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School board welcomes newly elected members; begins business of new year

By Rebecca Herman

The Johnson County School Board met on Thursday, August 11, with all board members present; the meeting began with Kevin Long welcoming newly elected board members Mike Payne and Jo Ann Reece. Reece will begin officially serving on the board beginning in September; Payne was appointed to complete the term of a previous board member who resigned. His newly elected position will begin in September.
Director of Schools, Dr. Mischelle Simcox, presented the employee of the month award to Donna Dunn, who works at Mountain City Elementary in the cafeteria. Dunn had been employed with the Johnson County School System for almost 29 years and is “dedicated and hardworking.” Food Services Supervisor Kathy McCulloch also said that Dunn is loved by the students of Mountain City Elementary and is “friendly and understanding with them as they come through the serving line for breakfast and lunch.”
Dr. Simcox and Dr. Stephen Long, Supervisor of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction, presented some of the law updates that will be impacting the school system this year. The first deals with religion in the classroom, as the law requires a policy to be in place that shows the appropriate inclusion of religion in local curriculum and instructional material. This will be done by creating syllabi available for grades six through 12 in math, science, social studies, and English Language Arts. These syllabi will include standards, objectives, topics covered, assignments, and field trips.
The next law discussed dealt with physical activity requirements for students. The law requires schools to implement the following non-structured physical activity: Kindergarten through first grade: three, 15 minute periods a day; second through sixth grade: two, 20 minute periods at least four days per week; seventh through 12th grades: 90 minutes per week. This time no longer includes walking to and from class.
Dr. Long mentioned a change to the teacher evaluation next in the presentation.  The 2015-2016 TNReady data will be excluded from 2015-2016 through 2017-18 school years if the exclusion results in a higher evaluation score for the teacher. Dr. Long said that qualitative portion increases will account for the reduction and that after the General Assembly adjourned, the Commissioner suspended all three-eight TCAP testing.
Dr. Simcox presented information on the Open Records Law and said that the school system has already been implementing the new law for a few years now. The law states that a public records policy must include a process for requesting materials; a process for responding to requests; a process for charging fees, billing, and payment; and identification of the Public Records Request Coordinator and Records Custodian.
She discussed the law pertaining to bullying investigations, which now included additional procedures for investigations, which must be initiated within 48 hours of receipt, and an intervention must take place within 20 calendar days.
The next item discussed dealt with the Basic Education Program (BEP) improvements; this program is “the funding formula through which state education dollars are generated and distributed to Tennessee schools.” The changes that will impact Johnson County School System are as follows: The BEP Instructional Salary Component Increase to $44,430, 12 months of medical insurance; Special Education Funding formula has been updated, removes early graduation penalty, increases technology component of BEP to $40 million, and reduces the Cost Differential Factor.
The final item in the presentation was concerning the county budget process, which begins in February. Dr. Simcox said that the goal is to always present a “balanced budget and to be good stewards of the school systems money.” She also said that the main priority is to do “what’s best for the needs of all of our students.”
For the rest of the story pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.