Local school administrators help launch statewide education advocacy group

Rick Wagner • Jun 19, 2013 at 10:24 PM

Three Northeast Tennessee public school system superintendents are among eight statewide who have launched a new education advocacy group.

Founding members of the Leading Innovation for Tennessee Education (LIFT) group include Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie, Kingsport Superintendent Lyle Ailshie and Greene County Director of Schools Vicki Kirk.

The new group is similar to the national Chiefs for Change organization, except focused on the state level.

Today, the group plans to support State Board of Education approval of teacher licensure reforms recommended by Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman and on Friday support state board passage, on second reading, of differential teacher pay reform. Both may draw Tennessee Education Association opposition.

One of the group’s first actions was to voice support for the continued implementation of the Common Core standards for math and English/language arts and accompanying assessments. The group wrote a letter of support to Gov. Bill Haslam, Huffman and the state BOE.

“Publicly supporting efforts like the Common Core State Standards, teacher licensure reform, and new teacher compensation systems will form the core of LIFT Education’s early work and are consistent with our mission,” said Neel Durbin, head of Dyersburg City Schools.

The group is pushing for “high-quality instruction and student success in Tennessee” and is focused on “policy leadership, thoughtful and strong advocacy, and building a network of school leaders for professional learning,” according to a Wednesday news release.

“We recently convened a small, independent policy forum for superintendents committed to courageous student-centered leadership to ensure quality instruction and student success in Tennessee,” said Lyle Ailshie, Superintendent of Kingsport City School. “It’s homegrown and Tennessee specific. We’re just getting started, and I fully expect moving forward we will include more superintendents across the state who really subscribe to our core principles.”

LIFT, according to the release, plans to learn from national reform leaders and local best practices and advocate and rally around its mission. Seven guiding principles are: driving a student-centered culture; high standards and high expectations; teacher quality and effectiveness; effective instructional leadership; flexibility for innovation; multiple pathways to success for kids; and rigorous, transparent accountability.

The eight members so far are Ailshie; Jerry Boyd, director of the Putnam County School System; Durbin; Shawn Kimble, superintendent of the Lauderdale County School System; Kirk; James McIntyre, superintendent of Knox County Schools; Clint Satterfield, director of Trousdale County Schools; and Yennie.

“Ultimately, we believe that decisions in education should be based on the best interests of students, not adults,” McIntyre said. “All policies and practices will be developed through the lens of how each impacts and advances student success, improvement, and academic gain, regardless of the adults in the room, politics, tradition or status quo.”

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