This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
A quarter of the way into the school year, one item is dominating chatter among Tennessee teachers, principals and even some state politicians –– a narrative fully captured and advanced through the media: The state’s controversial new teacher evaluation system, ushered in to bring accountability to classroom instructors, has predictably caused its share of angst among the teachers it measures. Though sentiments aren’t universal, there seems to be a degree of division between the evaluation system –– implemented this year –– and teachers themselves, with some decrying its methodical, time-consuming approach and 1-to-5 grading system that has stressed even longtime, tenured teachers.
Competitive salaries key, Haslam says Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that he wants a study of state employee salaries with an eye toward revisions that would prevent workers from going elsewhere once the economy improves. “Right now we have the luxury of a fairly noncompetitive market for labor, just because of the economy, but that’s going to change sometime,” said Haslam.
A freshman who crosses state lines to learn at Middle Tennessee State University’s Murfreesboro campus can pay three times as much as an in-state student. How those tuition dollars play into admissions decisions is a delicate question being considered now as a consulting group evaluates MTSU’s enrollment.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga used $25.8 million in federal stimulus money between the 2009 and 2011 fiscal years to boost part-time faculty, scholarships and a new math lab. The vice chancellor of finance and operations for the school, Richard Brown, told The Chattanooga Times Free Press that about 40 percent went to academic affairs, with almost $5 million used to hire lecturers and adjunct faculty (http://bit.ly/pVJt2Z ). UTC spent $8 million on capital improvements.
Local planners and the state Department of Transportation are going round and round about a roundabout. TDOT is in the planning stages of a massive rebuild of U.S. Highway 27 between Interstate 24 and the Olgiati bridge, including the M.L. King Boulevard interchange.
The Tennessee Arts Commission is recognizing the state’s professional artists. The group is providing fellowships of $5,000 to outstanding artists who live and work in Tennessee.
State Rep. Tony Shipley, who is under investigation in a case that questions his dealings with the state Board of Nursing, has been named chairman of a legislative committee that has oversight of all such health-related boards. Shipley, R-Kingsport, said he views the appointment as a display of confidence in his integrity and innocence by legislative leaders.
Embarrassed nationally by news stories about Chattanooga’s Dorothy Cooper, state officials have shifted into damage-control mode to try to rebut claims that Tennessee’s new photo ID voter law is a Republican scheme to disenfranchise the poor and the elderly. At the age of 96, Dorothy Cooper became a cause célèbre of the liberal media this month — the determined black lady who somehow managed to vote her whole life, throughout the Jim Crow era and beyond, only to be sent home empty-handed when she asked for one of the new state-issued photo IDs.
A pension plan for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office is costing nearly three times what was projected when voters approved it in 2006, pushing officials to seek major changes to hold down the soaring expenses, a newspaper reported.. A four-part series by The Knoxville News Sentinel found that the county is paying $8.2 million a year for the Uniformed Officers Pension Plan (http://bit.ly/nm10Xb).
Knox County’s highest salaried employees would earn more money than the lowest paid, under one County Commission proposal to grant step increases rather than the administration’s planned across-the-board 3 percent pay raise. Further, almost 63 percent of the general government employees would not even get a 3 percent bump if a step raise is implemented, according to the county’s human resources department.
As the word “tornado” started showing up more and more in weather forecasts on April 26, Hamilton County officials were ramping up the Emergency Operations Center. The spacious room, based inside the 9-1-1 Communication Center on Amnicola Highway, is outfitted to transform instantly into the county’s nerve center, coordinating response efforts and communicating with state and federal agencies.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s main campaign committee used campaign donations to pay legal expenses for Chip Saltsman, the congressman’s chief of staff, finance records show. On July 1, the campaign spent $7,565.38 on Waddey & Patterson P.C., the Nashville firm defending Saltsman.
Aging Population Spurs State Initiatives to Keep College Graduates From Fleeing Matt Marshall is still trying to determine which path he will take when he graduates from the University of New Hampshire in June. But the 23-year-old business major has pinpointed his general direction: out of the state.
A growing number of states are sharply limiting hospital stays under Medicaid to as few as 10 days a year to control rising costs of the health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Advocates for the needy and hospital executives say the moves will restrict access to care, force hospitals to absorb more costs and lead to higher charges for privately insured patients.
When Apple introduced its new iPhone 4S earlier this month, tech analysts raved about the phone’s voice-activated personal assistant, nicknamed “Siri.” One thing they loved was how Siri can be used to dictate text messages without typing — or read incoming texts aloud — a convenience that seemed perfect for life behind a steering wheel.
While no timeline has been set for workers to come back and build vehicles at the Spring Hill General Motors plant, it seems more likely the hot-selling Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain will be rolling off the assembly line when the idled facility reopens. GM CEO Dan Akerson told the Automotive News last week the company plans to shift some production of the popular crossovers from plants in Ontario, Canada to meet rising demand and is considering the Spring Hill site for the spillover.
The jobs landscape is changing. Plenty of policy makers are pontificating about the nation’s persistently high unemployment rate. But ask any of a number of area business owners what their main issue is and they’ll say it’s a shortage of skilled workers, particularly in high-profile white-collar sectors. Really.
The jobs landscape is changing. Plenty of policy makers are pontificating about the nation’s persistently high unemployment rate. But ask any of a number of area business owners what their main issue is and they’ll say it’s a shortage of skilled workers, particularly in high-profile white-collar sectors.
Promise Academy, at the corner of Hollywood and Chelsea in North Memphis, has plans to grow, including adding a gym across the street where blighted, boarded-up homes now sit. It won’t be able to do so if the newly unified school board convinces legislators in Nashville to stop charter school growth while it works out the details of the school merger.
With black unemployment reaching historic levels, banks laying off tens of thousands and law school graduates waiting tables, why aren’t more African-Americans looking toward science, technology, engineering and math — the still-hiring careers known as STEM? The answer turns out to be a complex equation of self-doubt, stereotypes, discouragement and economics — and sometimes just wrong perceptions of what math and science are all about.
It is remarkable that the tourism industry in Tennessee has not only kept its head above water but has actually thrived despite the current national economic crisis. As you might have read, tourists spent roughly 6.3 percent more money in Tennessee in 2010 than they spent in our state in 2009.
The ability to shape your own destiny is what sets America apart. To be able to pursue the American dream while performing your chosen vocation is a privilege that many people take for granted. The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and our community partners support approximately 8,000 Tennesseans with intellectual disabilities to live, work and to be a part of their communities.
An appearance last week before the Shelby County schools merger transition team by leaders of the Chattanooga and Hamilton County schools consolidation was both reassuring and helpful. The merger, which took place in the mid-1990s, was “undeniably, unequivocally and irrevocably” beneficial, the transition team was told.