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Teacher transfers source of frustration for parents, students

Teacher transfers source of frustration for parents, students
By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
A concerned parent has made a passionate plea for teachers in the Obion County School System not to be moved around like chess pieces and children not to be used as pawns.
Dan Huggins made his appeal to the Obion County School Board during its session Monday night at Obion County Central High School.
His appeal before a large crowd came on the heels of Obion County Director of Schools David Huss’ recent decision to transfer over 50 teachers and administrators from one school to another school — a decision defended Monday night by the school board chairman.
Huggins told the board he was appearing “as an advocate for the children” and his appearance at the meeting followed his attendance at Friday’s school board orientation, where no business was conducted. He said his statement Monday was based primarily on answers he and several teachers received from Huss, supervisors and board members at orientation.
“At what point does it ever become in the best interest of the child to use them as pawns,” Huggins asked. “Whether it is in the case of not retaining a student when a teacher and parent have requested retention, and the Reading Recovery supervisor overrides the decision to maintain the stats and reputation of the Reading Recovery program … or whether it’s a scheme to get rid of a tenured teacher … Do the ends really justify the means in this case?”
Huggins alleged the board has allowed supervisors to “knowingly and purposefully place a teacher, whom you know is weak in reading and language arts, in a critical class.” He said the children are going to be tested and given the fifth-grade writing assessment, a critical part of their TCAP and future placement. He questioned why the teacher would not be put in an area of study where she has strength, if the children’s best interest is the most important issue, and why the teacher would be placed in reading and language arts.
“And every parent of every student should be upset. At the very least, this weakens any confidence in the supervisors,” he said.
“We’ve all been told all these changes are about Balanced Literacy. It is my opinion it is not only about Balanced Literacy, it is about the maintaining of prestige and position — and people who will go to any lengths to maintain their prestige, titles and positions.”
He said the director of schools and elementary, middle school and Reading Recovery supervisors have denied there has been intimidation, harassment and threats of retaliation, but said it is easy to dismiss it to cliches and unfounded rumors.
“ … Numerous teachers have shared with me personally their stories of being harassed and threatened,” Huggins alleged.
He claimed the teachers were discouraged from talking with Huss and alleged everyone was aware of “the tactics of strong-arming and harassing.”
Huggins said the reason given for the transfer decisions was to take weak teachers and pair them with strong teachers, but he asked the board to show them the data to support their weakness.
“All appearances are that the weak teachers are those who ever dared ask or raise questions to a supervisor. All appearances are that the strong teachers are those who quietly submitted,” he alleged.
“Which is more important? The children, the teachers, the principals or your three supervisors and your Balanced Literacy program? In my opinion, the integrity, stability and confidence in this entire school system is being sacrificed at the altar of one program and a few supervisors who operate with impunity,” he claimed. “You are putting my child’s best interest at the bottom of the list. And you are moving power positions to the top.”
Obion County School Board chairman Brian Rainey stopped Huggins after his allotted five minutes were done, but Huggins continued to speak for several seconds and told the board “something isn’t right.” He said the teachers he and his children have come to trust “are not just another number … to be moved around like chess pieces in order to save the job of one person or one program.”
Rainey responded by saying the board had asked Huss to fix Balanced Literacy “because it was not being implemented consistently across the county.” He said the schools with greater implementation had higher achievement scores.
“After two months of discussions and meetings, the plan was decided upon and presented to the board. Mr. Huss asked for our support and we gave it to him with the knowledge of how change would be disruptive. However, we still unanimously agreed to this decision,” he said.
“As individual board members, we may not like all the moves that were made, but the board is not in charge of personnel, but to help make the entire system better, not one school over another. The board and administration knew this was going to be hard because change is always hard.
“We know there are a lot of people upset and it is regretful, but we all need to remember why we are here tonight,” Rainey continued. “I have been told by a lot of people the board does not have a clue what is going on in our schools, but we did address what we did know. We are also confident Mr. Huss will address everything he knows with his open door policy.
“This is the plan, it is in effect, so please join us in moving forward, and all the negative comments need to stop,” he said.
Transfers listed
The Messenger requested a list of the 54 transfers recently announced by Huss. They were not listed in Monday night’s monthly personnel report.
