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OC schools pass commissioner’s test

OC schools pass commissioner’s test

By: By CHRIS MENEES Messenger Staff Reporter

OC schools pass commissioner’s test | Tennessee Commissioner of Education Dr. Lana Seivers, Obion County schools, Director of Schools David Huss

EDUCATIONAL VISIT — Tennessee Commissioner of Education Dr. Lana Seivers (center) talked with South Fulton High School students Ashley Brundige, Dustin Walker and others during a visit to their school at mid-day Wednesday.
Tennessee Commissioner of Education Dr. Lana Seivers has a sort of internal test she asks herself when she visits a school.
She asks herself, “Is this a school where I would want my child?”
Obion County schools were put to the test — and passed with flying colors — when Dr. Seivers made an unannounced visit to a trio of local schools Wednesday.
Her day included stops at Obion County Central High School in Troy, Black Oak Elementary in Hornbeak and South Fulton Middle/High School. She was accompanied by Obion County Director of Schools David Huss and various members of the Obion County School System’s central office staff.
Dr. Seivers — who is in her 36th year of a career in education that has included stints as a classroom teacher, pre-K principal, elementary assistant principal, elementary principal and director of schools in Oak Ridge and Clinton schools — said she was impressed with many aspects of Obion County’s schools after seeing several of them first-hand Wednesday.
She said the immediate thing that impressed her was the condition of the facilities, even schools that are 10 and 20 years old.
“I think it’s obvious that your custodial staff, your kids, your teachers — they have such a pride in it, because the schools look great and you just get this feeling it’s a safe learning environment, safe and clean. There are certain things that have to be met before kids can learn,” Dr. Seivers said.
“The other thing that impressed me — the principals. I like the way the kids know them. It’s not always the case when you go into schools. And they know who your director (of schools) is. I mean, that’s kind of unusual at times. I’ve been impressed with that and with the attitude.
“I just have this deep belief that you can’t teach a subject without knowing a child,” she said. “I think you have to teach the child before you teach math. And the one feeling I had everywhere was that people like kids. And you can tell. When you walk into a school, you can sense something about that school from it and if they’re on focus.”
Dr. Seivers pointed out that the schools she visited in Obion County were not expecting her Wednesday.
“We walked in classrooms and they were on task, they were working,” she said. “I’ve been really impressed with that. The things Obion County has done with its BEP 2.0 money are impressive and the pre-K programs I’ve seen — that’s been kind of neat to see. … People are on task with their teaching, but it’s just real clear they like where they are.”
At Black Oak Elementary, the children were called together for an impromptu assembly and Dr. Seivers gave them an opportunity to ask questions. “They asked some really good questions,” she said.
She was also impressed with the appearance of the students. This marks the first school year the Obion County School System has implemented a standard dress code for them.
“I said to the kids at Black Oak in assembly, ‘Wow, you all look great.’ You should have seen what they did. Almost every one of them visibly straightened up in their seats. They were proud of themselves,” she said.
Dr. Seivers was not familiar with the county’s recent action to implement a standard dress code or any controversy that resulted, but she said she likes the concept as both a parent and as an educator.
“As a parent, I would like the money it would save me,” she said. “But as an educator — and I’ve taught in a school that was low socio-economic and I was principal in a school that was very high socio-economic with some lower mixed in — I just like any way that we can help kids be on a level playing field without one more way to say, ‘You’re smarter, you’re richer.’ I just think it’s a more level playing field.”
Dr. Seivers, who has been the state’s Commissioner of Education in Gov. Phil Bredesen’s cabinet since January 2003, told The Messenger she scheduled a visit to Obion County for a couple of reasons.
First, she has been trying for nearly five years now to visit all of the school districts across the state. She admitted she is behind in making her rounds as a result of lengthy legislative sessions the past couple of years.
“But the second reason is — and, obviously, with 136 systems I have to make some choices in what I can try to get to — I’ve come to Obion County, frankly, because of (Obion County Director of Schools) David Huss,” she said.
Dr. Seivers said she and Huss have had a professional relationship on a couple of different levels over the years. They both served as directors of school together at one point and then when she became the state’s education commissioner, Huss came to the Tennessee Department of Education in working with local finance. She explained that Huss has an accounting background and the department needed someone who could work with local school districts.
She said Huss has had the advantage of having worked in the state education department and is knowledgeable about many aspects of education.
“He came to work for us at the department and then chose to come down here (to Obion County) — and it’s your gain and absolutely our loss,” she said. “He just did such a good job and I thought, ‘Well, this is one trip I need to make.’”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at
Published in The Messenger on 10.04.07

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