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August 28 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office. 

State Announces First Batch of Reward Schools (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee’s Department of Education has named the state’s top performing schools in what is intended to become an annual incentive for improvement. The 169 “Reward Schools” represent the top five percent. (see the list here) To celebrate making the list, Governor Bill Haslam, the First Lady of Tennessee and the Education Commissioner appeared at Kenrose Elementary in Brentwood. The event was a pep-rally for education, webcast to satellite locations from Memphis to Knoxville – other schools that either showed enough year-over-year improvement or exceptional test scores.

TN schools rewarded for growth, achievement (Tennessean/Giordano)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman on Monday singled out 169 schools statewide for their students’ performance on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP, tests. Reward Schools are the top 5 percent of schools that showed significant growth and/or academic achievement on standardized tests. Reward Schools are spread across 70 districts, in major cities as well as suburban and rural areas.

State recognizes 14 Metro schools with ‘reward’ label (City Paper/Garrison)

Fourteen Metro schools have received the state’s top recognition — earning the label “reward schools” — Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Education announced Monday as part of the state’s new accountability system. Reward schools are the 169 schools statewide either among the top 5 percent in highest TCAP and other end-of-year tests, or the top 5 percent of schools in year-over-year progress as measured by value-added data. Figures are according to achievement results from the 2011-12 school year.

6 Hamilton County schools honored for performance, growth (TFP/Hardy)

Hamilton County schools are among the best in the state for academic performance and growth on state exams, officials announced Monday. And two schools — Thrasher Elementary and Chattanooga High School Center for the Creative Arts — are among a handful in the state to be recognized for overall performance and growth. National, state and local officials honored 169 “reward schools”, which include the top 5 percent in overall annual growth in test scores and the highest achieving 5 percent in Tennessee.

Six Hamilton County schools achieve Reward status (Nooga)

State officials proudly announced Monday the designation of six Hamilton County schools as being Reward schools under the state’s new accountability system. Gov. Bill Haslam made the announcement from a school in Brentwood, which was live-streamed across the state. Big Ridge Elementary, Chattanooga High School Center for the Creative Arts, East Side Elementary, Harrison Elementary, Lookout Mountain Elementary and Thrasher Elementary were all named as being in the state’s top 5 percent for either annual growth or academic achievement.

Haslam names six “reward schools” in Hamilton County (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)

Governor Bill Haslam is recognizing six Hamilton County schools for TCAP success. In a video conference broadcast across the state, the governor congratulated schools that had either the highest TCAP scores, the highest gains or both. Those schools are East Side Elementary, Harrison Elementary, Big Ridge Elementary, Lookout Mountain Elementary, Thrasher Elementary and Center for Creative Arts. The designation is part of the state’s new accountability system, which replaced the federal No Child Left Behind act.

East Tennessee schools identified as ‘reward’ schools (News-Sentinel/McCoy)

When the state came out with its preliminary list of schools under its new accountability system last year, Corryton Elementary found itself near the bottom. But on Monday, the school was among the 169 schools statewide identified as a “reward school” — one of the highest performing in the state. Jamie Snyder, Corryton Elementary’s principal, said she had to check twice when she saw the school’s name on the list. “(The teachers and the students) did it!,” she said. “In one year, they went from a focus school to a reward school. That is amazing.”

East TN schools named “Reward Schools” (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

A handful of East Tennessee schools are making the grade with the Tennessee Department of Education. Leaders released a list of Reward Schools Monday. It represents the top five percent of Tennessee’s schools with the highest achievement and top five percent in overall growth. The measure is part of the new classification system implemented with Tennessee’s federal “No Child Left Behind” waiver. Governor Bill Haslam joined Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and others at an elementary school in Brentwood to reveal the list.

Memphis tops state with 20 ‘reward’ schools (Commercial Appeal/Roberts)

For all the vitriol about poor schools in Memphis, Monday’s announcement that 20 of its public schools are among the highest performing “reward schools” in the state was like an antidote to venom. It was felt intensely in an otherwise reserved lecture hall at LeMoyne-Owen College where students and staff of Hollis F. Price Middle College High whooped up their success along with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman in a live webcast from Kenrose Elementary in Brentwood.

