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Hawkins BOE preparing to finalize its 2018 legislative agenda

Jeff Bobo • Jan 19, 2018 at 10:30 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County school board members want the Tennessee General assembly to address several issues this coming session such as eliminating letter grades from state testing accountability.

That's why the BOE asked director of schools Steve Starnes during the Jan. 9 meeting to draft a resolution establishing the board's position on various issues that may come before the General Assembly this year.

BOE Chairman Bob Larkins encouraged his board members to attend the Tennessee School Board Association's "Day on the Hill" Feb. 13.

"It's a good opportunity to see our representatives, and tell them what we have on our mind, and the wishes and concerns we have about education in Tennessee," Larkins said.

The BOE expects to have several recommendations for its state Rep. Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville) and Sen. Frank Nicely (R-Strawberry Plains).

Among the positions discussed by the BOE Jan. 9 were:

Eliminating the practice of giving schools a grade A thru F pertaining to state testing results.

BOE vice chairman Debbie Shedden also happens to be the TSBA president.

Shedden noted that last year the BOE adopted a resolution asking the General Assembly to revisit Tennessee's new system for grading schools, opposing the A thru F system of grading school as required in Public Chapter 680.

Shedden said the General Assembly should, "Allow the Department of Education to work with the stakeholders in developing an accountability system that meets the 'Every Student Succeeds Act' without stigmatizing students and schools.

Allowing school board members to officially attend meetings virtually.

Larkins noted that last year the board asked Hicks to present a bill allowing school board members who can't attend meetings in person to be able to participate in meetings via Facetime or Skype, and be able to vote on issues.

Since becoming TSBA president Shedden has attended Hawkins County BOE meetings "virtually" when there was a scheduling conflict with her TSBA responsibilities, but state law prevented her from being able to vote because she didn't attend the BOE in person.

Allow the BOE to make budget amendments without County Commission approval.

A similar bill that didn't pass last year would have allowed school boards to spend fund balance and make budget amendments without county commission approval. Larkins noted it didn't pass but he'd like to see it come back up for consideration this year.

"I feel like that's overlap," Larkins said. "The budget has already been approved by the commission and it shouldn't take multiple approvals to spend our fund balance when we get into emergency situations like we had most recently (with the elevator project)."

Oppose the annual bill that would bring back elected superintendents.

"We're all opposed to elected school superintendents," Larkins said. "That really limits your ability to get the best person - the right person. Sen. Nicely seems to be the sponsor of that bill yearly. We tell him that we are opposed to it. We haven't gotten much traction yet with him, but we will tell him again when we meet in February."

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