The transfers include Candice McMahan, from Hillcrest to Black Oak; Brandy Ray, from Lake Road to Black Oak; Sara Stevens, from Lake Road to Black Oak; Elaine Barnett, from Hillcrest to Black Oak; Ali Perkins, from Black Oak to Hillcrest; Melanie Baggett, from Lake Road to Hillcrest; Jackie Clark, from Black Oak to Hillcrest; Shantelle Carter, from Hillcrest to Lake Road; Kristen Kendall, from South Fulton Elementary to Lake Road; Annette Ferguson, from Ridgemont to Lake Road; Katharine Raines, from Ridgemont to Lake Road; Kathy Lynch, from Black Oak to Lake Road; Penny Burton, from South Fulton Elementary to Ridgemont; Jannette Fisher, from Lake Road to Ridgemont; Ellen Bowden, from Lake Road to South Fulton Elementary; Janet Keathley, from Lake Road to South Fulton Elementary; Shannon Preuett, from Ridgemont to South Fulton Elementary; Kris Dunn, from Hillcrest to South Fulton Elementary/Middle schools; Kim Cooper, from Ridgemont to OCCHS; Lanna Hicks, from Black Oak to Hillcrest; Debbie Branscum, from Hillcrest to Black Oak; Bonita Burpo, from South Fulton Elementary to Hillcrest; Etta Walker, from South Fulton Middle School to Ridgemont; Heather Mayfield, from South Fulton Elementary/Middle schools to Ridgemont; Lockie Tuck, from Hillcrest to South Fulton Elementary; Melissa Seymour, from Ridgemont to South Fulton Middle School; Dawn Alfter, from Hillcrest to Ridgemont; Lana Davis, from South Fulton Middle School to Black Oak; Jamie Huss, from Black Oak to Hillcrest; Caroline Coleman, from Ridgemont to Lake Road; Kevin Seymour, from South Fulton Elementary to South Fulton Middle School; Leea Spurlock, from South Fulton High School to Ridgemont; Kristy Vincent, from Ridgemont to South Fulton Elementary; Allen Pounds, from Ridgemont to South Fulton High School; Tom Kelley, from Lake Road to OCCHS; Cheryl Ogg, from OCCHS to South Fulton Middle/High School; Justin Truett, from Hillcrest to South Fulton Middle/High School; Sharon Regen, from Lake Road to Hillcrest; Maddie Carrington, from Lake Road to Black Oak; Paula Boley, from Ridgemont to South Fulton Elementary; Vicki Vantrease, from South Fulton Elementary to Ridgemont; Teresa Sadler, from Black Oak to Lake Road; Sheila Stone, from Black Oak to Lake Road; Dennis Buckelew, from Lake Road to Black Oak; Don Capps, from Ridgemont to South Fulton Elementary; Elise Braswell, from South Fulton Elementary to Ridgemont; Adam Stephens, from Ridgemont to Lake Road; Dana Craddock, from Ridgemont to South Fulton Elementary; Patresa Rogers, from South Fulton Elementary to Ridgemont; Dana Shelton, from Lake Road to Ridgemont; Jeff Riley, from OCCHS to Lake Road; Christa Hankins, from South Fulton Elementary to Ridgemont; Peggy Brooks, from Lake Road to South Fulton Elementary; and Greg Barclay, from South Fulton Middle/High School to OCCHS.
Other action
In other action during Monday night’s near hour-long meeting, opened with prayer led by board member David Lamb, the school board:
• Approved a consent agenda that included the monthly personnel report, financial reports, recognition of gifts for the 2011-12 school year and approval of surplus technology equipment.
The personnel report listed a leave of absence for Lake Road educational assistance Jaime Johnson; the resignations of South Fulton Elementary bookkeeper Melanie Hawks, OCCHS food service employee Lisa Grooms and Lake Road educational assistant Amanda Sutton; and the retirement of Lake Road guidance counselor Josephine Keightley.
• Approved the second and final reading of an amendment to board policy regarding private vehicles, which updates the monetary limits on the insurance policy required to use private vehicles for school functions.
• Approved the second and final reading of an amendment to board policy regarding food service management to reword a nutritional lunch requirement for students.
• Approved the second and final reading of a slight amendment and title change to board policy regarding use of multimedia to reflect the diversity of educational materials available to schools.
• Was updated on the Adult Education program by supervisor Sharon Connell. GED graduation will be June 14 at OCCHS.
• Approved the General Student Activity and Athletic Funds budgets for respective schools.
• OK’d Huss’ participation in the CEO Professional Development Program.
• Adopted the board’s annual agenda for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
• Approved one-year appointments to the Student Disciplinary Hearing Authority.
• Approved allowing athletic practice during the school day. Huss noted football and basketball are the only sports that practice during the school day, with all other sports practicing after the school day.
• Approved Huss’ recommendation that all revenues derived from service agreements for the transportation of special education students be designated for the purchase of a special education bus.
• Approved a tower space lease in order to be in compliance with FCC regulations that become effective Jan. 1, 2013, pertaining to two-way radio usage. It is subject to approval by the county commission.
• Accepted a low bid and a quote as submitted by R&S Carpets LLC in the amounts of $8,150 and $6,419, respectively, for carpet for South Fulton Elementary’s library and South Fulton Middle/High School’s offices and the high school guidance office, respectively.
• Approved a renovation project and floor plan for Black Oak’s gymnasium. The proposal had included floor refinishing, but Huss said it was discovered Friday that a unit had caused water damage and the floor refinishing will now be covered by insurance.
• Accepted a bid from Cumberland International for the Inline V6 school bus for $84,045 each for the purchase of two school buses.
• Accepted a bid from Hotel & Restaurant Supply for $10,106.66 for two hot-holding cabinets for Ridgemont’s cafeteria.
• Approved a recommendation for adoption of a textbook for Tennessee Bridge Math, being offered for the first time during the 2012-13 school year as a math requirement for graduation.
• Approved on first reading an amendment to board policy regarding attendance.
• Accepted a low bid from Kenton Chevrolet for $21,273 for the purchase of a driver’s education vehicle.
• Accepted a low bid from Union City Ford for $21,939.72 for a transportation department service truck.
• Approved a resolution concerning School Federal Projects Fund budgets.
• Approved overnight student trips for OCCHS’ criminal justice class, Skills USA and FFA.
• Learned the board’s next meeting will be June 25 at 7:30 a.m. at the board office. It will likely include any last-minute bids, budget amendments or other fiscal year-end action.
Board member Susan Williams was absent from Monday night’s meeting.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 6.5.12

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