Jackson honored as ‘Reward School’ (Times-News)

Jackson Elementary School in Kingsport is among a group of schools in Northeast Tennessee that made a list of 169 “Reward Schools” across the state. Sullivan County had five schools on the list: Blountville Elementary, Central Heights Elementary, Indian Springs Elementary, the pre-K-8 Mary Hughes School, and Sullivan North High School. Bristol, Tenn., had one school on the list, Avoca Elementary. The list features schools that landed in the top 5 percent statewide in test scores or score growth — performance or progress — and also took into consideration achievement gaps in scores of subgroups.

Eight local schools achieve Reward status (Daily News Journal)

State honors tops in performance, progress in testing It wasn’t Bradley Academy Principal Kim Fowler’s intent to make some of her staff members cry during a meeting late last week. The tears came because they’d heard news they’d been waiting more than two years to learn — Bradley is no longer classified as a High Priority School based on results from the state Department of Education’s annual spring assessment program. “There was some shock,” said Fowler, who came to Murfreesboro City from Metro Nashville schools, where she’d helped other schools make similar turnarounds.

State names schools with top scores; 15 West Tenn. schools on list (Jackson Sun)

Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman on Monday announced the top 5 percent of schools in the state for annual growth and the top 5 percent for academic achievement on state tests. The list of 2011-12 Reward Schools includes 169 schools statewide and 15 schools in The Jackson Sun’s coverage area, which is made up of 13 counties in West Tennessee.

Clarksville schools recognized for top performance (Leaf Chronicle)

Two Clarksville elementary schools were recognized by the Tennessee Department of Education Monday for their top performance. Montgomery Central Elementary was recognized for being in the top 5% for overall student achievement, and for being in the top 5% for progress over last year’s achievement levels. Woodlawn Elementary School had a top 5% improvement over its performance levels last year. The Department of Education had previously listed two Clarksville schools for disparties among achievement level within the school.

Haslam Heads to Tampa, Plans More Stumping for Romney (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee’s top Republican heads south Tuesday to participate in the party’s national convention. Governor Bill Haslam plans to do further stumping for Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Haslam travels to Tampa but says he’ll soon be on the road again to North Carolina where he’ll resume his role as a Romney surrogate. The first-term governor says the choice is between four more years of the federal government telling people what to do and a government that – in his words – “takes advantage…of the free enterprise system.”

Blanton appointed to ECD board (Times Gazette)

Gov. Bill Haslam on Friday announced appointments to state boards and commissions, including the appointment of Barbara Blanton of Shelbyville to the state Emergency Communications Board. Blanton was appointed along with Randy Porter of Cookeville. Haslam announced the appointments of 109 Tennesseans to 48 state boards and commissions. Earlier this year, Tennessee General Assembly passed Haslam’s recommended reforms to many of the state’s boards and commissions, and most of those changes take effect October 1, 2012.

Tennessee launches probe of 10th Judicial District (Times Free-Press/Walton)

Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the State Comptroller’s Office jointly will investigate allegations of misconduct and financial improprieties in the 10th Judicial District, authorities said Monday. A news release from Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper’s office said the investigation was called “relative to issues that have been raised” in the district’s four counties of Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk.

State gets tech award for iPads at driver centers (Associated Press)

The use of iPads to improve wait times at Tennessee driver service centers has brought the state a technology award. The Center for Digital Government cited the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s use of iPads at several centers and gave the state an award in the government-to-citizen state government category. Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said customers have reacted positively to the installation of the digital tablets at 26 centers. Customers normally receive the new driver license within minutes of the transaction.

Location called key for new Pellissippi State campus (News-Sentinel/Harris)

As buyers and sellers of property always say: The most important thing is location. Pellissippi State Community College officials and students say the school appears to have made the right decision in terms of location for its newest campus — the fifth in the Pellissippi family — located at 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike. “This is a part of the county that we are really excited to be in,” said campus Dean Mike North. “We’re closer. We’re a good option for students to come get an education and either earn a degree from us or transfer to a four-year institution after they earn a degree here.”

