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August 24 TN News Digest

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

McMinn County auto suppliers are driving employment (Times Free-Press/Pare)
Kathy Knight says a new $28 million HP Pelzer factory that’s building automotive soundproofing products here is growing faster than company officials first thought. “That gives us hope that the economy has turned around and we’re seeing the jobs we had lost” in the Great Recession, said Knight, who directs the McMinn County Economic Development Authority. The Pelzer factory, where up to 200 employees will work by next spring, is another addition to McMinn County’s cluster of auto companies. Four of the county’s top five industrial employers, and five of its 10 biggest, are automotive or transportation related.

Task force recommends ways to improve lives of older Tennesseans (CA/Locker)
A commission appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to examine issues on aging in Tennessee has delivered a broad list of recommendations to serve the state’s older residents more efficiently and effectively, including a voice at the Cabinet level that the group says doesn’t currently exist. The Governor’s Task Force on Aging recommended three areas of focus by state officials: promoting healthy aging, creating livable communities and supporting family caregivers. The group’s “vision” is to ensure that older Tennesseans have access to programs, services and opportunities in their local communities that “enhance their physical, mental, financial, social and spiritual well being.” Not all communities are currently able to help provide those services, the task force’s report says. Haslam formed the commission a year ago and charged it with creating a plan to improve the lives and care of older Tennesseans and their families through a collaboration of public, private and non-profit organizations. The governor’s office released the group’s final report Friday, National Senior Citizens Day.

State honors senior citizens, looks ahead (Lebanon Democrat)
In recognition of National Senior Citizens Day, Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled a report Thursday by the Governor’s Task Force on Aging aimed at serving the state’s senior citizens more efficiently and effectively. Among the initial steps the task force has recommended are to conduct a review of aging services in state government and to promote healthy living in partnership with the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness, as well as encourage local leaders to assess their communities for their livability for the aging. “We know that while more than 14 percent of Tennesseans are over the age of 65 today, that number is expected to be more than 22 percent by 2020, and we need to be prepared for that as a state,” Haslam said.

Tests scores: 2 Carter Co. elementaries named state Reward Schools (JC Press)
The latest results of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests were grounds for celebration in the Carter County School System. Director of Schools Kevin Ward went to Valley Forge and Hunter elementary schools to tell the students that as a result of their scores on last year’s state examinations, the schools have been designated as Reward Schools by the Tennessee Department of Education. Ward explained to the boys and girls that to be a Reward School, it has to be ranked in the top 5 percent of schools in the state in either performance or progress. In the case of both schools, the designation came for the growth in test scores in 2013-14 in comparison with the scores the schools achieved in 2012-13.

Long-term bad water from prison water plant eyed for improvement (TFP/Benton)
If you want reliably good, clean water to drink in northwest Bledsoe County, you have to go to prison. County resident Charles Wagner eyes the edges of state Highway 101, the route to the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, with frustration and suspicion. That’s where two water lines lie, one on each side of the road. One flows toward the prison with almost crystal-clear water from a renovated water treatment plant in Pikeville, Tenn., and the other is an aging line coming from the prison property that distributes water from the treatment plant at the now-closed Taft Youth Development Center, owned by the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Tenn. drugstore punished for missing pills (Associated Press)
A Smyrna drugstore’s license has been suspended by the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy after investigators discovered thousands of doses of opioids missing. The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1AHzrAY ) reports that Corder’s Community Pharmacy Inc. was shut down this month, according to a pharmacy board order. The action came after law enforcement filed a complaint against the drugstore. Investigators for the pharmacy board found that Corder’s was short 5,841 of the 8,000 hydrocodone pills it received from its wholesaler since January. The Murfreesboro Pain Management Clinic also surrendered its license as the result of another state investigation.

In Washington, Second Thoughts on Arming Police (New York Times)
Jolted by images of protesters clashing with heavily armed police officers in Missouri, President Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of the government’s decade-old strategy of outfitting local police departments with military-grade body armor, mine-resistant trucks, silencers and automatic rifles, senior officials say. The White House-led review will consider whether the government should continue providing such equipment and, if so, whether local authorities have sufficient training to use it appropriately, said senior administration and law enforcement officials. The government will also consider whether it is keeping a close enough watch on equipment inventories, and how the weapons and other gear are used.

Feds drive schools to get results for special needs students (NS/Williams)
Like other students last April, Jack Anderson, 10, took the TCAP tests at Ball Camp Elementary School. He was in the third grade, but Jack has autism, a brain disability that causes a wide spectrum of cognitive and social delays. Only 59 percent of Tennessee students with disabilities in grades 4 and 8 took the regular state standardized tests in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The other 41 percent of students with disabilities participated in an alternate assessment. It’s important to test, according to Jack’s mother, Stephanie Anderson.

 

OPINION

Editorial: Celebrate success of system’s top schools (Jackson Sun)
We congratulate the schools in Jackson-Madison County and across West Tennessee that were recognized last week for their top achievements in the state’s accountability system. The Jackson-Madison County school system had three schools ranked among the top 5 percent in the state for academic performance and progress in the state’s standardized testing system — earning them the designation of Reward Schools. Denmark Elementary School, Madison Academic Magnet High School, and South Side High School were each recognized as Reward Schools. Madison also earned the designation in 2013. The Jackson-Madison County school system certainly has many challenges, and the system is working hard to address them. We recognize that the fixes are often not easy or quick. We routinely use this space to point out those challenges, call for change and encourage solutions. We will continue to do so. But it is important to take note and cheer about success, too.

Editorial: Test results show high return on investment (Leaf Chronicle)
Release of state test results created a banner week for schools in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. Four of the 38 CMCSS schools were recognized as Reward Schools this year, which means the school was in either the top 5 percent for academic achievement or the top 5 percent in annual performance growth, or both. Hazelwood Elementary, which was one of only 17 schools statewide to achieve top 5 in both achievement and performance growth, earned the honor of a visit from Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, where they applauded the school’s success and announced all 168 of the state’s 2014 Reward Schools.

Guest columnist: Tennesseans need to win fight for high standards (Tennessean)
There was good news on Aug. 20 in that boatload of test-score data from the state Education Department and, behind the headlines, a reminder that Tennessee’s fight for better schools is far from over. Our teachers and students are making progress, and this time the proof is in Tennessee’s ACT scores. This year, the scores showed the largest overall increased since the state began testing all students — an improvement of three-tenths of a percent in the most recent ACT tests. The Tennessean’s Joey Garrison noted that increase “might seem small, but it’s tied for the biggest increase among all states that require all juniors to take the ACT.” This movement forward is happening because five years ago, state and local leaders committed to a broad strategy for aiming Tennessee’s children toward more promising futures.

Tom Humphrey: Justices must make political decision on AG (News-Sentinel)
State Supreme Court justices, having unanimously and publicly opined that the judicial system should be above politics, now face the first political decision of their new eight-year terms. That is choosing someone to serve as Tennessee attorney general for the next eight years. For two of the justices — Connie Clark and Gary Wade — this is not a new experience. They voted back in 2006 to give the job to Bob Cooper, and politics was less a consideration then. Tennessee is the only state in the union that grants, in its state constitution, a Supreme Court the right to pick the attorney general. Other states are much more overtly political, in most cases leaving selection of an AG to a popular vote. A few let the governor appoint; Maine has an AG chosen by the state Legislature. Clark and Wade initially were appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, as was new Chief Justice Sharon Lee. The other justices who will vote on a new AG — first-termers Jeff Bivins and Holly Kirby — are appointees of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

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