaving. I believe, that in reverse, the children left behind could certainly benefit the children leaving, as well. They also drain the public school of funding to essentially create "private schools" with public dollars.
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?
We are fortunate to be an "incubator" of wonderful teachers that come to us and train in our schools, from the wonderful area colleges that surround (and are in) our community—the University of TN, Johnson University, Carson Newman, Pellissippi State—just to name a few. I couldn't imagine a time that we would have such a diluted pool of candidates to choose from, with all of the training in our area, that we would have to adjust our standards in order to staff our schools. TFA teachers are generally known to have a passion for (or be placed in) lower socioeconomic schools. If one were to fit the profile of the high standards that a Knox County teacher meets, I would hope they'd be considered on their merits not just where they trained.
I would vote NO to any such charter.
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 am the proud mother of two children a daughter 22 and a son 20. They are both graduates of South-Doyle HS and alums of South-Doyle MS and Dogwood ES. They are now college students—my daughter at the University of TN Chattanooga in Chattanooga, TN and my son at Tulane University; New Orleans, LA.
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?
It's the Board of Education ~
For one of the four largest school systems in the state of Tennessee ~
We have 57,000 students,
4000 of the Rest of Everybody who keep us going,
and are responsible for a budget of over 410 million dollars!
"Seriously? " ~
I believe it's in the job description!