UT trustees ponder future technology, learning trends (News-Sentinel/Boehnke)

Imagine a future where students learn entirely online, pay no tuition and earn badges instead of degrees. This is what the University of Tennessee could be competing with in the coming decades, and it’s the image that greeted trustees on the first of a two-day annual workshop in Nashville. The scenario was part of a 10-minute video that imagined a world where existing advances — such as the free online courses offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other organizations — evolved to completely redefine higher education.

Prosecutors allege Baumgartner sold pills (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Satterfield)

Federal prosecutors said Monday they intend to prove disgraced former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner was not only a pill addict but a pill pusher. Pressed at a hearing in U.S. District Court on what federal crime Baumgartner is accused of lying to cover up, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zachary Bolitho and David Lewen alleged Baumgartner not only lied to various people to cover up his mistress’ misdeeds but to protect a drug distribution network of which he was a part.

Casada Looking to Jump Back into House GOP Leadership Role (TN Report)

Rep. Glen Casada says if he learned anything from his GOP leadership successor Rep. Debra Maggart, it’s to take nothing for granted. Casada is looking to reclaim his seat as the House Republican Caucus chairman and replace Maggart following her fiery primary election defeat fueled by Second Amendment advocates who disapproved of her role in blocking a key gun bill. “Being in leadership is very time-consuming, and if you’re not careful, it can overwhelm you with your responsibilities for the caucus,” Casada told TNReport in a recent interview.

E-Balloting System Showed Problems Aug. 2, Activist Says (TN Report)

A new system that checks in voters before they cast ballots had glitches during the recent primary, and the irregularities could have troubling implications if the system is launched statewide, Tennessee Citizen Action’s Mary Mancini said Monday. Mancini, executive director of the left-leaning public advocacy group, said three elected officials and at least two registered voters in Davidson County were electronically issued Republican ballots by default using electronic poll books during the Aug. 2 primary election.

Davidson sheriff, others received wrong primary ballots, group says (Tenn/Sisk)

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, two other elected officials and at least three other Nashville residents were given the wrong ballots during the Aug. 2 state primaries because the county’s technology defaulted to the Republican election, a voter advocacy group said Monday. Tennessee Citizen Action presented statements from Hall, Juvenile Court Clerk David Smith and others who said they didn’t receive the correct ballots because of problems with the electronic poll books used this month at 60 of the county’s 160 precincts.

Elected Official Says Davidson County Primary Defaulted to GOP Ballot (WPLN)

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall – who is a Democrat – says he mistakenly voted in this month’s Republican Primary. He says that voting officials are partly to blame. Hall says in a letter to the five-member election commission that he “never, not once” was asked if he wanted to vote in the Democrat or the Republican Primary. He didn’t notice until afterward that he’d voted on the GOP side. He was then told that the new computer system used to check in voters at the polling site apparently defaults to the Republican ballot if no preference is stated.

Shelby Co. Commission overrides mayor’s tax referendum veto (CA/Maki, Moore)

Voters in Memphis, Millington and unincorporated Shelby County will decide in November if there should be a half-cent countywide sales tax increase to help fund the county’s public schools. On Monday the Shelby County Commission overrode Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s veto of a sales-tax referendum, with an eight-vote majority. The deciding vote was cast by Commissioner Melvin Burgess, an employee of Memphis City Schools, who received an opinion from the county attorney’s office that it was not necessary to recuse himself from voting.

Commission Overrides Sales Tax Referendum Veto (Memphis Daily News)

There is about to be a swap on the Nov. 6 ballot. Instead of a citywide half-percent sales tax hike ballot question, the ballot question in November now becomes a countywide sales tax hike. The Shelby County Commission voted Monday, Aug. 27, to override last week’s veto of the countywide tax hike ballot question by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell. The override required eight votes on the 13-member body and the override passed on an 8-4 vote. Luttrell, as well as Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., had lobbied several commissioners over the last two weeks to get them to vote to sustain the veto.

Chattanooga mosque opens quietly (Associated Press)

While a new mosque in Murfreesboro has had to battle a lawsuit from a group of neighbors aimed at preventing it from opening, other mosques have been built around Tennessee with little publicity or controversy. The Islamic Center of Greater Chattanooga held its grand opening this weekend. Board Member Bassam Issa told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that mosque leaders shared their plans with officials at nearby churches and got their full support for the project.

