An Open Letter from
Dear Williamson County Parents, Students,
Staff and Community Members:
As the 108th
General Assembly of the State of Tennessee enters the final
weeks of session, the fate of several significant education
bills remain undecided. While there is plenty of noise
surrounding a handful of issues, all proposed education
legislation warrants our attention and public debate.
Williamson County Schools has a rich tradition of educational
excellence; as a result our leadership is critical during these
Issue: Standards and Curricula
The debate on the
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) took center stage last week
after attempts to repeal the CCSS failed in the House Education
In a surprise move, the full House
approved an amendment to a bill delaying further implementation
of the CCSS for two years.
We have always been
required to implement curricula standards mandated by the State.
As with all standards, there are some we really like and others
not so much. However, at the end of the day, the standards
quite simply represent the minimum content that students in any
particular grade must master in the area of reading and math.
I have read the standards multiple
times and have not identified a single standard which is harmful
to students in Williamson County. Claims that the
standards are the end-all-be-all are not true and fears of an
ensuing Armageddon for public schools are not rational.
Standards are standards are standards. What the CCSS will
do is guarantee that all students get equal access to the same
minimum standards regardless of zip code.
Don’t believe the CCSS are a silver bullet or setback for us.
Stay the course.
Issue: Student Assessment
Another aspect of the
debate in Nashville relates to the use of standardized testing.
I do have significant concerns
relating to our National and State proclivity to overvalue the
assessment of students. I am concerned about the cost of
preparation and our readiness to administer the exam developed
by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and
Careers (PARCC). I’ve been a vocal critic of tying student
assessment results to teacher licensure etc… In addition, I’ve
advocated for the State to provide a “hold harmless” period so
that students and teachers are not penalized for a dip in
performance which typically accompanies shifts in curricula.
Move forward with PARCC, but provide a “hold harmless” period
for students and teachers.
In addition, the State must provide
additional funding for technology to fairly administer tests.
Issue: Textbook Selection
sponsored by Representative Casada, purports to empower parents
in the textbook selection process.
However, nothing could be further
from the truth.
2249 as amended actually steals local control from school boards
and provides false expectations to loosely organized groups with
While the textbook selection process
is indeed flawed, Mr. Casada’s bill fails to address the current
short comings in the process but rather panders to a specific
Extend the time for selecting
textbooks so school districts and parents have adequate time to
Maintain local control of the
textbook selection process without intrusive legislation.
Issue: Guns at School Events
SB 0142, otherwise
known at the Guns-in-Parks Bill, has huge implications for
Most Americans, including this
retired United States Marine, prize our constitutional right to
bear arms. However, there are times when carrying a gun is not
in the best interest of the public. For example, I am unable to
carry when I visit the Legislature in Nashville. It is against
the law to carry a weapon while on school grounds; hence the
Our schools use public parks as
venues for events. Managing two conflicting laws would prove to
be a nightmare for school and law enforcement officials. In
addition, if enacted, the law could result in confusion and the
commission of a felony for having a gun in a park at the time of
a school event.
If enacted, Williamson
County Schools will not allow student events to occur in parks
where guns are permitted. Rather, we will likely find alternate
venues or cancel events.
we are unable to use Cheek Park or Granny White Park because of
two conflicting laws, we might have schools share school-based
facilities. For example, Brentwood High baseball/softball would
play games on the Ravenwood Fields, and Franklin on the
Allow local governments the option
of opting out or provide funding for school sports facilities.
Issue: Providing School Districts Voice
There are dozens of other bills relating to
education that are equally important, but I will close by
focusing on HB 2293 which ostensibly would provide the County
Commission with controls in the event a school board decides to
hire a lobbyist. Last year, WCS spent .00001 of its budget on
lobbying. This totals $30,000. Of course the reason for
hiring a lobbyist in the first place was to protect the school
district from Federal and State intrusion in local affairs and
to advocate for the students, teachers, and parents Williamson
County Schools serves.
local school boards to be accountable to their electorate
without Federal or State interference.
Director of Schools