Elizabeth Smart encourages Holly Bobo’s family, friends not to lose hope (AP)

A Utah woman kidnapped and held captive for nine months when she was 14 is telling family and friends of a missing Tennessee nursing student to continue searching for her and to not lose hope that she is alive. Elizabeth Smart spoke to about 1,000 friends and family of Holly Bobo on Monday night at Scotts Hill High School, in the area in West Tennessee where searchers have been looking for Bobo since she was abducted 16 months ago. Smart was found nine months after her abduction in 2002. Bobo was 20 when she was last seen in April 2011.

‘Miracles do happen,’ Elizabeth Smart tells Holly Bobo supporters (Jackson Sun)

Elizabeth Smart and her father, Ed, stood before friends and supporters of missing nursing student Holly Bobo’s family in the Scotts Hill High School gymnasium on Monday evening and told them not to give up, that “miracles do happen.” Early on the morning of June 5, 2002, a man came into the Smart home in Salt Lake City, Utah, and abducted Smart, then 14, at knife point. She was found nine months after her abduction, three miles from her home. Bobo was abducted outside her Darden residence 16 and a half months ago.

4th District challenger Eric Stewart says tax lien being paid (Times Free-Press/Sher)

Fourth Congressional District Democratic hopeful Eric Stewart was slapped with federal tax liens totaling $24,678.81 in 2002 and 2011 for not paying his federal personal and business taxes on time, records show. Stewart resolved a 2002 IRS lien of $9,541.09 on his 2000 and 2001 personal taxes on March 21, 2003, according to an IRS release filed with the Franklin County Register of Deeds. But the 2011 IRS lien remains on the books, records show. It involves $15,227.72 owed by Stewart and the insurance agency he owned on a matter involving payroll taxes for various quarters in tax years 2001-2003 and 2006.

Tennessean Bill Hagerty has deep ties to Romney (Tennessean/Sisk)

Bill Hagerty will not just be casting a ballot for his party’s nominee for president this week. He’ll be helping out a friend. “I think it’s going to be a real rush, to see someone that you’ve worked so hard for get to this next level,” Hagerty, Tennessee’s economic and community development commissioner, said of Mitt Romney, the man he has supported for president for more than half a decade. “It’s also going to be a real grounding sense of responsibility there, because we’ve got the race of a lifetime.”

Smyrna provides shelter from Isaac for military aircraft (Gannett)

Military personnel from as far away as Pensacola, Fla., will make Rutherford County their home for the next few days, as Tropical Storm Isaac was expected to make landfall late Monday. Smyrna Airport has had a contract with the U.S. military for several years to serve as a hurricane evacuation center, said Executive Director John Black. The last time the airport had to host pilots and their aircraft was in 2008, when Hurricane Gustav struck. “By the time it’s all said and done, we’ll have more than 100 aircraft here,” Black said.

$1 million grant will serve veterans in East Tenn. (Associated Press)

Homeless veterans in upper East Tennessee could see more assistance coming their way through a $1 million Veterans Affairs grant. The Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness announced on Monday that it has received the grant from the VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, which provides grants to organizations that can provide services to very low-income veterans living in or transitioning to permanent housing.

Plan to reduce Y-12 guard force scrapped following breach (N-S/Munger)

A plan to eliminate about three dozen security positions at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant has been scrapped following the July 28 break-in by protesters, a federal official confirmed Monday evening. In response to questions, Steven Wyatt of the National Nuclear Security Administration said the workforce restructuring plan proposed by WSI-Oak Ridge, the protective force contractor, had been canceled. He did not immediately comment on whether the action was related to the security breach. Under the plan, WSI had said it planned to eliminate as many as 51 security jobs in Oak Ridge, with most of them coming from the Y-12 guard force.

TVA to reduce Gallatin pollution (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Valley Authority expects to spend as much as $1 billion to reduce harmful emissions from a coal-fired power plant by up to 95 percent. The work at the Gallatin Fossil Plant, northeast of Nashville, is projected to be completed by 2017, according to The Tennessean. Four large scrubbers are planned at the plant, which burns 13,000 tons of coal per day and generates enough electricity to power 300,000 homes. Without the upgrades, the plant eventually would likely not meet government environmental standards, according to plant manager Scott Hadfield.

Legacy Radioactives In River Complicate TVA Ash Cleanup (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Cleanup of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s huge sludge-spill at its power plant near Knoxville has reached a kind of fork in the road. Nearly four years ago, millions of tons of coal ash from a manmade lake spilled into nearby rivers. What remains for TVA to clean up is mixed with radioactive material – which some say is best left alone. TVA’s Kingston plant is downstream from Oak Ridge National Lab, where the first atomic bomb was developed in the 1940s. Toxic cesium from those years still lingers in downstream riverbeds, including the one TVA has been dredging for ash.

Schneider Electric issues layoff notices to 49 (Nashville Business Journal)

Schneider Electric U.S.A. has issued layoff warnings to 49 employees in Rutherford County, according to a Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development report. Schneider Electric is the parent company of Square D, which makes equipment designed to control and distribute electric power. As the Nashville Business Journal reported in July, Square D plans to consolidate its scattered Middle Tennessee presence into a new 200,000-plus-square-foot office building. Square D employs some 1,300 people in Middle Tennessee.

Hutcheson moves into black — barely (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Martin)

After more than three years and millions of dollars in losses, Erlanger at Hutcheson reported its first profits in July. It was a small profit — $82,000 — and did not include losses posted at the North Georgia hospital’s clinics, but officials hailed it as a sign that the beleagured public hospital is turning a corner. Hospital officials reported the figures during a monthly finance meeting Monday. “We are actively recruiting and hiring new physicians and medical providers,” Hutcheson CEO Roger Forgey said in a news release Monday.

Commissioners, school board members to jointly student teacher survey (NS)

The Knox County Commission on Monday agreed to form a joint subcommittee with the county’s board of education to come up with a plan to survey teachers that will guarantee them anonymity and find out what they’d like to see done in system classrooms. The commission appointed members Tony Norman, Amy Broyles and commission Vice Chairman Brad Anders to serve. They’ll join school board members Karen Carson, Lynne Fugate and Pam Trainor on the panel, which should meet in the next week or so.

Leaders Lay Ground Work for Municipal Districts (Memphis Daily News)

With the Aug. 2 referendums behind them, most of the suburban leaders in Shelby County are moving toward a rapid transition to establishing school districts. And it has gone largely unnoticed. There are plenty of distractions. The transition to the merger of the Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools has cast a long shadow. There is also the ongoing legal battle in Memphis federal court where a possible outcome includes voiding the results of the suburban referendums and at least delaying the start date of the municipal schools.

 

OPINION

 

Editorial: Lambuth community investment is paying off (Jackson Sun)

With the kickoff of the new college school year, it is reasonable to ask how the Lambuth campus of the University of Memphis is faring. In 2011, taxpayers made a significant investment to purchase the campus from Lambuth University and deed it to the state to create a four-year public university campus of the University of Memphis in the heart of Jackson. The good news is that in only its second year of operation, about 600 students are enrolled. At this point, the goal of reaching 1,000 students on campus in four years appears well within reach. The unfortunate closure of 168-year-old Lambuth University due to financial problems left the city with a potentially huge problem.

Guest columnist: TN has road map for better transportation (Tennessean)

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has nine times more projects in its work plan than it has funding to build. There is no way we can afford all the projects, particularly in the current economic and budget climate. We need to revisit and reduce this wish list, and we need to invest more wisely the tax dollars we do spend on transportation. TDOT is to be commended for recent steps to re-evaluate our transportation needs and priorities. And it has just released a promising road map that would put it on a path to making smarter investments. This road map is contained in a new report, “Removing Barriers to Smarter Transportation Investments.”

Editorial: School board needs report card too (Commercial Appeal)

School is back in session and the pressure is on for good grades for kids. But they aren’t the only ones who need a good report card in the coming months. The Shelby County unified school board is continuing its work, too. And the public, parents and taxpayers need to keep a report card of the board’s progress over the next year. How well the unified board carries out its work during the next year may well set the tone and direction for the unified Memphis and Shelby County school district for years to come. That navigation won’t be easy. There are hopeful signs. Perhaps 85 percent of the issues that already have come before the board have been decided by lopsided votes, suggesting there is some common ground.

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